Just no. There is no such thing as a bit autistic. One either is or is not autistic. It’s not like a packet of lollies where you can have just a little bit. It’s not like your BMI where you can be a little bit over. It’s not like a blood alcohol limit where you can be just a little bit under or just a little bit over that limit. No it’s a neurological thing, either you have that neurology or you don’t.

swirl-18289In talking with people at times statements like:

I think I am a bit autisitc…

I sometimes act autistic…

I think I might be a bit on the spectrum…

Everyone is somewhere on the spectrum…

… are uttered. I think at some level this is to be somehow empathetic and make you feel better.

But here’s the thing. I don’t feel bad about being autistic, about being on the spectrum. I feel quite good about it in fact, it is who I am, it is how I am wired and is intricately part of how I approach life.

Unfortunately I think the whole idea of the spectrum is a contributor to these kind of comments. I am inclined to think that perhaps the general populace equate the autistic spectrum with the human spectrum. The result being that because of this false equating that a little eccentricity or minor difference is seen to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum rather than on the normal human spectrum.

The autistic spectrum is not a spectrum of all people but a spectrum of autistic people. No everyone is not on the spectrum at all. One of the issues I believe is terms used such as ‘the severe end of the spectrum’ or ‘the mild end of the spectrum’. It conjures an understanding of the autistic spectrum as a finite measurable line.

I believe this to be a false understanding. A better understanding to me is the autistic spectrum as a concept, a concept of infinite possibilities of how an autistic may manifest their neurology in terms of functioning, behaviours, intelligence etc. I suggest that this makes sense and is an alternative explanation of ‘if you’ve met one autistic, then, you’ve met one autistic.’

Really, though, where does the idea of claiming autistic status come from? I don’t know exactly, in fact, I don’t think I have a really good idea at all. I wonder though, if, it is tied up with equating manifesting behaviours as evidence for autism rather than an understanding of autism as a neurotype.

The overwhelming experience I have had is that when people say this it is in reference to where a behaviour is interpreted to be a directory-281476_1280(1)negative or undesirable thing, or a divergence from an accepted normal.

Autism is not behaviour. Autism is not functioning levels. Autism is not disorder. It is a neurological way of being. It is different from so-called normal but it is not explained merely by behaviour, functioning or sensory issues.

It is my view that those things are in fact a neurological response to the impact of the world in which an autistic lives by the unique neurological make up or wiring of that autistic. WIth this in mind, it is irrelevant to speak of functioning levels to describe how an individual autistic’s neurological wiring manifests in their daily lives.

There is no question that diagnoses of autism have been on the rise. This is not a result of environment, it is not because of diet or vaccines or pathogens or worms or any other such rubbish. It is due to a better understanding of what autism is both in the community and in professional circles.  The internet is awash with descriptions of autistic behaviour, the media is filled with all kinds of stories both positive and negative of autistic behaviour.

The negative narrative of disorder and disease focuses mainly on the difficulties for families and friends to cope with behaviour exhibited by autistic children and the so-called deficits they have in relation to allistic children. With so much easily consumable information out there it is probably no wonder that so many people believe they can make statements similar to those mentioned at the beginning of this post. As I if have stated though, autism is not behaviour and it is not functioning levels either.

There are many adult autistics who are self-diagnosed. In fact, I believe many adults who are formally diagnosed began that journey with a self-diagnosis. A self-diagnosis is not a case of saying something like oh I think I am a little bit autistic. No not at all. It is a process and journey. A journey that is prompted by massive questions about oneself, questions from loved ones. It involves learning about what autism is, how that relates to oneself. It involves huge amounts of considering one’s self, what makes one the way they are, completion of diagnostic self-tests, often multiple iterations of them. It is the culmination of a journey of discovering why it is one has felt their entire life that they don’t fit in the world, that they don’t “get” the world. This culmination is often met by a new-found sense of freedom, joy and relief. A relief that understands that one is not a misfit in society after all. Just different.

ball-78004_1280(1)Yes. Different Not Less.

A self-diagnosis like described should not be considered of lesser value than a formal diagnosis. There are many barriers to formal diagnosis for adults. Not least of which is financial and access. Practitioners able to formally diagnose adults are few and far between and more often than not are very expensive.

No you’re not a little bit autistic at all. You are autistic. Or. You are not autistic. It’s just that simple. When autistics talk about a spectrum they are talking about a spectrum of autistic and not a spectrum of all humanity. There is no little bit on that spectrum, there is only on it or not on it.