The phrase ‘the autistic spectrum’ was originally coined to describe a group of linked neurological conditions, which have similar traits or share the same underlying mechanism. These days the term ‘autistic spectrum’ is generally used to describe the unique nature of autistic people, and to acknowledge that, much like their neurotypical counterparts, no two autistic people are the same.

People have long thought of the autistic spectrum in terms of people either being ‘high functioning’ (i.e. mild or no learning disability) or ‘low functioning’ (i.e. with a moderate or severe learning disability) – however, these labels can be very unhelpful, and probably result in autism being more difficult to understand and empathise with amongst the wider population. Laura Tisoncik sums this problem up well in the following quote:

"The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning autism is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low-functioning means your assets are ignored." 

This video provides a good explanation of what the autistic spectrum really looks like: