The autism spectrum has typically been visually represented as a linear progression, with “not autistic” on one end, and “very autistic” on the other. The problem with this understanding of the spectrum is that it oversimplifies a complex medical condition and does not account for the myriad complexities in human brain processing. Autism is a spectrum as diverse as the rainbow, and it’s about time we had a more holistic representation of the many ways it can affect individuals.
So it’s no surprise that a comic depicting the spectrum in a novel way recently went viral online, specifically being shared by caregivers and people with autism. Created by artist Rebecca Burgess, the visualization takes the spectrum beyond black and white, into more productive territory for diagnosing ASD and being aware of how to address it in settings like the classroom.
In the comic, we follow a boy named Archie who has been diagnosed on the spectrum. However, we see how labeling Archie as either “very autistic” or “less autistic” isn’t helpful or accurate to him, his caregivers, or those he interacts with on a daily basis.
It’s not about being a little or very autistic, but rather which areas of the brain are most affected in an individual on the spectrum. The comic reimagines this spectrum as a color wheel, with different areas for perception, motor skills, language, sensory filter and executive function. Each person with ASD displays different traits in these areas—but their brain functions just like a non ASD person in the other areas—which a linear spectrum doesn’t account for. Portraying the huge range of the spectrum in a clear way that many people unfamiliar with ASD can understand is a great step for improving the public awareness of autism.
At The SAILS Group we value the importance of approaching ASD from a holistic and non-averse treatment standpoint. That’s why we’re thrilled to see the strong reception of an important piece of social art that demystifies one of the pervading myths surrounding the autism spectrum. Well Done!