While the recent news spotlight has primarily focused on the legal implications of the Poling case, Fortune recently published this article detailing some of the current research in the area of autism and autism spectrum disorders, such as Aspergers. While it’s important to note that the implications of autism are far-reaching enough to merit publication in a business magazine dedicated to matters of finance, even more significant is the online rating of the article – after just five hours of publication, the article has been listed on the front web page of CNN. Perhaps it’s not surprising, as childhood cases continue to rise yearly.
Studies continue to attempt to link autism to its causes. Genetic predisposition is seen as a probable cause. Environmental factors are continually linked to various types of autism. New research shows that there are links to the rapidly mutating genes that allowed apes to cognitively develop into us over a short period of time. And throughout all this, those with high-functioning autism and Aspergers cry out for recognition as differently-thinking people, perhaps no more or less than neurotypicals.
What the studies and legalities that are developing fail to address are the true questions of life, the philosophies that remain largely unpondered in our daily lives. Who are we? Despite and perhaps because of our heritage and evolution, are we more or less than the sum of our genetics? What is autism, really, in the context of these questions? Do we gain or lose from them, and if so, how? If autism is often characterized by a lack or difference of language understanding and communication, do we lose from this lack, or can those with autism show us something outside of language and everyday communication that we have forgotten? If so, how do we best access this resource?