In a recent interview I did with Steve Silberman (The Well, Wired.com, Neurotribes and winner of the 2010 Kavli Science journalism award) he asked me what I thought about the “politics of autism” observing that they have become as polarized as, well politics in general, in America. There are those who want to “wipe out autism” vs. the “neurodiversity” advocates. There are advocacy groups like Autism Speaks vs. self-advocacy leaders like Ari Ne’eman. There are the vaccine controversies and more.
Autism is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and researchers are really just beginning to hone in on what those factors might be. Of course it is good to know what they are and eliminate or reduce them. I understand the heartache of parents wanting to find out why their “once normal” child has become unreachable. I can’t help but wonder if my own shots and fillings (I had the usual vaccinations and eleven mercury fillings by age ten) exacerbated my Aspergers, or if those traits were just latent. But to eliminate autistic traits altogether, as if it were some sort of plague is a very bad idea. As Temple Grandin often says, “eliminate my autism and you take away my genius.” Whenever I hear the words “defeat autism now” I feel like one of those bugs in the Raid commercials, scurrying to hide …
Rudy Simone is the author of Psychology Today’s Aspergirls blog, Asperger’s on the Job and numerous other books. She is a consultant, public speaker, novelist, and screenwriter, as well as a Jazz singer/comedienne. Rudy’s website is www.Help4Aspergers.com. The Politics of Autism: Finding a Cure vs. Neurodiversity appears here with her permission.
[image: Orin Zebest, via flickr]