Autism is not a disorder

2009/07/16 at 13:37

An essay by Tyler Cowen (probably best known for his blog, Marginal Revolution), titled Autism as Academic Paradigm, has been getting a lot of notice because in it Cowen posits that in “American college or university, autism is often a competitive advantage rather than a problem to be solved.”
His point, though, is that autistics often have exceptionally good characteristics as well as negative ones, but our society’s view of autism as a disorder tends only to focus much more on the negative characteristics, especially the ones that make it difficult for autistics to get along in general society.
I’m in agreement with Cowen. I look at it this way: there are a variety of measures of cognitive and social abilities; as a society, we draw (fairly arbitrary) lines on these measures and state that anyone who is over the line for a particular measure suffers from a disorder, even if the individual operates within accepted norms for many other measures, or even exceptionally well in some.