Today’s society views autism in many different ways. As with all things, knowledge of the intricacies of autism, as well as one’s outlook on life, affect how people react to their contact with autism. Autism is apparent enough today that many people get the general idea, but there tends to be a lot people do not know enough about it to understand what moves others to support autistic people.
What do you think of when you hear the word autism? In some of the people I have spoken with, there seems to be some confusion between autism and mental retardation. In some of the extreme cases of autism—likely those that make it onto the news or plea-for-help commercials—there is a lack of communication and recognition skills that would lead one to believe a child is mentally disabled. Not all cases are like this, however. There is an entire spectrum of neural development disability—the autism spectrum—that covers a wide array of behavior and activity common to people who exhibit symptoms of autism to varying degrees.
In the medical sense, autism is a disorder, albeit one not well understood. There is no known cure for it, and varying degrees of living assistance are needed based on where the person lays on the autism spectrum. People lightly impacted by autism are sometimes able to live on their own with little or no outside assistance or intervention. In these cases, the repetitive behavior exhibited by autism patients often looks like merely a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Severely impacted patients will never become self-sufficient, needing supervision their entire lives.
Seeing how autism has no cure, the coping mechanisms differ from person to person and family to family. Some devote their lives searching for a cure that will help a loved one or themselves to live a better life. This can range from spreading knowledge of the disorder, joining in the research, or fundraising. Funds from donations or the sale of autism products can go to support active neurological research or to increase health resources available to patients. Others fight against the discrimination that can occur by those who discount those affected by autism because of a lack of understanding. Ignorance is one of the leading causes of discrimination, so activists spread information, educating people about exactly what autism is, dispelling rumors, and encouraging people to treat everyone—including autism patients—with the respect and equality everyone deserves as a person.