With April being Autism Awareness Month, it’s important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to understanding this health condition that in 2021 affected 1 in 44 children in the US based on 2018 data, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Understanding whether your child falls within the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is critically important, as it will help ensure that he or she gets the proper and appropriate care they need to live a healthier and more independent life.
However, being able to dismiss misinformation is equally important, because it can create undue stress and anxiety that in the long run may be detrimental to a child’s health and future.
“Having a better understanding of autism is beneficial to parents as it helps them avoid undue alarm,” said Dr. Ashley Zucker, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
“It’s important to know the facts because there’s a lot of misinformation that can cause unnecessary concern with great repercussions,” Zucker said.
One of the biggest misconceptions among some parents, according to the doctor, is that childhood vaccines — including COVID-19 shots — can cause a child to develop autism.
“Nothing can be further from the truth,” Zucker said. “There have been many studies that have debunked this belief. Childhood vaccines are safe and provide much needed protection against serious diseases for children, including COVID-19 for those who are eligible.”
Another false theory is that there’s an autism epidemic taking place across the USA. It’s true that there are more children being diagnosed with Autism, Zucker said. However, that’s partly because physicians and behavioral health professionals today have more tools to diagnose it.
“Because of advancement in medicine and behavioral health, we can now diagnose high-functioning children with ASD,” she explained.
“Not long ago, diagnoses of kids with intellectual disabilities were often missed. Today, we understand that those disabilities are often related to autism. Hence, we find there are more children being diagnosed with Autism, but there’s no epidemic.”
It’s also false that bad parents can cause autism among their children, Zucker said.
“That’s simply not true,” she stressed. “Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Much remains for us to learn and understand about the causes and effects of Autism. But, we know that parents don’t cause it. The fact is that genetics play a major role in autism.”
If your child has been diagnosed with Autism, it’s important to know that they can still live productive and rewarding lives with proper behavioral and medical treatment, Zucker noted.
“The key to success is early diagnosis,” she said. “Kids who are diagnosed early and receive proper medical and behavioral health attention can have great outcomes and are often lifelong learners, just like any other person.”