A controversy at one time extant in the autism blogosphere was the lack of autistic representation in the leadership of that well known organization autism speaks. Recently best selling memoirist, John Elder Robison was appointed to a scientific advisory board of AS. He has expressed an interest in scientific research that will help mitigate the problems of autism spectrum disorders.
For a while, it would seem that Robison was more interested in garnering AS funds for his own personal use than he was in reviewing science or suggesting ways that persons on the spectrum could be helped by science.
As of recently this seems to have changed. Robison has apparently been attempting to make a couple of suggestions for directions into which autism science should go. One of the interesting ones is to study geek success. Why would Bill Gates be able to become a billionaire in spite of having autism or autistic traits and why would college professors like Vernon Smith and Richard Borcherds have success in spite of being on the spectrum. when other persons with similar traits are on social security disability? Robison's brilliant suggestion is to study these traits and see how they can be applied to persons less fortunate. The criteria for specifying whether these persons are autistic is Simon Baron-Cohen's AQ test.
Though Robison mentions Bill Gates he neglects to mention any other specific examples of autism success stories. I believe that I have debunked the notion of Bill Gates' autism in my undiagnosing essay which Robison has apparently never read, so I won't go into this further. I am sure the interested reader can find my essay and read the section on Gates and judge for themselves.
One of the problems Robison neglects to mention about the AQ test, is that it is a self-administered test meant for adults with normal or above average intelligence. Not for persons with intellectual disabilities. (Though recently newer versions have been devised for children but it is different than the adult test) As far as I know, it has never been standardized in any way and just an informal test. It is also not something meant for a legitimate clinical diagnosis which even Baron-Cohen himself has acknowledged. Professor Vernon Smith who neurodiversity proponents (and perhaps Robison) give as an example of an accomplished ASD'er just decided at age 78, based on this self-administered test that he was on the spectrum without bothering to get any kind of diagnosis.
Richard Borcherds is another example mentioned, here is what Baron-Cohen stated in his book The essential difference on the alleged AS:
One might question whether Richard Borcherds really merits a diagnosis at all, given how well adapted he is. Certainly he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood, as his symptoms are not interfering with his daily functioning. In the jargon of the diagnostic criteria, he is not "suffering any impairment in his daily life"........
Of course, perhaps Robison and his friends (like Alex Plank) in the ND movement can actually find a legitimate geek success who is on the spectrum. All we have to do is isolate that person and find out what makes them so successful, then we can find out what went wrong in the non-geek who is on social security disability and not making a six or seven figure income as a computer scientist or college professor. This can be done in intellectually impaired autistics who can't speak as well. After all, they have more in common with Bill Gates, Vernon Smith and Richard Borcherds and perhaps some geek who legitimately has an ASD than they realize. Wow, what a major breakthrough that will be. Instead of being handicapped all autistic people will have this potential to be successful because of these traits.
I can't wait for Robison's next brilliant suggestion.