After a semester of intro to psychology and a dozen BuzzFeed quizzes, you might think you've got a pretty good understanding of how the human psyche works. Unfortunately, you're probably basing that assumption on a science that's less "science" and more "a string of guesstimates cobbled together over the last hundred years or so." Not everything you learned from your high school psychology teacher/gym coach is rock-solid truth, guys.
So, despite what you've heard at parties or read in articles shared on Facebook ...
5 There Is No Raging Autism Epidemic
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The entire premise of the anti-vaccine nutjobs is that all of a sudden lots of kids have autism, and there has to be a reason, goddamnit! "If it's not the vaccine thing, then is it, what, something in the water? The air? High fructose corn syrup? Video games? The gays?"
The video game gays?
Laugh at them all you want, but the fact that autism is suddenly everywhere is undeniable -- your parents and grandparents can tell you that they didn't go to school with a single autistic kid, while these days everyone has at least one friend on the spectrum, along with 50 percent of TV show detectives. It's no wonder sites throw around phrasing like "Autism: The Hidden Epidemic?" and "What if Autism Were Contagious?"
Not so fast, cowboy. What might look like an epidemic at first glance is actually people giving a name to something that's always existed. Researchers don't think that autism itself is on the rise; they think parents and doctors are smarter about what it looks like. Your grandma had autistic kids in her neighborhood, but she went to school in an era when they dismissed them as the victims of witch curses.
"We didn't give insulin to any kids with the devilbetes either."
We're barely exaggerating -- autism didn't even get a name until 1943, and for 20 years after that, the condition was interchanged with schizophrenia and totally blamed on bad parenting. As in, "Your child is 4 years old and hasn't learned to talk? You didn't hold him enough when he was a baby. Boom. Done. NEXT! Kid showing inappropriate reactions to social cues? Well, you clearly didn't spank him enough!"
It wasn't until 1980 that the main guide for mental illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published the six-point criteria for diagnosing the condition (and none of them were about how crappy your mother was). Finally, kids who once would have been labeled mentally disabled despite high intelligence now had another possible diagnosis. We didn't even start throwing the phrase "autism spectrum" around until the mid-'90s -- meaning doctors on the cutting edge of psychiatry were just waking up to the fact that there's actually a wide range of symptoms of autism at around the same time kids were walking around with one overall strap hanging down and singing Color Me Badd.
Archimedes had his bathtub, Newton had his apple, autism doctors had 90210.
So, yeah, claiming that autism is new is like saying germs didn't exist until we invented the microscope.