April is Autism Awareness Month and I have chosen to make folks aware of the complexities and conundrums surrounding its politics, which are replete with divisions, debates, and diatribes fueled by self-advocates, special interests, activists, militants, and conspiracy theorists. The two main camps — though each has its own sub-groups, factions, and radical element — consist of people who view autism as a devastating neurological disorder that must be cured, prevented, and eradicated, and those who see autistic people as having a natural variation of human neurological wiring that must be tolerated, accommodated, and respected.
The main reason why the politics of autism are so polarized is that nobody knows very much about autism, so individual perceptions and experiences, as well as popular conjecture and tendentious groupthink, are often used to bridge the rather wide gaps that modern scientific research has yet to definitively fill. In the province of the politics of autism, partisanship often appears to fall within the realm of constitution, character, and coping skills in dealing with having a child or other family member who is autistic, accepting the fact that some people are autistic, or being autistic in a society that marginalizes autistic people.
Autism is a permanent, life-long disability that presents in a wide variety of manifestations, which are diagnosed along a broad spectrum of dysfunctions and disorders. Typical features of autism are impaired communication and/or social skills, repetitive motions and/or behaviors, and obsession with rituals and/or routines. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. Hypotheses currently competing to become the emerging theory of autism's origins are; that autism is very likely genetic, that there is a small chance autism could be caused by environmental factors, and that autism may be the result of some as yet unknown serendipitous convocation of nature and nurture.
The only widely accepted, standard treatments for autism consist of modalities that help autistic people to function in society according to their individual abilities. The most common intervention for autistic children is enrollment in an exceptional education program that includes speech and occupational therapy. Medication is usually not prescribed to treat autism itself, but appropriate drug therapy can be helpful to autistic people who suffer from comorbid conditions, such as difficulties with digestion, allergies, or seizures.
Although autism can be very hard for families to confront, and is sometimes difficult for autistic individuals themselves, autistic people of nearly every apparent ability can lead satisfying lives; attend college, earn a living, get married, have children, etc — if they so choose. Some autistics have used their exceptional perspicacity to make innovative contributions to society, and a number are published authors, and/or respected authorities in their individual areas of expertise.