Neurodiversity.com Essays & Letters
The decade of the 1920's may have been the age of jazz, the age of sports, and the age of prohibition, but I don't think it was the age of autism. I think it is unlikely that some genetic mutation suddenly occurred then. I think that social and economic conditions are the cause of the autism "epidemic."
Derogatory labeling and panic-ridden descriptions of autism do nothing to enable autistic citizens to function and communicate more effectively; rather, they dehumanize and incite fear towards members of cognitive minorities, in the same way that racist language demeans, dehumanizes and incites fear towards racial minorities.
An exchange of correspondence with Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, concerning the manner in which autistic citizens are frequently described in autism awareness and fundraising campaigns.
An exchange of correspondence with the U.C. Davis M.I.N.D. Institute about autism, vaccinations and "epidemics," and a reply from its Director, who confirms the inappropriateness of the use of "epidemic" to describe autism prevalence.
As a parent, I understand the source of any possible despair that a child may not be "normal." Imagine the despair of the parents of Einstein, Freud, Yeats, Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein, and Turing. These intellectual giants of the 20th century were all high functioning autistics. In all likelihood, their parents no doubt found many of their childhood behaviours to be unusual but fortunately for humanity, they were no subjected to intensive behavioural modification techniques to "cure" them of any symptoms of autism.
For autistic people, social, emotional and communicative development take place on a more extended time scale than for the neurologically typical... It is inherently discriminatory to scrutinize a person with a cognitive or sensory difference, then to penalize them for the very challenges that accompany that difference.
For every parent eager to "recover" their child and "lose the diagnosis," there are autistic citizens who will always have the diagnosis and will always wear the label, and who are affected by the manner in which that label is bandied about by those who hate what it represents to them.
I am under no obligation to prove or disprove your suspicion that my family members have been contaminated. I am under no obligation to explain or defend my family's private medical decisions to you, or to provide you with anecdotal information about our personal lives.
I am autism. I invite you to question how you treat others, because I am a mirror to your soul. As you respond to others, even those you disagree with, so will I be treated. If you cannot tolerate difference, why should others tolerate me?
How can autistic citizens live with dignity in a society where people are not only moved to speak with such venom about cognitive difference and sensory challenges, but are publicly praised and rewarded for doing so?
Negative leadership responds to criticism with derision and outrage. This criticism is then quelled by taunting, threatening, demonizing, and defaming the critics. Negative leadership strategies, while often immediately successful and certainly plentiful in history, come to be recognized as reprehensible in retrospect, and by those who have to endure and clean up after their destructive consequences.
Every family has its challenges and every family is unique. Every family has a different attitude towards disability. It is only destructive and divisive to make assumptions about anyone's experience based on a diagnostic label, or on the extent of a parent's willingness to portray their parenting experience in the most devastating terms.
Although many anti-thimerosal crusaders only publicly express concern about the preservative, there are also many who oppose vaccination per se. Controversy is perpetuated by anti-vaccinationist demagogues (2) who are regular participants in anti-thimerosal PR efforts, and who regard the thimerosal issue as a nail to be driven into a coffin eventually containing all vaccination programs worldwide.
Autistic citizens have much to teach us about what it is like to be autistic; the majority develop fluent spoken language over the lifespan. The analogy of "Macs in a world of PCs" is very apt. There are a lot more folks out there with autistic operating systems than we ever imagined, especially those who formerly slipped "under the radar."
It is disrespectful to automatically discredit those who seek to discuss disability issues publicly but who are unwilling to participate in games of medical show-and-tell, or to publicly portray their lives in devastating terms, or to agree that they or their family members are poisoned and in need of detoxification. Nonetheless, autistic citizens who dispute the conclusions and tactics of autism-equals-poisoning crusaders are commonly met with demands to produce diagnostic documentation, accusations that they are "pseudo-autistics," and outright contempt. Dissenting parents have been called "in denial," "clueless," "ignorant," and other such insults.
Kennedy's correlation of increases in autism diagnoses with changes in the vaccination schedule disregards sociological factors contributing to this phenomenon -- broadened diagnostic criteria and the success of stepped-up efforts to educate clinicians about autism. He accuses government agencies of "turning a blind eye" to studies supposedly incriminating thimerosal at the same time that he disparages studies that do not conform to his prejudices.
While there are parents who have reason to believe that their own children have suffered from vaccine reactions, there are also many who don't. Although schools are facing an increase of students with autism and related diagnoses, this is hardly proof of an "epidemic." "The autism epidemic" is not a fact, but an attention-getting rhetorical device utilizing a word generally reserved for infectious disease, implying contamination, expressing and inducing fear.
