Debunking Autism Myths
There are countless damaging myths about autism that have penetrated the cultural zeitgeist in recent years. These harmful myths lead to seemingly endless instances of equally harmful autistic “representation” — anyone remember the disaster surrounding Sia’s movie Music?
Luckily, there is hope for the future of autism representation: Emily Holyoak’s Good Morning, Dinah — published by us! — is one book we can recommend with pride. So join us as we debunk prevalent myths about autism contrasted with Dinah, the nuanced autistic protagonist of Good Morning, Dinah (available for order now!) (Minor spoilers ahead.)
Myth #1: “Everyone’s a little bit autistic.”
Myth debunked: Although autism is a spectrum, a person is either autistic or not. This saying trivializes the experiences of autistic people.
How Good Morning, Dinah debunks this myth: Dinah and Felix both have experiences and struggles specifically tied to their autism; the allistic characters don’t share these experiences.
Myth #2: Autistic people lack empathy.
Myth debunked: Just like everyone else, different autistic people can empathize in different ways. In fact, many autistic people are highly concerned with other people’s feelings, often to an overwhelming degree.
How Good Morning, Dinah debunks this myth: While Dinah sometimes struggles to recognize the feeling, she finds herself empathizing with multiple characters throughout the book, especially Felix.
Myth #3: Autistic meltdowns are just temper tantrums.
Myth debunked: An autistic person has no control over their meltdowns, which happen when they are overwhelmed. On the other hand, temper tantrums are deliberate and goal-oriented.
How Good Morning, Dinah debunks this myth: Dinah experiences meltdowns when she is overwhelmed, when her routine shifts, or when something unexpected happens. She has to use various tools, such as stimming, to help her get relief from them.
Myth #4: Autistic people can’t/don’t want to fall in love, be in a relationship, or experience intimacy.
Myth debunked: Just like everyone else, different autistic people may or may not want to experience various types of intimacy! While an individual autistic person may identify as asexual and/or aromantic, identities are different from person to person.
How Good Morning, Dinah debunks this myth: Dinah and Maverick’s friendship develops into romance and intimacy as the novel progresses.
Myth #5: You can tell someone is autistic just by looking at them.
Myth debunked: Autism is an invisible disability. Although certain behaviors (like avoiding eye contact) may be associated with autism, you can’t know if someone is autistic unless they tell you.
Myth #6: Autism is becoming more common.
Myth debunked: There are many reasons why autism is more frequently diagnosed in the present day. It used to be much harder to get diagnosed with autism; in the 1980s, people in the U.S. often had to go to 9 or 10 specialists just to get a diagnosis!
Which of these myths about autism have you heard before? What other myths are you tired of hearing?
You can debunk more myths with us on disability and love here, or, if you’re craving more media with positive disability representation, check out our book recommendations here. And don’t forget to order your copy of Good Morning, Dinah, out now!
Bennie, Maureen. “Tantrum vs Autistic Meltdown: What Is The Difference?” Autism Awareness Centre, 2 Feb. 2016.
Cambrah, Jeryn. “Debunking 15 myths about autism.” Beaming Health, 24 Nov. 2022.
Silberman, Steve. “It’s Time We Dispelled These Myths about Autism.” BBC Future, BBC, 6 Oct. 2015.