What questions do you have and/or hope to explore this semester?
I hope to gain a broader sense about the range of autism causes and how it is possible to approach these causes in order to find a cure. As a pre-medical student, I am especially interested in the medical and biological aspects of autism, such as genetics, diet, and brain development. I am curious about why autism has such a wide spectrum, unlike other disorders that are more clear-cut and show signs quite similar to one another. Specifically, I would like to understand the differences between “high” and “low” functioning autism, and why such a difference must exist in the first place. I think it is important to explore and promote awareness about what exactly defines autism, which might ultimately decrease and hopefully eliminate many of the stereotypes about autistic individuals.
What are some common stereotypes about autism?
As a person who does not have anyone close to me with autism, most of what I really knew about it before the first reading for this class came from the stereotypes. The main stereotype that comes to mind is a person who is extremely intelligent in academic areas, yet the “social part of their brain” simply does not work. Autistic children are often thought of as the kids with behavior problems in school and who have trouble making friends. They might learn to read and write more slowly than the other students, but show high capability and passion in other, possibly random, areas. Because people with autism are often put in “special needs” environments, some might think of them as being retarded or just plain stupid. What is interesting is that most of the stereotypes of autism have either “super-power” or basically “brain-dead” qualities. Unfortunately, all of these stereotypes result in labeling and misconceptions about what it means to be autistic.