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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 19th August 2016 > ONE BIG MYSTERY, MANY AUTISMS


There’s no such thing as typical when it comes to this neurodevelopmental disorder


IF YOU’VE SEEN one person with autism, you’ve seen one person with autism. It’s a common refrain among doctors who treat the neurodevelopmental disorder, which manifests differently in almost every case, even among the most closely related individuals.

People with autism engage in repetitive or obsessive actions and interests, struggle to communicate and have difficulty relating to others and to the world around them. But the exact features of the disorder, as well as its severity, can vary significantly. That’s why autism, now diagnosed in one in every 68 children in the United States, is no longer considered one condition but rather a spectrum of related but distinct disorders.

At one end of the autism spectrum is 26-year- old Taylor Newsum. He has difficulty picking up on certain social cues, but even so, each day he takes the train from his parents’ home in Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan, where he works as an administrative assistant in a psychologist’s office. He plans to become a social worker. At the other end of the spectrum is his sister, Savannah Newsum. Compared with Taylor, Savannah, 21, has much more limited verbal skills and social skills, and it is difficult for her to maneuver through the world without assistance.

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