The autism spectrum
I only figured out I'm autistic in 2022. I'm still learning. Writing these articles is how I learn things. They're all works in progress, to various extents. No-one can speak for an entire minority group. These are just my personal experiences, things I've found out from talking to my friends, and discussions I've seen on autistic forums. Please don't take me as authoritative. I'm not.
The concept of the autism spectrum is a bit of a misnomer. It's easy to picture a gradient, with people who have some slightly autistic traits at one end, and people more heavily affected by autism on the other, a sign that "everyone's a little bit autistic".
Actually listening to the autistic community, it's widely accepted that this is completely wrong. It's more accurate to say you're either autistic or you're not, but within that, there are lots of different traits, and you may have some but not others, and to varying degrees. It's not a sliding scale where you have an autism percentage, it's more like a collection of multiple sliding scales, one for each trait, and even then, that's still oversimplistic.
In hindsight, it's less the case that I'm "only a bit on the spectrum", and more the case that I'm autistic, in a way that hinders some aspects of my life (such as socialising with allistic people) while positively boosting others (such as making idiosyncratic electronic music). I've somehow been lucky enough to avoid some of the more debilitating traits, such as sunlight blinding me and loud noises deafening me (they don't), and I'm good enough at acting to somewhat mask in order to talk to allistic people, with varying degrees of success and comfort. Combine that with people (including myself until early 2022) conflating autism as a whole with a few simple stereotypes, and even when it was painstakingly obvious that I'm not like allistic people, I wasn't perceived as autistic because I didn't fit those stereotypes. I was merely perceived as a generic "weird".
If you think you "might be somewhere on the spectrum", then it's possible that you too might have been masking so long you forgot it was something you had to consciously learn to do. Maybe you have more autistic traits than you realise, and you've been hiding the visible ones, and you've overlooked that other people don't have to put up with the same invisible struggles you do.
"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.
— Adam Walton
- "Isn't Everyone a Little Bit Autistic?" Aspergers from the Inside, Apr 2019
- "'Autism is a Spectrum' Doesn't Mean What You Think" C. L. Lynch, May 2019
- "Autism: some good questions and some less good" Sonny Hallett, 2020
- "Getting an Adult Diagnosis" AsIAm Ireland, Dec 2020
- "The Autism Spectrum" @cypopps Twitter, Apr 2021
- "The Autism Spectrum: Explained" Yo Samdy Sam, Dec 2021
Autistic paradigms and terminology: Antonym | Asperger syndrome | The autism spectrum | The pathology paradigm