I am autism, too. Thoughts on neurodiversity and the cure
I wrote this in response to a parent's note, but on second thought, I thought perhaps I should share it more widely . . .
For many of us on the spectrum, a parent’s stated quest to “cure” autism feels sort of like a divorced parent constantly criticizing her ex in front of us kids. As that kid, I know I am half Dad, and half Mom. So when Mom tells me Dad is no good, what is she saying about me? For those of you who think this is metaphor, let me assure you it’s not.
If much of my life is defined by autism, and autism is a terrible thing, how do you think I will feel about myself? I ended up in special classes because I am autistic. I flunked out because I am autistic. I already know I am disadvantaged with respect to others who are not autistic. I don’t need more stuff to feel bad about.
I want useful help. I want to learn how to hold a conversation, how to make a friend, how to get a job. Practical skills are what I need, not moral judgments.
That’s why it is vital to embrace neurological difference. It is not going to go away, whatever a parent may wish. Demonizing the way we are only makes us feel bad.
And that’s not all. I am a logical fellow. When I consider the situation, it's obvious that autism is not evil. It’s not good or bad. It just is. There is no morality hidden inside neurological difference. It's not logical.
It’s taken a lifetime to begin to understand the myriad ways that autism has shaped me. Indeed, as an adult, it’s just one of the things that make me who or what I am. It’s easy to dwell on what I can’t do, and from there I can surely blame autism or anything else for my failure. But I know that’s not a line of thinking that leads anywhere. So I try to focus on what I can do, and it makes me feel good to to say, “See this great gift I have? It’s because I’m autistic!”
Maybe you don’t agree, and maybe it’s not even a gift in your opinion, but why not let me have my joy over that bit of being?
Life goes better for all of us if we change what we can, and accept what we can’t with some semblance of a smile.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to take away a disability. That's a great goal, and one I fully support. What's wrong is making something out to be "bad," and then failing to take it away; leaving us stuck with the "bad" irremovably bonded to us.
Moral judgement has no place in the world of remediating disability.