I not infrequently hear people remark "Well, I guess we're all a little autistic these days." The comment is often followed by a light laugh and the agreement of others.
I have concern about this remark for the following reasons:
1. Only 1-2% of individuals meet the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder.
My first concern is that the comment isn't true. Autism spectrum disorder is a neurologic condition of behavior. There are seven criteria, five of which must be met in order for the diagnosis to be made. Although ASD is under-diagnosed in many groups of people (like adults, women, etc), it is still an infrequent neurologic condition.
2. The comment sounds dismissive of the impact of ASD on the lives.of those around us.
Individuals on the spectrum have strengths and struggles. Both should be acknowledged. As the mother of an individual on the spectrum, I can tell you that the difficulties are real and the isolation can be profound.
Sometimes, as humans, we are tempted to think categorically. In an effort to not marginalize individuals who are struggling with a medical condition (one extreme category), perhaps we try to minimize the struggle of the condition ("no big deal"; another extreme category).
I would suggest that a more balanced approached would be most effective. Let's honor the gifts and talents of every individual and proclaim his/her worth. Let's champion parents and families advocating for their loved ones. Let's acknowledge the struggle of trying to fit in, calm down, connect, and get through daily life.
We can embrace the individual and fight for his/her well-being at the same time.