I am a therapy mom as I like to call it. I've sat in the waiting room of speech therapists and occupational therapists for years now and I do a fair amount of observing. Mostly I am looking for how other children on the spectrum are the same or different from my son, always looking for insights from others that might help me understand him better, that is why I enjoy reading books from individuals on the spectrum because I feel like they are unlocking the mysteries of Autism for me one page at a time.
One book that I love is called Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar. Ido communicates through typing, and it took him many years before he was able to do that, he spent the first part of his life in silence. His thoughts are profound and he wrote about an interesting interaction he had with another individual with Autism that caused me to really think about why we refer to Autism as a spectrum.
Ido tells a story about being interviewed by a filmmaker with Asperger's. He says, typically individuals with Asperger's are the individuals on the spectrum who often "describe themselves as having a social deficit disorder that can make them feel like outsiders or aliens, even feeling like they are observing human behavior in puzzlement."
The filmmaker asked many questions about Ido's life with Autism and almost every answer he typed where met with "surprise, wonder and even confusion...Later that day, Ido remarked that the two of them are generally viewed as being on the same spectrum, but it seems like they are dealing with completely different struggles."
Ido goes on to talk about how although he doesn't have the verbal means to communicate, he has "profound insight into people. His social impairment is not caused by an inability to read or understand human behavior, but rather by his body's refusal to listen to his mind's instruction." It is a very interesting idea that perhaps the more language someone on the spectrum has, the more difficult their understanding of the social world around them is, and ironically, perhaps the less language they have, the better they grasp that world, but without the means to say it.
Do you see how Ido starts to lead us on a thoughtful discussion about how different two people with the same label can be, and I am sure how frustrating it can be to have people automatically assume what your capabilities are based on someone who feels very different from you. I think he wants to remind us to remember to think spectrum when you think Autism, a variety of differences in capabilities. And to look to people on both ends of the spectrum to teach us about how Autism affects the people we love. Always remembering that individuals with Autism are all very capable, but different.