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

A Spectrum of Perspectives About Autism

Much of what passes for discussion of autism issues on the internet is either congratulatory back slapping and in group high fives or it is bitter acrimonious sniping. I have been pleased over the last few days to be able to engage in rational e-mail discussion with Lisa Jo Rudy of About Autism.com. Ms. Rudy is the parent of a higher functioning autistic child. My son is diagnosed with a lower functioning classic Autism Disorder. Her site tends to feature links to several prominent anti-autism cure, neurodiversity blog sites such as Autism Vox, Neurodiversity, Autism Hub, Autism Diva, Mom-NOS etc.

Notwithstanding her affinity for the neurodiversity perspective and my aversion to that socio-political movement we were able to exchange views rationally on such topics as curing autism, autism realities etc. I give Ms. Rudy most of the credit for that. She has also taken the generous step of referencing my perspective and this blog site on About Autism.com actions which I genuinely appreciate. I thank Ms. Rudy for her calm rational discussion of autism issues with someone from outside the neurodiversity perspective. Ms. Rudy’s words about a spectrum of autism perspectives are worth remembering.

A Spectrum of Perspectives on the Autism Spectrum
If autism is a spectrum disorder, then it seems reasonable that there should be a spectrum of perspectives on that disorder. At one end of that spectrum are the neurodiversity advocates who feel that autism is a difference to be celebrated; on the other end are those who work toward and advocate a cure for autism. Both groups are passionate, and both believe deeply in their own points of view – with some people, like me, sharing elements from both perspectives.

Harold Doherty is a Canadian blogger and the father of a young man with classic autism. Having seen some of the more frightening ways in which the world can treat a person with profound autism, he believes strongly in the importance of seeking treatments and potential cures. All this while supporting and loving his son:

“I love my son dearly. I have just returned from walking about our community with him, enjoying his company. As I typed this note he very affectionately grabbed me from behind and hugged me – while squeezing forcefully on my windpipe. He did so without any aggressive intent but without understanding the potential consequences of his actions.

That is autism reality.”

http://autism.about.com/

March 27, 2007 Posted by | autism cure, autism spectrum disorder, Lisal Jo Rudy, low functioning autism, neurodiversity | 2 Comments

Strange Son Online Autism Community – A Welcome Autism Internet Addition

We are forming a new online social network to connect people who want to share their knowledge and/or learn about helping kids with autism communicate better. You can upload videos, exchange information on the Community Forum or share your experience on your personal Blog. Please join us in our ‘grassroots’ movement to help non-verbal and “low-communicating” kids with autism to communicate better and get a better education!

http://strangeson.com/index.php?page=home

As the above excerpt sets out, Strange Son author Portia Iversen has established an online community to help non-verbal & low-communicating children with autism. This is a very welcome addition to the internet autism world which to date has been largely dominated by persons advocating AGAINST autism treatment and cure, even mention of the realities of life faced by lower functioning autistic persons. I encourage parents and caregivers of persons with low functioning, non-communicative autistic children to visit the site and join the community.

Thanks to Lisa Jo Rudy at About Autism.com for bringing this site to my attention.

March 26, 2007 Posted by | About Autism, autism cure, autism disorder, autism education, autism treatment, Lisa Jo Rudy, low functioning autism, Portia Iversen, Strange Son | Leave a comment

The Autism Acceptance Project – Rejecting Reality

The Autism Acceptance Project is one of the more recent rhetorical adventures of the anti-cure, autism is wonderful, movement also known as neurodiversity. If I sound cynical it is because I am. With a son with classic Autism Disorder who is profoundly autistic I, unlike the TAAP people, can not afford the luxury of wishful thinking. I am not seeking help for my son’s many positive attributes. I am seeking help for his negative attributes, the very serious, even life threatening deficits, which impair his quality of life, and will lead to a life of being cared for by others, just as they do for many other lower functioning, inarticulate autistic persons who are not represented in the Neurodiversity discussion groups. The TAAP folks object to candid description of unpleasant truths.

They react hysterically when parents seeking help for their own autistic children speak the truth. Witness the verbal abuse heaped by them on the parents of the Autism Every Day video. I will not stop speaking the truth while the TAAP and neurodiversity crowd write pseudo-scientific critiques dismissing evidence based standards of treatment for autism and condemning truthful portraits of classic lower functioning Autism Disorder.

If the neurodiversity crowd wants to paint a more positive picture for art galleries and society teas fine. Let them petition the American Psychiatric Association to change the names of higher functioning autism disorders to some other labels so that they do not have to be associated with the lower functioning classic Autism Disorder people like my son. That should ease their acceptance goals considerably. They can feel good about themselves and their friends in the neurodiversity movement. Those of us fighting for real help for our autistic children can do so without the annoying sounds of Autism’s sirens singing in the background.

March 25, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, autism reality, low functioning autism, neurodiversity, TAAP | 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