If there's one thing Ralph Adolphs wants you to understand about autism, it's this: "It's wrong to call many of the people on the autism spectrum impaired," says the Caltech neuroscientist. "They're simply different."
These differences are in no way insignificant—they are, after all, why so much effort and passion is being put into understanding autism's most troublesome traits—but neither are they as inevitably devastating as has often been depicted. They are simply differences; intriguing, fleeting glimpses into minds that work in ways most of us don't quite understand, and yet which may ultimately give each and every one of us a little more insight into our own minds, our own selves.
What makes autism so fascinating, Adolphs notes, is what also makes it so difficult to study, to get a good grasp on: the diversity of the population itself.