What is the “Autism Spectrum?”

Autism awareness has been growing in recent years, but the nuances of this disorder are not widely understood.

If you’re wondering about the difference between autism and Asperger’s syndrome, how to communicate with a person with autism, or what exactly the autism spectrum is, you’re not alone.

As you learn more about the range of behaviors associated with this disorder, you’ll be better equipped to communicate with autistic people and their friends and family.

Rise in Autism Diagnoses

It may seem like more people are diagnosed with autism disorder than ever before. According to the Centers for Disease Control, that suspicion is accurate. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of children with autism more than doubled. Some academics suspect that the genius of historical figures like Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Mozart may have been caused by Asperger’s syndrome.

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Until recently, Asperger’s disorder was considered a separate diagnosis. In the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, the official book used for defining psychological disorders, Asperger’s syndrome has been merged into the autism entry. This means that psychiatrists and scientists will no longer refer to Asperger’s as a separate disorder. Instead, people with Asperger’s will be classified as having mild autism or high-functioning autism.

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The Spectrum of Behavior

People with autism have a range of symptoms. Some autistic people don’t communicate with others in any way; others have trouble maintaining eye contact, following the flow of conversation, or socializing with others. Autistic people may need round-the-clock supervision or live normal, independent lives. Some people with autism have exciting careers, happy marriages, and large groups of friends, while others struggle to engage with regular society. Some of the most typical autistic behaviors include an unusual sense of humor, extreme sensitivity to sensations like loud noises or uncomfortable temperatures, intense interest in esoteric topics, and repetitive movements like packing or rocking back and forth. With such a range of behaviors, activities, and outcomes, it’s easy to see why experts view autism as a spectrum. Always keep in mind that your coworker, barista, or friend could be living with autism. Be respectful of the wide range of symptoms and experiences associated with this disorder.

Understanding autism is more important than ever. With more diagnoses every year, chances are someone in your social circle has autism Now that you know what the autism spectrum is, you’ll be able to recognize and respect the unique strengths of people with autism.