Myths and facts about autism
Although over 700,000 people in the UK are autistic (more than 1 in 100 people), false and often negative perceptions about the condition are commonplace.
This lack of understanding can make it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to have their condition recognised and to access the support they need. Misconceptions can lead to some autistic people feeling isolated and alone. In extreme cases, it can also lead to abuse, bullying as well as missed opportunities.
People tend to 'grow out' of autism in adulthood – Myth. It's a lifelong condition – autistic children become autistic adults.
Autism affects both boys and girls – Fact. There is a popular misconception that autism is simply a male condition. This is false.
Autism is a mental health problem – Myth. Autism is a developmental disability. It’s a difference in how your brain works. Autistic people can have good mental health, or experience mental health problems, just like anyone else.
All autistic people are geniuses – Myth. Just under half of all people diagnosed with autism also have a learning disability. Others have an IQ in the average to above average range. 'Savant' abilities like extraordinary memory are rare.
Everyone is a bit autistic – Myth. While everyone might recognise some autistic traits or behaviours in people they know, to be diagnosed with autism, a person must consistently display behaviours across all the different areas of the condition. Just having a fondness for routines, a good memory or being shy doesn’t make a person 'a bit autistic'.
Only 16% of autistic people are in full time paid employment – Fact. This is just 1% higher than the figure from 2007. Combined with the part-time rate of 16%, this gives an overall employment rate of 32%. This compares with about 80% for non-disabled people and 47% for disabled people as a whole. 4in10 autistic adults working part-time want to work more hours.
All autistic people are suited and prefer jobs in IT – Myth. The overwhelming majority of autistic people want to work, but the types of work that people want vary greatly. Autistic people report assumptions from services and employers that they want work that is solitary, technical or requires attention to detail. Many do want this, but many don’t. Our survey found that slightly more autistic people want to work in the arts (11% of respondents) as want to work in IT (10% of respondents). Like anyone, the truth is that autistic people want to work across all sectors in a huge variety of jobs from research to admin work, from catering to cleaning or care work.