When Ethan was diagnosed about 16 years ago, the Autism rates were just beginning their huge rise. The lack of funding was frightening as it was woefully behind other diseases with even less incidence. The general public had no idea what it was, what the indications were, what treatments were available, what the prognosis was, etc. etc. etc. A good portion of the public was inclined to make fun of over-reacting parents of simply oddball children. I personally experienced parents not wanting their children to be in a play group because they thought it was contagious. Yes, that happened.
Attitudes have changed with the push for awareness. There's nothing like getting educated on a subject. There is a trend towards tolerance and support. Mentally retarded was originally a medical diagnosis with specific criteria. The general public latched onto the word retarded and turned it into a derogatory slang word. The DSM has since changed that diagnosis name intellectual disability. "What are you Autistic?" was unfortunately making its way into the vernacular. With education and awareness, it seems to have subsided. More autistic and autistic like characters have made their was into books, movies, and television, even reality shows. (see some of my previous posts;) Awareness about anything is a good thing. I wish people would apply it to all facets of life.
While there is still a serious lag of resources compared to the percentage of the population, there is more research, resources, and treatments. With any lifelong disability, anything (and I mean anything) that you can teach an individual to do for themselves is one less thing they will need to rely on someone else to do for them. Everything has value from getting dressed and making toast, to basic reading and writing, to college level education. And yes, while not too many, there are a growing number of universities investing in programs to help those with high functioning autism become independent adults. The statistics have not been historically good, but they are improving.
So now as we prepare Ethan to go away to college, we are hopeful. More than anything he has benefitted from a community of adults and children with a large majority of them accepting and supportive. I cringe when I see some social media post about an 8 year old without a single classmate willing to attend a birthday party. Ethan was lucky and had a surfeit of kids available for play dates and parties and invitations as well. Awareness brought him those supports. The effort for awareness must continue for the job is far from done. Ethan is proof positive that awareness is valuable, effective, and essential to positive outcomes.