This was during the mid-80s, and I'm pretty sure that they were referring to kids with more classic autism since spectrum disorders weren't really discussed much at the time. It really resonated with me, and when I heard about a child having autism, I found myself assessing their looks. Are they really good-looking? Was that textbook correct? After my daughter was diagnosed, I can honestly say that that it is certainly true! Children with autism are gorgeous--without a doubt!
All joking aside, there does seem to be some truth to this. I haven't seen that many kids on the spectrum that people would even describe as ordinary-looking. After doing my own extensive research (okay, I did a Google search), I found a psychology 101 textbook chapter on autism. This intro to autism gives a checklist of attributes of children with autism including, obsessive desire for sameness, excellent memory, and fascination with spinning objects. Included on this list is, and I'm going to quote them because it's so amazingly offensive, "Autistic children are often strikingly good looking, unlike many retarded and brain-damaged children." I also found another site that quoted Hans Asperger as remarking on the ethereal beauty of his patients almost as if it were a diagnostic symptom.
What I didn't find was an explanation for why children on the spectrum would be so good-looking. It doesn't even appear that any type of research or study has been done regarding this. This topic was once discussed on an autism board. One person said that maybe it's nature's way of making sure kids with autism are loved and taken care of. While this idea is kinda depressing that society only cares about good-looking people, it does seem to be one of the best theories I've heard.
With bullying so prevalent against kids that are different--particularly against kids that are on the spectrum, it does seem that being good-looking does help, at least a little. I think my daughter has had the social success she has because she is so sweet and charming. But let's face it. The fact that she's beautiful certainly doesn't hurt either!
What do you think? Are kids on the spectrum generally good-looking? If so, why do you think that is the case?