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Encyclopedia > Sociological and cultural aspects of autism

Autism (also called autistic disorder, infantile autism, Kanner's syndrome or Kanner syndrome) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests itself before the age of three years.[1] Children with autism are marked by impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.[2] Autism is classified by the World Health Organization and American Psychological Association as a developmental disability that results from a disorder of the human central nervous system. ...

Autism is one of the five pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) or autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which have no outward physical characteristics. Estimates of prevalence vary widely. Most recent reviews estimate a prevalence of 1–2 per 1,000 for autism and close to 6 per 1,000 for ASD.[3] The autistic spectrum (sometimes referred to as the autism spectrum) is a developmental and behavioral syndrome that results from certain combinations of characteristically autistic traits. ... In epidemiology, the prevalence of a disease in a statistical population is defined as the total number of cases of the disease in the population at a given time, or the total number of cases in the population, divided by the number of individuals in the population. ...

Autism covers a wide range, from those who are nearly dysfunctional and apparently mentally disabled to those whose symptoms are mild or remedied enough to appear unexceptional to others. This page is a candidate to be moved to Wiktionary. ... Developmental disability is a term used to describe life-long disabilities attributable to mental and/or physical or combination of mental and physical impairments, manifested prior to age twenty-two. ...

Due to the complexity of autism, there are many facets of sociology that need to be considered when discussing it, such as the culture which has evolved from autistic persons connecting and communicating with one another. In addition, there are several subgroups forming within the autistic community, sometimes in strong opposition to one another. This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Community and politics

Further information: Autistic community and Autism rights movement.

Curing autism is a very highly controversial and politicized issue. What some call the "autistic community" has splintered into several strands. Some seek a cure for autism - sometimes dubbed by pro-cure. Others do not desire a "cure", because they point out that autism is a way of life rather than a "disease", and as such resist it[4] or view it as unethical.[5] They are sometimes dubbed anti-cure. Many more may have views between these two. Recently, with scientists learning more about autism and possibly coming closer to effective remedies, some members of the "anti-cure" movement sent a letter to the United Nations demanding to be treated as a minority group rather than a group with a mental disability or disease.[6] Autistic communities are groups of people who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, or who have self-identified as autistic, along with family members and other supporters. ... The autism rights movement (which has also been called autistic self-advocacy movement [2] and autistic liberation movement [3]) was started by adult autistic individuals in order to advocate and demand tolerance for what they refer to as neurodiversity. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Biomedical intervention for autism. ... Ethical challenges to autism treatment have been made by people who feel that autism therapies intended to be helpful are actually harmful to autistic people. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Autistic communities are groups of people who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, or who have self-identified as autistic, along with family members and other supporters. ... A minority or subordinate group is a sociological group that does not constitute a politically dominant plurality of the total population of a given society. ... The Scream, the famous painting commonly thought of as depicting the experience of mental illness. ...

There are many resources available for autistic people. Because many autistics find it easier to communicate online than in person, a large number of these resources are online. In addition, successful autistic adults, using their own experience in developing coping strategies and/or interacting with society, are often involved at the community level with children with autism, using their own experience in developing coping strategies and/or interacting with society.

The year 2002 was declared Autism Awareness Year in the United Kingdom (see Autistic Community article). Autistic communities are groups of people who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, or who have self-identified as autistic, along with family members and other supporters. ...


Main article: Autistic culture

With the recent increases in autism recognition and new approaches to educating and socializing autistics, an autistic culture has begun to develop. Similar to deaf culture, autistic culture is based on a more accepting belief that autism is a unique way of being and not a disorder to be cured. There are some commonalities which are specific to autism in general as a culture, not just "autistic culture". It has been suggested that autistic community be merged into this article or section. ... This article describes aspects of Deaf cultures. ...

It is a common misperception that autistic people do not marry; many do seek out close relationships and marry. Often, they marry another autistic, although this is not always the case. Autistic people are often attracted to other autistic people due to shared interests or obsessions, but more often than not the attraction is due to simple compatibility with personality types, the same as for non-autistics. Autistics who communicate have explained that companionship is as important to autistics as it is to anyone else.

