Chapter 4

Autism facts

Many people get confused about autism, and there’s a lot of wrong information about autism out there. In this chapter, we will talk about some wrong ideas people have about autism, and show you how autism actually works.

1. Vaccines do not cause autism.

Vaccines are shots you get to help you not get sick. For example, the flu shot is a vaccine that keeps you from getting sick with the flu.

In 1997, a scientist named Andrew Wakefield lied and said that vaccines caused autism. Lots of scientists proved him wrong, and showed that autism is not caused by vaccines. But some people still believe vaccines cause autism. They don’t give their kids vaccines since they think it is better for their kids to get sick than to be autistic. It hurts autistic people to hear that other people are so scared of us.

It is safe to get vaccines, and vaccines keep people from getting sick. If people weren’t so scared of autism, they would be calm about vaccines. That would be better for everyone.

We don’t always know what makes people autistic, but we do know that autism is mostly genetic. That means you get it before you are born, and it comes from your family. Autistic people sometimes have a lot of autistic family members.

In the end, what causes autism doesn’t matter very much. What matters is supporting autistic people. We should be able to have good lives no matter what.

2. Autism is not a disease. You can’t cure autism.

A disease is something that makes you sick. Diseases can really hurt or even kill people. When someone has a disease, they need to see a doctor to “get better” from their disease.

Autism is not a disease. Autism is just how our brain works. Autism doesn’t make you sick, and you can’t die from autism. Doctors can’t stop us from being autistic, and we don’t “get better” by not being autistic. We are autistic our whole lives, and that is just how we are!

People usually want a cure for diseases, but most autistic people don’t want a cure for autism.
The goal of a cure is to ‘fix’ something, and autistic people don’t need to be fixed.

Some people don’t care what we want. They want a cure for autism, and they spend a lot of time and money looking for it. This is bad for autistic people. People should spend time and money helping us live good lives.

3. There is no “normal” person inside an autistic person.

Some people talk about autism like it is not part of who we are. They think there is secretly a “normal” person inside us, and say autism keeps us from being normal.
They want to get rid of our autism so we can be normal, but you can’t make us normal by getting rid of our autism. Autistic people are autistic all the way through. There is no normal person trapped inside an autistic person. Autism is just part of who we are. We are autistic, and that’s good.

4. Autistic people have always been in the world.

People say that there are more autistic people now than there used to be, but this is not true. Doctors are just getting better at finding us.

In the year 2000, doctors said that about 1 in 150 people were autistic. Right now, they think 1 in 59 people are autistic. This isn’t because more autistic people are being born. It’s because doctors are getting better.

Doctors still aren’t perfect. They miss some autistic people, like girls and people of color. Doctors are trying to get better at figuring out who is autistic. That means the number of diagnosed autistic people might keep going up. This is a good thing, since it means more autistic people can get the help we need.

5. It’s okay to be autistic! Autism is not sad.

Autism is just a way some brains work. Autistic people have things that are hard for us, like everyone else does. We also have strengths! There are things about autism that make life harder, but that does not mean that autism is sad.

A lot of the things that are hard for autistic people aren’t hard because of autism. They are hard because of other people. For example, people might treat us badly because we are autistic. They might not understand autism, and they might try to keep us separate from non-autistic people. None of this means that autism is bad. It means that other people are being unfair. We need to make the world a better place for autistic people.

6. Autistic adults are adults. That means that we have the minds of adults.

Some people talk about something called “mental age”. People use mental age when they talk about developmental disabilities. Adults with developmental disabilities need help with a lot of things. Some of those are things that most kids can do by themselves, so people say that in our minds, we are like kids.

Some autistic people have interests that usually only kids have. We might also talk like kids do, or play in the same ways that kids play. People might say we are like kids, but these people are wrong.

For example:

Beth is 36 and has an intellectual disability. She does not know left from right, and she really likes Blue’s Clues. A doctor says that Beth is like a 5-year-old, and says she is “mentally 5.” This doesn’t make sense, since Beth has been alive for 36 years. Her brain is not like a 5-year-old’s brain, and it is rude to say that she is like a child.

Being a kid isn’t about what you can and can’t do, or about how you talk or play. Neither is being an adult. You learn and grow every year you are alive. People are the age they are, and mental ages aren’t real. Autistic adults don’t have the minds of kids. We have the minds of autistic adults, and autistic adults with intellectual disabilities are still adults.

Autistic people can do anything that any other adult can do. Autistic people can have sex, get married, have kids, make our own choices, and live our lives. We might do things differently than non-autistic people, and we might need more help. But we are still adults.

7. Autistic people are autistic our whole lives.

Autistic people are born autistic. But since all babies look the same, we don’t know a lot about how babies will turn out until they get older. We usually don’t know if a baby is autistic until they are a toddler. That doesn’t mean the baby became autistic when they became a toddler. They were autistic before, but people could not tell.

Autistic people grow up to be adults. We don’t stop being autistic, and you can’t grow out of autism. If you are autistic now, you have been autistic since you were born, and you will be autistic when you die.

Adults and kids look and act different. This is true for everyone. Autistic adults look and act differently than autistic kids. We learn new skills, get new hobbies, and make new friends. Things that were hard when we were kids might get easier.

Most movies, books, and stories focus on autistic kids, so many people do not think there are autistic adults. But there are autistic adults! We just look different.

Some autistic people get taught to pretend they aren’t autistic. People might punish us if we act autistic, but we are still autistic inside. Pretending not to be autistic is really hard, and it hurts us.

We might get better at pretending as we become adults. People might see us and think we are not autistic, but that’s not true. We are still autistic – we’re just pretending not to be, and that hurts us.

Autistic kids grow up into autistic adults. We shouldn’t have to pretend that we are not autistic. People should know autistic adults exist.

8. Most autistic people talk. All autistic people communicate.

Some people think that autistic people can’t talk, but these people are wrong. Most autistic people can talk. Some autistic people talked when we were little kids, and some of us took longer to learn how to talk. Some of us can talk, but it is hard. It’s true that some autistic people can’t talk at all, and that’s okay! There are lots of different ways to communicate, and all autistic people communicate. We can still communicate, regardless of whether we can talk or not.

9. Autism and intellectual disability are not the same thing.

Intellectual disabilities affect how you learn and think. People with intellectual disabilities might learn more slowly, and they might need more help with everyday life. People with intellectual disabilities do learn and think, just differently.

Some autistic people also have intellectual disabilities, but most autistic people don’t. There are a lot of different ways to be autistic!