Autism Reality

Autism Vox Falsus

There is in the world autism community, at least on the internet component of that community, a group which portrays itself as the true voice of autism. It is essentially an internet based community comprised of some high functioning autistic persons, some parents of autistic children, and some “professionals” including some psychiatrists and educators who oppose attempts to treat or cure autism. Self described as the Neurodiversity movement this group poses as human rights advocates for the autistic but often resembles a hate group in its personal attacks and demonization of any parent or group which attempts to find and fund treatments and cures for autism. Any mention of the serious challenges of the more severe forms of autism is attacked by the high fucntioning autism internet essayists. Even mentioning that some autistic suffer from cognitive deficits, even the use of the expression “low functioning autism” is met by hostility from the Neurodiversity advocates. Far from being the true voice of autism, Neurodiversity is a false voice; an autism vox falsus.

Parents across Canada and the United States and elsewhere in the world have fought hard to seek and obtain a better life for their autistic children through treatment and education. For their efforts they are mocked, ridiculed and demonized by the Neurodiversity movement . The core of the Neurodiversity movement is a number of high functioning autistic persons who do not wish to be cured of their autism. They view their autism as an essential component of who they are as individuals. That is a view point that I can and do respect. They have the right to wish to remain autistic. Where Neurodiversity becomes troublesome is when they fight to prevent parents from seeking cures and treatments for their own children and the demeaning tactics they use in doing so.

One of the Neurodiversity internet commentators who is generally more polite than most is Ms. Kristina Chew the mother of a 10 year old autistic boy, who holds a Ph.D and is a classics teacher. Although Ms Chew has in fact employed ABA interventions to assist her son she downplays that fact on her blog site “Autism Vox” where her guest commentators usually present a Neurodiversity anti-autism cure perspective. But, she is admittedly almost always exceptionally polite and diplomatic. That diplomatic bent changed dramatically this past week though with two comments from Ms. Chew about the Don Imus racism controversy. In these comments Ms. Chew made clear her animosity towards Autism Speaks and towards the parents in the Autism Every Day video.

I really don’t have anything to say about Don Imus — I am no fan, to be sure — but living here in New Jersey, and my husband being a Rutgers alum — I have been appalled, or just outraged, at his use of “crude, offensive language” about the Rutgers women’s baskbetball (sic) team last Wednesday while discussing their defeat in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship.

I do not know understand how any national autism organization can be associated with someone who can use such hateful words.“

It should be noted that, just under a year ago, Imus’ MSNBC show broadcast A New Decade for Autism, a fundraising event at which the video Autism Every Day was first screened—a video which depicts life with autism as difficult (as it can be, but there are ways to change this, for sure) and hopeless; a video that was felt by more than a few autistic persons and parents of autistic children as portraying autism as horrrible and hateful only: No surprise, perhaps, that it had the endorsement of Imus.

The heinous crimes committed by Autism Speaks? Raising money for research and treatment of autistic children. The Autism Every Day video consisted of parents telling of the challenges presented by their childrens’ autism. For that these parents, along with MSNBC and Autism Speaks , have been vilified by the Neurodiversity movement. Until this week Ms Chew and Autism Vox had been polite and diplomatic in expressing her Neurodiversity anti-autism cure sentiments. The language above though removes the pretence of civility from Autism Vox.

The use by Ms Chew of Mr Imus’ offensive personal comments to smear an organization and group of parents fighting to improve the lives of their autistic children is itself offensive.

Autism Vox
? Autism Vox Falsus is more like it.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | Auism Vox, autism advocacy, autism disorder, autism every day, autism speaks, Don Imus, neurodiversity | 9 Comments

To Deskin Wynberg Autism Case Families – Thank You

[Above top Supreme Court of Canada building, bottom – Canadian Parliament building]

Yesterday the Supreme Court of Canada, in a decision which probably did not surprise too many people, dismissed without reasons the application for leave to appeal the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the Deskin-Wynberg case. The Court of Appeal had overturned a trial court decision which ruled that the Ontario Government was in contravention of the Charter of Rights by its refusal to fund Intensive Behavioral Intervention treatment for the families’ autistic children. The Supreme court of Canada has shown increasing deference to government decision making during the tenure of the Rt. Hon. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, P.C., as Chief Justice of the Court. The Newfoundland pay equity case was the real indicator of the ascendancy of deference to government as the principal concern in the court’s equality rights decisions. In that case Newfoundland (Treasury Board) v. N.A.P.E., 2004 SCC 66, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 381the Supreme Court found that postponement of introduction of pay equity schedules constituted serious discrimination but was justified by the challenges facing government decision makers to maintain government credit ratings and assign scarce financial resources.

The Auton case, Auton (Guardian ad litem of) v. British Columbia (Attorney General), 2004 SCC 78, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 657in which the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the unanimous decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, and a trial court decision ruling that exclusion of autism treatment from provincial medical care funding constituted discrimination contrary to the Charter left little room for doubt that deference to government now trumps the rights interests involved in Charter of Rights cases. In that case the Court concluded that the Canada Health Act itself provided limited guarantees of health coverage to Canadians and failure to provide coverage for treatment of some conditions could not therefor constitute discrimination.

In Canada it is clear that the courts are becoming an increasingly ineffective remedy for protection and advancement of the rights of children with autism. Any disability group which seeks to enforce what they consider to be their equality rights will have to think long and hard before commencing litigation to protect those rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The litigation in the Deskin-Wynberg case helped keep autism issues on the forefront of political consciousness across Canada. The families’ tremendous sacrifices, and that of their legal counsel, were undoubtedly very substantial. What is crystal clear, after the decisions in Auton and Deskin-Wynberg is that families seeking public policy assistance for their autistic children will have to take their concerns to the political arena.

The realities of politics often come down to numbers. Although autism is increasingly recognized as widespread with 1 in 150 persons now estimated to have some type of autism spectrum disorder those numbers will have to be translated into some degree of political influence. 1 in 150 does not sound like an overly strong hand to play but it is actually somewhat larger than that. Most people on the autism spectrum will have parents, siblings, relatives, family friends, personal friends who might vote based on the interests of the autistic loved one in their life. That expands the potential “autism vote” substantially and might be used to some effect in close political and federal ridings to try and pressure politicians to do what their consciences – and the courts – have not required them to do – treat, educate and provide decent residential care for autistic persons in need.

The future will tell whether autism numbers can be translated into political influence and gains for autistic persons and their families. For the present I would like to again personally thank the families, and the legal counsel, in the Deskin-Wynberg and Auton cases for the tremendous contributions they have made to the cause of autism in Canada.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism treatment, Desking, Supreme Court of Canada, Wynberg | 1 Comment