The Autistic Scale

18 February 2019

Dear Friend,

I wish I had a euro for every time someone has responded to the statement, I have a son with autism with:
…but he's not that bad
…but he's high functioning
…but he's clever?

People with Autism are viewed by many as fitting along a sliding scale and autistic people are referred to as High or low functioning or as having mild or severe autism. Perhaps a need to quantify something is just part of the human psyche?

Autism charities and societies have recently started to use the colour spectrum in their logos. I welcome this move! Autism is not a linear scale. Autistic people can have strengths and weaknesses in different areas on the spectrum that is why no two autistic people are the same. Having the spectrum more in the public eye may help to reinforce this message. 

Mild Autism does not mean that someone experiences autism mildly. It does not mean that you can forget the autism. Mild autism means that you need to make some accommodations. Also Severe Autism does not mean that someone is of low intelligence. Many non verbal autistics were severely underestimated academically until technology gave them a voice and enabled them to prove otherwise.

If accommodations are not made and your needs are consistently ignored then you are always trying to fit in with the neurotypical world. This can be exhausting for a person with autism. If things do get too much and my son over reacts or makes a social faux pas some people act shocked, disappointed even.  When friends or extended family members judge our son’s behaviour or our parenting skills, it feels like the ultimate betrayal and can permanently damage these important relationships.

Yes see the person first! But don’t forget or ignore the autism.

Let’s challenge linear thinking! When someone tells you their child has autism ask: What can we do to make him/her feel more comfortable here? Be part of the solution not part of the problem.

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