Autism research: we want our say
As I write this, millions of dollars are being poured into researching autism. This is not inherently a bad thing; after all, there is still a great deal we don’t understand about it.
Where it becomes a bit sensitive is how this money is being spent. Much of it is being channeled towards a “cure” for autism, or towards prenatal testing. Now, this is by no means a black and white issue; for instance, I’m a strong believer of a woman’s right to choose, and for those who suffer from severe autism, and for their families, I can see why a cure must seem like a beacon of hope.
The problem is that this approach to autism, where it is treated as a disease, does a disservice to many of us on the spectrum that do not see ourselves as broken, diseased, or defective, but rather just different.
While rivers of cash are being thrown at magic bullets and screening techniques, very little is being spent on supporting adults on the spectrum; on helping them to integrate into the workforce and society, on managing their challenges while retaining their autistic talents.
But perhaps the biggest problem, at least in my view, is that the autistic community is not being consulted or involved with this research, at least not anywhere near adequately. This issue directly affects us, and as such, I believe we should be given a say in how the money is spent and where the research is directed.
I and many others on the spectrum would like to see a less deficit-based and more support-based approach to autism, that enables and empowers us instead of just looking for ways to “cure” us.
Many of the great minds of our past would likely be diagnosed as autistic today, from Tesla to Mozart to Einstein. Neurodiversity should be celebrated, not eliminated.
Yes, there is a place for treatment in some cases, but approaching autism like it were smallpox or polio doesn’t just leave millions of people on the spectrum out in the cold, it would also leave our society and our species worse off.