Autism Defined by Those with the Diagnosis

Apr 22, 2013

Instead of going to the experts to define autism we asked people who had been diagnosed with neurological disorder to explain it.

Rachel Barcellona as Miss Teen American Spirit.
Credit Miss Teen American Spirit website.

“Autism is like being on another planet and you don’t know who you are and where you are,” Rachel Barcellona said. “And you try your hardest to fit in and eventually it happens and people accept you and understand you but you’ll always be a little bit different no matter what.”

Barcellona, a high school student, is a model and holds the title Miss Teen American Spirit.

About one in every 54 boys and one in every 252 girls is diagnosed with a form of autism according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The term autism covers a wide spectrum of disorders and symptoms from difficulty socializing to an inability to communicate verbally. Usually the definition comes from medical and academic experts.

Caleb Caton, a college student and the lead guitarist for the band Obskurity, says for him, autism is more like a social disorder.

“Is it something you’re able to grow out of?” Caton asked and then answered. “Yeah. With the help I’ve had over the years, I managed to be able to get through my problems.”

Living with the neurological disorder is not a disability to William Gregory.

“It’s more so just a different method of processing information,” Gregory said adding that  he and his parents were “excited” when they finally found a description of autism and got his diagnosis.

“We were like happy,” said Gregory, who works as an artist for the online comic book Skull Boy. “Finally, we have an answer,”

The term autism covers a wide range of neurological development disorders which is now being defined as a spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Caleb Caton performing with the band Obkurity at Riverview High School, March 2013.
Credit Caleb Caton

“There are people who have sensory issues, people who are fairly independent, like myself,” said William McCombie, an Information Technology specialist with the University of Florida. “A lot of people don’t have their drivers’ license, but I actually have mine. I can drive. I get around fairly well. I actually can fly. I have my pilot’s license.”

Andrew Casey, the co-producer of this story has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome which is now included in the spectrum. His love of computers and technology influenced his definition.

Casey said autism like having a “glitch” in computer software.

“I stare off into space at least a dozen times a day,” Casey said. “For me personally, having autism is sort of having a glitch in the system. It’s not lethal. It’s just a minor hiccup.”

The definition of autism has changed medically. The American Psychiatry Association now uses the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD which includes a wide range of complex neurological development disorders like autism disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Asperger syndrome, and other unspecified developmental disorders.