Autistic spectrum – a rainbow of users

There’s a saying

“if you’ve met one person with autism…you’ve met one person with autism”.

Even in this project we always have to be aware that although we will be using broad labels like ‘autism’ our intention is always to provide uniquely personalised information about individual people. We want to collate people/places/things that are important to only that person. We can’t assume if something works well for one person that it will work for everyone. By the very nature of autism we have to expect varying degrees of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ for different methods but we will never be able to come up with just one approach/tool that addresses everyone’s needs.

Autistic Spectrum

One phrase we will be using a lot is autistic spectrum and the rather horrible but commonly used acronym ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder. Just like in a rainbow there’s not just one or two colours/issues but a range.

By: Robert Nyman

But we need to start somewhere so let’s take a look at how this condition is currently defined (Beware, this changes over time so will only reflect current thinking).

According to the NHS, Autism and Asperger syndrome:

“…ASD can cause a wide range of symptoms, which are grouped into three categories:

  • problems and difficulties with social interaction – including lack of understanding and awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings
  • impaired language and communication skills – including delayed language development and an inability to start conversations or take part in them properly
  • unusual patterns of thought and physical behaviour – including making repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twisting (the child develops set routines of behaviour and can get upset if the routines are broken)…”

When we are researching resources that would fall into any of the three categories we’ll try to tag them with ‘social’, ‘communication‘ or ‘patterns‘ as appropriate.

disco glitter ball
By: Ewan Topping

Also note the important word ‘grouped’, within each of these three broad categories there’s a vast range of examples. In Scotland, one of the common diagnostic tools used by health professionals is called ‘DISCO’, now before you start boogying on down, in practice this will materialise as the rather less funky title ‘Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders‘. This involves working through a whole binder full of structured criteria. Diagnosis is time consuming as it usually also involves interviews with other family members if possible.