There are many myths and misunderstandings about autism spectrum disorder, and people with ASD. These are sometimes fueled by inaccurate information on the Internet and images portrayed in the mass media.
One thing we know for sure is that individuals on the autism spectrum face the same challenges, experiences, frustrations, and joys as everyone else does. Another irrefutable fact is that autism is a spectrum with significant diversity. Each person with ASD has a combination of symptoms that makes him or her unique. Furthermore, the same person may experience his or her symptoms of ASD very differently from one situation to the next.
One myth is that ASD is a form of intellectual disability or mental retardation. Another is that everyone with ASD has cognitive or intellectual disabilities. It is true that a large number of individuals with autism will be diagnosed with an intellectual disability. The most recent prevalence study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (2018) reports that 31 percent of children with ASD had intellectual disability. However, there are also individuals with ASD who have average to above average intelligence, or who perform well in some areas and poorly in others.
Another myth is that people with ASD can’t form relationships because they lack social skills and a desire to interact with others. While difficulty in social interaction is a key factor in the diagnosis of ASD, it doesn’t mean that individuals can never form relationships with others, or that they don’t desire these relationships.
For many people on the spectrum, difficulties in forming relationships center primarily around challenges with understanding language and/or the subtleties of how people relate and interact, or express themselves. Just as with any other characteristic, each person will have varying levels of interest, ability, and anxiety when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships. Also, these relationships may appear different than those typically experienced by neurotypicals (i.e., people who are not on the autism spectrum).