The Autism Spectrum

The Autism Spectrum

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that, early on in development, alters how a child perceives and interacts with others. Early life experiences a person has with this condition can shape the level of challenges that are associated with autism characteristics.

There are two ways people can look at autism:

  • On the one hand, autism is a medical condition that involves a spectrum of disability. A diagnosis cannot be made if there is no evidence of disability of significant challenges impacting the person’s functioning at school, home, work, and with peers. These challenges are a result of “atypical” neurobiology.
  • On the other hand, autism can be viewed as a form of human variation or neurodiversity. This diversity runs along various dimensions unique to that person and includes their strengths and challenges.

It is important for society to acknowledge both viewpoints - rather than either-or - to best support autistic individuals.


  • Typically seen (or recognized in retrospect) in the early periods of a person’s development

Social Communication/Interaction:

  • Little, reduced or poorly coordinated eye contact
  • Reduced sharing of interest, emotion, enjoyment
  • Not responding or being slow to respond to various social bids from others
  • Difficulty with communication: whether initiating, maintaining, or ending conversation
  • Reduced or awkward facial expression or gestures
  • Unusual tone of voice
  • Difficulty understanding another person’s viewpoint
  • Trouble adjusting one’ behavior given the social context
  • Trouble playing with others or making friends

Restrictive or repetitive behaviors, interest, or sensory challenges:

  • Needing to repeat certain behaviors, words, phrases
  • Having a hype-focused interest on certain topics, details, facts, objects, or parts of objects
  • Trouble with changes in routine that causes significant challenges
  • Being sensitive to certain stimuli: light, sound, texture, temperature
  • Being under-stimulated to various stimuli

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