There’s a buzz I remember from doing Proper Research where you find something that really strongly confirms and enhances the speculative line you’re pursuing. I got a lovely jolt of it today from the discovery that the “empath” character in the le Guin story “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” is allegedly a “cured” (or inverted) autist.
My guess with le Guin is that she’s largely working from Bettelheim’s image of autism as a kind of deeply interiorised self-negation (“The Empty Fortress”, which I’m going to have to read at some point). That at least would line up with the Jungianism of Earthsea, in particular the figure (always terrifying to me) of the human being hollowed out and possessed by their shadow, the “gebbeth”.
In “The Dispossessed”, the word “autism” appears precisely once, in the phrase “the autism of terror” — it’s in a moment of particularly acute dislocation, literally taking off in a spaceship from his home planet, that Shevek’s isolation reaches a kind of critical mass. Again, the association is with loss or obliteration of self (I’m reminded of Yergeau’s description of herself in meltdown as refuting Descartes: “I don’t think, but somehow still am”).
And there’s always the wretched child in the basement in Omelas…