The autism diagnosis first appeared in 1943. Since then, the world has become a much more hospitable, welcoming place for people with autism, thanks primarily to the efforts of family members and advocates who fought for acceptance of their loved ones. But, according to author and journalist John Donvan, the fight to bring autism out from the shadows of society is only half-done.
"Going back 50 or 60 years ago, it was the absolute gold standard psychiatric opinion that autism was caused by mothers not loving their children enough." This is the world we came from. What kind of world are we heading toward? What opportunities will be made available to the 500,000 young adults with autism who are due to reach working age in the coming decade? These are issues we, as a society, need to consider more seriously.
Finally, another obstacle to a better future comes in the form of autism's amorphous definition and imprecise grounds for diagnosis. Autism is not something you can just spot in DNA. It's almost wholly to do with behavior and whether the way someone acts corresponds to the parameters set for the diagnosis. But not enough people agree on what is autism and what isn't, and that's caused more problems than it solves.
Donvan is co-author of the new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism.