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|From The Editor|
From The Editor
Everything about autism spectrum disorders (ASD)—the cause or causes, the best treatments, the prevalence, even whether some forms should be considered "autism" at all—seems to generate controversy these days. But beneath the Sturm und Drang of the public struggles waged by highly vocal and antagonistic advocacy groups is the experience of individual families thrown into turmoil when a child receives such a diagnosis.
Alexandra Solomon's breathtakingly candid article in this issue reveals the harrowing ordeal and enormous costs—practical, financial, and emotional—that arise when a family discovers it must face the challenge of a child's ASD. As she points out, "parents of neurotypical kids can do a relatively mediocre job, and their kids will turn out just fine. Parents of ASD kids have to do an A+ job nearly every day in order to help their kids bypass and work around their condition." There are undoubtedly triumphs and rewards in this struggle, as Solomon's story so powerfully demonstrates, but, as Richard Howlin shows elsewhere in this issue, the struggle doesn't end when people with ASD reach adulthood.
Most of us were born with an innate capacity to "tune in" emotionally to other people, to "get into" each other's heads, to see ourselves in the context of relationship with others. Although people with ASD apparently lack this fundamental capacity, part of the fascination with the disorder is discovering how much of the ability to "dance relationally" can be acquired, even in the absence of some instinctive neural wiring. In addition to being a tribute to the love, commitment, and gritty hard work of the families and clinicians who try to help people with ASD, this issue is an exploration of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human.