Why is Autism called a Spectrum Disorder?

Why is Autism called a Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a developmental disorder that has been estimated to be diagnosed in 1 in 44 children in the U.S. 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that has no known cause.

It can be difficult to diagnose an autistic child because the symptoms tend to differ from person to person. 

The severity of autism varies too. 

One child might have difficulty interacting with other people while another may have difficulty interpreting what they see and hear. 

Additionally, all children develop at different rates and with varying degrees of intensity. 

This article will explore why autism is called a spectrum disorder and what that means for those living with it.

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What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that is characterized by difficulties with communication and heightened sensitivity to stimuli.

An autistic person's degree of disability can range from mild to profound, so it's important not to make generalizations about people who are autistic just as it's unwise to generalize about people who have other disabilities or disorders.

Some autistic children are non-verbal and unable to speak, while others may only use a few words but otherwise have normal speech patterns.

Some are hypersensitive to sounds or touch while others don't seem to notice them at all. 

For some autistic individuals, they may like being hugged and cuddled while others would rather avoid physical contact.

Those with autism often have a strong interest in certain topics that may appear obsessive to an outsider.

How is Autism Diagnosed?

One hallmark of autism is that it is difficult to diagnose.

It's hard to identify in children because it has no known cause. 

The symptoms of autism also vary from person to person. 

One child might have difficulty socializing or understanding emotional cues, while another may be hypersensitive to sound or touch.

The two criteria for diagnosing autism are impaired social interaction and impaired communication skills - but there are many symptoms that could be indicative of autism. 

These include repetitive behaviors, delayed speech development, sudden bursts of behaviors such as anger or tantrums, and lack of eye contact when spoken to.

Doctors assess the severity of these symptoms in order to make a diagnosis of mild autism, moderate autism, or severe autism.

The Spectrum of Autism

The three main types of autism are known as classic autism, high-functioning autism, and Asperger's syndrome. 

Classic autism is the most severe form of ASD, often characterized by impaired social skills, delayed language acquisition, and repetitive behavior or obsessive interests. 

High-functioning autism has a similar set of symptoms but with less difficulty in communicating or interacting with others. 

There are also people who show signs of classic autism without the intellectual impairment that is characteristic of high-functioning autism. 

The third type of ASD is called Asperger's syndrome. 

These individuals tend to have better cognitive function than those with classic autism and generally have fewer issues with social interactions. 

People diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome typically have a unique ability to become an expert on a specific topic. 

For example, they may be very interested in trains, and want to learn everything there is to know about how trains operate.

Why is it called a Spectrum Disorder?

The term autism spectrum disorder is used because people with ASD may not have all of the same symptoms, but they can share certain characteristics.

For instance, someone might be high-functioning and able to live independently while another person is low-functioning and needs constant care. 

The term "spectrum" suggests that autistic people have different degrees of severity.

It is important to understand that this label does not imply that there are multiple disorders at work. Instead, it's a way of describing the varying degrees of ASD symptoms from person to person. 

It also means that some autistic people may need more support than others, even if they share similar symptoms.

What is it like to live on the Spectrum?

As mentioned before, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that has no known cause. 

There are three main characteristics of autism spectrum disorder: social interaction problems, difficulty communicating, and repetitive behaviors.

First, people with ASD can have difficulties interacting with other people. 

This could mean they don't make eye contact or avoid physical touch. 

These differences in social interaction can lead to bullying and other forms of abuse and isolation.

Secondly, it's difficult for those living with ASD to communicate their thoughts and needs. 

They may have trouble understanding what others are saying or asking them to do things they're not sure about.

Finally, those living with ASD might have repetitive behaviors like rituals and routines. 

For instance, they might have a set place to eat or need to touch everything with one hand before doing the same thing with the other hand. 

It can be hard for them to learn new information or change their routine in any way because it feels unnatural for them - even if it would be beneficial for them overall. 

Conclusion

Autism is a spectrum disorder because the symptoms are different for each person, making it difficult to diagnose. 

The severity and difficulties that someone with autism may face can vary from one person to the next as well.

Acknowledging that autism falls on a spectrum allows us to view each individual for their own strengths and struggles.  

Much like many other aspects of life, autism does not fall into a binary definition.  

Instead, each autistic individual is a unique person and will present differently. 

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