One can hardly hold these parents at fault for seeking appropriate health care for their own children. Nonetheless, whether or not their conclusions about autism causation are valid, is it any wonder that others might be turned off by such judgmental evangelism?
Autism is ubiquitous, its past existence historically documented. It is not a thief that "steal(s) a person's connection with the outside world." Rather, autistic citizens have a unique perspective precipitated by an atypical pattern of neurological development. "Inward focus" might be a more accurate descriptor than "emotional withdrawal."
Mrs. Powers contends that Jan poses an "emotional threat" to other children. In fact, emotional abuse by authority figures and peers poses the real threat to children's emotional development. Rejection, humiliation and isolation; castigating Jan for his autistic communicative challenges; consistently describing him in negative terms; burdening him with rigid expectations that take no account of his disability - this is the real "emotional threat."
Narcissists tend to be preoccupied with impression management, and will do whatever it takes to look good and to satisfy their appetites. They tend to be interpersonally manipulative, exploitive and dishonest. These are not characteristics of autism. Autistic people are by nature direct and honest.
I think that the Generation Rescue organization, which bears some responsibility for vouching for Rescue Angels, should provide some training to these people so that they will have a broader understanding of autism and can learn to interact more appropriately. I think it is unwise to send out Rescue Angels who cannot communicate in at least a non-hostile manner with people who have developmental disabilities.
The educational system got a real clobbering with the closing of the major state institutions for the "feeble minded" and the "insane." All those children who were actually not schooled while in institutions, and never released into the general population during their lifetimes, suddenly were taking up classroom seats and frustrating teachers raised on educational theories that all children learn in specific ways.
We refuse to listen silently as autistic children are described as "mad," and compared to diseased animals, by opportunistic speakers and journalists who seek to inflame public emotions at autistic citizens' expense in their eager pursuit of political agendas and research funding.
No matter what your motivations, no matter what your rationalizations, and no matter how many parents you know who are willing to tolerate whatever shocking images of autism you might deploy to "stir up an audience," when you toss out phrases like "Mad Child Disease," you are looking this "mother bear" straight in the eye.
Mercury is poisonous, but words can be poisonous, too — including words such as "mad child disease," "plague," "epidemic," "life worse than death," "worse than cancer," "nightmare without end," "demon," "tragedy," and "disaster." The petition was not intended as a personal attack, but as a protest against this most recent and particularly egregious example of sensationalistic language used to describe autism.
I am convinced that the "trauma of the autism diagnosis" is largely an iatrogenic condition, prompted and perpetuated by clinical descriptions of autism that focus on abnormality and deficit rather than on cognitive variety, developmental and educational potential. I have experienced this trauma myself, an experience that fuels my commitment to changing the societal circumstances that brought it about.
I bring you joy, delight, happiness and wonder / I bring you sorrow, sadness and pain... Accept me at least / But if you welcome me, if you befriend me / Your lives I will enrich.
Here is the evidence presented from "reflection sheets" pertaining to episodes of misconduct by various Plummer-Motz students, while playing on the town-owned playground that has been informally annexed by the school.
This boy hereby becomes a victim of scapegoating, a process by which feelings of guilt, aggression, suffering and blame are displaced from a person or group onto an innocent individual, in order to fulfill an unconscious drive to resolve or avoid such bad feelings. By banishing an autistic child from the town playground, school staff and other presumably "normal" people consenting to the expulsion, falsely reassure themselves that they have cleansed the community of the emotional toxicity that in fact resides in themselves.
According to this narrow definition, "peers" are the same chronological age, and that's that — there are no other elements to consider. This concept of "peer" is fair to use when one compares neurologically typical children to each other; however, it is prejudicial to use the yardstick of neurologically typical development to scrutinize and condemn the behavior of an autistic child.
Jan did not have alternate places to play that provided not only an opportunity for physical activity (you can get that pacing the living room), but that included the pleasurable amenities made available to every other child in town, and that afforded the opportunity for social interaction available at the Maze Craze.
To publish pejorative hearsay about a disabled child without balancing it with the parent's perspective betrays an extreme editorial bias in favor of the school... In this case, we're learning about a very smart kid with the rambunctious energy of a six year old and the communicative skills of a four year old. Believe it or not, that's autism. Do you really think he should be banished for this?
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In other words: Sublime or ridiculous? You decide!
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