The autism spectrum covers a range of disorders, and has been an especially controversial topic in recent years. Within the psychological field, the definitions and diagnoses of these disorders have been the subject of much discussion. The field's standard reference text, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has significantly changed its entries for autism with each revision. Most recently (in 2013), the DSM reclassified several disorders under the heading of the autism spectrum. These include autism itself, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett syndrome, and a broader catch-all classification referred to as PDD-NOS.
Beyond the field of psychology, autism has received a considerable amount of mainstream exposure. Controversies have erupted about potential causes, questions of overdiagnosis, and viewpoints on appropriate treatment. The autism spectrum is an area of wide, diverse debate, and is ripe for research at all levels.
Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.
Please note that Grandin's most recent book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, is available in our Grand Island campus library.