There are tens of millions of people around the world living with autism, a developmental disorder that has received significant media coverage in recent years, and has been the subject of several movies, TV shows and books.
But that doesn't mean it is widely understood. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, there remains around the world "unacceptable discrimination, abuse and isolation experienced by people with autism and their loved ones." That discrimination is part of the reason behind World Autism Awareness Day, taking place today and adopted by the UN in 2007 to "highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from the disorder."
Autism covers a range of neurodevelopment disorders, and according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the U.S., is "characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour."
Last year, George's guest in the red chair was Temple Grandin, an animal scientist and best-selling author who also suffers from autism. Grandin, who was once named one of TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People and was the subject of a movie starring Claire Danes, described to George the many ways that autism affects the lives of those who have it, for both good and ill:
Today has also seen some positive developments in efforts to better understand autism: A new study has found that "most children affected by the disorder do not have intellectual disabilities", and that 10% of even the lowest-functioning cases will improve dramatically as they age, possibly even growing out of autism.
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