Friday, March 6, 2009

Neurodiversity: An ounce of prevention is not welcome

I think that most rational people would agree that having autism is not desirable.  Most people would agree that if something like autism could be cured or prevented it would be a good thing.

These people would not be ones that believe in neurodiversity.  There is a strong anti-cure theme in their preachings.  Take for example two recent posts, one from Michelle Dawson who writes at The Autism Crisis and one from Kev at Left Brian Right Brain.

First up is a quote from Ms Dawsons post Smallpox, polio, and autism :
So parliament's power will be used to spread awareness--to inform schools, families, employers, communities, landlords, governments, and so on--that autism is as frightening and harmful, as dangerous to society and the public good, as smallpox and polio. And just like smallpox and polio, autism must be eliminated--regardless of science and ethics, regardless of the wishes of autistics and/or parents of autistics.
I don't know why "science" has a problem with that and I think ethics is a city in ancient Greece.   I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most parents of children with autism would gladly agree to it being eliminated.  And while we are visiting that ancient Greek city of ethics I wonder what they would say about an "autistic" in effect wishing autism on other people by opposing its elimination.    

I think what she is really saying is that she has a problem with eliminating autism.  

Next up is the fascinating IACC Strategic Plan: Good for us?  In this post Kev, who lives in the UK, is talking about what in the strategic plan of the IACC, which is a part of the US government.  I am not sure why he feels the need to comment on a plan that he isn't part of.  Doesn't the UK have similar measures that he should be more concerned with?

Regardless, he seems to be having issues similar to Ms Dawson: 
I don’t even really quibble at the ‘reducing the degree of severity’ phrase but prevention? Even researchers as established and august as Simon Baron-Cohen and Tony Attwood have suggested this is not such a great idea. I also don’t believe its a great (or necessary) idea.
(Ah yes, the august Simon Baron-Cohen, I wonder what his ideal WHR is.)  
There’s lots of good talk about support and education for adults and the need to recognise that autism is not a childhood condition. Amazing that such talk is needed when adults clearly make up the larger percentage of the autism population.

I’m not sure this is a cure-based document. I do think its a define-autism-as-a-medical-condition document which is again not such an accurate idea.
So just another prevention and cure is bad riff with an added autism-isn't-a-medical-condition zinger thrown in for good measure.  But other than the august WHR he doesn't really give a reason for the prevention of autism would be a bad thing.  For that we have to turn to a comment on his post by Joseph :
Preventing autism is something that people outside of the autism communities see as a positive. It does nothing for those of us in the autism communities. I’m sure even the anti-vaxers don’t care a whole lot about prevention. For those of us in the autistic community it’s even somewhat offensive.
Of course no one would oppose prevention of viral-cased or chemically-caused brain damage with a phenotype that presents as autism, as RAJ’s strawman attempts to suggest. I am, however, completely opposed to any type of “prevention” that involves genetic screening and abortion.
Now we get getting closer to the heart of the matter.  The ND believe that autism is primarily genetic therefore to them prevention becomes "genetic screening and abortion."

Notice how Joseph excludes what he calls conditions that "present as autism".  As  I have written about before, autism is not defined as a cause but as behaviors.   If you meet the criteria then you have autism.  So this sort of distinction is rather does not exist.

It is a shame they are so locked into their views that they feel the need to take a stand against something like preventing autism.  I guess once you go far enough down a certain road you become more concerned about keeping your world view consistent than doing what would be right.  


  1. yes, this is a good post, I have also talked about persons who don't pay taxes in the U.S.A. having a take on american policy on my blog, autism's gadfly. Also, if Joseph had read the language of the proposal carefully he would have seen they were not talking about abortion at all, but rather someone being prevented from having the condition of autism.

    One thing you forgot to mention is that right before the combating autism act was passed the ND movement fought to have this bill defeated by congress tooth and nail and literally protested with placards. However, when this law passed, they embraced it and tried to present their agenda to the IACC, taking advantage of a law they don't like. What hypocrites!

  2. Thanks.

    I have lost count of all of the times that the ND have attempted to twist actions like the combating autism act into their favor. This is similar to their attempts to get a foothold in autism speaks. I guess if you have an agenda you have to pursue it.