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A picture showing a tree to explain autism, asc, asd, Asperger's.

Here’s our musing on what autism is, and how to visualise it, in terms of an autistic individual’s ‘being’.

Far too many clinicians and family members are confused about what autism is, and what autism looks like.

Autism is a neuro-developmental issue, and if a person was a tree, we could visualise their autism as the trunk of the tree – autism runs through the tree like a stick of rock, and it was there from the first time the roots began to grow.

The big branches could be significant co-existing conditions, such as Learning Disabilities, Fragile-X Syndrome and intellectual difficulties and disabilities. The smaller branches could be co-morbid conditions such as mental health challenges, anxiety, Sensory Processing Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, etc.

The foliage is the individual autist’s personality and traits, and their ability to ‘mask’, or blend into a neurotypical world.

Why use this analogy? Because old-fashioned autism-related terms like ‘high functioning autism’ confuse the issue – hence, it’s not uncommon to come across individuals saying unhelpful things of autistic individuals, such as: ‘He/she doesn’t LOOK autistic; or ACT autistic’.

Autism – running through the core

This is because, an autist without issues like Learning Disabilities, Fragile-X Syndrome and intellectual difficulties and disabilities; e.g. someone who has so-called ‘high functioning autism’, or Asperger Syndrome; may not have the co-morbid conditions that give away the autistic way in which he/she understands and experiences the world. (With thanks to follower Ethan, for his comments/input.)

But autism is there, running through their core.

If we consider autism like this, it answers the question of why autism cannot always be seen; e.g. when a family member queries that their relative could be autistic, or when a teacher can’t see any issues, because the ‘foliage’ is masking the child’s feelings.

Do you agree? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

Interested in finding out more? Why not read our blog on the diagnostic criteria for autism?

A little disclaimer – here at we don’t claim to be experts about Autism.

The information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences.


Also published on Medium.