Autism 101

Autism is basically a neurological difference that some people have.  The differences between Autistic and allistic (non-Autistic) brains are the following:

  • Hyper- or hyposensititivity to textures, tastes, sounds, smells and sights.  An Autistic person can be more or less sensitive to these thing than an allistic person.  For example, an Autistic person might find a person’s perfume to be very strong while an allistic person might not think anything of it.
  • Fixations on a particular topic—a special interest, or as I like to call them just “interests”.  A person with an interest may spend time researching them, talking about them or doing thing that relate to that interest.  For instance, I’m fascinated by Korean culture, so I go to Korean restaurants and research Korean culture online.
  • A need for routine.  Many Autistic people need to stick to their routines to feel comfortable. and we can become upset if that routine is broken.  Also, many of us don’t like things sprung up on us at the last minute.  I sure don’t.
  • Different ways of communicating.  Many Autistic people don’t like to make eye contact.  Something about it is very painful for us.  Also, some Autistic people don’t speak verbally, but they may communicate  using letterboards, writing or using iPads.  This is known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC.
  • Self-stimulatory movements, or “stimming”.  An Autistic person may exhibit these movements to calm themselves down or wake themselves up, basically regulating themselves.  Some of these movements may include body-rocking, jumping, hand-flapping, etc.  Stimming can also be verbal, such as echolalia (repeating phrases that someone else has said).

It’s important to know that an Autistic person doesn’t need all these characteristics to be Autistic. and the characteristics may very from person to person.

Also, there is no “high-functioning/Aspergers” or “low-functioning/severe” Autism—Autistic people may have different skills.  For example, a nonverbal person may be able to cook excellent meals independently while a verbal person may not be able to balance a budget.  It’s not good to separate Autistics by functioning labels because no two of us are the same.

For more information about Autism, go to The Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s website.