I first heard this while going through TouchPoint's parent training course (I am not a parent, but I went through it). They said, and teach that, "If you've met one person with autism, you've only met one person with autism".
That line can't be said enough. It is true that each and every person on Earth is different, but when it comes to conditions that have names it seems society wants everything to fit into a nice and tidy box. Let's take the common cold for example. If someone has a cold there usually, 99 times out of 100, going to be a stuffed up nose, maybe a throat ache, and the person will fell rather ill. If I say someone has a cold you will probably be able to envision what a cold is, and what it looks like.
Now, if I say autism to the world, what images will come to mind? Will it be an extreme case? Will it be Rain Man? Would someone like me ever come into their mind? Sensory issues? Will it be someone who can play music but can't speak? I could go on and on but each person with autism can be radically different than the next.
I have certain sensory issues and one thing that sets my system off is a low level frequency pulsating noise (i.e. drums). At a presentation several months ago a parent informed me that their daughters all play drums. See the oddity in this? When I say that someone has a cold the symptoms are usually universal, however, when it comes to people on the autism spectrum, one person's worst nightmare (drums) is the next person's ultimate place of bliss (drums).
If you just ventured to my blog and don't know anything about autism this "one person" concept is what I hope you remember FOREVER! If you know someone that is on the spectrum, or are on the spectrum yourself, you too need to remember this FOREVER!
Per what the DSM IV says, people with autism will have impaired social interaction, communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors. I don't know about you, but for a world that wants a nice tidy box those three traits are rather vague in what they mean. Within those three things can be a bajillion (I know that is not a word spellcheck, it sounds good though!) different possible things. With all this being so, if you are a parent and a person that knows nothing about the spectrum is giving you "advice" about autism inform them that "if they have met one person with autism..." and maybe someday the world will see, when asked what autism looks like, thousands of different possibilities. Wouldn't that be great?