As of 2014, as many as one in 68 US children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). And because there is no known cause of autism, many myths circulate about its origin, treatment and prevention.
Dr John Mantovani, medical director of the Mercy Kids Therapy & Development Center and chair of pediatrics at Mercy Children’s Hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri, wanted to offer his thoughts on the top five myths.
5 common autism myths
Myth 1: Autism is one thing.
Dr Mantovani explains that there is not just one type of autism, but, instead, individual cases of autism always range across an entire autism spectrum.
Because it can show up in a variety of ways such as impairments in social interaction, communication, interests and behavior, detection and appreciation of what a diagnosis means in real terms for an individual and a family can be challenging.
Myth 2: The cause of autism is known.
Mantovani says that unfortunately, there is no known single cause of autism, “If we had an identified cause it would make it easier to understand.”
Suspected contributors to the disorder abound, but a single, identifiable trigger isn’t out there.
Myth 3: There is a single, biological cure.
“There’s not a pill to swallow, an injection to get, or a perfect diet that’s going to cure autism,” Mantovani says. “Because there’s no single enemy to battle in autism, all treatments are based on a whole host of interventions by educators, behavioral specialist, therapists and parents.”
He says that at Mercy, they work with the family and the child to figure out how to rewire some of the circuits that are causing the developmental variations that we call autism. And that isn’t an easy process.
Myth 4: The increased numbers are just diagnostic (or entirely based on “new” cases).
This is a difficult one. There is more awareness about ASD, so more people are recognizing the symptoms, and we’re finding it earlier. Because there’s a wide range of disorders within autism there are more who fall into that spectrum. However, Mantovani says, even with these explanations, concern that there is truly a core increase is there, and we’re searching hard to find a reason.
Myth 5: There are sure-fire measures for prevention.
Once there’s a known cause for autism then research can begin on prevention. There’s no cure, but because our children are vulnerable to autism, it’s important to diagnose and begin treatment early.
“Getting the intervention going seems to give us a better opportunity to get the brain rewired and improve the functioning in some of those systems.”