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Looking Beyond Causes and Cures

A cure is defined as a treatment to eliminate a disease or noxious condition.  In the case of autism, the differences that accompany its defining characteristics are not only integral to the person as much as being male or female is, but are themselves a source of special and unique abilities that should be embraced and supported.

While efforts are focused on a cure for autism, so-called autism ‘advocates’ are demonstrating their intolerance and hate for one of the most essential parts of the people they love. Instead, in order to demonstrate true love and devotion, research should focus on enhancing valuable outlets for the special skills possessed by autistic individuals. By turning the tables around and offing a means for autistics to reach their potential in a niche especially suited to them, we can ensure that they are able to reach their own life goals instead of the ones impinged or stripped away by society.

As Jim Sinclair targets in his essay, “Don’t Mourn for Us”, parents begin on a path of either love and support or rejection the moment of their child’s diagnosis. Sinclair makes the distinction between the source of parents’ grief at an autism diagnosis having, “NOTHING to do with autism, it regards the inability to have the ‘expected relationship’ with their child”. When parents continue to misplace this grief onto their child, avowing to wipe this ‘abomination’ off of the face of the earth, they are also stating that their, “greatest wish is that one day [autistics] will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces”. Frank Klein, another strong advocating autistic author, explains the true grief that is experienced after a diagnosis is because of the transition from grief to hate, “They hate autism; to them, it is the name of a stealthy foe that took away the kid they wanted and replaced it with one they did not want. Few would ever admit to not wanting their kid, but this is really the way it is.”

This is the true abomination; parents being so unaccepting of their own children that they force themselves into denial of who their child is. Instead of hoping for a lifetime of opportunities tailored to their child, they hope for something that will take away the most fundamental part of them, “the source of difficulties and strengths, and of the unbreakable ties between them” (Amanda Baggs). We are always taught to accept the good with the bad, but somehow we always seem to edge around the ‘accepting the bad’ part when we feel we take it upon ourselves to search for the ‘greener grass’. Just like the horizon is a nonexistent point in the distance, so does perfection elude us as it constantly escapes into the distance.

When faced with such an untouchable and immovable force, it should only be reasonable to take a path of least resistance and work AROUND and accommodate what cannot be changed.  “The role of processionals should be to help people use their natural processes to learn and grow… the important issue is that autistic people should be assisted in growing and developing into more capable autistic people, not pushed to become like non-autistic people”(Jim Sinclair). When therapies focus on strengthening the unique abilities, they empower the individual instead of demeaning them into wearing a social mask. Forcing them to pretend and imitate only for the sake of acceptance, which is still withheld due to a lack of understanding.  Only when society can accept without the need to change will autism cease to be considered a disease in need of a cure.

These implications call to mind the beauty of the Serenity Prayer. Even without the religious associations, each line presents a challenge to live by as we hope for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. With serenity comes acceptance and love, with courage comes devotion, and with wisdom comes the opportunity and ability to learn.

I believe Amanda Baggs presents the most powerful viewpoint of autism encompassing the deep, true love of what she calls ‘flawless imperfection’, imploring parents to, “Look at your child, see the absolute, unparalleled unique beauty in front of you—a person that has never happened before, and will never happen again.” A lifetime of opportunities, an endless horizon.

After a lot of opinions from autistics and non-autistics on the rise in prevalence of autism and what to do about it have been filtered through the internet, I have come to the conclusion that the major issue regarding autism is lack of understanding and education.  This lack has caused a well researched psychological phenomenon where people who are considered different, and especially people that are different and we don’t know why, are the source of continual uproar and disapproval.  I find it is rather natural to not to like someone who is extremely different from myself when meeting them for the first time.  Instead, it is people that I found a commonality with that I am driven towards.  This follows the same aspect as one psychological study where people were either told that a partner in the experiment had the same or a different birthday than them.  If the birthdays were the same, the individuals were much more likely to perceive that person as positive and more likeable.  However I think it is clear that they didn’t really realize they were doing this.  Not knowing why someone is different makes differences seem even stronger.  Because of all of these differences that the public is increasingly exposed to when they see media regarding individuals with autism, they determine that these people are different, unlikeable, and in need a way to make such a large number of them go away.  However, I do not think many people realize what the real reasons for the increase in prevalence are, the consequences and actual need for a “cure,” or immense amount of data that suggest that many famous persons were in fact autistic and therefore this is not a “new” state of being.

It has been shown that many states have reportedly had 200% increases in the prevalence of autism in the last 15-20 years.  However, it is not well publicized that these increases correlate with other diagnoses that were available to be reported at a similar time such as traumatic brain injury.  However, because traumatic brain injury is rather concrete, most people would realize that more such a substantially high increase in these types of injury could not be occurring out of simply more people being injured.  Instead, they would assume that the number has stayed relatively similar, but a new option for reporting was available and states are now using it.  The question is, why don’t they believe the same thing for a diagnosis like Autism?  More and more people are blaming this diagnosis on vaccines and environmental causes.  It seems rather illogical to assume that high rates of autism should be blamed on vaccines that had the chemical which many claim cause autism banned and not in use as of almost 20 years before the so called epidemic.  The large masses of NTs have no problem believing the media’s skewed perspective on this case.

Many people believe that autistics would love to be “normal” like everyone else.  While it is true that many autistics would like certain aspects of their autism removed, by far the mass do not want to be anything other than autistic.  It is a fact about themselves that they pride and they often find that the majority of their unhappiness related to their condition is a result of public discrimination.  Many autistics become depressed because of the social stigma they must face each day and many are very concerned with the numerous reports that want to “eliminate” them from the population.  This not only is hurtful, but is rather disappointing as a nation that we could talk about eliminating a certain group of people.  I personally thought it would be obvious that this is not a correct path to choose after our experiences with the Nazis and Jews.  There are many parents that argue that a cure is their preferred treatment for their children, yet it is clear that many of them have not asked their children what they want.  I do believe that there are many autistics that may welcome a cure, but it seems like the majority are strongly opposed to this idea because of its potentially devastating effects on the social esteem of autistics as well as a source of confirmation of what society believes: that autism is something that is wrong and therefore should be changed and eliminated.

After doing a lot of research, it has been clear that there is ample evidence of numerous people existing before this epidemic that could have been autistic.  Of course, it is not possible to know for sure whether these people would prove to be autistic, but it is an easy conclusion to come to based on the facts that are available.  People such as Einstein seem to have been recollected as having many traits that are similar to those of autism.  There are also many mythological or historical sources that report individuals of similar status.  If this is true, how can autism be a “new” condition?  If it isn’t a new condition, isn’t it true that we have been walking along side those with autism for prospectively our entire history?  It is not until we decided to diagnose these people and call attention to their differences that they were seen as a problem.  And, although they do have many differences, it is remarkable how many similarities they have to many so called “neurotypicals.”  Many people would assume that they could have nothing in common with such people, but it seems that they really do have many factors that are just like us.  They have similar interests, looks, and even many behaviors.  Why is it that we, as the mass majority public, can only see the differences?

In conclusion, it is obvious that the majority of the population does not know the facts.  They do not know what autism is, how similar it is to them, how different it can be, what struggles they face, and what a cure would mean to them and to the mass majority.  They do not know that we have been walking along side these individuals without knowing it for so long and they do not realize the impact our stigma has on them.  They believe that their way is right before even asking the opinions of the persons in question and they imagine that everyone would be better off living like themselves.  With thorough and aggressive education, many of these factors have the possibility of being eliminated, making it a better place for all of those involved.  Someone just needs to take the first step.

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