What the World Needs Now:
Learning About and Acting on Autism Research
None of the debates that I describe in this book has ended. Despite periodic promises that researchers are “closing in” on a comprehensive understanding of autism’s causes, the distance still appears formidable.1 Many researchers now agree with parents that although autism is a useful term for describing a common behavioral syndrome, it is one that offers few insights into the particular biology of individual children. It may say even less about adults because, in addition to the biological and cognitive differences among them, they have been shaped by experiences over a lifetime. For the foreseeable future, both the facts about autism and the politics of treatment will remain contentious.
In this conclusion, I return a last time to the question of love as both a subject and a method for research on autism. I revisit the evidence for its centrality to the work of producing knowledge about autism and in particular the importance of parents’ caring as a source of insights about children. I then turn to the issues that these arguments raise about knowledge production in the field of science studies. I conclude by discussing how we can move forward from here to include other neglected voices in autism research, in particular people on the autism spectrum.
Certain researchers have devoted themselves to predicting the onset of autism in its earliest stages. They analyze social behavior using videos of the younger siblings of children with autism, deemed “high-risk” infants be-