Is no information better than the wrong information when it comes to autism?

There is a lot of talk about raising awareness, and therefore acceptance when it comes to autism, but one of the most damaging things with this is people believing they know facts about autism that they actually don’t know.  Why is this worse than not knowing anything about the condition?  The article below will try to explain.  It is also worth pointing out that the points raised in this article will not apply to everybody who has the wrong kind of knowledge about autism, but it would not be surprising if many of the readers have encountered the issues described below.

If somebody knows nothing about autism – they have heard the name, but nothing else – they are, so to speak, a completely blank canvas; they don’t have pre-existing beliefs getting in the way of what they are being told.

But often people can be so stubborn, and set in their ways, that when they believe misconceptions, stereo-types and mis-information about autism, they will often argue these points despite being presented with more accurate information.  It is a strange thing that people do. that can’t really be explained in this article.  Not everybody does this, and those who do don’t do it with everything, but perhaps the best example is one that doesn’t actually relate to autism.

Take what is referred to as an `old wives tale`, for example, cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis – common knowledge now is that this has been completely disproved by science.  However, people will still stand by it; they have no proof, they are simply saying something because they have always said it, and they grew up believing it.  There is absolutely no logical reason for them to stand by what they are saying; they have a piece of knowledge, or what they believe to be knowledge, but it is actually not.  In this example, the misconception is irritating, but harmless.

But when the same ignorant behaviour is applied to beliefs about autism: not feeling emotion, more males being autistic that females, the concept of growing out of autism – to name a few – it can be damaging, and even offensive to people.  If people won’t even believe the truth about what autism is when an autistic person tells them, what respect can that autistic person actually hope to receive from the person in question?  A person who isn’t willing to learn, and change their opinion is also likely to be the kind of person who will not accept those who don’t fit society`s standards.

Having the wrong information is not the real problem.  The problem is continuing to believe that it is right.  

Obviously the ideal situation would be for somebody to have the right knowledge when it comes to autism.  This isn’t an argument to suggest that people being completely clueless is better than them having ideas, and sticking to them.  People who believe the myths about autism are fine as long as they are willing to learn, and be educated by those who know better.  But if you take somebody who has absolutely zero pre-conceived ideas about autism, and compare them to somebody who has all the wrong pre-conceived ideas about autism – and firmly stands by them all in the face of all logical arguments to the contrary – then lack of knowledge must surely be better than the wrong knowledge when it comes to autism?