Autism is big and messy and confusing, and no-one really understands it. It’s difficult to make a good summary and description of autistic traits, because generally no-one can agree on what autism actually is. But even taking that into account, I’ve never read a satisfactory article or leaflet summarising and describing autistic traits. Every description I’ve ever read suffered from at least one of these problems:
- Wrongly weighted. So many descriptions of autism written by neurotypical people focus completely on social traits. Often autism is described as an entirely social thing, and any other differences are considered incidental if they’re mentioned at all.
- Vague. The “triad of impairments” is the worst offender here. It divides social traits arbitrarily into “interaction”, “communication”, and “imagination”, but there is absolutely no clear distinction between those categories. They’re meaningless and useless divisions that don’t remotely simplify the description, and so they serve no useful purpose – they just add confusion.
- Pathologising. This is so extensive it’s barely worth mentioning. Descriptions of autism almost universally describe it as a disorder, illness, or disease, and the traits as symptoms and deficits. This bias is both inaccurate and harmful.
- Restrictive. Autistic people are so incredibly varied. And yet often, the only acknowledgement of that diversity is a mention of “both ends of the spectrum”, functioning labels, or a comparison of Asperger’s and classic autism. Not only are these trivial attempts at expressing the variation between autistic people, they are actively harmful in their own right.
So, I’ve written my own. This isn’t a set of diagnostic criteria, because I don’t know how to diagnose autism. It’s my best attempt at an inclusive, accurate, useful, and value-neutral, description of autistic traits and autistic people.
Read the full (excellent) list at: Inclusive autistic traits | autisticality