Autism Spectrum Disorder–or, when you experience challenges in multiple (or all) of these areas, and a whole bunch of others that aren’t included here.
Autism Spectrum Circle/Wheel/Chart thing–a great graphic for explaining complex neurodiversity
Autistic individuals present traits to varying degrees in many categories. For example, if your senses are easily overloaded, you might say you’re 1 bar high in that trait. If you experience little to no sensory issues, you might say you’re 4 bars high. (see the image below)
Important note: Autism comes with multiple challenges. If you struggle with social cues, but only social cues, you wouldn’t have autism–you’d struggle with social cues. If you struggle with social cues, and are hypersensitive to sounds/textures/tastes, and fixate on particular interests, then you might have autism.
Explaining Autism Terms
Language skills include the ability to process conversations, speak clearly, understand metaphors, etc. Like, when someone asks “how are you doing?” the typical response is “I’m good, how are you?” But an autistic person might not understand the question is just for politeness, and respond with how they’re actually feeling, whether positively or negatively.
Executive function is a term that lumps together your abilities to plan, remember, pay attention, regulate emotions, and organize thoughts. You might have low executive function if you can’t seem to finish tasks, or panic when routines change, or get overly emotional and fixate on things.
Sensory sensitivity–this is pretty self-explanatory. How sensitive are you to loud noises, extreme scents, the texture of clothes?
Social skills. This is, again, pretty self explanatory. Do you know how to jump into a conversation at the right time without cutting someone else off? Can you intuitively read social cues and body language?
Motor skills–your ability to control body movements. Are you clumsy, do you bump into doorways; or are you good at sports and physical activities?
Cognitive function refers to learning and using logic/reasoning, and how well you can solve problems, or manipulate data in your mind.
This really only covers the basics–like, what about stimming, and verbal language vs. written/signed, and special interests?–but I think it’s a good place to start understanding autism.
What Autism Is and Isn’t
This image is not what autism looks like (I may or may not be just learning this).
People aren’t less autistic, or more autistic.
Instead, the “spectrum” of autism includes a range of cognitive traits, with different individuals finding themselves on varying points within each trait, like in the wheels above.