How often have we seen or heard the phrase: ‘Everyone is a little bit autistic”? Unfortunately this is totally misinformed and only serves to trivialise the experience of those diagnosed with the condition.
Although autism is said to be a spectrum, this doesn’t mean that you can move from being mildly to severely affected.
Autism is a spectrum of 7 intertwined neurological conditions.
- Pragmatic language: social communication including body language, eye contact, small talk and turn taking in conversation.
- Social awareness: ability to pick up etiquette, social norms, taboos. Includes ability to form and maintain relationships.
- Monotropic mindset: narrow but intense ability to focus, resulting in “obsessive” interests and difficulty task switching.
- Information processing: ability to assimilate and apply new information quickly.
- Sensory processing: difficulty in interpreting sensory information (hyper/ or hyposensitivity to stimuli).
- Repetitive behaviours.
- Neuro motor skills: ability to control body movements.
Autistic people share to some degree all or most of the above conditions. So, if you are affected in only one or two of those areas, you are not autistic!
For a person to be considered autistic, they must have difficulties in multiple categories spanning the spectrum. Diagnosis depends on evidence that you are affected strongly enough in more than one category and that this is disabling in some way.C.L. Lynch
People with autism who can speak for themselves and have control over their body are generally classified as having ‘high functioning autism’. However this is a definition based on how someone’s autism affects others; the severity of autism being judged on how it affects neurotypical people’s quality of life.
In this article, C.L. Lynch explains that while her autism may affect those around her mildly, she feels severely affected by it. Having to live with autism in a neurotypical world is mentally exhausting – whether you have what’s considered severe, mild or high functioning autism.
The visibility of a particular trait of autism doesn’t make one person more autistic than another. “Don’t assume the stranger we are, the ‘more autistic’ we are”. You either are, or aren’t autistic.