From the book's preface:
A major theme of this book is that just about everything concerning autism is subject to argument. There is not even any consensus on what one should call people who have autism and other disabilities. “In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terms such as `Autistic,’ `Autistic person,’ or `Autistic individual’ because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity,” writes blogger Lydia Brown. Other writers prefer “people-first” language (e.g., “persons with autism”) since it puts the persons ahead of the disability and describes what they have, not who they are. For the sake of stylistic variety, this book uses both kinds of language, even though this approach will satisfy neither side. I can only say that I mean no offense.
Much of the book is about problems in public policy. Let me stress that I do not think that people with autism are themselves a “problem.” Autistic Americans are citizens, friends, coworkers, sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. Whenever they do not have a chance to take part in our country’s social and economic life, everybody loses out. Just think of all the inventions and works of art that never happened because autistic people could not get the education and training that they needed. In part because of laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, things are changing. People with autism are not just the object of public policy, but they are also participants in policy debates. As I explain in the final chapter, that role will become even more important in the years ahead.
In my research, I have tried to piece together much of what we know about autism, but there is much that we do not know. Fundamental blocks of information are simply missing, such as historical data on the size of the autism population. This book thus cannot be the last word on the subject, and I hope that it encourages other scholars to fill in some of the gaps. For instance, we need much more work on the comparative politics of autism policy. Although the book makes references to other countries, its focus is on the United States. It would be extremely helpful to have thorough analyses of how other nations handle autism, including the provision of education and the protection of civil rights. If you are a graduate student in search of a dissertation topic, consider yourself nudged