New studies and rumors fly almost every week on what (allegedly) causes autism and what "cures" it. At the same time, autism studies (including the frequently-cited Wakefield study linking MMR vaccines to autism in 1998) occasionally get retracted. What's true and what's not? Dr. Perri Klass and Dr. Eileen Costello, pediatricians and co-authors of "Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In - When to Worry and When Not to Worry," distinguish autism facts from autism fiction.
Myth #1. Autism is severe mental retardation. The current understanding of autism is that it is a spectrum – thus the term Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Many of us remember a time when autism was synonymous with mental retardation. That is no longer the case, due in large part to a broadening of diagnostic criteria. All individuals on the autism spectrum have differences from their more typical peers in the following areas:
Individuals “on the spectrum” range from highly intelligent and competent in many areas to profoundly intellectually disabled and nonverbal. Some children and adults with autism have unusual intellectual or other abilities such as perfect pitch, mathematical skills, artistic abilities, yet still have difficulties with the most basic interpersonal interactions.