Wednesday, February 27, 2008

[Autism] "Not damaged. Not dysfunctional. Just different."

Found via BB, this Wired article on autism:

Should autism be treated? Yes, says Baggs, it should be treated with respect. "People aren't interested in us functioning with the brains we have," she says, because autism is considered to be outside the range of normal variability. "I don't fit the stereotype of autism. But who does?" she asks, hammering especially hard on the keyboard. "The definition of autism is so fluid and changing every few years." What's exciting, she says, is that Mottron and other scientists have "found universal strengths where others usually look for universal deficits." Neuro-cognitive science, she says, is finally catching up to what she and many other adults with autism have been saying all along.

Baggs is working on some new videos. One project is tentatively titled "Am I a Person Yet?" She'll explore communication, empathy, self-reflection — core elements of the human experience that have at times been used to define personhood itself. And at various points during the clip, she'll ask: "Am I a person yet?" It's a provocative idea, and you might find yourself thinking: She has a point.

It's an amazing article, one that rocked me. Take a look.

... I should say, too, that there is a ton of precedent for scientists catching up to what a stigmatized group has been saying all along: For a long time, people of color were not considered people by scientists (and yes, that does make me want to put scientists in quotation marks). Neither were people with disabilities. People with HIV/AIDS were consistently coming out ahead of the (really bad) scientific research that was being done in the early and mid 1980s.

I suspect that this will turn out to be similar - the biases and blind spots of the people doing the science are slowly being torn away, only to reveal a truth that flies in the face of decades of established "truth."

My questions: Why does this keep happening? Doesn't science as an institution need to interrogate itself as to the presence of a very disturbing pattern of events? What about the vaunted "scientific method?"


edwardjon said...

Have you read the book "The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time"? Wow. A great book.

Rain Song said...

Should autism be treated?

Let's start with some respect for the autistic human. Maybe start with the question "Is this person suffering?"

The next question would be "Does this person want to be treated?"

If the answer to these questions is "no" then treatment would not seem to be indicated.

What if we don't trust the person to know whether they are suffering or in need of treatment? Golly, we went full circle just that quickly. Let's start with some respect. Trust them.

I sure hope that we don't treat people just because we find them weird or annoying.

Anonymous said...

Yes I feel autism should be treated. The problem with autism, is it is usually found when a child is younger. It is by far easier to treat when the child is diagnosed between two and three years old. Unfortunately, a patient this age is unable to make an intelligent decision about treatment. If you wait until the child is a teenager, he may choose to have treatment, but it may be too late. I do feel however the the child should always be treated with respect. As I watch my children with autism learn, I am astounded at how beautiful they are on the inside. So trusting and so caring.

Rain Song said...

I am sorry. I was thinking only of older kids and adults. Early treatment has to be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

a couple comments --
1. Rain Song, Yes, let's start with some respect for the person who is diagnosed with autism. The easiest way to do this is to use people first language, although for some reason saying, "autistic human" still does not feel right to me.

2. Depression is rampant in teens who are diagnosed as having autism. The big question is do autism and depression go hand in hand, is the depression a result of our society veiwing those who are diagnosed as having autism as "abnormal", or are some people who have autism truly unhappy.

3. Autism is a spectrum "disorder". Individuals who have this diagnosis vary as much as those without the diagnosis. Therefore, In MY opinion, we shouldn't even be considering if autism should be "cured" we should only be asking how we can help people live more quality lives. Quality lives according to THEIR definition of quality.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.