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More on the Spectrum – Autism

Sometime in the not-too-distant past, I had a discussion with a relative on Facebook in which we talked about the various “designations” applied to Autistic folks.

The individual in question is considered to be mildly Autistic (to the degree that she was able to go through her entire childhood without a diagnosis), my son, Garrett, is considered moderately Autistic.

She tried to make the case that being “mildly” Autistic didn’t “deal with” her experience. I argued that, nonetheless, the “scale in place” was valid, if for no other reason than that it clarifies what will be “needed” to help an Autistic person integrate with society.

While this is the case, I want to make it plain that I had zero intent to “ague away” her point—which was and is, entirely valid.

This article is one result of that discussion.

Different people talk about levels of Autism in different ways. Some use numbers (1 being mild, 2 being Moderate and 3 being severe). There are, I am certain, a number of “systems of measurement” applied—many of which are probably outside my sphere of knowledge.

All such systems though, have one thing in common. They seek to find some level of “commonality” they can use to express the likelihood that a given Autistic person will be able to “fit into society at large.”

They have another thing in common as well. They all try to use some “simple system of demarcation” to make it possible for folks to not be “overwhelmed” by the potential possible categorizations that can be applied.

It turns out this is a far more important understanding that it seems on first consideration. Why is that? Let’s explore this question.

Anybody who has ever done a job that required measurement is fully aware small differences can result in huge problems.

If you’re measuring a countertop, and make the smallest error in how you do so, the countertop may well not fit in the space for which it is being created, or may be too small.

The result is that good tape measures have increments smaller than inches (typically tenths or similar).

When you consider that Autism is accounted “spectral” (I.e., its diagnosis is, as it were, a point on a spectrum), you’re likely not aware that three points on the Autism spectrum are not sufficient to really understand folks dealing with Autism.

Imagine a tape measure that’s twelve feet long, yet only has markings every four feet. One can use such a tape measure, but you can be assured a great deal of estimation will typically ensue.

This is not terribly unlike the Autism Spectrum Disorder “ruler.” People are generally told about three “points on” that measuring device. Does this mean there are not actually a great deal more? Not at all. In point of fact, though they’re not discussed as such, it’s entirely fair to say there are.

As if this is not complicated enough all on its own, now imagine that a person is not “placed on” a particular point spectrally as a result of a “single issue.” You see, there are varied and sundry things that will cause a person to end up “on the spectrum.” Fairly speaking, it takes a number of things “conspiring together” to “equal” Autism. Even so, those things alone are not the only possible things to be considered.

My son, by way of example, has issues with communication (though they’re getting better over the course of time). He was slow to speak, spoke to a very limited number of people initially, and to this day, is “fighting speech related battles” that much younger children have often already dealt with—if they were issues for them at all.

He also far from excels in social situations (and his speech issues are only a small part of the reason for that).

As well, his thought patterns are greatly different than are those of a “normal” child of the same age. Rest assured, this is far from a complete list.

But the point is, you may find that some folks who are moderately Autistic share more or less none of these traits. If they do share some of them, it may be one or two. That’s not to say such folks will not have their own set of somewhat unique challenges, and as a result be “just as” moderately Autistic as Garrett.

The point though is, not all moderately or mildly, or severely Autistic folks are anything like “the same.”

An—maybe the—important consideration about their “diagnosis,” is that the way it affects them is to “modify” their lives in such a way as to make the probability of “successful integration into the world at large” less—to whatever extent—than it might be for “normal” folks.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this can apply to any human being, Autistic or not.

If you have a child who has difficulty learning to read, their ability to meet with expectations of their school and likely consequentially the world at large will be affected. It makes precious little difference whether or not they’re Autistic except in what actions and strategies are necessary to remediate the “issue” in question.

In saying this however, I digress. The point of this article is to talk about the idea that the Autism Spectrum cannot be “defined down to” three points on that spectrum.

The benefit of having made the former statements is, any parent having worked to bring his or her child “up to speed” knows that his or her child may have a variety of things that keep them from success.

And any parent having dealt with more than one child, is completely aware that each child is different in what challenges he or she faces. This is assuredly equally true for children “on the Spectrum” as well. Not only are the challenges not the same from one child to the next, but the “true level” is not the same from one to the next either—even if they are counted the same by the “three mark system.”

One mildly Autistic child may have it harder or easier—or the same, but as a result of different challenges—than, or as another. What makes this worse is that the things that ultimately make it harder or easier for one than another are not necessarily intuitive. A child who has issues reading, for example, may have a hard time only when very young, but another child with the “same issue” may have issues for his or her entire life as a result.

By this point, I hope you can see that dealing with learning disabilities and issues with things like social interaction is hard enough, but often becomes even more complicated for those dealing with Autistic folks and folks with other “special needs.”

Okay, out of time and “space,” as such, allow me to wish you the best of times and thank you profusely for reading my rambling.

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