Myths & Facts

Myths

Autistic children can’t be helped. Many people believe that a person with autism cannot learn new skills, but this is not the case. The treatments featured at Kyle’s Treehouse, while varied and different, have all seen improvements in children’s conditions. In many cases, these improvements have been dramatic and there are some cases where the person no longer has autism at all (including Kyle himself, the once-autistic son of the founders of Kyle’s Treehouse).

Cold or distant parenting causes autism.1 One of the original “cause” theories was the “refrigerator parent,” which held that parents who were unloving created such an unattractive world to the child that the child became autistic. This theory couldn’t be farther from the truth and is no longer considered credible. Children from all walks of life are diagnosed with autism, and parents with autistic children also have children who are not autistic. Today we know that parents are not to blame for causing autism.

All autistic people are like Rain Man.1 The film Rain Man changed how autism was perceived, from a little-known disorder to something people talked about. Because the autistic character Raymond (played by Dustin Hoffman) had some extraordinary abilities (known as splinter skills, which can include perfect memory, mathematical calculation, and art/music), it has often been assumed that all people with autism have abilities like these. While it is true that some autistic people may have extraordinary skills, most do not have these abilities.

Autistic children never learn to talk. Many autistic children have the ability to speak and learn to talk and communicate successfully with others. Therapy can have a great impact and help autistic children develop strong language skills. Many autistic children who did not talk now speak with great skill.

Autistic children do not smile or show affection. People with autism do indeed feel and experience emotion. This has been demonstrated by numerous people who once had autism and by autistics who have the ability to clearly communicate and show emotion. Because of the nature of the disorder, it may take longer for attachments and bonds to form. But many autistic children show affection right from the beginning, and many others demonstrate affection as they develop.

If a treatment doesn’t have clinical research behind it, it is probably not useful. Very few treatments have done any form of clinical research. This is mainly because it is difficult to do and very costly. Thousands of parents have found help and been extremely satisfied with their experience involving treatments that do not have clinical research to back them up. Kyle’s Treehouse believes that everyone would be better served by more research and hopes to sponsor many various treatment trials in the long term.

Alternative therapies are run by charlatans. We have spoken to many families who have done alternative treatments as well as many of the professionals who provide alternative treatments. They are, for the most part, people who want to help and truly believe they can. We have yet to come across someone who offered a treatment and didn’t believe in it. (Please note: we have not spoken to everyone, and cannot vouch for every treatment out there. As a generalization, we have been impressed by the dedication and concern we have witnessed from everyone with whom we have spoken. In all instances, more than a small group of parents have indicated success.)

Autism can be cured solely with nutrition. There is no scientific evidence that finds nutrition to be a cure for autism. There is, however, anecdotal evidence that adding certain vitamins and/or supplements or removing certain foods can have a large impact on the child’s development.

1“Autism Myths and Realities,” Robert Needlman, M.D. and www.drspock.com

Facts

  • As many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. (source: Autism Society of America)
  • Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year. At these rates, it is estimated that the prevalence of autism could reach four million Americans in the next decade. (source: Autism Society of America)
  • The United States spends $90 billion per year to provide care for the country’s 1.5 million autistic children and adults. The Autism Society of America estimates that cost could balloon to $200 billion to $400 billion by 2013. (source: Southeast Missourian via The Autistic Society)
  • Autism is now considered the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States. (source: National Alliance for Autism Research)
  • Autism is more common than multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis or childhood cancer. (source: The New England Center for Children)
  • Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by “severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development,” including social interaction and communications skills. (source: Autism Society of America)
  • Autism is a spectrum disorder. The symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. (source: Autism Society of America)
  • Autism is consistent around the globe, but is four times more prevalent in males than females. (source: Autism Society of America)
  • Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income, lifestyle and educational levels do not affect the chance of autism’s occurrence. (source: Autism Society of America)
  • The age that most children start showing symptoms of autism is between 18 and 24 months. (source: Cure Autism Now)
  • Since autism can be detected as early as 18 months of age, intervention can begin during the period when the brain is most malleable. Early intervention can result in a significant increase in IQ and language ability and a decrease in support services needed later in childhood. (source: Autism Center, University of Washington)
  • No one knows exactly what causes autism, but scientists think that both genetic and environmental factors might play a role. (source: Autism Information Center, Centers for Disease Control)