"Autistic": a short word, often misheard as "artistic." It's a complicated word, one that refers to a developmental disorder, but also one that irrevocably brands the people to whom it is applied.
For many, it is a word that inspires fear and remorse. Autism is an unknown.
When Andrea Kramer was first told that her son, Danny, had autism, "I asked them if he would ever be able to have children, and they said 'No.'" Yet Danny shows every sign of living a perfectly fulfilling life; he goes to public school, and talks, and reads, and plays, and has a whole lot in common with most seven-year-olds.
Clinically, autism is characterized by emotional distance, a fascination with manipulating objects, revelry in routine, and a tendency to "zone out" into an unseen world. Autism is often accompanied by delays in language development; many autistic children don't speak.
Yet this gamut of symptoms is not clearly defined. Within a person with autism, each is present to varying degrees. Due to its breadth of symptoms and degrees, the many varieties of autism are commonly referred to as "autism spectrum disorders."
Up to .6 percent of American children have an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Center for Disease Control, yet autism is still an enigma to most. I hope to shed some light on autism by showing it by reference, through Mark Sherrett and Danny Kramer; and by showing the ways in which they have learned to live in a skeptical and unaccommodating world.