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asperger's syndrome information and features

         

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What is the Autistic Spectrum?

The Autistic Spectrum is the name given to a group of conditions that share many of the same characteristics.

It is Autistic because the conditions in question most prominently include Asperger's syndrome and Kanner Syndrome, both of which were described as autistic when first identified and, particularly in the case of Kanner syndrome, have become known as Autism.

It is a spectrum because of the wide range of levels of linguistic skill, intelligence and ability demonstrated by people affected by it, but you shouldn't imagine thouhg that there is a smooth transition from one condition to another in terms of degrees of severity or ability, because it's not always like that.

The word syndrome simply means a combination of symptoms. Though the combination of symptoms caused by a disease would be called a syndrome, a syndrome is in itself not the same thing as a disease. The symptoms of most diseases are quite straightforward physical signs such as pain or a rash, but the symptoms of autistic spectrum conditions are behaviours and difficulties so are far more complicated. A syndrome (collection of symptoms) can be caused by a disease, but in the case of autistic spectrum syndromes they are not yet fully sure of the cause.

Terms like these define a persons difficulties, but they do not and should not in any way be used to define the person. Just because you have a particular set of problems does not mean that you don't still have you own personality and intellect and experiences in life. The autistic spectrum is diverse because people are diverse, and it is complicated because people are complicated.

I think it is wrong to read too much deep philosophical meaning into the autistic spectrum. It is all just words and classifications, made up by people for convenience. The Autistic Spectrum can be a controversial subject because some people do not like such a wide and diverse range of abilities and symptoms all being called the same thing. This is largely I think because they fear peoples misunderstanding. There is a lot of prejudice and social stigma attached to the word autism and not everyone wants to be associated with it. It doesn't bother me though.

I use the commonly accepted terminology because I want to inform people in the most accessible and useful way possible, not because I like it or think it is the best way to describe things, but I can appreciate why the concept of the autistic spectrum is a useful one to professionals.

  • If autistic spectrum conditions all have the same cause then it makes sense to classify them together.

  • They do have many similarities which differ only in degrees and nature of expression.

  • Not everyone falls under the strict definition of a particular condition but can still be considered to be on the autism spectrum (PDD-NOS).

  • The concept of the spectrum is flexible and inclusive in a way that rigid definitions of independent conditions would not be.

  • A persons diagnosis can change throughout life e.g. from Kanner to Asperger's syndrome, which would be harder if they were seen as unconnected.

I have heard A.D.H.D. and Dyslexia classified as on the spectrum by some people, but I understand that while it is believed there may be strong connections between them and autistic conditions they are not technically on the autistic spectrum because they do not involve any inherent difficulties with communication or interaction.

Theoretically I suppose in the future they may decide that there are so many conditions with things in common and similar causes that they do all belong in one category together, and they may decide to stick with calling it the autistic spectrum or they could even decide to call it something else all together. Better still maybe society will evolve beyond the need to label people at all.

Further reading available from Amazon.com  or Amazon.co.uk

Definition Overlap Procedure Tests Reasons Reactions Spectrum Disclosure
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