What does “spectrum disorder” mean?
ASD is the acronym often used to when talking about autism. ASD stands for autism spectrum disorder. But what is a spectrum disorder?
If I told you I had stage 4 pancreatic cancer, you would know the severity and location of my cancer. It’s pretty specific without having to get into the detail of the actual diagnosis. Unlike autism which can look very different from person to person.
The diagnosis of autism is like a broad paint brush painting a broad stroke. That’s a lot of surface area. Two people maybe represented in that paint stroke but have vastly different traits that characterize autism. Which can be challenging in understanding autism as well as identifying it. There are various assessments and tests professionals do to help identify autism, which can be a lengthy process, or can go totally undiagnosed. So without being a professional, it can be extremely hard to recognize.
Now, for each person lets put their character traits on a bar graph. Vertically representing a severity of the atypical behavior. Zero being typical in the behavior. And our horizontal line represents traits, which could go on very long depending on the test or level of specificity. But we will have: social traits, language traits, behavioral traits, motor skills, and so on. And in side of each of those you may find at least 10 traits. So, for social as the first example we may have: ability to read facial expressions, ability to make friends, understanding figures of speech, eye contact, and so on. Most people with autism have markers in all areas of being atypical, but may not exhibit every trait atypically. Some people may be very minimal markers in lots of areas , while others may have severe markers in a few areas and some severe markers in many areas.
There are so many people with autism, and because it is a spectrum disorder, people will look very different. As explain in the previous post, there were 4 categories that were later put under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder.
I hope this helps, and I will continue to offer insights this month, while trying to be brief. I have included a list of character traits, this I felt was a good exhaustive list. Though there are more that will help look for makers by age and to be cognizant of while raising children.
* List of autism characteristics
** List of traits that are age appropriate
Again these lists are helpful and not prescriptive. They are helpful tools and 1 person won’t exhibit all of them. So if you are concerned a screening can be done by asking you pediatrician. And it should be noted that a pediatrician may not pick up on these signs during a short well check. Without you asking for a screening, it may not be sought after by your pediatrician. As signs can be so subtle in some. But the biggest help to any person is giving them the tools to succeed. And some may need different tools than others.
Here is a beautiful story of a little girl named Iris Grace who has autism. She couldn’t speak but could paint masterpieces before she was 5. But those beautiful works of art were more than that to her parents, they were a door into her world.