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Autistic spectrum

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The autism spectrum (also referred to as the autistic spectrum) is a developmental and behavioral syndrome that results from combinations of characteristically autistic traits, including differences in social interaction, communication, interests, imagination and activities.

While some of these traits are found in the neurotypical population, autistic people tend to have these traits to a greater extent, and to an extent that it is a disability instead of only a personality trait.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are classified as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), as opposed to "specific developmental disorders" like dyslexia or dysgraphia.

Autistic traits

Behaviorally, certain characteristics identify the autism spectrum. These autistic traits may be beneficial for some disciplines like science, mathematics, engineering, and software. Some autistic individuals might show a marked proficiency in rote memorization which may help learn the foundation of these subjects; however, the exceptionally good aptitude (in these subjects) of some autistic people may be due to their ability to readily identify patterns and apply them consistently to new situations outside of established knowledge or teaching.

Social impairment

  • Less interested or disinterested in making friends
  • Poor ability to make friends
  • Does not understand others' feelings in some or all situations
  • Social awkwardness
  • Indiscriminate social interaction
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Brief response to questions
  • Gullibility

Language impairment

  • Odd or monotonous prosody of speech
  • Overly formal and pedantic language
  • Echolalia
  • Pronoun reversal
  • Visual thinking sometimes preferred
  • Use of rote chunks of language
  • Late or no development of spoken language
  • Difficulty or inability to translate thoughts into words
  • Poor use and understanding of nonverbal communication (i.e., facial expressions and body language)
  • Taking things literally
  • Delayed reaction to questions and other spoken words

Imaginative differences and repetitive adherence

  • Concrete and literal use of language
  • Difficulty with figurative language, metaphors and symbolism
  • Preference for routine
  • Focus on parts rather than whole; detail-oriented; may miss aspects of the whole
  • Intensely passionate special interests

Sensory integration dysfunction

  • Hyper- or hyposensitivity of the various senses
  • Peculiar clothing and food preferences
  • Stimming
  • Fine or gross motor discoordination


Simplified Color Wheel

The word spectrum conjures the notion of a continuum, such as a rectangle that transitions from white to black, or high to low functioning. This would be a serious oversimplification.

Autism has many different potential symptoms. Each autistic person may experience each symptom differently, and may not not have all of the symptoms. Autism has been compared to...

  • An ice cream bar with various toppings[1]
  • A complex color wheel[2]
  • A field

Autism organizations may use rainbows to symbolize the diversity of people on the spectrum and hope for acceptance and support.

External links


  1. Autism Is Not a Thermometer
  2. Understanding the Spectrum in Autism Spectrum
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