What is the Autism Spectrum Anyway?

Brittany Luckham
6 min readApr 13

Advocating for autism acceptance begins with sharing knowledge and educating those who want to know more. As someone who, herself, had to start from scratch after being diagnosed I know it’s best to start with the basics: what is autism and how does it present itself.

Photo by Cottonbro Studio


I’m going to start with the medical definition as it is described in the DSM-V.

According to the DSM-V, Autism is categorized as:

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts
  2. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
  3. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
  4. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
  5. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

I know how technical this is and I needed real-world examples to fully understand it myself so I’ve broken down the top two statements below.

A | Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts

The DSM-V describes this as:

  • Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity.
  • Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction.
  • Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.

In comparison, I choose to use the word “difficulty” rather than “deficit” as these experiences are only deficits in the eyes of neurotypical expectations.

  • Difficulty knowing when it’s “your turn,” to speak…
Brittany Luckham

Owner of NOTOLUX | Autistic | Writer | Graphic & Web Designer | Organizer | Journaler | Reader | https://linktr.ee/notolux