Living with Autism is living on spectrum. It is a condition that affects people in different ways. This April for Autism Awareness Month some WAVE volunteers and apprentices will be sharing their perspectives on common beliefs, myths, and misunderstanding related to Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Overtime a number of different theories have been proposed regarding the “causes” of autism. Often these theories suggest that autism is the result of poor parenting. In the 1940s, psychiatrist Leo Kanner theorized that autism was caused by “Refrigerator Mothers”, parents who lacked or did not display affection towards their children. While initially embraced by the medical community Kanner’s hypothesis was later rejected as the connection between autism and brain chemistry became clearer.
An additional misconception is that children with autism are simply poorly behaved and that they simply require proper discipline. While rules and boundaries are an important part of raising children this is an oversimplification, disruptive or inappropriate behaviors will not simply disappear if an individual with autism is properly disciplined. Instead people need to recognize that they may have difficulty controlling their behaviors and work with them when issues arise.
Modern research suggests that autism is caused primarily by genetic factors. While parenting and other factors are crucial to an individual’s personal development they do not determine whether or not they have autism. It is important to recognize this when interacting with people on the spectrum.