ASD Overview

What you believe the "autism spectrum" means, isn’t what it means

What you believe the “autism spectrum” means, isn’t what it means

Everyone knows that autism is a spectrum. People bring it up all the time.

  • “My son is on the severe end of the autism spectrum.”

  • “We’re all a little autistic– it’s a spectrum.”

  • “I’m not autistic but I’m definitely ‘on the spectrum.’”

When you are thinking of a spectrum you are actually thinking of a gradient. We have all split white light with a prism in high school science. You end up seeing the visual light spectrum


As you can see, the various parts of the spectrum are noticeably different from each other.

  • Blue looks very different from red, but they are both on the visible light spectrum

  • Red is not “more blue” than blue is.

  • Red is not “more spectrum” than blue is.

What the Austism Spectrum looks like


All autistic people are affected in one way or another in all these boxes – a rainbow of traits. If you only check one or two boxes, then they don’t call it autism– they call it something else.

  • if you ONLY struggle with communication, then that is a social communication disorder

  • If you ONLY have problems with body movement/control, then that is called dyspraxia

  • If you ONLY have sensory processing issues, then that is sensory processing disorder.

**But if you have all the above and more, they call it autism. **

Each autistic person is affected strongly enough in one or more categories for it to be disabling in some way. But each person’s dominant colour palette may look different. Here are some examples of how autism could manifest in three different people.

Person 1


Person 2


As you can see, all three of these hypothetical autistics show classic signs of autism, and yet they all seem very different from one another.

  • Person One would probably be described as “high-functioning”

  • Person Two is the type of person who is often described as “severely autistic”

Both people are disabled in some way.

People who can speak aloud and have reasonable control over their motor processing are often called “high-functioning” or “mildly autistic” and yet these autistics often struggle with employment, relationships, and executive function.

Mild autism doesn’t mean one experiences autism mildly… It means YOU experience their autism mildly. You may not know how hard they’ve had to work to get to the level they are

Credit: The Aspergian