Few adults with autism achieve great success. Many go through adulthood still struggling with sensory issues and communication deficits that interfere with their ability to function normally. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. was diagnosed with autism in 1950. Her symptoms were severe enough that her doctor suggested she be put in an institution. However, instead of being institutionalized, her caregivers provided her with a structured environment and play activities throughout her youth. Like many children with autism, Temple did not speak until she was almost four years old. Also like many children with autism, she was fascinated by animals. Her interest in animals was profound enough to have guided her towards a career as a livestock researcher, consultant and teacher. She ultimately was able to become educated, to complete a doctorate, and to become a college professor. Presently, Dr. Grandin teaches courses on livestock behavior at Colorado State University. She is the author of several books, some concerning autism and some about livestock.
Singer Gary Numan (famous for the ground-breaking post-disco hit "Cars" during the late 1970s), Vernon L. Smith, Ph.D. (nobel laureate in Economics), and Bram Cohen (infamous inventor of BitTorrent file distribution software) are other fairly famous people who have managed to do well for themselves as adults with Asperger's Disorder.
Our perception of autism has evolved over time. Sixty years ago autism was nothing more than an unrecognized developmental delay generally lumped in with mental retardation. Today it is recognized as an independent neurologically based disorder of significance, a major public health problem, and a topic of much research. Researchers have struggled to find a cause for the disorder without great success. Despite this difficulty, research continues in ever more sophisticated directions. Numerous treatments have been developed that help children with autism and PDD to maximize their potential to learn and become socially fluent, no matter how impaired they may be. Though no breakthroughs appear likely to occur any time soon, there is cause for hope.
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