Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ABC News Promotes Autism Cure Hate Group

Apparently, there's an organization trying to discourage a cure for Autism. ABC News felt this was perfectly logical, because their news team devoted a whole article on the subject. They wrote a largely favorable piece, giving credence to the belief that Autism is not a disorder, but instead, something like a lifestyle or race. Like homosexuality or being an African-American.

"We believe that the autism spectrum and those on it, are important and necessary parts of the wide diversity present in human genetics," the leader of this group said.

Perhaps he's right. While we're at it, why don't we also stop searching for the cure to cancer, and instead begin to celebrate their "cellular diversity."

I'm sure there are people who are very happy living their lives in wheelchairs. So let's stop trying to cure paralysis and instead tell mobility-impaired individuals to "celebrate" their new wheels!

While we're at it, why try to bring patients back from comas? Aren't comatose people valued members of society? Let them stay unconscious, and stay PROUD!!!

My point is, for low-functioning, severe cases of Autism, life is no picnic. It's certainly not something that anyone would want to celebrate. Unlike what some people may gather from ill-informed news reports, Autism is not merely a case of the brain thinking differently from normal people. In the vast majority of cases, it doesn't mean people with Autism are just simply a bit weird, or can play piano really well, or can count cards in Vegas. For those with severe autism, life will never be able to be lived without constant care. I know this because my sister Shari has autism. I do love her the way she is, but I also know she'd think I was an idiot if I believed she didn't want a normal life and instead preferred living in group homes, enduring hours of therapy, being confused and scared by others, getting frustrated by her failed attempts at non-verbal communication, and struggling with other health and personal issues. My sister developed a severe infection simply because she didn't have the ability to tell anybody about a tiny cut on her finger.

No one would mistake someone with severe autism as someone who's merely "different." This is a health issue, not an issue of celebrating diversity. My sister Shari is able to enjoy many things-- but a host of problems arise from the fact that she is not completely healthy.

I think its great that the founder of this anti-cure coalition is able to live a normal life, and has the ability to go on ABC News and speak eloquently about his plans for destroying funding for an Autism cure and condemning people like my sister to a heartbreaking life they have little control over. But just because he has that ability, doesn't mean he should assume that all people with Autism feel that way, or that all people with Autism wouldn't welcome the ability to eat, speak, and live the way they should be able to.

This is not to say people with autism, even severe autism, cannot accomplish many things. Indeed, it's inspirational to see just what those with autism are capable of, with the proper support. Elaine Hall's Miracle Project is one example. There are countless others. But those with autism remain held back-- not by society, like the founder of the anti-cure group would claim-- but by their handicap. Shouldn't they be able to have a normal life, if a cure could be acheived?

If you asked my sister what she wanted, she wouldn't be able to tell you. And for many people with severe autism-- that's the case. Why ABC News feels its appropriate to stab Autism cure funding in the heart is beyond me. And that's what they've done, by promoting a fringe organization led by people who have little concept of those suffering with autism at the other end of the spectrum.


Autism Reality NB said...

As the father of a 12 year old boy with Autistic Disorder and profound developmental delays I thank you for speaking up.

Hot Mama said...

Thank you for an excellent post on an issue close to my heart. This topic bears similarity to the ethical issues surrounding cochlear implant surgery. There are those in the hearing impaired community who celebrate their diverse culture, fear the death of the deaf culture and have likened cochlear implant surgery to a form of “cultural genocide". These individuals see this surgery as a "mutilation" motivated by those who feel superior to the hearing impaired. They would withhold this transformative surgery from children who could otherwise live a more normal life.
In the case of autism research, this type of thinking is particularly disturbing. One in every 94 children born in New Jersey is affected by autism. Most of these children will have serious behavioral, social and communication deficits which will impact on their ability to live an independent life. If compassion for these individuals and their families does not move us to actively seek a cure, perhaps the enormous cost to society in special education, vocational rehabilitation and residential services will convince us that the dollars devoted to research are a worthwhile investment. I would ask those individuals on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum who choose to make a political point at the expense of their less fortunate brethren, “have you no shame?”

Adam said...

Thanks for the comments. This is an issue that always riles me up. It's hard to believe the misconceptions and ignorance that still exist about autism.

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