February 6, 2022

Why does autism create such a wide spectrum of traits?

Because autistic brains are hyper-connected. You can see it on an MRI scan. We have neural pathways that others don’t, like secret passages all over our brains.

This results in a torrent of information to process, including physical sensations and pattern recognition. By default, everything is intense.

(This has been called Intense World Theory.)

We survive by filtering some parts out. But here’s what creates the variety: Different people filter out different kinds of information.

What we don’t filter out becomes our focus. It’s comforting, and often necessary, to drown out the noise by turning all of our attention to one thing at a time.

(This has been called Monotropism.)

With such intense focus, we often miss clues about what’ll happen next in our environment and interactions. Thus, a lot of autistic stress comes from living in a state of constant surprise.

(This has been called Predictive Coding Theory.)

Any of these theories, alone or together, can explain the variety of traits that we label as autism. There’s a kaleidoscope of ways to look autistic, and that’s why we call it a spectrum.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.