William R. Stixrud, Ph.D.
William R. Stixrud, Ph.D.Clinical Neuropsychologist
For the past 20 years, Dr. Stixrud has been extensively involved in the training and supervision of psychologists and learning specialists.

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Individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s….

Social/Emotional Myths

  • Don’t want to make friends.   Some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) really want to have friends but do not know how.
  • Can’t make friends.   Many individuals with ASD do have friends; often their friendship forms around a shared interest.
  • Don’t engage well with anyone, including adults.   Kids with ASD are often better at interacting with adults than peers, and may be affectionate with their parents, siblings, or others close to the family.
  • Don’t feel emotions or experience anxiety and/or depression.   The emotions are there, even though insight into their own emotions and the emotions of others may be limited.  Individuals with autism who are aware of their social difficulties may feel rejected, incompetent, and lonely, leading to anxiety and/or depression.
  • Are weird and/or not likeable.    We know and very much like many people with autism!

Diagnosis Myths

  • Have obvious behaviors and traits which everyone can identify.  If an individual with ASD does not have the more noticeable motor mannerisms or unusual language, his or her social impairments may go unnoticed.
  • Will be harmed or limited by a diagnosis of autism.  Diagnosis can provide access to targeted services and treatments, and provides the teachers, family, and the individuals themselves a non-judgmental framework for understanding behaviors.
  • Can’t have autism if they have already been diagnosed with other disorders, such as ADHD, sensory integration disorder, auditory processing issues, or mood disorders. ASD often comes along with related neurodevelopmental issues, and sometimes these other issues  are identified first.

Other Myths

  • Don’t have language difficulties.  Even with a seemingly good command of language, many individuals with ASD have trouble understanding non-literal aspects of language (e.g. metaphors, idioms, inferences) or may have difficulty taking  the listener’s perspective when speaking (e.g. too much detail, or insufficient background information).
  • Always demonstrate “stimming” behaviors.  Self-stimulatory behavior is seen in some but not all individuals with ASD; and for those who do “stim”, there is a wide range of “stimming” behaviors, some more subtle than others.
  • Can’t lead productive lives, go to college, nor have a family.   Individuals with ASD often need additional support in managing life transitions and developing functional independence.  Their families are their biggest supporters in learning how to navigate big life decisions.
  • Have autism due to their parents’ poor parenting skills.  Research indicates that there is a strong genetic basis to ASD.  We also know that no particular parenting style causes ASD.

By Patricia Eyster, M.Ed, Donna Henderson, Psy.D., Rebecca Penna, Ph.D., NCSP