All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there...Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison...I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

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08 March 2009

View the Spectrum

By definition, a spectrum refers to a continuous sequence or range. So why is there so much confusion and myth surrounding the various ways autism can present?

As listed by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), individuals on the autism spectrum share certain attributes such as hyper and hypo-sensitivities related to sensory stimulation, intense focus on special interests, introversion, unique approaches to social interaction, and typically detailed thinking.

There are several classifications, but we often hear about:

a. Classic autism
b. Asperger Syndrome
c. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

It is not uncommon to hear references such as High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Low-Functioning Autism (LFA). Those terms, however, are offensive to the Autistic-Community, as well as subjective. It is imperative to look at how functioning is currently being defined as applied to Autism Spectrum Disorders. For example, should an autistic person who is nonverbal be considered low-functioning despite the fact that he or she is able to communicate using an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device?

There happens to be a great number of adults on the autistic spectrum who happen to be highly self-determined, yet they still experience significant struggles in life. What sense does it make to divide autistics into categories of high and low functioning, and then demand that such individuals compete for resources that are already scarce and limited? Functioning levels are ambiguous.

Autistics may have an I.Q. that falls on both sides of the bell curve. In other words, it's not uncommon for an autistic person to have a significant range in I.Q. testing scores. It is vital to take into account verbal and social issues, as well as individual learning styles.

We need to support awareness and understanding of uneven skills in individuals who are on the autism spectrum. The attainment of valuable meaningful services for the whole of the autistic population highly depends on widespread comprehension of the many ways autism can present.

Examples of uneven skills:

1. Having extreme intelligence with computers and written communication and then not being able to make a sandwich or prepare food.

2. Sophisticated writing abilities, yet either struggling with spoken communication and/or being nonverbal.

3. Possessing an amazing savant skill and then not being able to take care of basic survival needs.

4. Excelling at calculus, yet being incapable of doing simple arithmetic.

5. Being unable to apply a well-known skill at all times in all situations.

6. Being highly organized yet struggling to remain so under stress or without contextual cues.

Further reading:

10 Autism Controversies
Skills Here. Skills There. Skills Spiraling Everywhere.
What Is Autism?

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