Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Never-ending Spectrum: A Mini Manifesto

It seems most human traits are spectra. For everything that seems to be a pair of opposites, there is someone who fits in the middle. There are right-handers, us lefties, and ambidextrous people, and some righties are more able to use their left-hand than others.  It's people in the middle that we often don't know what to do with. We either don't think they exist at all, or if they do, they don't fit into either box, but we try to force them to, or just exclude them altogether.

I think most parents of autistic children, if they took a good hard look in the mirror, would see their own autistic traits, and that of family members. The "autism spectrum" does not exist in isolation. It's a Never-ending Spectrum. Every autistic trait can be found in the rest of the population, it's just a matter of degree.  It's the strength of these traits, and how much they disadvantage the person in a particular social context. A label can be seen as a tool for getting services or treatment needed to adapt to the rest of society, live a fuller life  or to compensate for deficits. And in turn, if the greater society adapts to people with differing minds and bodies, it benefits from their talents and insights, and learn that the "humanity" is much broader and deeper than it once imagined.

The "autism spectrum" is really more of a cluster, a cross-section or giant Venn diagram of overlapping conditions and groups of characteristics. Practically every Aspie I've met, also was labeled AD/HD. Tourette's, OCD, Non-verbal Learning Disorder (may just be a different label for the same thing) and so forth. They are really just sets of traits that are seen together enough to constitute a pattern.
But it's all one pattern, really. It's all part of the Neurodiverse Web of Life.

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