Can we all get along?
Just this morning I was reading a post on Autism’s Gadfly, and it made me think about the tremendously different wants and needs of people at various points on the autism spectrum.
His motto is, We don’t want no stinkin neurodiversity! We need a cure.
In my writing, I have said, I don’t need a cure; I just want compassion and understanding.
Those statements seem pretty opposite to me. Yet we are both adults with autism. How can our views be so different? That is the essence of the problem. We have the same diagnosis, but we are impacted very differently.
Too much of anything isn’t good for you. Maybe a touch of autism makes some of us creative, and gives us advantages that outweigh the components of disability. However, the fact that I am high functioning and only mildly impaired does not mean that all autistic people are like me.
I do not have speech impairment. In fact, I have unusually good speech. I don’t have digestive issues, or growth limitations, or other autism-related health problems. Yet autism has still shaped my life, in many fundamental ways, and that continues today.
I have participated in several experimental studies that measured brain parameters that correlate with autism, and I match people with far greater impairment in many key ways. So I may be less impaired but our brains still share certain essential differences.
That tells me that folks like me and Jonathan may have a lot in common neurologically, but our thinking may be miles apart based on the different ways autism has shaped our lives. When Jonathan describes the way autism affects him, he sees many disabilities and few if any offsetting gifts. I see some real components of disability in myself, but also some great gifts.
Seen from my perspective, Jonathan’s desire to cure his disability is perfectly reasonable. At the same time, I hope he can agree that my desire to live as I am and seek acceptance is reasonable too.
I look at mothers whose kids are on the spectrum and see the same thing. Kim Stagliano wants more than almost anything else for her kids to talk. She might call that a cure. Kyra Anderson is more like me, in that she wants to help her child fit in and find acceptance.
Samwick writes in to my blog, taking me to task for portraying Asperger’s as less of a disability that it is, in his eyes. Yet I don’t want to understate the potential for growth we all have. And my stories do reflect my own life on the spectrum.
All of us in the autism community should keep in mind the tremendous range of impact autism can have. When one person talks of a cure, and someone else talks neurodversity, we should recognize that those individuals may be coming from very different places.
One man’s cure seems like another’s poison.
Autism is a condition that can leave one person totally disabled while making another an eccentric genius. The problem is, the totally disabled can’t speak for themselves, and high functioning people like me can make autism appear less serious than it is, for those more impaired individuals.
When the less informed public looks at me, and thinks, “There goes a successful guy with autism,” it may create the impression that anyone on the spectrum can be equally functional. That is simply not true. Everyone can grow and improve, but some people always go farther than others.
If a person has serious speech difficulty as a consequence of autism he’s going to have a much harder time making it in American society. If he does not progress as far as someone else, that does not mean he’s lazy or stupid.
It’s very hard to maintain a balance between recognizing latent potential in people, giving them hope, while still being cognizant of the fundamental limitations autism may impose.
I just wish people could discuss these issues without the bitterness and hostility that breaks out.