P is for Pervasive….

letter-1084823_640Pervasive, a word that often has negative connotations. It’s not really a negative word, more that it is used to describe things that are considered to be negative. A pervasive negativity, a pervasive injury etc. Pervasive though really just means through the entirety of a thing.

existing in or spreading through every part of something

Autism is considered to be a pervasive condition. In the previous edition of the DSM, the DSMIV within the autism category was listed a condition with the obscure title of PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Not Otherwise Specified. That title in itself is a successful exercise in obfuscation if you ask me. PDD-NOS has kind of been understood to be a kind of autism lite.

Generally, people that didn’t quite have the required number of diagnostic criteria would be given this as a diagnosis when it was believed by the clinician that they were in fact autistic but in terms of diagnostics were not quite there, not because they didn’t have the autistic traits, but just because the clusters of traits didn’t quite check the right number of boxes in the right categories within the criteria.

Of course,  it is kind of ironic to consider something that is pervasive as autism lite. By its very nature, a pervasive condition spreads through every part of a thing. If autism is a pervasive condition then what does that actually mean? What does it mean if a condition spreads or exists in eery part of something?

It is, in fact, the pervasiveness of autism that contributes strongly to my insistence on the use of autistic and not with autism, or has autism, and to a lesser extent on the spectrum. If I have something or am with something then it is not really pervasive.

P is for Pervasive….

Pervasive means in terms of being autistic that everything I do, everything I feel, everything I think is in some way influenced by autism. Those things always come from an autistic mindset, an autistic experience, an autistic sensory experience, an autistic cognitive experience.

In effect, nothing is done outside of the experience and reality of being an autistic individual.

When I think about a social experience I think about that as an autistic person.

When I think about an intellectual pursuit I think about that as an autistic person.

When I have a sensory experience it is an autistic sensory experience.

When I have emotional responses they emanate from an autistic reality.

The reality is there is no pre-autistic or post-autistic reality.

Autism as a pervasive condition is doubly pervasive. It is not just pervasive in that it influences and is a part of all aspects of life but it is also pervasive in that it is lifelong.

I was autistic at birth.

I am autistic now.

I will be autistic at death.

P is for Pervasive….

It’s not possible to turn autism off. It’s not possible to put it down, to just stop being so autistic for a moment. It is a pervasive and integral aspect of who I am.

head-776681_640Depression and anxiety can also be pervasive, and without in any way trying to minimise them they are not pervasive in the same way as being autistic is. Depression is not integral to who a person is, anxiety too is not integral to who that person is. Yes when someone is suffering from these conditions it is pervasive, I speak from experience on that front, but they can be treated and in fact cured, because they are not a condition that is pervasive in the sense that they are inbuilt into who one is, how they experience the world, how they interact with the world, and how their very neurology is wired.

P is for Pervasive…

I have oft heard parents proclaim that autism doesn’t define my child. I beg to differ. Autism does define your child because it is a pervasive element of who they are. Of course, this does not mean that autism is everything they are, of course, autism is not the sum total of everything about them.

Just as being a father isn’t the sum total of everything about me.

Just as being left handed is not the sum total of everything about me either.

Just as being a heterosexual male is not the sum total of everything about me either.

But, it does define me.

I am autistic, just as I am a father, a left-handed heterosexual man.

P is for Pervasive.