• Question: When people say 'everyone is on the Autistic spectrum', how far do you have to be on the spectrum to get 'diagnosed'?

    Asked by Jess to Lorna on 13 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Lorna Camus

      Lorna Camus answered on 13 Nov 2018:

      Hi Jess,
      I remember this question from the live chat!
      Basically, I think it’s slightly misleading to say that we’re all in the spectrum, but rather we can say that most people can show some traits seen in autism, like having a very specialised interest. This doesn’t mean they are autistic of course.
      To be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition, the current criteria are:
      1) Having strong difficulties with social interaction and communication in different contexts (school, home, parties etc.); 2) Having “restricted”, “repetitive” behaviours/interests/activities (the point about it being restricted and repetitive is a point of contention with autistic people and their families, who often see these behaviours/interests/activities as less negative as these terms suggest – however this it the current medical model and is therefore still used by professionals. This is often seen with conditions/illnesses, with professionals seeing/saying one thing and people with lived experience of these conditions/illnesses seeing/saying something else); 3) These need to happen early in their life; 4) These need to cause difficulties in the person’s education, work, social life, etc.; and 5) these are not explained by other childhood difficulties like learning disabilities.
      So you can see there are quite a few criteria here that contribute to diagnosing someone with autism. Most importantly I think, the difficulties experienced by a person need to impair their daily lives, preventing them from living their best life.
      The reason why they are impaired in their daily lives is another discussion in itself, as many of us would argue that difficulties experienced by autistic people are less due to autism itself, and more to their environment (which is not adapted to the different way that autistic people see the world) and the people surrounding them (who often do not understand them and bully/abuse them).
      If any of that isn’t clear (there’s a lot in here!) don’t hesitate to ask more questions, I’d be happy to answer them 🙂