Autism Myths: How they hurt families!


thanks to for this image!
thanks to for this image!

Schools and service agencies that only know autism myths deny families and children needed services.  During this time of year, I attend so many Individualized Education Placement meetings, and also eligibility for services meetings!  And I see these same issues again and again!  Too many professionals are unaware of what autism is and how it presents differently in every child.

As the saying goes:  “If you know one child with autism, you know one child with autism.”  Professionals need to remember that.

So you can have a daughter with an autism diagnosis; you can have a verbal child with an autism diagnosis; you can have a highly gifted, intellectual child who loves learning who has an autism diagnosis.  Being female, verbal, smart, making eye contact, having friends, being extroverted and social – all of these things do not preclude an autism diagnosis.

The criteria for autism are simple:  an impairment in social communication and interaction; repetitive behaviors; symptoms appear before age 3  – but may not be problematic until older; and no other diagnosis accounts for these symptoms.  Simple!  So why can’t more professionals get this????

Social/communicative impairments can include a child who is using vocabulary four and five years beyond their age level – these kids have very marked impairments in school and making friends!  And many highly verbal children on the autism spectrum can explain their interest in steam engines for hours, but not tell you they are nigh fainting with hunger.  Again, this is an impairment, and in early intervention, it is still a delay that qualifies for services.  Social/communicative impairments can include very social children with many friends, yet these children become incapacitated when required to change activities or to do a new activity.  Often these children also have a limited ability to identify feelings and needs, and so collapse instead.  And I am also seeing happy, content, nonverbal children being denied autism diagnoses, because the clinician says happy children can’t be on the autism spectrum.  But extreme delays in communication are one hallmark of autism.

Repetitive behaviors are not just the stereotyped kid rocking in a corner.  The child who only recites Dr. Who television show dialogue is engaging in repetitive behavior.  The child who refuses to do anything but play video games is engaging in repetitive behavior.   The child who is toe-walking is engaging in repetitive behavior.  Children who struggle with transitions are engaging in repetitive behavior.  The child who picks lint off the carpet all day is engaging in repetitive behavior.  All of those behaviors qualify as one part of an autism diagnosis.

So parents often have to educate professionals while seeking services.  Yes, this is annoying.  But the more you learn about autism diagnoses, the more you can advocate for your child.  Learn about the many ways impairments impact children on the spectrum, and you can then more effectively get the services you need.  Yup hard work.  But it is worth it for your child!

WHOLE Families can help!  We regularly meet with early intervention and school services to ensure that children who need autism services are getting them!  We also do multiple professional workshops each year to teach others how to correctly identify and meet the needs of families impacted by autism.  Need help?  Call us!  Know an agency or school that could use some training?  Call us again.  Our job is to help all families dealing with autism get needed services and family support.  Let us know, and we will gladly help with your child’s needs.