Two things were immediately apparent about five-year-old Joshua: he was highly intelligent and he was passionate about phones. Each Sunday morning in my kindergarten classroom, Joshua would report the latest factoid about AT&T or recite his litany of memorized phone numbers. But when Joshua was asked to join the sitting circle with his classmates, he was often unresponsive.

To the casual observer, he might seem oblivious to the activity around him—but ask him a question and his clipped response was almost always correct.

One morning when Joshua would not stay in his seat, a new assistant held him in his chair, determined to discipline his unconventional behavior. Joshua began to scream.

Although Joshua looked and sounded like a normal child in so many ways, I had long suspected he shared a diagnosis with my own two sons. Months later it was confirmed. Joshua had Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

Once considered odd, or simply unruly and misbehaved, we now ...

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