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What is “The Spectrum?”

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

I want to change the way we think about Autism and Asperger’s. And it starts with lemons. Lemons add flavor to our food and water. And Autism adds flavor to humanity. Too much lemon can be a little bitter. And not enough won’t get the job done.

I use lemons to help people better understand Autism. Imagine a glass of water, lemon-flavored water, lemonade, a lemon, and a lemon farm. This Lemon Continuum allows us to describe where you are on the spectrum. This as an identity. Not a label. People who are on the spectrum are typically of average to high average intelligence, struggle with social skills and nonverbal communication. They also have a specific or obsessive interest such as the weather, dinosaurs, geology, history, and hundreds of other topics. Their interest in these subjects is hyper-focused in that they can concentrate and focus on something longer than most people are able. I call this “Freight-Train Brain.”

Just as with superheroes, with strength comes difficulty. Think about this: if a mind is wired to do one or two things exceptionally well and that mind is designed to do this for hours on end, why would socialization be emphasized? Many people consider the Spectrum to be a disorder, or they hold a stereotype of these individuals as being introverted, weird, or dangerous. The stereotype could not be further from the truth. If you have met one Lemon, then you have met one Lemon. Just as there are many introverted and extroverted people who struggle with depression, attention, or anxiety, the same can be said of those who are on the Spectrum.

Everyone is different. The joy for me in working with this population is seeing a marginalized child or family feel embraced and accepted. Many of my clients find their “Why” of life and come to a level of self-acceptance and discovery that they did not believe was possible. The cornerstone of working with a client on the spectrum is self-awareness and self-acceptance.

A truly rewarding experience is the dad who says, “Wow, I was a lot like him when I was a kid. Maybe I’m on the spectrum too.” This therapeutic moment is exceptionally rewarding because as a mom or dad is able to recognize their place on the spectrum, it often alleviates years of battles with a son or daughter. The parent and child can now relate to one another and better recognize how they can work together. The Simple Lemon Checklist (not all are needed)

❏ Average to Above Average Intelligence

❏ Special Interest

❏ May want friends but doesn’t know how

❏ Sensory sensitivities

❏ Difficulty with Eye-Contact (too much or too little)

❏ Difficulty with non-verbal communication

❏ Rigid or black-and-white thinking

Meet Frank Frank Gaskill, Ph.D. Twitter: @drfgaskill “Dr. G” specializes in Aspergers and the Autism Spectrum as well as helping parents feel more successful in dealing with defiance and kids with anxiety. He also works with the intersection of parenting and technology. Dr. Gaskill is the co-author of the graphic novel Max Gamer, a comic about a boy on the spectrum.

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