Why is it Offensive to Tell Someone with Autism that Everyone is on the Spectrum?

Why is it Offensive to Tell Someone with Autism that Everyone is on the Spectrum?

Key points:

  1. Reducing Autism to Traits: Telling someone with autism that “everyone is on the spectrum” is offensive because it oversimplifies the disorder to a few common traits. Autism is a complex condition with diverse effects, including sensory overload and physical and emotional challenges.
  2. Autism Beyond Social Awkwardness: Autism encompasses more than just social awkwardness. It involves difficulties with communication, sensory overload, learning, and maintaining relationships. Each autistic person has unique experiences, and reducing autism to a few traits overlooks their individual needs and struggles.
  3. Consequences of Late Diagnoses: Without early diagnosis and support, individuals with undiagnosed autism can face significant challenges in social situations, finding suitable work, and understanding their own behavior. Undiagnosed autism can lead to mental health issues, physical pain, isolation, and a lack of proper support, impacting an individual’s future prospects and overall well-being.

By increasing awareness, reducing stigma, and providing early diagnosis and support, we can help autistic individuals lead fulfilling lives and ensure they receive the understanding and resources they need.

This common phrase is often said, with the best of intentions in mind, to Neurodivergent individuals when they seek support. Neurodiversity is an important concept in understanding autism and how to interact with those living with it. Many people on the autism spectrum experience social challenges, but this doesn’t mean that everyone experiences these same difficulties, or that autism is just a collection of traits.

It’s offensive to tell someone who is autistic that everyone is on the spectrum because it reduces their unique experience to a few common traits. In this article, we will discuss why it is offensive to tell someone autistic “that everyone is a little bit on the spectrum”.

The Problem with Reducing Autism to Its Traits

When someone tells an autistic person “that everyone is a little bit on the spectrum, that’s why it’s called a spectrum”, it is offensive and reductive. This statement implies that autism is merely a collection of traits such as social awkwardness and repetitive behaviour. While these are common symptoms of autism, they do not represent the complexity of the disorder. By reducing autism to these traits, it denies autistic people the recognition and understanding that their unique needs require.
Autism is has wide range of diverse effects on individuals. While many autistic people experience social awkwardness and difficulty with emotions, there is much more to autism than this. Autistic people often face sensory overload, difficulty sleeping, meltdowns and other physical and emotional issues. These experiences cannot be reduced to social awkwardness and repetitive behaviours. It’s also important to note that not all autistic people have the same set of symptoms – every individual is affected in different ways.
It’s important to recognize that everyone feels awkward occasionally and this does not mean you understand what an autistic person goes through. To truly understand autism, it’s necessary to take into account all aspects of the disorder and the unique experience of each individual.

Autism is More Than Just Social Awkwardness

When people are told that everyone is on the spectrum, they often reduce autism to its traits such as social awkwardness. While everyone may feel socially awkward occasionally, this does not mean that one can understand what an autistic person goes through every day. Autism is much more than just social awkwardness and goes beyond physical and emotional pain.
Autistic people experience a range of difficulties that are both physical and emotional. They may struggle with motor skills, communication, sensory overload, and difficulties with learning. Autistic people may also experience difficulty making friends, maintaining relationships, and having meaningful conversations. Additionally, they may feel extreme anxiety, depression, or isolation due to their differences.
It is important to remember that each autistic person is different and has unique experiences with their autism. It is wrong to reduce autism to a few traits and assume everyone experiences it in the same way. By understanding the complexity of autism and the range of difficulties that come along with it, we can better empathize with and support autistic people in our lives.

What an Autistic Person Goes Through

Autism is a complex disorder that affects many areas of life. It affects communication, behaviour, and social interactions. Autistic people experience many struggles that most people don’t understand, such as sensory overload, meltdowns, and a lack of communication.
Sensory overload is when a person is overwhelmed by a certain stimulus. For an autistic person, this can be anything from loud noises to bright lights. This can be incredibly uncomfortable and can cause the person to feel like they are in a state of panic. They may need to take a break from whatever they are doing or leave the situation completely.
Feeling overwhelmed can lead to meltdowns. While some reactions may seem extreme, they are often a result of the person feeling out of control and unable to process the situation. It is important to remain calm during a meltdown and provide a safe place for the person to calm down.
Communication can be difficult for many autistic people. Some may have difficulty understanding verbal and non-verbal cues. They may also struggle with maintaining eye contact or using appropriate body language. As a result, they may not be able to express their feelings or needs effectively, making it hard for them to connect with others.
There’s a wide range of symptoms and outcomes associated with autism, affecting people differently. However, one thing all autistic people have in common is that they often face unique challenges that can be difficult to understand. With the right support, these individuals can lead full and meaningful lives.

The consequences of late diagnoses

Without an early diagnosis, individuals may struggle for years trying to fit in and understand why they are different from others. As adults, autistic people may have difficulty with social situations, making and keeping friends, finding work or other activities that align with their interests, and developing self-awareness and understanding of their own behaviour.

It is estimated that 1 in 59 children are affected by ASD, yet there are many undiagnosed cases of autism.
For those who are undiagnosed, life can be incredibly difficult. Without proper diagnosis and support, people can feel lost and isolated, struggling to make sense of their experiences. This can lead to serious mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Additionally, many undiagnosed autistic people suffer from physical pain due to sensory processing issues. This can include headaches, stomach-aches, and other physical discomforts that can be hard to pinpoint and diagnose. The inability to properly manage these symptoms often leads to emotional distress. It further isolates individuals with autism who are already feeling disconnected from their peers.
Finally, the lack of a diagnosis can have serious implications for an autistic person’s future. Without an accurate diagnosis, it is difficult for doctors and therapists to provide adequate support for mental health or sensory processing issues. Without proper support, many people struggle to find meaningful employment or relationships, leading to further isolation and hardship. They may also experience higher levels of stress and feelings of isolation. In addition, they may lack the support they need to help them manage the challenges they face due to their autism.
It is important for everyone to have access to the right resources and support to help them manage their autism and its associated challenges. Early diagnosis is essential for helping people identify their strengths and needs, so that they can live full and happy lives.
No one should have to go through life without understanding why they feel the way they do. To combat this issue, we need to increase awareness about autism and reduce the stigma surrounding its diagnosis. With better understanding, more autistic people can receive the help and support they need to lead fulfilling lives.


  • “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism” by Naoki Higashida – This book offers a first-hand account of autism from the perspective of a young boy with nonverbal autism, providing valuable insights into the sensory experiences and thought processes of individuals on the spectrum.
  • “Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman – This book explores the history of autism and challenges traditional views of the disorder. It emphasizes the concept of neurodiversity and celebrates the unique strengths and contributions of autistic individuals.
  • “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” by Barry M. Prizant – Drawing on his extensive experience as a clinician, Prizant explores the sensory and emotional experiences of individuals with autism. He offers practical strategies for understanding and supporting individuals on the spectrum.
  • “Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism” by Naoki Higashida – Written as a sequel to “The Reason I Jump,” this book provides further insights into the life and experiences of Naoki Higashida, offering a deeper understanding of autism from his perspective.
  • “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin – Temple Grandin, a renowned autism advocate, shares her personal experiences and provides an inside look into how her mind works. This book offers valuable perspectives on sensory sensitivities, visual thinking, and the strengths of individuals with autism.

These books help broaden one’s understanding of autism, its challenges, and the unique experiences of individuals on the spectrum.


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