Autism, Autism Spectrum, Autistic… I’m sure you will have heard these words before, and you probably have a rough idea of what they mean. As with many medical disorders, there are a number of misconceptions surrounding autism. In this article, we will outline the top 8 autism myths in the hope that it will set the record straight and raise awareness.
1. Autism can be curedWrong. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and how they interact with others. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If you are autistic, you are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and therefore cannot be ‘cured’. Autistic people often feel that being autistic is a fundamental aspect of their identity.
2. Autism isn’t very common
Understandably, when parents receive an autistic diagnosis for their child, they begin to panic, but autism is much more common than people think. There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK – that’s more than 1 in 100. People from all nationalities, cultural, religious and social backgrounds can be autistic, although it appears to affect more men than women.
3. There is only one form of Autism
People may assume that a person is either autistic or not, and that ‘every autistic person is the same’. Traditionally autism was viewed as being a line, with “autistic” at one end and “not-autistic” at the other. It’s more helpful to view it as a spider’s web or series of concentric rings split into sections. Some people will be strong in some areas and struggle in others.
Some people on the autistic spectrum find communication hard (and indeed some with ASD are non-verbal), whilst others will have speech patterns that show no signs of difficulty.
There are some autism traits that are very common. For instance the three hallmark features of autism: communication challenges, impaired social interactions, and repetitive behaviour. Ultimately, every person is different.
4. Schools are trained in how to manage autistic children
According to a recent survey (conducted by NASUWT Support for Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs) 60% of teachers in England feel they have not had adequate training to teach children with autism and 35% of teachers think it has become harder to access specialist support for children with autism.
5. The media doesn’t acknowledge Autism
In 2017, Sesame Street debuted a character with autism named Julia. The puppet is the first muppet to be on the autism spectrum. On Cbeebies, “Pablo” features a 5-year-old-boy on the autism spectrum who creates incredible imaginary friends who come to life through his magic crayons. Pablo and his friends go on adventures, and they even help him with situations that may make him anxious, such as going to the supermarket. The main cast of “Pablo” are all on the autism spectrum and some have even co-written some of the scripts.
6. People with Autism are disabled
This isn’t necessarily true, people with autism can in fact show exceptional abilities, such as a high IQ, or they can excel with subjects such as maths and music amongst other things. 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability, whilst 44% have IQ scores in the average to above average range. This misconception gave the title to a best selling book and speaking tour by John Williams, whose son has autism. He titled it “My son’s not rainman”.
7. People who are autistic don’t want friends
This can be true for some, but not for everyone. Some people with autism struggle with social skills, making it very difficult for them to mix in groups or with other people. As they have difficulty in communicating they can’t always express their desires.
8. There are no celebrities with autism
Throughout the years there have been many famous Autistic people; from actors and actresses, to musicians and artists. Some of these well known names include Dan Aykroyd (Comedic Actor), Hans Christian Andersen (Children’s Author), Susan Boyle (Singer), Tim Burton (Movie Director), Charles Darwin (Naturalist, Geologist, & Biologist), Albert Einstein (Scientist & Mathematician), Bill Gates (Co-founder of Microsoft), Daryl Hannah (Actress & Environmental Activist) and Steve Jobs (former CEO of Apple). The accomplishments of these celebrities is further proof that having ASD doesn’t mean you can’t achieve great things.
Hopefully this article has provided you with some interesting insights and goes someway in clearing up some of the many misconceptions. It’s important that we continue to build on the awareness of Autism so that we can help everyone understand what it truly means to be Autistic.
The Eden Project
A parent who visited the Eden Project in Cornwall has praised their relaxed sessions which take place during school holidays.
This Easter they’ve got lots of new indoor and outdoor games and activities for the whole family to try out at their farm-themed Easter event. If you like bad puns, this is what they had to say on their website:
“Join the Eden Farmers to help round up their animals, and learn what makes crops grow. Play a-mooo-sing games and eggciting activities. Collect stamps to fill up your card and ‘eggschange’ them for cracking prizes!”
Every time we’ve been to Alton Towers it’s been a superb day out for an SEN child. They offer special discount rates for up to three helpers of guests with a disability. The SEN child will pay the full rate but may be eligible for a ‘Ride Access Pass’ which gives specific times for each ride (a godsend if you have trouble with queueing!). If you go to the ‘FAQs and accessibility’ section of Alton Towers’ website you can get more information.
