It happens without fail. Consider yourself lucky if you haven't had some know-it-all Judgey McJudgerton tell you how your child with autism, or a sensory disorder are simply "misbehaved". It's almost as if they'd pee themselves if they couldn't get their verbal vomited opinions out. It's as if they feel they're providing a public service by telling you that deep down... it's all your fault.
You see, " in their day", children like that would be considered brats. Perhaps if you disciplined them more, they'd behave better. If there were more spankings, there would be less problems with your heathen child. Autism, Smutism. Doesn't everyone have that now? You just want to label your child. There's nothing wrong with them that a good ass whooping/dietary change/rules and structure wouldn't solve.
Now, I could go into the fallacies of these statements. How crime is actually on the decline. How even though I'm not really an anti-spanking person, that research shows some very negative consequences to spanking- especially if done in excess of weekly.
What I'm going to do is go into WHY many people believe this myth. Especially if they're over the age of 40 or 50.
When a person who is middle aged or older tells you that they didn't see this behavior much when they were kids, they are in fact probably telling you the truth. They didn't. The reason why is not because children were better behaved, or because of the "autism epidemic" that people so enjoy flashing around. It's because most children that had these sorts of issues were institutionalized. In fact, people with neurological disorders like autism and sensory disorders are still institutionalized. It just isn't as prevalent as it was in the past.
The first person to use the term "autism" was Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, in 1911. It was in the 1940's that American researchers started using the word "autism". It was during this time that Leo Kanner, and Hans Asperger started to identify the true elements of autism, and aspergers, respectively. Primary therapies for the time were, electroshock therapy, LSD medication, and some behavioral therapies. Most mothers were blamed for it (refrigerator mothers), and institutionalizing was a common practice.
Temple Grandin's parents were told to institutionalize her. People incorrectly believe that Temple Grandin was diagnosed with Asperger's, which people commonly equate to "mild" symptoms (this isn't always the case). Temple Grandin actually has classic autism, and she was by no means mild in her diagnosis. Her parents refused to institutionalize her. Since then, she has been listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010 by Time Magazine.
It was also suggested that Daryl Hannah be institutionalized. She was also diagnosed with autism as a child. Since modern methods for autism treatment weren't in existence, medication and institutionalization was suggested for her. Her autism impacted her so much that she took a long hiatus from acting because of it. That being said, she is heavily involved in activism. She lives green, including having a truck that runs on vegetable oil.
What is my point in all of this? My point is that people from older generations, or less educated circles, were raised to believe that people with things such as autism were undesirable. Not only that, but they very seldom had to associate with someone who had classic autism. If they did, usually it would be someone with lesser symptoms who could "pass" in society. You know, those "weirdos"? The "creepy", or "nerdy" types that were picked on so mercilessly in school? Those were some of your undercover autistics. Otherwise, people with more severe symptoms were commonly not in the public eye.
So, when someone tells you, "Back in their day, kids like this were considered brats.", you should believe them. Then you should roll your eyes and move on. They are nothing more then relics of a generation that hid their children away instead of helping them. It isn't necessarily their fault that society indoctrinated the world with such a view, but it's their fault that they choose not to evolve and educate themselves on it.