Why is autism considered a disease and not merely a condition of looking at and experiencing the world differently? The responsibilities of modern society have forced us to coin the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning” autism. These two extremes represent the endpoints on a spectrum defined by how well a person functions in society and handles personal responsibilities. While this may be necessary in order to ensure care and safety as well as provide a fair basis of accountability to laws (for example, what constitutes disorderly conduct for a low functioning autistic person?), it should not justify such a strong pathological insinuation that these individuals must be labeled “diseased”.

It’s my personal belief that our failure or inability to feel comfortable with celebrating autism is partially the fault of intelligence testing. IQ testing in general is tough because no one can define what intelligence is to begin with. So how do you test that which you cannot define? What would Mozart’s IQ have been? How about Shakespeare’s?  If my IQ tested higher than J.K. Rowling’s does that mean I could potentially be a better writer than her? Of course not, such an interpretation is so ridiculous yet unfortunately not so distance from public thought. We’ve glorified an integer, summed up all human potential into an easily boasted rank. Okay, enough of this mini-rant. Now then, autistic people in general do not test well. In order to begin seeing their mental capacity in a new light, we need to “test” them at young ages in ways that can reveal multiple types of intelligence. So what types of intelligence are there? For that I’ll leave you with a direct text from ‘Embracing the Wide Sky’:

Linguistic intelligence: involving both spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to achieve certain goals. Examples: writers, poets, lawyers, and speakers.

Logical-mathematical intelligence: the capacity to analyze problems, perform mathematical operations, and investigate issues scientifically. Examples: scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

Musical intelligence: skill in the performance, composition, and appreciation of musical patterns. Musicians of all kinds are obvious examples of this intelligence.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: using parts or the whole of one’s body to solve problems. Examples: athletes, actors, and dancers.

Spatial intelligence: includes having a very good sense of direction, as well as the ability to visualize and mentally manipulate objects. Examples: artists, architects, and engineers.

Interpersonal intelligence: the capacity to understand the feelings, intentions, and motivations of other people. Examples: salespeople, politicians, and therapists.

Intrapersonal intelligence: the ability to understand oneself, one’s feelings, goals, and motivations. Examples: philosophers, psychologists, and theologians.

Naturalistic intelligence: the ability to draw upon certain features of the environment, to grow and nurture new things, and to have a facility for interacting with animals. Examples: farmers, gardeners, and conservationists.

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