They also have Easter short stay breaks which one parent has recommended (if you get the right weather though!).
The London Eye
We’ve heard some more positive feedback about another Merlin Entertainment attraction. After hearing us talk about our good experiences on the London Eye, a parent took their Autistic son to the Eye and they were treated “like royalty” and had a fabulous time. Great to hear that others have also had an enjoyable visit to the London Eye.
Manchester Central Easter Funfair
Manchester Central welcomes an Easter Funfair to the city this year, with a whole host of rides, funfair games, food and more under one roof. The morning session on Tuesday 16th April will now be an Autism and Sensory Needs Friendly session.
Following guidance from the Autistic Society for the Greater Manchester area, this session will meet the following requirements:
• Quiet as possible
• No bright lights
• No flashing lights
• No loud music
• No loud sudden noises
• Staff to provide simple and clear instructions for rides and games
• Limit queuing (into the venue and also on rides)
It definitely looks a lot of fun and we’re planning our trip already!
Tate Britain offers a range of free talks and workshops for adults with learning disabilities via its community programme. Admission to Tate Britain is free but there is a charge for special exhibitions – visitors with a disability pay a concessionary rate and carers go free.
We’ve talked before about ho
w much we like Eureka! in Halifax. They have wonderful support for SEN visitors and it can be a total joy to visit. There are ear defenders to loan, a chill-out room as well as helpful and specially-trained enablers. Did you know if you have a Max Card (the discount card for carers and parents of children with SEN) then you can get free entry for one child and one adult, brilliant! Excellent fun, SEN friendly and free admission, perfect! They have holiday clubs for disabled children but the Easter one is already fully booked up.
Diggerland is a theme park where children can ride, drive and operate diggers, dumpers and other construction machinery. Located in Kent, Devon, Durham and Yorkshire, this is one of the first organisations to “Connect to Autism”, a national campaign to improve access to facilities and services for people with autism. Staff have undergone special training and if you notify them of your visit there will be someone on hand all day to ensure your needs are met as much as possible.
The National Football Mueum
Hands up who else has got a son or daughter who’s obsessed with football stats? The National Football Museum is a great place for a football obsessive (like my son!) to visit. It can get busy but they have some great Autism Friendly early openings with the next one taking place on Sunday 14th April from 9am to 10.30am. The staff are great and the relaxed atmosphere makes it a great trip.
Tower of London
We’ve had praise about the Tower of London after a child’s recent visit, which was inspired by reading the excellent David Walliams book “Gangsta Granny” (although we hasten to add that, unlike in the story, they didn’t try to steal the Crown Jewels). Any visitor to the Tower of London with a hidden disability can collect a lanyard from their Welcome Centre. This will discreetly notify staff that you may need extra help, time, or assistance whilst at the Tower. We recommend getting there early to see the Crown Jewels before the tourists arrive. Before you visit, you can download and print off a guide from their website. If needed you can also pre-book British Sign Language tours of the Tower of London.
For those who are in the North West, Jump Space in Stockport is highly recommended by our followers. Jump Space is a specialist centre offering Rebound Therapy, Trampolining and Sensory play with their main group of users being people with disability and their families (siblings are encouraged to take part as well). They provide a safe, fun, understanding and non-judgmental environment for disabled children and young people, many of whom, due to their impairments, are unable to access other forms of sport and activity. The centre is fully accessible with hoist equipment available for the trampolines, ball pool, sensory area and accessible toilet facility.
Finally, although it’s not during the Easter holidays, here’s a bonus event that we wanted to tell you about. At the Lyceum Theatre in London on the 2nd June at 1.30pm, there’s a special performance of the Lion King. The annual “autism-friendly relaxed performance” is specially adapted to be accessible to a wide range of audiences such as those with autism, a learning disability, or anyone with sensory issues. There are extra trained staff on hand, and dedicated quiet areas inside the theatre should anyone need to leave their seat. Click here for tickets.
We’re sure there are loads more places that deserve a mention so if we’ve missed your favourite place off, please let us know, either on our Twitter or Facebook pages or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org