I made an account and am resurrecting this year-old thread because I had to point out that there is so much ignorance about autism being thrown around here (the quote above is a very clear example, but it's all through this thread). Autism is a different neurotype. One helpful analogy is that it's like some people are running the Windows operating system and others are running the Mac operating system. The experience is different, but one isn't inherently better or worse just because it's different.Tara isn't autistic.
Consider the fact that, not only would she have had to fill out an application for UC Sunnydale (she wouldn't have help from her family), but she would've also needed to get the grades to be accepted there, and she'd be moving out and away from her "support network" (if her family had been decent). She doesn't get any additional academic support which means Tara is intellectually functioning normally. She is living independently, the scoobies aren't her babysitters. Also Tara is able to empathise on an emotional level with others which autistic people can't do. They might be able to understand crying=sad but they don't get why someone is sad, just that they are.
To correct a few of the misconceptions in the post I've quoted:
1. Autism has nothing to do with intelligence (even if you're just using a narrow understanding of intelligence -- e.g., what society at large generally deems 'intelligent'). For example, I'm autistic and getting my PhD (not that I think that's the only measure of intelligence by any means). I also don't rely on my parents for support, and I haven't accessed accommodations at work or school and am able to get by (though there are probably certain things that accommodations could help me with if I pursued them). The point is, many autistic people are certainly capable of *gasp* filling out an application for university and working/studying/living/etc. without support from their parents. This may not work for all autistic people (it doesn't work for all non-autistic people, either) and that is perfectly okay too! You can't make assumptions about a person's 'intelligence' or level of independence based on whether or not they are autistic. (I want to emphasize, though, that there is nothing wrong with needing accommodations or not modeling society's narrow version of intelligence).
2. It's a MYTH that autistic people aren't capable of empathy. Sometimes (not always) autistic people may not express empathy in a way that neurotypical people understand. But the "Double Empathy Problem" discusses how the issue of empathy failures or miscommunications runs both ways: often neurotypical people struggle to empathize with autistic people because there is a lack of understanding; autistic people sometimes struggle empathize (or express empathy in a way that comes across) with neurotypical people. In general, autistic people are probably more able to bridge that gap, because they are forced to live in a world that caters to neurotypical people, whereas neurotypical people can happily go along believing and spouting misinformed nonsense about neurodivergent people, as evidenced by this thread. Also, many autistic people are actually hyperempathetic and experience atypically intense empathy. Some conditions that are comorbid with autism (so they may occur at the same time as autism, but do not have to) can impact empathy. A common one is Alexithymia (sp?). Even then, it doesn't mean a person is necessarily unable to "get why someone is sad" or unable to empathize. E.g., some may not immediately 'feel' the emotion someone else is feeling, but be able to cognitively understand how someone would feel in a particular situation, and thus feel compassion based on that. Some people may have a hard time predicting how another person would feel, because it's not very similar to how they'd feel in the situation (again, that is an issue that can go both ways when it comes to NT and ND people). (You could look into the relationship/distinction between cognitive and affective empathy for more info). Oh, and even for conditions that do make people unable to experience empathy (or much empathy), empathy is not the same as compassion. Just because you pick up on what someone is feeling doesn't automatically mean you have compassion, and just because you don't pick up on what someone is feeling doesn't mean you don't have compassion.
I'm sure there's a lot more that I could say, but I'll close off with this: a ton of autistic people read Tara as autistic, because many recognize their own traits in her. It doesn't mean there's any way to say that she verifiably is autistic, given that it's not canon. But based on how Tara is in the show, it's totally reasonable to headcanon her as autistic. There's not really anything about her that suggests she couldn't be. Many autistic people also read Willow as autistic, in fact. (And Anya as well). Autistic people are as diverse as non-autistic people. Some are outgoing, some are introverted, some are sensory-seeking, some are sensory-avoidant, some may come across as socially awkward, some may mask and blend in well, some go to university, some don't, some are nice/compassionate, some aren't, etc.
This was one of the first results for a search on Tara potentially being autistic, so I felt it was important to add this for anyone else who reads through (especially for fellow autistic people who may be reading and feeling hurt by all of the misinformation and stigma here). Oh, and do not use the slur r*t**d, for eff's sake! (Whether referring to autistic people or anyone else).