Understanding the Spectrum

Dr. Stephen Shore's experiences with the autistic community provided him with insight on just how varied the experience of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is. ASD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder found to in 1 out of...


In a presentation on his autism research, Dr. Stephen Shore stated, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Shore’s experiences with the autistic community provided him with insight on just how varied the experience of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder found to in 1 out of 34 boys and 1 in 145 girls (Aspril & JH Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2020). Though ASD has been found to be underdiagnosed in women (likely due to testing bias toward male ASD characteristics). (Ratto et al., 2017). The condition is characterized by deficits in several modalities:

Social Interaction, Including, but not limited to:

  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Difficulty interpreting verbal/nonverbal social cues
  • Difficulty with Theory of Mind (ability to make inferences about the thoughts and perceptions of others)
  • Eye-contact

Communication, Including, but not limited to:

  • Absence or latency in the development of speech

Restricted & Repetitive Behaviors/Interests, Including, but not limited to:

  • Hyper intense interest in specific subjects
  • Severe Distress from the violation of routines
  • Self-injury

Sensory, Including, but not limited to:

  • Heightened perception of senses (often leading to sensory overload)
  • Motor dysfunction
  • “Stimming” (a method of providing sensory relief by producing and modulating one’s own sensory output. Often seen in the form of rocking, clapping, snapping, or other movements)
    (Park et al., 2016; Tager-Flusberg, 1999; Macro et al., 2011; Kokmaz, 2011; Kap et al., 2019)

Among each of these different deficits there is a wide variety in severity. In addition, individuals can have many different combinations of these experiences (although, most if not all, have a delay in communication). Now we want to make ourselves clear. We are not highlighting these “deficits” to satisfy your curiosity. We highlight these to show that ASD can result in a wide collection of varied experiences. You will undoubtedly encounter many people with autism in your life. By knowing some of the possible struggles they experience, you can develop understanding and be proactive in providing accommodations and support to ensure they receive the same opportunities to learn, work, and thrive that “Neurotypicals” naturally experience.


  • Aspril, J., & JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2020, March 26). U.S. Autism Rates Up 10 Percent in New CDC Report. Retrieved January 29, 2021, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health website: https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2020/us-autism-rates-up-10-percent-in-new-cdc-report.html
  • Huang, A. X., Hughes, T. L., Sutton, L. R., Lawrence, M., Chen, X., Ji, Z., & Zeleke, W. (2017). Understanding the Self in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): A Review of Literature. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01422
  • Kapp, S. K., Steward, R., Crane, L., Elliott, D., Elphick, C., Pellicano, E., & Russell, G. (2019). "People should be allowed to do what they like": Autistic adults' views and experiences of stimming. Autism, 23(7), 1782–1792. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361319829628
  • KORKMAZ, B. (2011). Theory of Mind and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Childhood. Pediatric Research, 69(5 Part 2), 101R108R. https://doi.org/10.1203/pdr.0b013e318212c177
  • MARCO, E. J., HINKLEY, L. B. N., HILL, S. S., & NAGARAJAN, S. S. (2011). Sensory Processing in Autism: A Review of Neurophysiologic Findings. Pediatric Research, 69(5 Part 2), 48R54R. https://doi.org/10.1203/pdr.0b013e3182130c54
  • Park, H. R., Lee, J. M., Moon, H. E., Lee, D. S., Kim, B.-N., Kim, J., … Paek, S. H. (2016). A Short Review on the Current Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Experimental Neurobiology, 25(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.5607/en.2016.25.1.1
  • Ratto, A. B., Kenworthy, L., Yerys, B. E., Bascom, J., Wieckowski, A. T., White, S. W., … Anthony, L. G. (2017). What About the Girls? Sex-Based Differences in Autistic Traits and Adaptive Skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(5), 1698–1711. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3413-9
  • Tager-Flusberg, H. (1999). A psychological approach to understanding the social and language impairments in autism. International Review of Psychiatry, 11(4), 325–334. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540269974203
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