Just a quick note before heading to the airport. The response to the autism story has been remarkable. Countless people have written to continue the conversation, and the The New York Times blog picked it up a couple of days ago. Take a look if you have a few minutes. The puzzle to the left is part of an autism and brain science story discussed in a short Wired.com piece that accompanies the online version of the story. Meanwhile, below are a few snapshots of what people have written to tell me.

  • "I work directly with this population in the context of securing special education and related services. My clients often face “experts” who claim that autism is directly correlated with mental retardation most of the time. These same experts use this proposition to limit educational opportunities. So, the research that you reported on is very important to my clients and people everywhere in the US trying to get services for their children in public school."
  • A mother of an autistic boy in Colorado wrote that the piece is helping her "voice something I've felt for a long time; my boy is not mentally retarded. I mean, he needs so much leading and guidance right now to respond to questions that he can't even be given an IQ test--so the experts here just assume he must be <70."
  • "One friend is an 8 year old with ASD. He has such a wonderful imagination and ability to put stories together. I suggested to his mom that he should blog. Now he is. Here it is. He’s a great kid."
  • "We have battled that issue with school districts and professionals for years. My son is very intelligent, but he does not test very high on many IQ tests. He has many deficits with so called 'standard problem solving' issues, but on the other hand we do not own a GPS as my son is a human GPS who knows every road by County Road number as well as name. We live [x part of the U.S.] and one of the first things my son read was a sign on the highway 'Traffic moving well on Route [xyz].' Other kids first reading may have been 'The Cat in the Hat' or other well-known children books. My son's was highway warning signs."
  • "As a mother of an autistic son (who is 8), my question is: Then how do I open my mind to understand enough to connect to him? My son is extremely personal/engaging. He will look me in the eye. He talks a mile a minute, in a language I don't understand. The question I didn't see asked or answered was how does someone like me connect with my own child? How do I understand what would enrich his life? Am I doing enough? Does he need something different? How do I integrate my son into a world that only has a place for you if you can master some function of 'society'?"
  • "I know my boy is so smart it can be scary. But he does not seem to comprehend the implications of walking into traffic, and appears to be baffled by ordinary tasks like using toilet paper, flushing, washing hands, and so on. These areas remain a concern. While scientists may debate the degrees of ability and disability, parents want to find a way for their kids to be reasonably self-sufficient."
Not surprisingly, many people writing me are parents of autistic children or people with ASD. One of the things that has struck me is how many parents have written in with positive feedback. Instead of worrying that discussion of autistic ability might pose a threat to social services, they feel it's absolutely necessary--and overdue--so that science and society can better design services that fit their children's needs. If you have thoughts or comments about the story, or about autism in general, please post them here so others can see what you have to say.

AuthorDavid Wolman