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Autism Myths Surrounding Social Interaction, Humor, and Speech

  • Published: 2014-01-21 (Revised/Updated 2015-02-07) : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Article examines a number of myths regarding people with autism and those with autistic spectrum disorders.
Social Skills

Defined as any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning such skills is called socialization. Interpersonal skills are sometimes also referred to as people skills or communication skills. Interpersonal skills are the skills a person uses to communicate and interact with others. They include persuasion, active listening, delegation, and leadership. People with ADHD often have difficulties with social skills such as social interaction and forming and maintaining friendships. Approximately half of ADHD children and adolescents will experience peer rejection compared to 10-15 percent of non-ADHD youth. People with autistic spectrum disorders such as Asperger's syndrome generally have difficulty with social skills. This is most likely the result of the lack of theory of mind, which enables the person to understand other people's emotions. Many people in the spectrum have many social idiosyncrasies such as obsessive interests and routines, lack of eye contact, one sided conversations, abnormal body language and non-verbal communication.

Main Document

"For some reason, the myth suggesting that people with autism do not have a sense of humor continues to survive."

One of the myths surrounding people with autism is that they do not have emotions or feelings. Among the characteristics of people with autism is an impaired ability to see things from the perspective of another person or to read body language, facial expressions, or additional social cues, as well as the tendency to express themselves using inappropriate remarks or unconventional body gestures or facial expressions. In particular, people with autism many times do not respond to an incident, situation, or story in the same way or degree that non-disabled persons would.

The result is that it may make a person with autism seem unfeeling or un-empathetic. The fact is the majority of people with autism experience the same range of emotions everyone else does. In spite of not reacting with as much emotion to some situations as might be expected, they may at times react with far more emotion to other situations than some people might. Due to the many difficulties people with autism often have with things that seem to come naturally to others, they are likely to experience feelings of frustration, anger, and depression than someone else. This myth may exacerbate their emotions further when a person with autism realizes their feelings are completely disregarded by others who do not believe that they have any feelings.

People with Autism and Social Interaction

Chart showing some of the consequences of autism myths
About This Image: Chart showing some of the consequences of autism myths
Another myth surrounding people with autism is that they have no interest in social interaction. It is true that the majority of people with autism have a need to keep to themselves for at least part of the time and that they may become absorbed in their particular areas of interest, sometimes excluding everything else. While some more severely autistic people might have an aversion to social interactions, it in no way implies that the majority of people with autism have less of a need for human interaction than others do.

It is generally true that being on the autism spectrum generally implies a significant deficit in social skills and that many people have trouble with, or even an aversion to, a lot of what constitutes popular conversation. The unfortunate outcome for such a person is commonly isolation, despite a strong craving for social life that other people seem to have. The prevalence of this myth further aggravates the situation since it causes people to disregard the social needs of people with autism.

People with Autism and Humor

For some reason, the myth suggesting that people with autism do not have a sense of humor continues to survive. This particular myth is ridiculous, to be plain. It is most likely due to the fact that people with autism are often times unable to, 'get,' a number of conventional jokes, or just do not find them to be funny. Some people then interpret this reaction as a lack of a sense of humor.

The reality is that many people with autism develop a strong interest in humor, especially after enough jokes are explained to them and they develop the ability to understand them. The result may range from a person who is just plain hilarious to a person with autism with an unconventional and potentially highly-original sense of humor.

People with Autism and Speech

Yet another myth surrounding people with autism is that they do not speak - I can personally tell you some do. It is unfortunately true that some people with more severe forms of autism might never speak and that many children with autism are delayed in early speech, at times severely. The fact is; however, that the majority of people with autism are not only capable of speaking they are usually very articulate and often talkative.

In addition, the definition of autism spectrum specifically includes no significant delay in language development as one of the diagnostic criteria. The fact that some people with autism tend to keep to themselves and avoid social conversation contributes to this particular myth. A major consequence of this myth is that a significant part of this population, specifically those capable of any form of speech, are not recognized as have a form of autism and are considered ineligible for services and accommodations they need.

Awareness of the myths and misconceptions surrounding autism is increasingly important. Among children born today, 1 out of 88 will experience a form of autism. It is important for people to understand autism and the myths that incorrectly place additional burdens on them.

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1 : Autism's Social Deficits Reversed by Romidepsin Anti-Cancer Drug : University at Buffalo.
2 : Urine and Blood Tests Can Indicate Autism in Children : University of Warwick.
3 : Reduced Attention to Audiovisual Synchrony in Infancy May Predict Autism Diagnosis : Uppsala University.
4 : Slight Fluctuations in Movement Correspond to Autism Diagnoses : Indiana University.
5 : The Multiple Mutations of Autism : University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine.
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