The Nine Degrees of Autism is a new developmental model which applies to people who are on the autism spectrum or who have other hidden neurological conditions.
Other hidden neurological conditions served by this developmental model include Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Aphasia, Semantic Pragmatic and ADHD. The model may also apply to individuals who have Tourette’s syndrome, pathalogical anxiety and Bipolar disorder.
A common consequence of having a potentially hidden neurological condition is delayed self-identification and diagnosis. Some individuals are diagnosed as having a neurological condition during infancy, but many are diagnosed after the age of twelve. Moreover, there are still many middle-aged or older people on the autism spectrum who remain undiagnosed because they were not screened for autism as children.
Without a diagnosis or suitable support, the individual with a hidden neurological condition is vulnerable to adverse environmental issues which inevitably cause mental health issues and identity alignment, which they may experience positively as relief or negatively as a ‘mental breakdown’.
The adverse environmental factors that affect people who have hidden conditions include ridicule, bullying, being treated as inferior, being passed over in the employment market, and exclusion by society. Such detrimental conditions, which arise from a society that is intolerant of neurological diversity, can cause severe mental health issues.
Common mental health issues affecting individuals who have hidden neurological conditions include sadness, depression, insomnia, stress and social anxiety. The main cause of mental illness is societal prejudice and intolerance of neurodiversity rather than the individual’s primary neurological condition.
Identity alignment is the process of revising ones self-identity after identification of a hidden neurological condition. This experience is commonly understood as a mental breakdown, though it can be experienced positively, especially after individuals receive multiple misdiagnoses.
The Nine Degrees of Autism developmental model tracks the individual’s journey from birth through to wellbeing, mastery and empowerment in nine succinctly defined stages. A key advantage of this roadmap is its clarity and simplicity. Also, because it is directed towards a positive outcome, it promotes wellbeing and good health for people who have hidden neurological conditions.
The model comprises three primary developmental states, which are:
- Pre-identity Alignment (dis-ease)
- Identity Alignment (the transitional state)
- Post-Identity Alignment (wellbeing)
Each primary developmental state consists of three secondary developmental stages.
The three secondary developmental stages during pre-identity alignment are:
- The First Degree of Autism: Being born with autistic genes
- The Second Degree of Autism: Knowing that we are different (without understanding why)
- The Third Degree of Autism: Struggling to fit into society (and possibly pretending to be normal)
The first three degrees of autism occur between the individual’s birth and self-identification of their neurological condition. People usually experience these stages as confusion, doubt and struggle.
The three secondary developmental stages during identity alignment are:
- The Fourth Degree of Autism: Self-identification
- The Fifth Degree of Autism: Consideration of accessible lifestyle options
- The Sixth Degree of Autism: Resolution to live with the neurological condition
Identity alignment occurs between self-identification and self-acceptance of the individual’s revised self-identity. The chronology of identity alignment varies from weeks, months or years, depending on the age of self-identification and the availability of support.
The word ‘Diagnosis’ encompasses self-identification and both appropriate and timely post-diagnostic support, without which psychiatric labels are meaningless. Unfortunately, the use of negative medical labels that suggest disorder, disease or illness are extremely damaging because they support toxic stigmas and exclusion of people who are considered ‘different’ by society.
Late diagnosed individuals are inevitably more vulnerable to identity alignment because they have lived longer with a false construct of self-identity. For example, a person who perceives him or herself as normal, healthy and intelligent would need to revise their self-image radically after self-identification of the neurological condition.
The three secondary developmental stages during post-identity alignment are:
- The Seventh Degree of Autism: Self-Acceptance
- The Eighth Degree of Autism: Unconditional Service to Society
- The Ninth Degree of Autism: Mastery and unity
Therefore, the final three secondary developmental stages of the model relate to positive health, wellbeing, and service to society. The prerequisite for success during post-identity alignment is positive intent and unconditional service to society.
It is hoped that this model will allay many myths surrounding hidden neurological conditions. The Nine Degrees of Autism is an ideal educational tool for charting the developmental process of neurological conditions. Also, because this model offers a roadmap with a positive outcome, it will facilitate positive mental health of people with hidden neurological conditions.