ASD Stigma Myths And Misconceptions
Closely related to the lack of awareness regarding ASD is the tremendous amount of stigma surrounding the condition. Stigma as defined by Erving Goffman, in his pivotal work
Notes on the Management of a Spoiled Identity, is a process through which individuals become socially marginalized, or that which “reduces a person from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.” (1963,p.3) This is certainly the case with how India as a whole perceives ASD, whereby individuals and their families struggle with being assigned a label of
“other,” and being socially disregarded as such. One mother, Kavita, said that as most of Indian society sees it, there is “‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ and nothing in between. …show more content…
Unfortunately, “otherness” is a dominant part of the reality that individuals with ASD and their families experience.
While part of the stigma surrounding ASD results from an inability to accept difference, stigma and lack of awareness go hand in hand. A significant part of the stigma surrounding ASD stems from a host of myths and misconceptions about ASD, like the equation of ASD with mental retardation or the idea that ASD is the result of bad parenting. Actor Prithviraj offered his opinion on the stigma he and his family have faced as a result of his son’s ASD, saying “Autism is a disability and not a disease. Nor is it retardation. Treat an autistic child with sensitivity.”
(Feinstein, 2011) ASD-related stigma affects not only the individual with ASD, but also that person’s family, as “family is seen to be a part of the illness” and “parents with autistic children frequently encounter hostile or insensitive reactions from public.” (Bashir et al. 2014 p.65) Many parents have had a hard time with others assuming that they are responsible for their …show more content…
Too frequently, the stigma surrounding ASD negatively affects the treatment process, and means that parents will be less likely to seek intervention early on – or at all. Recognizing that one’s child has a problem, and receiving a diagnosis of ASD is one thing - but accepting the stigma, severity, and permanence of the condition is another. One couple Reva and Sudeep said that they were “always in denial.” They wanted to believe that their now 13 year old son,
Saksham, was a “late bloomer.” (Personal Interview 12, 2014) Anurag said that it is often hard for parents to deal with their children’s diagnosis, and admitted that his own process of coming to terms with his son’s ASD was a difficult one. For about a year after their son was diagnosed,
Anurag and Garima sought solutions from anyone but psychiatric professionals, partaking in religious rituals and visiting a number of spiritual healers and informal practitioners. (Personal
Interview 9, 2014) While Anurag and Garima clearly reached a place of understanding, acceptance, and determination regarding their son’s ASD, not every parent reaches that place.
This is a significant problem, because it means that intervention and treatment are