As part of a series of lectures entitled "Science and Sandwiches" Professor Grinker gave a July 29 lecture on the science of autism as a cultural system.
According to the Autism Science Foundation website Dr. Grinker:
"emphasized the importance of culture in understanding how societies view illnesses, and discussed how in a variety of different historical contexts, radical shifts in how illnesses are identified, treated, and counted resulted not from new scientific discoveries but from cultural changes. Grinker then noted that a number of factors produced the global rise in autism awareness, with some being more salient than others depending upon cultural context.
"Despite the increase in awareness, Grinker noted that there is little scientific knowledge about ASD outside of North America and Western Europe. Indeed, there are insufficient data to estimate the prevalence of autism in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and the entire continent of Africa. Although, he said, most researchers expect that the onset and core symptoms of ASD are consistent across cultures, this remains an assumption. He stated that ASD experts to date know little about how genetic heterogeneity and cultural differences interact to influence the kind and range of impairments that are associated with ASD, its prevalence, course, or familial patterns. He concluded by praising advocates – including his own autistic daughter – for showing that autism can be reconfigured as possibility rather than limitation."