I’d like to help you all understand the difference between Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder by applying it to a real-life situation. Which, in this case, will be my own.
Twenty-one years ago, my daughter was born with Ring 4 Chromosome Disorder, which caused numerous complications, including Autism. I had a very limited access to information at the time, and the information I got was indefinitely confusing. Now, thanks to the Internet, there are far too many articles on Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and they are, more often than not, much more complex than they need to be. A majority of them spend more time placing the blame on what actually causes Autism than what we really want to know, which is how to understand it.
So in a reduced answer, the difference between the two is as follows.
A person who has Autism lacks the ability to interact socially and may have learning disabilities, empathy, and flexible behaviors. Most children with Autism are diagnosed before they are three years old, though it is also common for adults to be diagnosed since the disorder does not discriminate against age, gender, or race. Schools are trained to recognize autistic behavior, so it would be wise to seek guidance from them on the subject if you believe your child could be displaying some symptoms.
Autism Spectrum is just a broader term for the base disorder. It includes all types of autistic disorders and how they affect people in different degrees. A great visual would be to imagine a wheel of colors. Each color has a different intensity of the base color. Even though two colors may look similar, they each have a name of their own. I have seen two of the different intensities of autistic behavior in my children.
While my eldest daughter, who has some mental disabilities, has an irrational fear of being touched and shows little affection for her sister and I — but is very affectionate toward her father — she also has a strong repulsion to syrup because it is sticky and constantly takes her gardening gloves off because they get dirty. My younger daughter, who is advanced in most areas, has a firm need to have things in order. On her bulletin board are near twenty thumbtacks placed in a neat row, by color, and she is unable to sleep in her bed if her foam pad isn’t perfectly aligned with the mattress.
Keep in mind, it is important to find a medical professional to have an evaluation done to assist in the diagnoses and determine what areas need to be addressed.
When my eldest daughter was on hospice, one of the nurses said that my youngest (who was five) showed signs of autism. After consulting with our school, I was given a copy of the criteria used in determining autistic behaviors and at the time was a list of questions that parents answer about their child. After studying this list, I realized that everyone has one or more manifestations of autism.
The difference is simple. Autism is an Autism Spectrum Disorder. It, along with four others (Asperger’s syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Rhett Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder) are just varying parts of autism, with actual Autism being the harshest form.