God's Love Shines down on us all

God's Love Shines down on us all
I Love You All, Blessed Be

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Some thoughts on the Autism Speaks video

Some thoughts on the Autism Speaks video
I finally watched the infamous Autism Speaks “I Am Autism” video. I had to hunt to find it, because so many parodies have popped up that the Google search was overwhelmed. The first part takes as its theme, “I am autism, and I will take your money, your marriage, your family and I will ruin your life.” That’s an awful lot of intent to attribute to a neurological difference in the brain.

I cannot recall any similar instance where legitimate scientists ascribed malice or forethought to a disease, difference, or human condition. Cancer kills you, and so does heart disease, but no one says, “I am cancer. I will take your money and take your life.”

Come on, folks.

Autism can be a serious disability. I don’t know any knowledgeable person who would disagree with that statement. But the disability comes about by natural action. Autism can cause serious problems, but they are not the result of malicious action on the part of an “evil force” as depicted in the film.

Frankly, it’s shocking to me that an advocacy group would countenance the production of such a thing.

Suggesting an autistic child is “possessed” by some malign force is something I for one would never do. I want to get rid of the disability aspects of autism as much as anyone, but the mindset depicted in the film does not get me there. I hope Autism Speaks rethinks this campaign and comes up with some different video.

The fundamental problem with the video is that it says, in essence, “autism is bad.” That moral judgment is then inevitably applied to people with autism. That’s wrong, and an organization that purports to exist to help autistic people should know better. It has the same corrosive effect that calling me a retard had, forty years ago. I don’t like it; in fact, it makes me pretty angry.

I have no problem saying, “autistic disability is undesirable.” I believe that statement is true.

Moral judgments such as those in the Autism Speaks video have no place in the description of disabilities, diseases, other health problems.

So how do I think we should attack “the problem?”

First of all, we should recognize that the autism spectrum is very broad, encompassing individuals who perceive themselves as totally disabled and disadvantaged by autism to fully functional people who believe the exact opposite. We must accept that both points of view are valid, for those individuals. My gift can indeed be your disability, if it affects you in different ways.

That is the key to agreement on how we may address the problems posed by autism.
We can say, I want to solve the problem of autistic speech impairment. Or we can say, I want to find out why some people with autism have serious gastrointestinal issues. Those are specific problems which can and will be solved.

That’s the right way to go about this. Pick a specific component of autism, and figure it out. Then find out how to remediate the disability it causes. Having done that, the people who feel disabled by that particular thing will have a solution at hand, which is a wonderful thing.

Complex problems are always solved one step at a time, and autism is one of the most complex medical puzzles science has ever tackled. We’d all do well to recognize that, break our work down into manageable steps, and put the sensationalism, moral judgment, and showboating aside in pursuit of a common goal.(c) 2009 John Elder Robison

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