ELI5- explain autism to someone who doesn’t have it


i have autism and i need help explaining it and the things that come with it (the sensory issues, eating problems, stimming, physical aspects of it, etc.)

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The problem with spectrum disorders and psychology in general is that there is no “one size fits all” description. Autism comes in such a wide range of severity that theres even different words for varying types. You can always list the symptoms (difficulty with social/emotional cues, stimulus preferences, etc), but thats hard to understand for a lot of people.

It seems what you are after is a way for your own experience to be understood by others. Only you know how your mind functions. If you have issues with certain textures, noises, environments, you should let people involved know, or if you need a structured schedule of events/plans, or however your symptoms manifest. Again, autism can range from “that girl seems overly interested in lemurs” to “most likely not making reddit posts” in terms of ‘severity’ [not a good word but oh well, its the word that’s used].

Just know two things: media never portrays any mental illness appropriately, and people expect it to. You may have to correct some misconceptions.

Our brains are wired differently and that sometimes yields results that people without autism don’t get. Sometimes food textures, smells or tastes set off bad signals that neurotypical people would not get. Sometimes the brain runs into an error which it tries to work around by sending out a signal which can be almost anything, arm flapping is a common result.

Not autism but ADHD paralysis, maybe you can find something similar to explain:

Say I give 50 dollars if you put your hand on a fire and keep it for 5s

And the 50 dollars can be any amount of money you need right now (not something like a million bucks, more like pay your groceries, any amount you’re somewhat struggling with)

Your brain start battling with the idea of putting your hand on the fire and is telling you not to do it, but you also know you have to do it if you want the money. So you stand there preparing for doing it but without really doing it. Thats ADHD paralysis and the money is the task you’re supposed to do, like “clean the apartmant”, “fold clothes”.

My point is: if you find an example for your struggles that they can feel they’re in the same situation, they’ll get better

So, from what I can tell, and you can correct me if I am wrong, Autistic people receive a lot more information from their surroundings and social interactions. And this additional information is overwhelming for them at times.

Maybe something like a neurotypical person living in a funhouse 24/7. sometimes you can sort of filter out the additional info, but sometimes it is too much?

Does that sound right?

Another way to say “have autism” is to say that you are “on the spectrum”.

That’s the best way I can think to describe it. There’s a spectrum of human behaviors, and literally everyone is on it.

There’s a spectrum of tolerance to noise. Some people can hear a cacophony of different sounds at jet engine volumes and be unaffected; some people can’t tolerate the sound of water droplets falling. Now when someone talks about someone “on the spectrum” in terms of noise tolerance, they usually mean that there is something specific that that person cannot tolerate that someone with a typical noise tolerance could tolerate.

Another big one is the spectrum of socialization. Some people can small talk and flirt like walking or riding a bicycle; with a natural ease. Other people have to think about and calculate how they are going to socialize with others, in a way that can cause anxiety and paralysis. What people might consider being “on the spectrum” for this behavior are either people that are quiet, reserved OR people that are boisterous to the point of not reading social cues. Both people are “on the spectrum” of social behavior, even though they manifest drastically differently.

And you can do this for so many things. There is a spectrum for auditory processing, a spectrum for tolerance to touch, a spectrum for saying things people consider appropriate. With all the spectrums together, it forms more of a circle than a line, with various intersecting spectrums that branch out in every direction. A neuro typical person would form a smooth circle in this “spectrum”. Someone that might be considered to be “on the spectrum” would form more of a jagged star, with some spectrums being push to the outside of the circle, and some being pulled near the center.