Once outcasts, some autistics now see their condition as a cognitive gift and even the next stage in human evolution—at the dawn of the transhuman age, who’s to say they’re wrong?

It was hard to believe that that the words were coming from a seven-year-old boy.



“Another characteristic of mammals is that they give placental births,” he said, “Oh, except marsupials like kangaroos and koala bears.” Changing gears slightly he continued, “And then there are animals with endoskeletons and exoskeletons. Humans, because they have bones on the inside of their bodies have endoskeletons, but insects have exoskeletons on the outside.” With a vocabulary more closely resembling that of someone in grade nine, he chimed off the bits of scientific triviata as if he were directly linked to Wikipedia.



Clearly, this was no ordinary second grader, whom I chatted with recently at a Toronto specialist’s office. Compared to other kids with Asperger’s syndrome, however, his abilities are considered quite typical. His younger brother, who also has Asperger’s, is already doing multiplication tables in his head while most of his kindergarten classmates are still trying to count to 10. The boy also has social interaction and behavioral problems typical of those with Asperger’s. He tends to construe all advances from his classmates as bothersome, for example, compulsively chews on his sleeves and frequently stands up to spin in class. This is pretty textbook stuff for “Aspies”—an affectionate moniker that’s increasingly coming to be used to refer to those with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.



Yet despite the problems, and considering his cognitive gifts, there’s a good chance that this boy will integrate successfully into society and lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. That’s what a growing segment of the autistic community wants the rest of society to acknowledge. Organizing around the idea that their condition is not so much a disability as a valid mode of psychological being, a growing number of autistics say that the problem is not with their condition but with the general unwillingness to accept and integrate them into society.



Moreover, because of their enhanced cognitive skills, many autistics consider themselves to be the way of the future. In a world where science, programming and math skills are increasingly desirable, where pending neurosciences promise diverse modes of consciousness and psychology, and where interpersonal shortcomings can be made up with communications technologies and social training, monotone neurotypicality may indeed be on the way out.



More here.

0