Autism Spectrum Disorder Has No Degree of Severity

*Autism Spectrum Disorder has no degree of severity between the different types of ASD. It is neither worse, nor better to have “High Functioning Autism” (Asperger’s Syndrome), “Classic Autism,” or PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified).

Now that we know my son has Autism, I’m often asked the question, “Where on the spectrum does your son fall?” I had a rant about this in an earlier post, but I’ve often found that the problem is the misconception of the name Autism Spectrum. Some people take this to mean that there are different degrees of Autism. This is especially true of those who have heard of “High Functioning Autism,” but have no idea what it is. Let me clarify: “High Functioning Autism” is just another name for Asperger’s Syndrome, which is Autism without a speech delay. The symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome are much like those of regular Autism, except that a person with Asperger’s does not have significant difficulty with spoken language. They do, however, have a lot of trouble with unspoken communication, like body language and facial cues. This is why if you say, “Come here” to a person with Asperger’s they will not be able to distinguish whether or not you are mad or simply happy to see them.

Of course, I say all of this, not lightly, but with the knowledge of a step-brother who was diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult a couple of years before we found out that Monkey has Autism. It is my experience that all people with Autism are unique. They all show different symptoms as well as different severity of those symptoms. For instance, my son has made a lot of progress in just a few short months. He can now say his entire alphabet song (I don’t say sing because normally he just shouts it) and count to 10. He has also picked up many other phrases from television and people that he hears and does a lot of parroting. Even though he’s made so much progress in speech, he still flaps his hands and needs the sensation of jumping off of things. Other children with Autism might take longer to pick up speech than Thatcher, even given the same circumstances.

But the point is, that all people with any form of Autism are unique. A person who just sees someone with Autism and doesn’t recognize it might believe that the person with Autism is odd, but certainly not slow because people with Autism have brilliant minds. Speaking of my own experience, my son can work my iPod with ease and actually picked up the skill before I owned one. A friend of mine used to come over all the time and she handed it to him one day. As soon as she handed it to him, he knew exactly how to unlock it and flip pages in iBooks. I have absolutely no idea how he was able to figure out how to work the iPod without reading any instructions or seeing someone else work the iPod at three years old (he’s now four).

It’s not easy to be an advocate for someone like my son, but I just want people out there to know that my son is not “slow.” He’s a very smart little boy and though learning comes a bit slower in some areas for him, he can learn and once he does learn something, he generally doesn’t forget what he’s learned. I’m proud to admit that my husband and I were able to teach our son to use a coaster at two years old. We did this by telling him he could not throw his cup on the floor and showing him over and over that his cup belongs on a coaster. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. Now, he always puts his cup on a coaster, if one is available and if one is not, he at least puts his cup on a table, but never in the floor. However, he prefers a straw cup and we have not been able to teach him the concept of a normal sippy cup. I personally believe that people have far too many misconceptions about what Autism is and this is part of the reason it is so difficult to fix. I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted this on this blog before, but it’s something everyone should see: 


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