Autistics: A spectrum within a spectrum

Autistics: A spectrum
within a spectrum
within a spectrum.

Autism has in the past been known by a number of different names under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.

The first spectrum

  • Autism Disorder has been known for a long time where the autistic person has severe problems with communication and social interaction.
  • Asperger’s Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome is where people have much better communication skills but may be socially awkward.
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is a condition where skills a child develops by age start to disappear. It is a regressive form of autism.
  • Persuasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified was a cover term for other types of autism.

Rett’s Disorder shares symptoms with autism but as the cause is a genetic mutation, so is no longer considered part of the spectrum.

The inner spectrum

Within each of the former diagnoses, there is a lot of variation. Some are sensitive to sound, others (like me) sensitive to light or touch.

And a word about savants, those people who despite autism or mental retardation are brilliant at one thing, it could be music or mathematics or art. Very few people with any form of autism are savants, sorry to destroy your preconceived ideas.

In media autistic people are often depicted as savants, like Raymond in Rain Man, but most of us are not savants. At least Rain Man brought Asperger’s Syndrome into the public arena, most had not heard of it before that.

The personal spectrum

I have my own inner spectrum. I might not be the same person you meet from one day to the next. The categories are mine.

  • Blue days: These are the days where I have no energy. They are distinct from the days when I am exhausted after being physically active. These are days of having no motivation.
  • Green days: I wish I had more green days. I am motivated and ready to go, I might even be able to speak with more than a couple of people at the same time. Green days are the best days.
  • Yellow days: These are also good days. I may exhibit some autistic traits like telling you something that I know I have already told you. But I feel good in and of myself.
  • Orange days: I may pass you in the street without talking. In the company of others, I either sit in silence or you get all my life story, at length and in detail.
  • Red days: These are the danger days, these are the days that meltdowns occur. Days of over stimulation. I cannot switch my senes off at any time, walking through trees so that the sunlight has an irregular strobing effect is not good, it is one of my meltdown triggers. Being overstimulated can make any day a red day,
  • Purple days: The days after a meltdown, it can be a period of only a few hours, I need at least two, but it has been known to last well over a week. That I don’t really sleep in this period does not help. The is not so much an emotional state as a time of feeling very confused. I need quiet and solitude.


So when people say autism is a spectrum, I wish it was that simple.

5 thoughts on “Autistics: A spectrum within a spectrum

    1. This is not to be any psychological insight, it is not scientific, it’s just a snapshot of who I am.
      It also does not cover masking. Which is for a later blog.

  1. Busisiwe

    Hi Dear.
    Thank you for the blog.
    My son(16) is also Autistic and has no speech.
    He’s aggressive some days, how do i help him?
    I’ve just registered a none government organization to care for children with mental challenges, in South Africa , including Autism.

    1. Thank you Busisiwe for the reply.

      I am not an expert on autism, I am an autistic person. The only autistic person I am an expert on is myself, but I can point you to Twitter, where I have found a lot of help, there is a community of autistic people who use the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic, some of them have no speech but can type. You could suggest that to your son. There is also another hashtag where autistic people will reply to queries, #AskingAutistics.

      I do not know the cause of your son’s aggression, but mine is not caused by anger, but by a mixture of light sensitivity (I have green sunglasses for that), not being able to focus on a single sound in a noisy environment, being triggered by unpleasant memories and being in an unfamiliar situation. Your son needs to learn his triggers in order to learn how to cope.

      Hope this helps.

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