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What is Autism? Two distinguishing characteristics.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is characterized by challenges with social communication and restricted or repetitive behaviors. In my experience, these are two distinct patterns seen in Autism that help to distinguish it from other diagnoses.



One of the hallmark indicators of Autism is the person's difficulty initiating, sustaining, and terminating social communication. This occurs most often with strangers or in social settings. For example, one Autistic person I know was struggling to work as a coffee shop barista because she was often assigned the register. This meant that she was constantly navigating social interactions, which caused her a lot of anxiety given her struggle to understand the nuances of neurotypical social communication.


Neurotypical social communication typically involves inferred information. Inference influences the way information is perceived. For example, when someone gestures and changes their tone of voice, it may be inferred that the person is being sarcastic. Sarcasm and inference are nearly impossible to perceive for the Autistic individual. This difficulty with understanding the nuance of social interactions often results in social anxiety for Autistic individuals.


A second hallmark of Autism is the repetitive nature of some actions. One example of this repetitive nature is an obsessive-like interest in specific topics or hobbies. Another example of repetitive tendencies is observed in movement. For Autistic people, repetition and predictability are soothing. Engaging in repetitive tasks, movements, or interests likely helps to regulate the Autistic individual.


If you are curious to know more about Autism, or you'd like to be evaluated yourself, let us know. We provide lectures and educational seminars on neurodivergent topics. We also offer diagnostic evaluations for teens and adults.

 

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