What is Autism?
For now, I’m going to refer you to Amythest Schaber’s concise but thorough video here.
What does ASD1, ASD3, and SPD mean?
From 1944 to 2013 the autism spectrum was divided into Asperger’s Syndrome and “Classical” Autism. Then they got put together and for a small amount of time Asperger’s became “High Functioning Autism.” Now it is simplified into 3 levels, each level determined by how much support the individual needs. Formerly Asperger’s/High Function Autism is now simply ASD1 or ASD level 1, which means that they are autistic but require only a minimal amount of support. The people who need the highest level of support are ASD3, and somewhere in the middle is ASD2.
SPD stands for Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory issues are a general part of autism, but sometimes a person’s brain interprets sensory input so very differently from a neurotypical (“normal” or “average”) brain that it becomes it’s own separate condition. It is possible to have SPD without being autistic. Like autism it is also a spectrum. On one end there are sensory defensive people who feel everything that would be normal for neurotypicals (NT for short) like it’s dialed up to 100. Strong smells can make them gag or puke, as well as different food textures. Tags and seams on shirts feel like nails digging into their skin, etc. On the other side of the SPD spectrum are sensory seekers. These people do not feel things as strongly as a neurotypical nervous system. The best way to describe it may be like everything is a little numb. To feel something sensory seekers need a lot of it to feel like an neurotypical would feel. In-between are some who are defensive with some senses and seeking with others.
How do I know if my child is autistic?
I am not a supporter of Autism Speaks. But as far as I know, they have the easiest and most user friendly online version of the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) currently available. If you have a child under 4, that short assessment will let you know if you should follow up with the child’s pediatrician, or if it’s something you can probably forget about. Pediatricians should be familiar enough with the M-CHAT that if you tell the doctor that you did it and the result, they should listen to you and refer your child for further assessment. This is the checklist, along with a friend’s observations and guidance, that led us to the possibility and eventual diagnosis of Lady Bug when she was 2 years old.
Here is one for older kids, though I have not used it personally.
If you recognize some things about yourself and think you might be on the spectrum, I wrote about that here.
We’d done the testing but haven’t told our child the results.
I wrote here about why telling kids is important and some tips on how to talk about it with them. I intend to write more on the subject soon.
Why are you saying your children are autistic instead of saying they have autism?
Photo credit goes to RootleTootle: The Art of Mae Greyfrost, used with permission.