I hope that it is not offensive to anyone when I say that I am fascinated with autism. It is such an intriguing exceptionality, and we know so little about it. I mean, professionals have learned a great deal about how to diagnose autism, and how to provide useful therapy and support for people with autism… but we still don’t exactly know what it is. There are so many questions, not the least of which have to do with that whole “disability” term. Is autism a disability? Or is a differentability that the general population doesn’t know how to interpret? So many of the people I have known who have autism are brilliant in unusual ways, capable of processing facts and data in ways that most of us can’t begin to approach. Those with autism are not fully a part of this world, but do we know that that is a bad thing? We know nothing of the world they do inhabit.
When I was in high school (and I haven’t gotten to my ten-year reunion yet, so this wasn’t that long ago) I had barely heard the word “autistic.” I’m not sure how aware we were aware of it; Wikipedia suggests that we began thinking of autism in its current sense in the 1960s. It also tells me that incidences have increased dramatically since the 1980s, and that this may be due more to improvements/changes in diagnosis than in actual prevalence of the condition. There are a lot of kids and adults out there that are “on the spectrum,” which is the best way I know of to describe it. Basically, there is a spectrum of autism; if an individual is severely autistic, they have severe difficulty connecting with this world and functioning within it. If they are lower on the spectrum, they might have Asperger’s Syndrome (or “high functioning” autism) or simply some tendencies of the disorder.
MSNBC/Newsweek did a little quiz thing, some time ago, that allowed you to self-diagnose yourself. Of course, this is not a terribly accurate tool, but like any magazine quiz it might provide some insight that could lead to a useful discussion with a physician. I took it at the time and got a higher score than I did tonight; not sure what that indicates. Anyway, tonight I got a 24.
If you would like to take the quiz, click here.