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Autism - Myths & Facts!

Written and reviewed by
Fellowship In Neonatology, MRCPCH(UK), Diploma In Child Health (DCH), MBBS
Pediatrician, Delhi  •  35years experience
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Hello. I am Dr. Lata Bhat. I am a child specialist, specially trained to take care of the behavior and development of children, in England as well as in India. I have a center called Palak Child Development Centre at Mayur Vihar phase II, Delhi; where we deal with children with behavior and development issues such as autism, hyperactivity, learning disability, physical disability, speech delay etc. And I am also a senior consultant at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi.

Today I am going to talk about myths regarding autistic spectrum disorder. I have dealt with lots of kids with autistic spectrum disorder in the last more than 15 years and have come across lots of myths associated with this condition. The incidence of this condition is on the rise. It's about 1 in 68 children. So, we need to sensitize ourselves, our children and the society at large regarding this condition because in future we will be dealing with more and more such children and adults. I would like you all to know what is the right information and what is incorrect information or myth regarding this condition.

So, coming to number 1 myth, the myth is they don't want friends. However, this is wrong. They want to have friends as much as we all do. They are they struggle with social skills. So, they may look unfriendly or shy at times. Another myth is, they can't feel or express emotions. They communicate and perceive emotions differently than us. But they do feel emotions. So, they have to be taught how to express emotions. Another myth is they can't understand emotions. Actually, the main core problem of this condition is that they have a problem with non-verbal communication and it affects their understanding of unspoken communication. So, for example, if we just make an expression of sad or happy, they may not understand or we use sarcasm just by changing the tone of our language they will not understand. We have to be more direct in our communication and we can use visual cues to teach them communication.

One has to understand how to express their emotions and how to communicate. They are very compassionate and empathetic as well. Another myth is that they have an intellectual disability. It's incorrect. Many of them have normal or very high IQ. They can have exceptional mathematical skills, exceptional memory or maybe exceptionally good in music and so on and so forth. Coming to another myth, there is a myth that they have typical personalities. Like for example, the character portrayed by Shahrukh Khan in the movie 'My name is Khan' or the character portrayed by The Rain Man movie. However, they have different characteristics and personalities and this can change from time to time. Now another myth is it affects only children. It absolutely wrong because the autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. However, we can teach them the skills regarding social communication and help them in communicating better. Another myth is about bad parenting. In the early 1950s, there was a hypothesis of refrigerator mother hypothesis; means the mother lacks emotional warmth so the child develops autistic spectrum. However, this has been proven to be absolutely incorrect because autism spectrum disorder is a genetic condition and it is there since birth. Although, we diagnose it later on it is genetic and is there from birth. Thank you so much for your patient hearing. For further queries, you can contact me on Lybrate.

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