“When you take a drug to treat high blood pressure or diabetes, you have an objective test to measure blood pressure and the amount of sugar in the blood. It is straightforward,” writes Temple Grandin. “With autism, you are looking for changes in behavior.”
Though she’s a PhD and a professor at Colorado State, Grandin is not a professional autism expert—in fact, her field is animal behavior. Rather, she’s described by the Autism Society as “inarguably the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world,” and she’s the author of books on both animal behavior— Animals Make Us Human, Animals in Translation—and autism: Thinking in Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life With Autism.
As Grandin has recognized, diagnosing and even defining autism is challenging. Though parents whose children are severely autistic never argue about the syndrome, others say that the spectrum of the disorder is so wide that proper diagnosis is a puzzle with too many pieces. No wonder the prevalence, causes, and treatments of autism are so hotly debated.