Whether it be Sheldon Cooper, Spencer Reid, or Max Braverman, popular television shows try to display characters with Autistic Spectrum Disorders to help create awareness and acceptance of them. This is important because 1 out of 68 children in the United States are born with Autism, and to see someone like them represented in popular culture shows that they are more than capable of living a semi-normal life.
In the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, autism, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, were all merged into a single disorder: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is very important to understand that when someone says they have ASD, the severity matters. Many people with ASD display above average intelligence and exceptional artistic abilities, while others have significant disabilities and require around-the-clock care. This means that many people with ASD are actually able to sustain a happy life with their own career such as Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Lewis Carroll, and even Mozart!
The cause for ASD is not completely known, however, there is believed to be a genetic component, as well as possible prenatal care causes. Not having a definite cause makes it difficult to cure ASD, however, it is important to try and catch the symptoms soon because treatments are much more effective if started early. Things to look for include inappropriate social behavior, struggling with speech and language development, and rigid and restricted behaviors.
Autism is a fairly common disorder, and many people display signs of it, though they may not be diagnosably autistic. Remember, children with autism are, for the most part, completely normal and particularly intelligent. Do not hinder them from achieving high goals. I believe that with understanding comes acceptance, and there is no population that needs as much acceptance in society as the mentally disabled.