In non-USian parts of the world, though, autism doesn’t necessarily get this level of attention, much less acceptance, despite the fact that autistic people are everywhere. One of the largest epidemiological studies of autism identified it in 2.64%% of South Korean schoolchildren, and anecdotal assertions to the contrary, autism does exist in countries like Cambodia. Autistic people also live in Yemen, where a lack of awareness can seriously affect outcomes. As Yemeni mother Fam Um Ahmed said in an interview with Sadeq Al-Wesabi, writing for the Yemen Times:Although I’m educated, I had no idea about autism, and what I’d heard about it was that it’s a horrible and destroying thing. I didn’t realize at that time that my child was suffering from autism until the doctor told me,” she said.
Yemen doesn’t seem to have a large, well-funded national organization to litter the country with blue puzzle pieces and ask for your donation at a Toys ‘R’ Us checkout. Its media don’t appear to carry the obsession that the US media have with autism–in fact, a search on “autism” at the Yemen Times turned up three articles. A search at NBC.com? That gets you 721 hits. In the US, that level of coverage starts to become background noise. In Yemen, awareness–or a lack of it–really does matter.
It’s not a huge shock that we in the United States tend to be US-centric when we talk about anything–politics, religion, global climate change, autism. But as we spend our time and energy here arguing the finer points of autism causation, writing alarmist stories about every scientific study that mentions autism–whether it studied it or not–, and engaging in internecine battles in the autism community, autistic people walk around all parts of the globe, needing resources and support and useful interventions as much–or even more–than autistics in the United States. Perhaps it’s time more of us became aware of that.