I have been following autism blogs for some time now, and I'm terribly disheartened by the degree of hostility and deep devisions between constituencies.
It seems as if there are definite 'armed camps'. Cure/not cure, NTs/ACs, High functioning/low functioning. I'm sure there are more dichotomies I could come up with, but you get the idea.
Here's the strange thing--many of us live in *more* than one 'camp', or constituency. I'm a parent of a child on the spectrum. I'm also an "aspie" myself. I'm also a medical professional. (disclaimer--I don't work with autism--I'm a physical therapist) So at different times, I may wear different 'hats'.
But regardless of what role I take at any given time, here's what I believe:
"Function" is a matter of perspective. Someone using a wheelchair in an Escher house would likely be 'low functioning'. There is no clear line between what 'high' and 'low' functioning *is* in the world of the autism spectrum. And even within the same individual, level of function may change depending on outside stressors, physical health, and coping resources.
If 'cure' means obliteration of what makes my brain function in the way it does, no thank you. What I want is to decrease barriers to function and improve coping ability in an often chaotic world.
What is 'disabling' is not necessarily the *autism* but the host of secondary impairments related to fitting a round peg in a square hole.
In fact, I wish we could move the debate along the lines of the World Health Organization's terminology:
Impairment--any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological, or anatomical structure or function.
Disability--any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.
Handicap--a disadvantage for a given individual, resulting from an impairment or disability, that limits or prevents that individual from fullfilling a role that is normal, depending on age, sex, social and cultural factors.
I'm all for decreasing disability and helping to mitigate impairments. Anxiety? Sure--take it. Depression--nope, don't want any. Face-blindness and difficulty reading non-verbal cues? Love to learn better ways of getting around that.
My autistic-thinking brain? Don't you dare mess with that. My ability to see patterns and hyperfocus is *not* disabling in my life. My sensory processing can get in the way at the grocery store, but my poetry is richer because of it. Special interests? Well, in my world, it's a good thing for a physical therapist to be intensely preoccupied with anatomy and kinesiology.
So what *can* we all agree on?
Maybe for starters, that decreasing disability by minimizing secondary impairments is a good thing. I can stand behind that and not feel as if my self-hood is being devalued.
Perhaps individuals would be willing to ask a different question.
"Will this treatment/medication/therapy/supplement *cure* autism?"
"Will this treatment/medication/therapy/supplement help improve my/my loved one's quality of life?"
Yeah--that works for me. What about you?