Ever seen the movie Rainman? I would highly recommend this if you haven't seen it yet. If not for anything it stars Tom Cruise, :-) and Dustin Hoffman was excellent for his role as Raymond Babbit, the Autistic sufferer in the movie. Personally, watching the film was my first awareness of autism. But is was not until my university days when I took up a job working with autistic children and providing support for their families that I had real awareness of the condition and the toll is takes on the sufferers and their loved ones'. One thing was certain across board as I probed the families (out of my own curiosity) about their daily life style was the lack of awareness and hence ignorance by the general public about what I call a "bitter sweet condition".
Watch this to find out more http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeGaffIJvHM&feature=related
Imagine taking your six year old out for a happy meal at MacDonalds and have him grap a strangers' soda and run off with it innocently, or having your 5year old constantly refuse all meals except for a couple of items which includes picking dirt off any floor or your child who would throw a tantrum if you attempted to put them in a car or plane. You may think these are just kids being their usual tricky, picky self until you experience a typical day in their life. Imagine being the parent out with each of these kids and people yell from across the room about how unfit you are to care for your own child or having to constantly apologize to strangers for what they consider inappropriate behavior. You soon loose count of the number of times you have to pay for other peoples food items. These are just a minute percentage of behaviors exhibited by people with autism.
Relationships have turned sour, careers have ended prematurely and families have broken down over one child due to the toll it takes and the lack of support. So why do I call it "bitter sweet". These children grow up possessing unthinkable skills and qualities that the average person lacks. Their way with numbers, memory of events / landmarks, handy talents and general knowledge is admirable. I once joked to an an autistic sufferer to come on a quiz show with me as i'm sure it would have made me a millionaire overnight. Whatever the subject he knew the answer. A particular interesting scene is portrayed in the Rainman movie where a box of matchsticks drops and scatters on the floor and Ray within a split second shouted out the exact number on the floor. They just capture the information and it's there. Its simply genius. You have to experience a day with them to appreciate this gift. Researchers at Cambridge and Oxford have previously postulated that both Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton among other prominent historians suffered from some form of Autism.
Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is the umbrella term used to describe the range of conditions which exhibit certain developmental disorders and character traits, some more extreme than others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_spectrum
Five years ago the United Nations declared 2nd April as World Autism Day in the quest to raise awareness about this bitter sweet condition. Wear something blue and educate yourself to join in raising awareness on Autism. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41674&Cr=autism&Cr1