April 13, 2016

April is Autism Awareness Month. We uncover the myths with this quiz.


Chances are you’ve heard about Autism Spectrum Disorder, and likely you’ve also heard some myths about autism. With the help of a psychologist from the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, we created this quiz to debunk some of the false information out there.


True or False? Autism only affects a person’s brain.

False. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a “neurodevelopmental disorder,” which means that there is something different about how a person’s brain uses information. “However, people with ASD can also have any other medical condition that occurs in people without ASD, such as food allergies,” says Amy S. Weitlauf, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics and a licensed clinical psychologist. “We are also learning that many people with ASD may be more at risk of certain health-related concerns, such as stomach problems (including constipation) and sleep problems (such as insomnia).”


True or False? Autism does not affect everyone in the same way.

True. Two people can have the same diagnosis but very different challenges as well as strengths. That is why the term “autism spectrum” is often used. “There is a saying that, ‘When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,’” Weitlauf explains. “And that’s so right.”


True or False? People with autism cannot understand or express emotions and lack empathy.

False. “It is true that some people with ASD have a hard time recognizing and describing both their own feelings as well as the feelings of other people,” Weitlauf says. “That is true of some people without ASD, too, by the way! But that is very different from ‘lacking empathy,’ which implies that people with ASD don’t care about other people’s welfare. That’s not true at all. People with ASD love their friends and family, feel frustrated, angry, sad, lonely — all of these things — but may not be able to talk about it. On the flip side,” she adds, “some people with ASD feel and express emotions even more strongly.”


True or False? The idea that people with autism have savant abilities is just a stereotype.

True. Movies and television shows have perpetuated this myth. “It’s true that some people with ASD have exceptional, savantlike skills,” Weitlauf says. “However, just like in the general population, most people don’t. ASD is diagnosed based on many different criteria, and it is very important to look past these stereotypes while celebrating each person’s unique strengths.”


To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Autism Speaks, and the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.”