Saturday, May 28, 2016

What Does Autism SPECTRUM Mean Anyway?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a difficult term to understand. It's the "spectrum" part that gets tricky.

Most people I've talked to are familiar with at least a few of the symptoms of ASD. They know someone with Autism or have read something online. Lots of people have run across something like this diagram on Facebook:

(Illustration Credit: I couldn't find one. Bummer.)

And that's great. I'm glad that people are getting the word out in easy to digest ways. But there's a problem with this diagram and a bunch of others just like it. It's absolute. It shows a kid with Autism and all the things that affect him. Only, I don't know a single autistic person that is affected by every single one of these things. It doesn't work like that.

Autism is a spectrum. There are lots of possible symptoms. Each person experiences different symptoms and to different degrees.  For Max and Dexter the diagram looks more like this:

And that's just a small portion of the symptoms. There are way too many to put into one diagram.

For me, the word "spectrum" evokes imagery from science class. The light spectrum is logical. From short wavelength to long wavelength, it's a linear progression.


The Autism Spectrum is nothing like this. It's not a progression of "less autistic" to "very autistic." I'll let this excellent comic by Rebecca Burgess explain it: UNDERSTANDING THE SPECTRUM

-Will (dad on the spaceship)