The most important thing to know about autism is what autistic people need, and I don't see that being discussed often enough. Many autistics aren't diagnosed and are even treated bad by other autistics. People often focus on unproductive or even counter-productive things when considering how to support each other and how to obtain support for all autistics. Sarah at Cat in a Dog's World has written an important post here about how self diagnosed autistics are mistreated. (I highly recommend reading it along with the discussion that follows.)
So many people whom I have encountered aren't being factored into the discussions about autism that I see. This has led me to explore the reasons that so much misinformation are allowed and even encouraged. People believing that autism is such a mystery seems to be what allows for so much ambiguity about what autistic people need. The ambiguity serves as a gateway to allow cultural bias to influence much of what is believed about autism.
The industry that provides commercial treatments for autism also depends on the financial gains that come from being able to define what autism is. If the public does too much exploration into who autistic people are, and what we need, the industry that provides treatment will have to make adjustments. This industry has shown that they see these adjustments as being too expensive to make.
I originally remember the word high functioning referring to someone who was mentally retarded. This meant they were mildly retarded rather than severely. Unfortunately, the term high functioning being applied to any category of people is a way of telling the public that they have some type of socially unacceptable defect but yet deserve more respect and dignity than those in the same category who are seen as lower functioning. This social mindset is applied to autistics.
Competence is judged by someone's ability to fit into a box that the public has agreed deserves support. The more autism a person is seen to have the less support they are seen to be deserving. People who are considered "higher functioning" are seen to deserve more. The less that is required to mainstream someone the more likely they are to become an important person.
The public support for anyone who is considered to have these deficits must be based on how close the individual appears to be able to conform. The goal must be for them to be neurotypical. How the ideal appears to the public must be controlled by those who offer the support.
Claiming that worse symptoms qualify a person for more aid creates many misconceptions about what autism is. It helps those providing the support for others to believe this will help them but ultimately all they will do is give that person more charity or demand more normality from them in unreasonable ways.The industry depends on this.Autistics fighting among ourselves and evaluating each other in the same ways that these public systems and private commercial treatments evaluate us is serving the commercial agenda of keeping things the same which ultimately hurts us all.
The medical model of autism depends on autistics being seen as having a deficit in the way that we think. Deficits in a way that a person thinks means that the person is either unintelligent or mentally ill. Since sanity is thought to be acquired through narrow brand of formal education, mental illness is seen as a lack of intelligence.
Intelligence provides a person with sex appeal and shows them as deserving of respect and dignity. It shows the person as a provider to others rather than a burden to society. The money being spent on curing autism tells society how to view our worth. It shows society that we are a burden rather than being providers.
Our culture teaches people to take advantage of anyone they can so being vulnerable is being unprepared for "real life" and therefore, not worthy of respect or honor. The most vulnerable people are considered unintelligent. The bottom of this spectrum is the lowest of the food chain and therefore, seen as by many of the decision-makers and the propaganda spreaders as the ugliest, meanest, and the part of the population that must be disposed of for the profit of good productive smart citizens.
We as a society also place much importance on an ambiguous notion of maturity in similar ways that authority is often demanded rather than earned. Being mature is a way that people are respected more. Maturity is based on age specific criteria which thereby automatically define people with a developmental disability as immature and therefore, less worthy of respect and dignity.