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Tue Feb 1, 2022, 04:20 PM

A Little Spectrum-y​ : What the Autism Diagnosis Says About You

Emer Lucey is a historian of medicine and disability and a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University.

Online, someone is wondering if Will Smith is on the spectrum. Jennifer Lawrence? Low-key autistic. So is Matthew McConaughey, though he may be a savant. Thomas Pynchon seems to know a lot about town planning: distinctly spectrum-y. Anna Wintour’s limited diet, love of indoor sunglasses, and exacting standards have Asperger’s vibes. Other things that have been declared autistic-adjacent on Twitter: having an Aquarius moon, dudes in high school who shout rap lyrics, Tulsi Gabbard supporters, the sudden urge to climb a tree, the Build-A-Bear Workshop website.

What, exactly, are all these people talking about? You get the sense that we’ve strayed quite far from the official diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental disability that’s linked to difficulties with social interaction and communication and restricted or repetitive behavior. The colloquial use of terms like “autistic” and “on the spectrum” conjures up a set of related images of the autistic person: socially awkward, or maybe obsessive about a niche topic or area of expertise, or failing to recognize social cues or make eye contact, or affectless, or inconsiderate towards others and even self-absorbed. This stereotype is omnipresent today, but has been on the rise since the early 2000s, when the media first stoked widespread panic about a supposed childhood autism epidemic.

Sometimes, what gets called autism is indistinguishable from ordinary rudeness. (One telling YouTube video from last September explains “How to Tell if Someone’s Autistic or a Jerk (or both?).”) Calling a terrible boyfriend or a coworker with bad anger management skills “spectrum-y” simultaneously puts a name to and partially excuses inconsiderateness, for how can one be taken to task for being autistic? Autism may be a throwaway insult or justification, but its ubiquitous everyday usage also reflects something more substantial about what’s churning through our collective mind. What it means to call someone autistic in common speech has changed, and not only because the science has changed. The more you study its evolving public perception, the more you realize that definitions of, and explanations for, autism are in an important sense a mirror for the non-autistic, neurotypical world. “Autism” is — and has been — as much a reflection of our collective anxieties as it is of an individual disability.

Excerpt: Today, you can take online tests to measure how many autistic traits you have or what your “Autism Spectrum Quotient” is. For autistic people, this idea is frustrating. Having some autistic traits is not the same as being autistic. Everyone isn’t a little bit autistic; rather, some are autistic, and others are not. The spectrum, as it is now generally understood by the scientific and autistic communities, is a way of capturing autism’s range and complexity within the subset of people who have it, not the span of all human experiences.

( I hope more will read this exceptionally well-written and thoughtful piece on autism. I thought perhaps I was one of the few who found the application of the term used in so many circles of late, troubling....so glad a friend shared this article with me because it is the very definition of advocacy for those who struggle in the neuro-typical world as people with autism.)

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Reply A Little Spectrum-y​ : What the Autism Diagnosis Says About You (Original post)
BeckyDem Feb 2022 OP
SheltieLover Feb 2022 #1
BeckyDem Feb 2022 #2
TheRealNorth Feb 2022 #3
BeckyDem Feb 2022 #4

Response to BeckyDem (Original post)

Tue Feb 1, 2022, 04:27 PM

1. The dx is on a continuum.

The DSM-5 removed Aspergers & PDD, NOS, sadly.

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Response to SheltieLover (Reply #1)

Tue Feb 1, 2022, 04:31 PM

2. They did. Fred Volkmar? I think that is how you spell his name,

was one of the leading experts on Aspergers and then zap, it was gone from the DSM-5. Made no sense.

Good to see you.

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Response to BeckyDem (Original post)

Tue Feb 1, 2022, 06:32 PM

3. Someone with autism that acts rude probably does not realize that they are being rude....

A jerk does not care that they are being rude, or will try to make it "your fault" ie. "You are just being a snowflake".

And some people may just act rude because they are stressed or preoccupied and are not thinking about their actions at the time.

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Response to TheRealNorth (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 1, 2022, 06:51 PM

4. +1. Quite right.

Thank you for the reply.

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