According to The National Autistic Society, more than 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism. But there’s still so many myths out there around children living with autism, and what it means for them and their families. We caught up with psychologist Daniela Diciano to debunk the most common myths about autism.
“If your child has autism it’s totally understandable to be worried about the unknown. I see a lot of parents who worry about their child’s future - how they will cope at school and beyond, if they will become independent, and what will happen when they grow up and leave home.
“That’s the job of any parent – to worry about their child! But I always say you can’t be too premature in making assumptions or planning for the worst. Just focus on the present, and on how to bring out the best in your child right now. You will grow with your child, and each step of the way you can look at what’s right for them.
1. Myth: My child won’t be able to go to a mainstream school
“This is absolutely not the case – a lot of children with autism go to mainstream schools and thrive there. Schools are getting better at understanding autism and many are excellent at supporting children with special needs. There may be certain classes that your child can opt out of, and extra classes that they go to, so that they get the right programme for them.
"Yes, there are some situations when mainstream school isn’t right for children with more severe forms of autism. But the most important thing is that you find a setting that’s right for your child and brings out the best in them.”
2. Myth: My child won’t be able to work in a job
“This isn’t true at all. Lots of people with autism have very successful careers – it’s believed that both Einstein and Newton had autism. It’s about finding your child’s strengths and working towards that. So if they are passionate about art you might want to explore artistic job opportunities such as graphic design.
"Employers are much more aware about how to support employees with disabilities, and it’s against the law for employers to discriminate on the basis of disability.”
3. Myth: My child will never be independent
“This is simply not correct; lots of children with autism grow up to lead happy and independent lives. It’s about making sure they get the support they need. As they get older, often this can be more about emotional rather than practical support. This might be help building and sustaining friendships, and also about managing any obsessions. Many people with autism benefit from regular counselling which helps so much.”
4. Myth: Autism only affects males
“Again, not true at all; autism affects both females and males. Although it’s true that fewer females are diagnosed with autism. Currently around one in five people with autism are female. It can be harder to identify in females, so it’s thought to be underdiagnosed.
"Typically the features are also more subtle in females and can often be masked or mistaken for something else. For example they might simply be known as ‘the quiet one’, or a girl with autism who is obsessive may become obsessed with being thin, leading the focus to be on an eating disorder.”
5. Myth: My child will be a genius
“Actually a very small percentage of people with autism are geniuses – something like one in 100 or less. This myth is a real stereotype that’s driven by Hollywood films like Rainmain and A Beautiful Mind. But what is true that people with autism often become extremely passionate and interested on a particular activity or special talent, which means they become a real expert in it.
"For example I’ve worked with some children who are incredibly passionate about creative writing, and they spend so much time on it and produce some amazing pieces. I love helping parents see these achievements, and stop focusing so much on what their child can’t do.
“If your child has autism, you’re not alone - there lots of support networks for children and their families. The National Autistic Society is a great place to start, they have lots of information, real life stories and an online community where you can talk to other people going through the same thing.”
Too book an appointment with Daniela, or speak to her about your concerns, please call us on 0208 6737930 or find out more about how she can help.