Autism Acceptance Month Day 1: What is autism?

This year, to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, I pledge to answer one question about autism per day.

The first question is, “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?”

A Google search of the phrase “What is Autism Spectrum Disorder” will net you about 46,700,000 results in 0.62 seconds.

Many of those results are full of complex medical jargon, paid advertisements, obsolete information, and misconstrued facts.

It’s understandable that so many people both inside and outside the autism community, do not have an accurate understanding of the definition of the diagnosis and the actual impacts of ASD on individuals.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) states that for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, an individual must meet the following criteria:

Deficits in social interaction and social communication in 2 of the following: social-emotional reciprocity, nonverbal communication, and maintaining relationships.

Restricted patterns of interests and behavior in 2 of the following: repetitive movements, use of objects or speech, ritualistic behaviors, inflexibility due to disruptions, fixated interests, or a hyper or hypo reaction to sensory input.

Each of these is then categorized as level 1 (requiring support), level 2 (requiring substantial support), or level 3 (requiring very substantial support).

ASD is a complex neurological condition. And while the severity of symptoms varies amongst each individual, ASD does impact daily living for both the autistic individual and their family.

And while I love my autistic son unconditionally, there are days that it’s hard. There are days I wish he was playing baseball with peers after school, rather than spending hours in therapy to learn how to socially interact with them.

There are days when I wish he’d eat the same meal I’ve prepared, rather than being restricted to the sensory sensations of certain food tastes, colors, and temperatures.

But there are also days when his hugs and kisses make me realize, he is the perfect version of himself. And I am learning so much more from him than he is from me.

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Amy Nielsen lives in Orlando, Florida. She is the proud mother of four children ranging in age from 5-33! She and her husband, Brent enjoy sports and traveling. Amy is a former teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, a freelance writer, and a special needs advocate. Her mission is to help educate and empower families of children with disabilities to focus on their child's interests and strengths.