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Inclusion Column

How Broad is The Spectrum?

Inclusion Column by Lucia Osorio

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met ONE person with autism.” -Dr. Stephen Shore 

Six years ago, my nephew was born in beautiful home birth. He had big blue eyes and an adorable little nose. My whole family was super excited to meet the baby, hold him, play with him and celebrate every milestone. As he grew, his parents started to notice a delay in some of his milestones. He was especially uninterested in food and textures. When he turned two, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and started therapy for his verbal, social and eating difficulties. This wasn’t something that my family was familiar with so we started to ask questions, research ASD, and offer support as best we could. 

As we researched we learned that ASD is a developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3. Parents do not and cannot cause ASD. Although the multiple causes of ASD are unknown, it is known that parental behavior before, during and after pregnancy does not cause ASD. 

One question always stuck out for me: what do they mean by “spectrum”? I had heard this word before, referring to a band of infinite shades of colors in between black and white. The word spectrum suggests that something can be classified, or have a position on a scale. So, my next question was, how broad is the “autism spectrum”?

I have come to learn that this spectrum is as broad as the amount of people in the spectrum. Each child with ASD is a unique individual and can differ from one another as do children without ASD. A person with ASD may or may not have difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication with variable intensities. A person with ASD can be very bright, of average intelligence or have cognitive deficits. They can have good eye contact. They may be verbal or non-verbal. They may be social butterflies or they may prefer to keep to themselves. Each person with ASD has a distinct set of strengths and challenges, as different as the infinite shades of colors you can see. We can’t put everyone with ASD in a category or assume anything about them. 

For me, it has been such a blessing to see my nephew grow into the funny, empathetic and mischievous little man that he is. Just like we imagined, we have been able to hug him, play with him and watch him grow and develop. His hugs are light and cautious. He has the best imagination and sense of humor. His milestones take a tiny bit more, which means we celebrate them a tiny bit more too. There is not one obstacle that he hasn’t overcome in his 6 years.

I encourage you to research and question what you know about autism from stereotypes and movies. It is estimated that 1 in 59 kids has ASD and boys are nearly 5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed1.  It is more common than childhood cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined1. With these statistics, it is very probable that you know a child with ASD, and if you don’t it probably won’t be long before you do. 

1 30 Facts To Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder
https://www.massgeneral.org/children/autism/lurie-center/30-facts-to-know-about-autism-spectrum-disorder