Why I don’t see autism as ‘a bad thing’
My view of autism is fundamentally similar to that expressed in Jim Sinclair’s seminal essay ‘Don’t Mourn for Us’ which can be read here:
I see helping autistics to function well in an environment as a balance between helping the autistic adapt to the environment and helping the environment to adapt to the autistic!
Autism not Tragedy
I don’t go as far as some who suggest that autism is merely a difference and not a disability at all. I do believe autistics experience genuine impairments and need adaptations, adjustments, assistance, support and (in some instances) treatment to become as functional as is useful to, beneficial to and wanted by the person themselves.
While I support treatments which address specific impairments and aim to help autistics function better in the world (as opposed to helping us fit better into how others think we should function), I would not want a cure for autism. I do not support genetic research into autism, since finding a genetic basis for autism would (most likely) result in pre-implantation screening and prevent the birth of future, valuable, worthwhile autistic people.
The autistic spectrum
Individuals are often referred to as having ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ autism. On the basis of the best current research and my own experience I do not believe in such distinctions. I think such distinctions are usually made on the basis of factors which are obvious to others such as language use and perceived intellectual ability. However I do not think those things are central to how autistic someone is. A person may be very verbal and able to study at university but extremely rigid, obsessive and poorly able to function in social environments. Conversely another individual may communicate by signing and typing but be capable of living independently, having a family and enjoying an active social life. Individuals vary and, research suggests that individuals may change in their perceived level of autism over their life span.
In line with this view, I don’t find the diagnosis of ‘Asperger Sydrome’ particularly helpful. The diagnosis is not consistently applied by different clinicians in different countries. Current research suggests there is no clear distinction between those diagnosed with AS and any other autistic group. The next edition of DSM (the diagnostic manual for psychiatrists) will hopefully do away with this unhelpful distinction.
On the spectrum, we are all autistic.