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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

We Need All the Autism Theories and Models

For almost every autism article that presents a theory, model, or metaphor of autism, there is a response that the theory or model is limiting to some individuals on the spectrum. Comments such as, “This leaves out individuals whose functioning is severely impacted” or, “This doesn’t apply to autistic people who have high masking skills.”

These comments aren’t wrong. However, when the spectrum is so wide, it is highly unlikely that a single theory captures everyone. As the neurodivergence movements surges ahead and more and more autistics are defining autism on their own terms, our understanding of autism and how it impacts people is quickly developing. Autistics want more than what the DSM-5 lays out as Autism Spectrum Disorder, and we are taking matters into our hands.

Autistic art therapist Jackie Schuld shares an abstract watercolor painting of overlapping colors and blocks in green, pink, yellow, and various hues.
"All the Theories" Watercolor by Jackie Schuld

The more autism theories, models, and metaphors we can have, the better. We are in a surge of creativity, innovation, and expansion. I call it the Autistic Awakening. It is a wonderful time to be autistic. While I may not relate to everything I read about autism, it continually evolves my understanding. I pick up little snippets and bits, slowly helping me to see my own autistic self better. It helps me to understand and assist my wide range of autistic clients better too.

If autism really is a spectrum, which seems to be the one thing we all agree upon, then we are going to need a spectrum of theories, models, and metaphors. All of our autistic minds are so unique that we need different ways of conceptualizing autism. One way may make sense to me and another may make sense to another person. This could also hold true for neurotypical people with autistic friends and family. They may need different descriptions, analogies, theories, and models to fully understand what it’s like to be autistic.

So I say bring on the innovation. For example, I recently read about a model called neurocloud designed by an autistic. Another autistic therapist shared how she’s making up her own personal statistics about autism because she’s tired of the dark statistics tied to autism. Will these views apply to everyone? Absolutely not, but I certainly learned from them and enjoyed seeing a fresh perspective.

I see more and more autistic coaches and consultants bringing their work to the world. I love it. I want more of it. If you’re doing that, please drop a link in the comments. I’d love to check out your articles and theories and gloriousness. Chances are, I’ll be referencing them in my own essays about autism as my understanding of it evolves.


Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter. If you would like to explore your autistic identity with an autistic therapist, you can learn more about my therapy services here.


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