Autism is a disorder of neural development that is widely discussed and not yet fully understood. So, what do we know about it, and what other things should we find out?
Most people know that it usually affects children and that it is related to self-absorption and communication problems. A lot of stereotypical thinking is involved, when it comes to this disorder. Some have a distinct picture forming in their mind upon hearing the word “autism”: a preoccupied toddler stacking or lining up his toys. That is what it is all about for them, a child that likes organizing and prefers to spend time on their own. Others imagine a person completely incapable of looking after themselves or saying anything coherent, rocking their body back and force. Some go even further and equate autism with sociopathy, or see autistic people as violent criminals. And finally a certain proportion thinks all autistic people are savants, possessing extraordinary capabilities, such as photographic memory or ability to mentally multiply 6-figure numbers. This stereotype appeared apparently resulting from portrayal of autism in the media (e.g. “The rain man”). All these groups of people are partially right, while missing the whole picture, autism can take on different forms. This is a crucial thing to know.
There are children and adults with so-called high- and low-functioning autism: some are seriously impaired, while others are fairly well-adapted and capable of functioning on their own. The amount of autistic people committing violent crimes is fairly small and such people are mostly affected by other conditions. And savant syndrome is a very rare condition and it is not always related to autism. There is a wide range of symptoms and levels of impairment severity; each case is different from the other, so it is very important not to make broad generalizations.