23 Nov 2006
In the last years, autism has gotten a lot of attention (consider the linked Wikipedia article: it has been edited 45 times in the last week). This is not just due to the movie "Rain man", but to a lot of scientific findings and new theories. For instance:
However, most of the scientific discussion boils down to two problems:
  1. Causation: Is it purely genetic? Purely environmental? Which genes might be responsible?  If we know the cause, can we cure it?
  2. Classification: What is autism? Who is autistic, and who is just "nerdy"? Are the rising numbers of diagnoses over the last decades just due to the attention the disease has gotten? Are people gradually distributed on the spectrum of autistic traits, or are "normal" people on one cluster, and "ill" people on another?
There is a lot going on, but for now, I'd like to take a look past those two questions. Not science, but sociology.

I do think that people are quite gradually spread over the autistic spectrum, but people's perception on that is different.
Let's look at the side of the spectrum containing people who generally are able to live on their own (that includes almost all of it). Look at the list of autistic traits: You'll find some entries that more or less fit someone you know or even yourself.
The general perception is that every entry on that list that applies to you pushes you further from "you're like us" to "you're different". Or from "healthy" to "ill". It's a one-way view on the matter.

Now, I know about the severity at one end of the spectrum and the problems that those people have to face. But if we're assuming (and I do so) that all people are quite evenly spread over the autistic spectrum, then I have the right to talk about other parts of it.

I myself am applying to some of the autistic traits (I even have been called "autistic" once, admit jokingly). I want to remind everyone that the brain turns an absence of one trait into a strength in another. People who don't socialize every Friday and Saturday, like to engage in geeky talk, love to dive into details from time to time or have  difficulties in verbalizing their feelings (just to name some obvious traits) are worse in one of the games, but better in another. Most of the times, they don't need help, advice or pity. Really, let it go. It bugs the hell out of them. They don't live in a different world, but just some way down the spectrum.

I feel there is a tendency to discriminate people that have a mild level of some of those traits as "unsocial". That's a problem. I think that most peoples (and also some professionals) psychological view is that "the more intimacy the better for everyone". Everyone should socialize  and engage in deep conversations about feelings at least twice a day (or something like that). Here is a story about a poor guy who only got "good" advice of that sort. He almost killed himself.
In tendency (I'm trying to be careful here), those traits are "male" traits. Just like people are starting to realize that you should allow boys to exercise physically and aggressively on the playground, they might realize that it's ok to be alone for some, or to engage in details or the like.
# lastedited 23 Nov 2006
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