I came across a well-written article on a blog titled “Facing Autism in New Brunswick“
This father raises a thought-provoking point. He says that it is politically correct now to stigmatize intellectually disabled persons on the autism spectrum. If this is true, this is not tolerable. There should be no room for the stigma of any sort in this day and age. Further, he disagrees with the notion that those with severe autism have hidden talents. I must confess, that in this blog, I have stated, either explicitly or implicitly, and in my posts in other places, that if I can be successful (college student, have driver’s license, etc) other people can too. I think I need to clarify and revise that sentiment. I’m not living with rose-colored glasses; I don’t pretend that every person on the autism spectrum is a savant, the next rain man, or a hidden genius, or the next Einstein. That being said, however, it IS true that every person on the autism spectrum does have the capacity to bring some positive contribution to those around them.
First, let me address, as I understand it, the two main “camps” of autism: those who are proud to be autistic, and see it as a neural difference rather than a real disability, and those who seek to treat autism as a serious disability that needs treatment, cures, and so on. I will say this: I am neutral in this debate; I’m on the fence, I haven’t decided where I will stand. But, my question is: WHY does it have to be a battle?
I’ve heard it said that the only ones who want a cure are those with lower functioning autistic children, that those whose children are severely autistic and intellectually disabled. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true because it implies that they are the only ones who have a struggle. Let me say this: I am “high functioning” yet I STRUGGLE.. I struggle to remember to clean up after myself. I struggle to find the strength to focus on my work. Life as a person on the autism spectrum is NOT all roses and glamor. There is a real struggle involved.
However, I do see that some see their autism as positive. There are all sorts of stories of the really good artists, mathematicians, etc, etc. of those who are on the higher end of the spectrum, and sometimes of those on the lower end of the spectrum.
The real problem? The real problem is that those who speak about autism, negatively OR positively tend to generalize. Either it’s all good, or it’s all bad. Autism affects different people in different ways. For some, it may be a devastating condition that severely affects the way they live from day to day life. For others with that same exact set of circumstances, it could be the path to the greatest creative mind. and, for some, its both
For me, personally, I see having an ASD as BOTH positive and negative.
I see it as positive because I have an intellect and memory that I am proud of; and being a person on the spectrum allows me to help others with this disorder, because I know what’s going on in the inside, at least on some levels. It has made me who I am.
On the negative side, it is sometimes frustrating to be disorganized and sometimes socially inept. I still find social situations awkward, and I’m no stranger to misinterpretation, being misunderstood. So, there are days when I wish I was normal. That being said, by and large, I am happy the way I am. I do realize that there are parents and individuals on the spectrum who don’t share that sentiment, and they have valid reasons. It is important to respect differences in opinion regarding autism, because, as I have said, autism affects different people differently.
At the bare minimum, this sentiment should apply to everybody; life is a glass of water. You can either choose to see the glass half empty or half full. Sometimes, it’s half empty, sometimes it’s half full.
For those parents of children who have severe autism, and seek a cure: by all means, seek the cure. However, I am of the opinion that the best way to start is to love and accept them where they are at and to find ways to be happy if, after many attempts, they cannot progress beyond that. I’m not saying that means you should accept them that way forever, but see that autism is a part of them, because unlike cancer, AIDS, or other things I’ve seen autism compared to, autism affects the brain and nervous system, the parts that define individuality. Persons who have a brain injury often have radically different personalities than before their injury. Thus, if you were to cure autism, you may end up with a child with a very different personality.
(ANOTHER caveat here: when I say cure, I DO NOT mean selective termination of pre-term babies with autism, nor do I advocate eradicating autism. Rather, I DO support those who want to seek treatments to address the behavioral difficulties that many parents with children with autism face. It’s one thing to want to “cure” autism by aborting those who have it, and a very different thing to help those who have it live fuller lives through therapy.)
Try to see the good things that a child can do… even if they are low functioning. At the bare minimum..children with severe ASD can teach their parents and caregivers patience, which is always a good virtue to learn, although sometimes very frustrating.
The important thing to remember is even in strife and anguish, there is grace. Life is suffering in one way or another. It’s what one DOES with that suffering that makes the difference.