What exactly is autism? In which parts a healthy person and an autistic person differ from?

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What exactly is autism? In which parts a healthy person and an autistic person differ from?

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It is insulting for you to be comparing a neurotypical person to a neurodivergent person as being ‘healthy” versus autistic.

Autism is a complicated multidimensional spectrum of disabilities ranging from hyper/hyposensitivity, executive function, emotional regulation, communication, etc.

Societal behavior forms a bell curve of what is considered socially “normal” (based on the center of the bell) and as it goes out to the edges of the bell you’ll find absolutely brilliant and capable people with relatively modest support needs–as well as wonderful people that need much more support–that have brains that simply are different from those in the center of the bell. Intelligence and health are *entirely* uncorrelated from being autistic versus neurotypical.

Autism falls under the umbrella of neurodivergent (along with adhd etc) as opposed to neurotypical (best language to use in place of ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’.

There is a wide range of presentations, but typically people with autism experience difficulties with sensory sensitivities or sensory seeking behaviours (eg being sensitive to loud noises or engaging in flapping or rocking), behavioural rigidity so not coping with changes and engaging in stereotypical repetitive behaviours such as young kids lining up cars, difficulties with understanding social expectations and often heightened emotional responses. These are just some of the things that people with autism experience that is more intense than neurotypical people, and the examples I have used are fairly stereotypical. If you are interested to find out more, I would recommend googling the DSM-V diagnostic criteria for autism.

It’s a spectrum disorder (there’s a wide range of how it manifests) but at its core it affects the ability to read social cues, communication, expressing emotions, understanding others, etc.

It also usually comes with repetitive behaviours so a person may like to stack objects, arrange things by colours, make sounds, flap their arms, etc. There are also what is known as stimming which are behaviours that help them regulate their feelings, stress, etc. Everyone, neurotypical or not, engages in some level of stimming, but people with autism generally have much more obvious ones and use them much more often. Unfortunately they can also quite often be self harming such as scratching oneself or banging their head against objects.

They usually have their favourite person who they prefer to interact with.

Changes to routines or the environment are usually quite stressful.

So for a child with autism they might be overwhelmed with stress if their teacher is away, the classroom is rearranged, there’s a fire drill when they’re supposed to be in class, a food item isn’t available, etc.

There’s usually some sort of sensory processing disorder. So things like loud noises and lights can cause distress. This may also lead to behaviours where they touch a lot of things due to how it feels. You may see some people with autism with chew necklaces. Also may involve difficulty with fine and gross motor skills due to difficulties with processing their senses.

As to how their brain differs…….. I believe there has been trouble in trying to exactly determine this. Some people with autism don’t show much or any difference and some show a lot. It seems that in a “normal” brain of a person with autism there seems to be rapid growth of the brain in early years but little of the structuring that occurs in children of the same age. After early childhood brain development seems to slow down and different regions that control things like emotional development and cognitive thinking don’t seem to develop in the same ways as those who are neurotypical.

I think OP is asking about physical differences, not the diagnosis criteria. This is something I am curious about too.

Is it something that can be identified in a brain scan or DNA analysis? Or is it just purely behavioral differences like I enjoy watching movies but you enjoy going on hikes?

Every autistic person I know (myself, dad, my kids, and my brother in law) have a much higher pain tolerance.

The ability to take big damage, and not panic, as well as almost ignore the pain, is generally the norm.