Autism Reality

Invisible Autistics

[Picture of 11 year old Conor Doherty, my buddy. Conor is a low functioning autistic person diagnosed with classic Autism Disorder, assessed as “severely autistic with profound developmental delays”]

The Mainstream Media loves to present feel good stories about autism. With 1 in 150 persons suffering with autism spectrum disorders the mainstream media invariable gravitates towards the higher end of the autism spectrum. Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN is a classic example with his interview of an autistic person who writes very sophisticated articles from a keyboard and is a prolific internet blogger. In the US April is autism Awareness month and the heartwarming stories and interviews with high functioning autistic persons will hit the media again.

Katie Couric and NBC’s Today Show will feature a charming intelligent and high functioning autistic teen. These are nice stories and they are stories that SHOULD be told. But where are the MSM interviews wih, or visits to meet, low functioning autistic persons? David Suzuki took a realistic look at some persons with more severe autism in a 1996 episode of CBC’s “The Nature of Things”. But that was Canada (the CBC) 11 years ago. In today’s ratings driven “entertainment as news” media world, there are unlikely this April to be any mainstream media visits to mental health facilities or residential care facilities where severely autistic youths and adults might be found; often living minimal custodial existences.

Stories about autistic persons with limited language skills, who engage in self injurious or aggressive behavior, or are sedated by medications, aren’t likely to make the Mainstream Media coverage of autism this April. Low functioning autistic persons living in custodial care are not the stuff of feel good stories. They will likely remain hidden away out of sight, unseen in our modern media society.

They are our invisible autistics.

April 1, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness month, autism disorder, CNN, Dr. Gupta, high functioning autism, Katie Couric, low functioning autism, NBC, Today Show | 7 Comments

Is The Neurodiversity Movement Ashamed of Lower Functioning Autistic Persons?

It seems at times that the Neurodiversity Movement is ashamed of the lower functioning members of the autism world. Autism is defined by the ND movement as simply another natural variation of human wiring. “Autistic intelligence” is defined as a different, perhaps even a superior form of intelligence. Doubt is cast on whether lower functioning autistic persons even exist by the more strident ND’ers. Even autistic persons who have demonstrated no communication skills, engage in seriously and repetitively self injurious and dangerous behavior should not be treated or cured in the view of the ND movement.

Parents who seek to help their OWN children, not the ND’ers themselves, but their own children, through attempts at cures or treatment are vilified by the ND movement. Every major parent driven autism advocacy organization from Cure Autism Now to Autism Speaks, Autism Society Canada, Autism Society America, National Autism Society UK, FEAT organizations, all are roasted for their efforts. They are derided as self centered whiners by the proud members of the ND movement. Pejorative labels such as “Autism Squeaks” and “curebies” are used to dismiss those seeking to cure or treat autism.

Recently CNN’s Dr. Gupta featured the story of Amanda Baggs, diagnosed as being a low functioning autistic person, but clearly very intelligent and, with the aid of technology, an excellent communicator. The implied message – even low functioning autistic persons are really quite intelligent and do not need a cure or treatment. Unfortunately Dr. Gupta played into this denial of the existence of truly low functioning autistic persons by continuing a long history of media focus on autistic savants and other high functioning autistic persons while ignoring the sometimes brutal realities which confront low functioning, seriously disabled, autistic persons.

My autistic son, Conor, is a low functioning autistic person who brings me great joy. I delight in talking about how happy he makes me every single day. But, unlike members of the Neurodiversity I am not ashamed to admit the severe challenges he faces in life and I am not afraid to talk about them publicly. Unless such public discussion takes place there will be no improvements for Conor and other autistic persons like him. Of course that is exactly why the Neurodiversity movement attempts to censor such discussion. Content with themselves they wish to deny the opportunity for lower functioning autistic persons to be treated and cured. Is the Neurodiveristy movement ashamed of its lower functioning autistic cousins? It certainly looks that way to this “NT” (Neurotypical).


TIMES ONLINE

Is autism simply in the wiring?


Ailments come and go. I don’t mean in a personal sense — although my lumbar vertebrae are creaking again after a blissful period of quiescence — but in a social and historical sense. Homosexuality is no longer an illness. Lefthandedness no longer merits a cure. Could autism be next?

Some people argue that the developmental disorder — which compromises communication, social interaction and imaginative play — is merely an example of human “neurodiversity”. Just as disabled individuals sometimes prefer to call themselves differently abled, some people with autism would like to be regarded as differently wired. To try to alleviate or cure autism, they say, is tantamount to oppression. And genetic tests, which are in development to identify autism in the unborn, are a mere step away from eugenics.

This movement, which boasts groups such as Aspies for Freedom (a reference to Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form) and the Autism Liberation Front, does not accept the image of autistics as odd loners. Instead, nonautistics are portrayed as sad conformists unable to operate outside the social horde. It opposes any attempts to “cure” or even treat autism.

The movement is driven, unsurprisingly, by those at the high-functioning end of autism. It is ironic that they have been accused of not empathising with others at the low-functioning end, who are less able to cope with everyday life.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading autism researcher at the University of Cambridge, says: “I agree that high-functioning autism is better characterised in terms of neurodiversity. Low-functioning autism may also be, but is probably best characterised as involving additional disabilities, such as learning disability, language delay, epilepsy and so on. I don’t think we are looking to ‘cure’ autism any more than we are looking to cure lefthandedness or being gay. But if there were treatments or interventions that help without affecting the areas of strength [such as the excellent attention to detail] I imagine these would be welcomed.”

http://tinyurl.com/2t6yp9

February 26, 2007 Posted by | Autism Society America, Autism Society Canada, autism speaks, autism spectrum disorder, Baron-Cohen, CNN, Dr. Sanja Gupta, FEAT, neurodiversity | 6 Comments

Paging Dr. Gupta – Please Bring Your Cameras to the Lower End of the Autism Spectrum

Dr. Sanja Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent
CNN

Dear Dr. Gupta

Your interview and comments about an autistic person who is obviously very intelligent and able to communicate at a high level with the use of technology are helpful to assisting public understanding of autistic persons with characteristics similar to that individual. It is also helpful that you have directed people’s attention to finding others who might be in a similar situation.

I hope too that you will bring your cameras to the truly low functioning end of the autism spectrum of disorders. There are many truly low functioning autistic persons who do not have a basic grasp of language at the outset. For many technological communication tools, voice synthesis technology, will not offer help. These truly low functioning persons do not necessarily make for a feel good news story on CNN. These souls will not respond to your invitations and you will not be able to engage in “lively email banter” with them. Take your cameras to some of the institutions which provide adult residential care for some of these persons much less fortunate than the person you interviewed. After your visits they too might have “opened your eyes about the world of autism”, a big part of that world that is not regularly featured in Hollywood movies and CNN features.

Respectfully,

Harold Doherty
Fredericton NB Canada

February 23, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness, autism disorder, CNN, Dr. Gupta, low functioning autism | 3 Comments