This is Autism

There’s been an uproar of late over comments made by the co-founders of Autism Speaks suggesting, among other things, that autism is this terrible burden to parents and families that tears them apart. That autism destroys the care-givers of the autistic. That somehow, there must be a cure – or something – because what’s going to happen when these three million autistic children will grow up one day and can no longer have the support of their schools or their parents? The whole discussion ignores the fact that not all who might be labeled as autistic are children.

It ignores a lot.

The whole notion is ridiculous. There are plenty of autistic adults that live full, functional, and happy lives. There are also plenty of autistic children that live full, functional, and happy lives. These people – yes, people, not ‘autistics,’ but people who are autistic – are just people, with some interesting quirks.

Yes, there are some that have problems. Some of the quirks are a bit much to deal with, but there is support for that. There could be more, sure, but why single out autism a “national crisis”?

I am raising a son with autism. He’s nine, some days going on 6, others going on 12. We have our challenges. There are days when yes, I am depleted. Then again, any parent of any child has days when they’re depleted. Why single out autism? This is parenting… with communication challenges. Yes, we have a few extra things to deal with.

It is not a national crisis.

My son is an amazing human being. Being autistic is part of that.

I accept that he likes to sit upside down on the couch and peep. The hand flapping can be a little distracting at times. Hopping on the couch and having a sandwich at 1am, not so great, but will make for a great story later. The meltdowns are ‘unfun’ at best, but we get over them and move on.

But look at what he can do. He’s well beyond his peers academically. He’s my personal tip-calculator (because I’m lazy that way). He sees amazing things that I would never notice.

And he’s an amazing photographer. Check out some of his work here, here, and here.

I wouldn’t have him any other way.

If there is a national crisis it is this: What makes us think that we must ‘cure’ everything that’s different from the ‘norm’? We should work to cure things that shorten people’s lives unnecessarily, like cancer. But why ‘cure’ autism? There’s nothing wrong with these people, they just see the world differently. The world affects them in ways that the rest of us can’t fathom. And sometimes they react in ways that can put themselves or others in danger – sometimes. So we can be mindful of that.

Besides, we all do dangerous things sometimes. Ever hear of ‘road rage’? We could do with a ‘cure’ for that.

But autism doesn’t need a cure as much as it need understanding from both sides. Those bearing the label of autistic know they see the world differently and they try to understand how it works for everyone else. Why can’t ‘normal’ people do the same?

Take a minute. Get to know someone with autism. Better yet, get to know two or three. You’d be shocked at how narrow your own perception of the world really is, and, like me, you can delight in the expanded world that belongs to people with autism.

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About Penny

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.

8 thoughts on “This is Autism

  1. I know more than one adult who is living in the spectrum and yes they have their quirks but they are also genuinely wonderful people. I really don’t like the term “Autistic” because the person is not the disorder. Given that rational, given that I suffer from depression, why not call be depressive? “He’s autistic, he’s depressive.” Um, no. We all have challenges in life and we don’t need labels instead of understanding and respect.

  2. Depression and autism are not the same, since autism is a part of me that cannot be changed. Just like I am also Black and Female (though, yes, I understand sex can be changed, but it’s not so easy). Depression on the other hand is usually transient. I have been depressed, but it is not my constant state. One can have a tendency towards depression, but I can’t have a tendency towards autism – I either am or I’m not. So I choose (and many of us also) to call myself Autistic (with a capital A), just as I am Black and Canadian and many other things.

  3. For myself, I prefer to emphasize the ‘person’ part, in many ways just to remind others that they’re dealing with a thinking, feeling human being. The rest are just adjectives that describe and individual’s uniqueness.

  4. Haven’t been by in a little while. I do love your son’s photos and could stand to learn a bit from him I’m sure 🙂

    As for autism, although I haven’t worked with any adults with autism, I have worked with children. I think they are just as amazing as my ‘neurotypical’ son. Children with autism are still, to me, children. They deserve love, kindness, respect, understanding and a whole gambit of other things because they’re children – in essence, people.

    I personally have beliefs regarding this ‘autism epidemic/crisis’ issue and how it’s come about, but that doesn’t mean those with autism are any less people than others. 🙂

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