The first few articles in this series looked at the use of the word spectrum, and where the term spectrum orginates from. But what are some of the pros and cons of the use of this word? Can it be helpful for people to use? Or is it something that should be avoided? This article will take a look at these questions, and consider just how useful the word Spectrum might be.
Useful: There is a large debate about the use of the phrase Is Autistic vs. Has Autism. There is a lot of strong feeling on either side. The use of the term On the Spectrum, or On the Autistic Spectrum cuts out this debate. It is a way of showing that someone does have autism without having to get bogged down in whether or not to use person first language.
Cuts out functioning labels: Functioning labels are used widely, and some find them a helpful tool, but mostly they are not looked upon kindly by those with autism. Saying that someone is simply on the spectrum is a good way to indicate their autism with out having to use functioning labels. It might be the case that more detail is then required on the individual autistic person`s needs, but as these can change from day to day, a simple functioning label won`t do the job.
Vague: Another way of looking at the last pro is that just saying On the Spectrum does not give a full insight in to the needs of the individual. With autism being as complex as it is maybe a one-size-fits all phrase like this is not the best thing to use?
Not static: Someone might be on the spectrum, but it is inportant that people who do use this phrase understand they are not talking about someone being at a fixed point. It can depend on the day, what has been going on, the time, the weather and just about anything else. Most people don’t have the same level of need everyday, so even if saying ” On the spectrum” is hepful it will only remain so if people use it as it should be used. There is no point just using the correct terminology, or saying the right words – people need to know why they are the right words.
So overall how helpful is the term Spectrum in relation to autism? Well it seems that it is useful, but only when used in the right way. If it is not used as it should be then it may well go the same way as functioning labels, and end up either not giving the right information, or just not giving the right amount of information. One of the main issues with functioning labels is that they are too broad,and don’t get in to detail about what the individual person`s needs are on certain days, or at certain times. They don’t look at how people can do some things well, and other things not so well. Saying On the Spectrum does not give a whole lot more information, but at least the information it does give is correct. It is true that saying on the spectrum does not give a lot of details about the individual or their needs, but what it does say is true, they are on the Autistic Spectrum.
Someone might be called High Functioning, but not feel that this is true as they might be able to function well sometimes, and not others. So it might not be the perfect way of summing up the complex nature of autism, and how it affects individuals – but what is? There will never be a few words that someone can say to convey everything about autism, and how it effects them. And so for now On the Spectrum seems to be a better option, and more appropriate than misleading functioning labels.