What is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects 1 in 66 children and 1 in 42 boys. While the focus is often on children with ASD, it affects individuals across their lifespan. ASD is a “spectrum disorder.” That means ASD affects each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe. ASD can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
Common Myths and Misconceptions
As a mom, there are many misconceptions about my child that I encounter on a regular basis. Some of the ones that I hear most often are:
People with ASD don’t want friends.
Truth: Many people with ASD want friends, but they may struggle with social skills, making it difficult to interact effectively with peers and form social relationships.
People with autism don’t have feelings.
Truth: Individuals with ASD certainly do have feelings. However, the skills to express and communicate those feelings are often difficult for those with ASD to master. They may express their feelings in some unusual ways.
All individuals with ASD are nonverbal.
Truth: Some individuals with ASD are nonverbal or non-conversational. However, the autism spectrum also includes individuals who are extremely verbal.
People with ASD are intellectually disabled.
Truth: Although some individuals with ASD do also have an intellectual disability, many individuals with ASD have normal to high IQs. People with ASD can have exceptional abilities just as they have limitations.
What can you do?
Be Educated. Because ASD affects each individual uniquely, it is important to be educated about what it is and what it is not. Autism Tennessee offers a bi-monthly Autism Orientation. These two-hour informational sessions on autism spectrum disorders are conducted by an autism specialist and a parent of a child with autism.
There are many additional resources available online and in print that provide information on autism spectrum disorders. You can find numerous resources on the Autism Tennessee Website: www.autismtn.org.
Several individuals with autism spectrum disorders have also written about their own experiences. If you are interested in reading a first-hand perspective, you may want to check out books by Temple Grandin, John Elder Robison, and Stephen Shore.
Be Accepting Many individuals with ASD are seeking relationships, but may struggle in establishing initial connections with others. There are many misconceptions about individuals with ASD and many people find it hard to overcome these false messages in our society. It is important to be understanding and accepting of others’ differences in order to see the often-surprising strengths that exist in each person with ASD.
Be Supportive There are many ways to participate in
the support of autism awareness and advocacy. Find something that speaks to you and get involved. It may be participating in an awareness walk, volunteering with Autism Tennessee, or spending time with an individual on the autism spectrum who needs assistance. Whatever the contribution, your support is needed and appreciated! Sometimes we all just need someone to believe in us, and taking time to encourage individuals with ASD is the greatest support of all!
Amy Moseley is the Programming Director at Autism Tennessee and is the proud mother LilyAnne, 6 and Ethan, 11, who is on the autism spectrum. She is also a foster parent and Professional Counselor in private practice.
The mission of Autism Tennessee is to enrich the lives and experiences of individuals on the autism spectrum, their families, and their surrounding community through support, advocacy, and education.
If you have questions or would like more information about Autism Spectrum Disorders, please contact us at (615) 385-2077 or visit us online at www.autismtn.org.