Section 6: Understand common misconceptions surrounding autism
Q18: Describe how attitudes and lack of understanding can compound the difficulties of individuals with autism. (6.1)
Due to research only being produced recently into autism, as well as debunked theorists in the early days of autism, there is a lack of understanding when it comes to autism. Even though, we have worked hard to adapt legislation to new definitions, researched for causes and tried to promote autism as being no different as any other condition and should not be a reason to which someone is referred to as ‘different’, there are still unhelpful attitudes towards autism that seem to get in the way in our
modern day society. The lack of understanding has provided an unsettled view of autism. This includes a social stigma produced, causing them to be perceived as ‘strange’, ‘odd’, or in some cases even frightening and threatening. The characteristics that are produced due to the condition e.g. behaviour that challenges, is not seen in the empathetic way of there being reason behind actions, but rather
to cause disruption just because. Mental ill health conditions that come alongside autism, such as anxiety, can also be misinterpreted by those who do not have a full understanding of autism. It is also seen that those with autism are more vulnerable to exploitation causing them to become victim in most cases. There are also practical difficulties in accessing the advice, care and support that someone with autism needs. Due to fundingcuts with the NHS, only children are funded to be diagnosed which means adults are disregarded. The lack of social services and benefits means that local services can even be relunctant to diagnose someone causing them to be either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, meaning they miss out on vital advice, care and support they need to maintain their daily life.
It can also be difficult to find specialists who are suitably skilled and qualified to diagnose and support people who have autism. Social workers and care workers may not always be positive when reacting to characteristics shown in autism and may not handle the challenge. The complexity of autism means that there is a lot to do to ensure the child or person is supported. In some cases, the person may even be dependent on the social or care worker which the health care worker may not be suitably
qualified for or be positive towards taking on the role.
Q19: Give examples of how autism can be misrepresented in the media. (6.2)
It is important that when autism is represented, it is represented in an appropriate, fair and honest way. Unfortunately, the media does not always do this: in some cases, will showcase the savant abilities of someone with autism, despite only 10% of cases showing this and others. The way it is portrayed in media means it can become misunderstood in mainstream society, leaving parents, carers and teachers unsure what to expect due to the complexity of the condition. The film ‘Rain Man’ tells the story of an individual with high-functioning autism who has savant abilities, such as having increased skills that are more extraordinary than normal. Some thought the film improved public awareness of autism, despite it making it seem that those with autism are extraordinarily different to those without.
‘Atypical’ follows a boy through his high school years and the difficulties of living with autism. It explores obsessive interests, in his case Penguins, as well as other social difficulties he has living with his newly broken family, his sister moving to college and starting new milestones in life, such as starting a new relationship. In my opinion, it shows a varied case of living with autism and the difficulties are expressed well through this indicating different parts of autism.
Q20: Describe how discrimination against individuals with autism can occur inadvertently in society. (6.3)
Due to the complexities of autism, in some cases, those with autism may be discriminated inadvertently in society. In some cases, it may be where someone is unsure how to put in place the correct adjustments to ensure the individual with autism is comfortable and being treated appropriately. Behaviours can also be misinterpreted by others, whether be peers, managers, family or any other person they might come into contact with, as they may believe some characteristics are being shown on
purpose despite being related to the condition. Discrimination can also come from lack of understanding, whether this be due to media misrepresenting those with autism, or such few theories and research on the condition – this can also lead to others thinking the individual with autism is ‘strange’ or ‘odd’ which can lead to them being treated differently.