As someone who has family members with autism-spectrum disorders – indeed, who has one himself – I find the fact that this happened to be utterly disgusting. I realize how disruptive students with these conditions can be, but I have seen similar situations handled with far more tact. It is a commonly held myth that people with autism-spectrum disorders do not exhibit feelings. Rather they exhibit extremes of feelings which means at times they can feel emotions more than the average person. How traumatic, then, might this have been for this student? Note that in the article, the teacher confirmed the story!
We have only just begun to understand these disorders. Most of the progress on understanding these disorders has come in the past 15 years or so and yet there is still a great deal of debate. There was a terrific article in Wired back in March that dispels even more myths about the condition. In recent years there’s also been a growing realization that ADD/ADHD is probably an autism spectrum disorder. Both are often seen in conjunction with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). The idea that any of these are due to vaccines is unproven. They are very clearly hereditary (one only needs to join my family for Christmas to understand this). I’ve included some articles on the link between ADD/ADHD and autism from a conference on autism sponsored by the Association for Behavior Analysis attended by one of my students who sent me these:
Finally, some excellent books on both ADD/ADHD and autism are