It is also a common misperception that autistic people live away from other people, such as in a rural area rather than an urban area; many autistics do happily live in a suburb or large city. However, a metropolitan area can provide more opportunities for cultural and personal conflicts, requiring greater needs for adjustment. Sign in a rural area in Dalarna, Sweden Qichun, a rural town in Hubei province, China An artists rendering of an aerial view of the Maryland countryside: Jane Frank (Jane Schenthal Frank, 1918-1986), Aerial Series: Ploughed Fields, Maryland, 1974, acrylic and mixed materials on apertured double canvas, 52... Crowded Shibuya, Tokyo shopping district An urban area is an area with an increased density of human-created structures in comparison to the areas surrounding it. ... Housing subdivision near Union, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. ...

In schools it is commonplace for autistics to be singled out by teachers and students as "unruly," though an autistic student may not understand why his or her actions are considered inappropriate, especially when the student has a logical explanation for his or her behavior.

The interests of autistic people and so-called "geeks" or "nerds" can often overlap as autistic people can sometimes become preoccupied with certain subjects, much like anyone else. However, in practice many autistic people have difficulty with working in groups, which impairs them even in the most 'geeky' of situations. The connection of autism with so-called geek or nerd behavior has received attention in the popular press, but is still controversial within these groups.[7] A geek is an individual who is fascinated by knowledge and imagination, usually electronic or virtual in nature. ... Look up nerd in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Main article: Adults on the autistic spectrum

Communication and social problems often cause difficulties in many areas of an autistic adult's life. A much smaller proportion of adult autistics marry or have children than the general population. Even when they do marry, some argue, they are more likely to be divorced than the norm,[8] although further research is being made. Nevertheless, as more social groups form, progressively more diagnosed adults are forming relationships with others on the spectrum.

A small proportion of autistic adults, usually those with high-functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome, are able to work successfully in mainstream jobs, although frequently far below their actual level of skills and qualification. Others are employed in sheltered workshops under the supervision of managers trained in working with persons with disabilities. A nurturing environment at home, at school, and later in job training and at work, helps autistic people continue to learn and to develop throughout their lives. Asperger described his patients as little professors. Aspergers syndrome (AS, or the more common shorthand Aspergers), is characterized as one of the five pervasive developmental disorders, and is commonly referred to as a form of high functioning autism. ...

The Internet helps bypass non-verbal cues and emotional sharing that autistics find so hard to interact with. It gives autistic individuals a way to communicate and form online communities,[9] and to work via telecommuting and independent consulting, which do not require much human interaction offline.[10] It has been suggested that Nomad Workers be merged into this article or section. ...

Under the public law, in the United States, the public schools' responsibility for providing services ends when the autistic person is 21 years of age. The autistic person and their family are then faced with the challenge of finding living arrangements and employment to match their particular needs, as well as the programs and facilities that can provide support services to achieve these goals.

Many parents of autistic children also face financial difficulties as they must often pay for essential support and therapeutic services. Furthermore, autism is often linked to poverty because autistics who might qualify for financial assistance in one country are not eligible in another, because some nations do not recognize autism as a disability. A boy from an East Cipinang trash dump slum in Jakarta, Indonesia shows what he found. ... Welfare is financial assistance paid by taxpayers to groups of people who are unable to support themselves, and determined to be able to function more effectively with financial assistance. ...


When referring to someone who is diagnosed with autism, the term "autistic" is often used. Alternatively, many prefer to use the person-first terminology "person with autism" or "person who experiences autism". However, it has been noted that members of the autistic community generally prefer "autistic person" for reasons that are fairly controversial.[11] This article uses both terminologies. Person-first terminology is a linguistic technique used when discussing disabilities to avoid perceived and subconscious dehumanisation of the people involved. ... Autistic communities are groups of people who have been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, or who have self-identified as autistic, along with family members and other supporters. ...


