Autism is a spectrum, meaning that there are many “types” of autism, and the “severity” of the autistic traits can vary, from one individual to another. It’s considered a “disability” by the ADA, however, many people who have higher-functioning forms of autism feel that they do not have a disability, but are actually what’s called neurologically diverse. Aspergers is one form of autism which is actually a lot more common than one would think! Autism is not something which “goes away”, although certain characteristics can be managed more effectively with time. When a person “finds a way” to adapt to a shortcoming, the new way of dealing with that is called an “adaptive behavior.” There are also maladaptive behaviors. This is when a person comes up with a not-so-great way to adapt. Ii guess you could say it’s like a “defense mechanism” in some ways.
Boys have been diagnosed more frequently with autism in the past, although it has been found that girls “really can have autism”! For instance, I have Aspergers, which is on the spectrum, but most people who meet me have no idea. Boys have more “classic” behaviors than girls do, although in my opinion, this is because of many gender differences. You may have noticed that some more “assertive” women in the public eye are suspected (or do have) Aspergers. I think this is because their personality enables the manifestation of more “typical” behaviors. (Think: Madonna and Sharon Stone. Strong women.)
People with autism (especially the higher-functioning forms, such as HFA, PDD, and Aspergers) CAN have normal lives. Of course, if they have the opportunity for guidance when they are younger, they develop more adaptive (and fewer maladaptive) behaviors, so they fit into society generally well. Many people with AU (that’s the abbreviation for autism) follow their interests vocationally, and can be very successful in those things which they find interesting. When people with AU are creative, for instance, being in a creative field is ideal, because many creative people are individualistic.
A note about the higher end of the spectrum… A diagnostic criteria for Aspergers (for instance) is that that cognitive ability must not be dimished. (This is one reason why they give IQ tests when diagnosing.) So if you look at a group of people with Aspergers, you are 100% certain that they are all at least of average cognitive ability. You can’t say the same for the rest of the population. By definition, average intelligence is average because half is above, and half is below.) The point I’m making is that if you know someone with Aspergers, (a child, familiy member, someone at work) you can be sure that they are intelligent. This helps people who don’t have AU to give some additional credibility to ideas or suggestions. (People who don’t have AU are sometimes called “neurotypical”, or NT, when we talk about people with and without autism.)
People with autism and Aspergers are actually a wonderful societal resource. There can at times be stigma around those with Aspergers, when people don’t understand the little things that they do.
An example: Most people with Aspergers (AS) have some sort of uber-developed sense. For instance, hearing. (My Aspie son has said, “Mom, I can hear things very distinctly!”) For a person with AU who needs to concentrate, something like cubes being built in the same room, or a woodpecker outside the window can be a little distracting. A person with AS may request that they complete their task in a better setting until the cubes are built. In an office where they are not as accepting of neurological diversity, this could be falsely seen as “elitist” or something similar. It’s not, of course, it’s what that person temporarily needs in order to do the best work on the expected task. There are laws in place to prevent discrimination, although Aspergers in the workplace is one area that is a little behind-the-times with regard to diversity training…! These days, companies which have a high probability for Aspergers employees (like computer companies, engineering firms, architects, accounting, etc…) are seeking diversity training so that the company can benefit from a productively symbiotic relationship between Aspies and NTs.
Anyway, This might be a little more info than you were looking for, but I hope it’s helpful. (Explaining how to “build a watch” is a typical AS trait, and one I am actively striving to improve! 🙂
Feel free to ask more questions if you are interested. I have some of my sites listed if you would like to learn more.