There are so many degrees of autism!
Let's not paint "autistic" children with one sweep of the brush making broad statements about how amazing it is to have them graduate from high school. http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/07/02/autism.high.school/index.html?eref=rss_topstories.
While it is true that you cannot be just a little bit pregnant...you either are pregnant or you are not...children may be mildly autistic or severely so. As teachers we must know all that we can about every autistic student we teach. They vary as widely as any other students. I remember one student whose brilliance in mathematics far exceeded my own abilities. Did he behave or learn like everyone else? No! But then neither did the kid who sat next to him and the one across the room who was a perfectly "normal" teenage math student.
Another young fellow with a diagnosis of autism, also quite bright, struggled because he was so different. Often he struggled with me, I must admit, as my patience sometimes wore thin. The math? No problem for him. Graduating? No problem for him. Doing his homework? Problem!!! Staying on task? Problem!!! Peer interaction? Sometimes problem! Other students do understand as much as they can with the maturity they possess, but alas, they are kids too. Big buddies one minute, not the next. Goes both ways. So, in my view, autistic children on the mild end of the spectrum are very much like the rest of us but some lack social filters and some have tough shells.
My hat is off to all special education teachers who make sure these students' needs are met. My hat is also off to all of their subject teachers who continually try to learn ways to reach them. Fail, try again. And again. And again. Then success! And my hat is off most of all to their parents who never give up and are always their biggest advocates, never accepting their supposed limits.
Can they graduate? Many can. Our next job, and I say "OUR" because I believe it really does take a village, is to help them transition from high school to their next appropriate step with all the support they need and deserve. Isn't this what we want for all our children?