Main article: Autistic savant

The autistic savant phenomenon is sometimes seen in autistic people. Savant syndrome occurs in about 10% of autistic people and in about 1% of non-autistic people.[12] The term "autistic savant" is used to describe a person who is autistic and has extreme talent in one or more areas of study (the incidence of multiple skills tend to occur more often in autistic savants than non-autistic savants). Although there is a common association between savants and autism (an association made especially popular by the 1988 film Rain Man), most autistic people are not savants and savantism is not unique to autistic people, though there does seem to be some relation.[13] Mental calculators and fast computer programming skills are the most common form. A well known example is Daniel Tammet, the subject of the documentary film The Brain Man[14] (Kim Peek, one of the inspirations for Dustin Hoffman's character in the film Rain Man, is not autistic). Bright Splinters of the Mind by Beate Hermelin is a book that explores this issue further. An autistic savant (historically described as idiot savant) is a person with both autism and Savant Syndrome. ... Rain Man is a 1988 film which tells the story of a selfish yuppie who discovers that his father has left all of his estate to the autistic brother he never knew he had. ... Look up savant in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Computer programming (often shortened to programming or coding) is the process of writing, testing, and maintaining the source code of computer programs. ... Daniel Paul Tammet (b. ... Documentary film is a broad category of visual expression that is based on the attempt, in one fashion or another, to document reality. ... Kim Peek (born November 11, 1951), is a savant with a photographic or eidetic memory and developmental disabilities, possibly resulting from congenital brain abnormalities. ... This does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

Notable individuals

Speculation arises over famous people and celebrities who are now suspected, but unconfirmed, of having ASD. They are rumored to have most symptoms of autism or autistic-spectrum disorder. Biographers, personal physicians and media journalists continually investigate these rumors, but some say that the claims are actually libellous of their character as public figures, being singled out as "odd" or "nerdy" people.[15] This is a list of noteworthy people known to have a condition on the autistic spectrum. ... In English and American law, and systems based on them, libel and slander are two forms of defamation (or defamation of character), which is the tort or delict of making a false statement of fact that injures someones reputation. ...

The extent to which someone with higher functioning autism or Asperger's syndrome may excel is theoretically quite high. For example, Henry Cavendish, one of history's foremost scientists, may have been autistic. George Wilson, a notable chemist and physician, wrote a book about Cavendish entitled, "The Life of the Honourable Henry Cavendish", published in 1851. From Wilson's detailed description it seems that while Cavendish may have exhibited many classic signs of autism, he nevertheless had an extraordinary mind.[16] For other persons named Henry Cavendish, see Henry Cavendish (disambiguation). ... Photo submitted by Franklyncards George Wilson was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. ...


  1. ^ World Health Organization (2006). "F84. Pervasive developmental disorders", International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th ed. (ICD-10). 
  2. ^ American Psychiatric Association (2000). "Diagnostic criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder", Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text revision (DSM-IV-TR). ISBN 0890420254. 
  3. ^ Newschaffer CJ, Croen LA, Daniels J et al. (2007). "The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders". Annu Rev Public Health 28: 235–58. DOI:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.28.021406.144007. PMID 17367287. 
  4. ^ Sinclair, Jim. Do not Mourn for Us. Autistics.org. Retrieved on 2007-01-23.
    * In Support of Michelle Dawson and Her Work. Autistics.org. Retrieved on 2007-06-28.
    * Harmon A. "How about not 'curing' us, some autistics are pleading", New York Times, 2004-12-20. Retrieved on 2007-06-26. 
  5. ^ Dawson, Michelle. The Misbehavior of Behavioralists (18 January 2004). Retrieved on 23 January 2007.
  6. ^ autistics.org: The REAL Voice of Autism (See above). Retrieved on December 11, 2005.
  7. ^ Geeks and autism. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  8. ^ Asperger syndrome and adults, Dr Isabelle Henault. Retrieved on June 12, 2006.
  9. ^ Biever C. "Web removes social barriers for those with autism", New Scientist, 2007-06-27. Retrieved on 2007-06-28. 
  10. ^ Auties.org - autism employment. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  11. ^ The Diary, July-August 2005 (PDF), publication of the Autism Society of Washington, page 4, accessed 4 February 2007 Autistic adults at the Autism Society of America 2005 Conference felt that the term "individuals with autism" separates their autism from who they are. In other words, they believe their autism is part of who they are and want to be called "autistic adults.
  12. ^ Savant prevalence. Retrieved on June 23, 2006.
  13. ^ Heaton, P. & Wallace, G.L. (2004). Annotation: The savant syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(5), 899-911.
  14. ^ Guardian "Brain Man" article. Retrieved on July 30, 2005.
  15. ^ List of famous people with autistic traits. Retrieved on 2007-01-26.
  16. ^ Sacks, Oliver. Henry Cavendish: An early case of Asperger's syndrome? Neurological Foundation of New Zealand (Reprinted with permission from the American Neurological Association). Retrieved on 2007-06-28.



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