Monday, February 15, 2010

Don't treat me bro

Perhaps you thought I was being a little too hard on the "aspies" in my last post. Surely the aspie pride movement, otherwise known as neurodiversity, is not so bad. They are not really advocating against treating or curing something that causes such hardships in children.  Sadly, I believe that there truly is a anti-treatment anti-cure mentality embedded in the whole notion of autism pride. Here is a prime example that I ran across this afternoon.

In the Times Online yesterday there was an article yesterday that talked about a small, open label study of an oxytocin nasal spray that shows promise for treating autism. After the 13 participants where given the nasal spray they "rapidly became more open", sociable, and trusting. It will take many years and many studies to know whether this treatment will live up to the hype. But, if it does, it will one of the first treatments that will directly address one of the three core problems of autism.

This would be a good thing.

However, if you look in the comment section under the story, you run into this stinker -
As an individual with aspergers who has learned to cope well with the condition i doubt the need for a spray to conform individuals to societies standards. Many great thinkers (philosophers, mathematicians, chemists etc ..) have had autism spectrum disorders and their abilities may have been part of that same "disorder". you may try to fix autism, but i'd not want a cure...
Statements like these are at the heart of the problem with aspie pride. This is the attitude that causes someone to complain when Asperger's may be merged into the general autism category. This gentleman claims the label of Asperger's but then he wants to change its meaning from the medical definition into a label that means he is a philosopher, mathematician, or chemist - possibly even the next Einstein. He wants you to believe that he speaks for all people with autism when he claims that a treatment is not needed.

Yet it is clear that he and I are speaking of two very different autisms. I am talking about the development disorder that causes children to fall drastically behind their peers in schools, takes away their ability to communicate and to socialize, and even causes them to hurt themselves. He is using Asperger's as a shorthand way of saying "I'm smarter than you are".

I can understand taking pride in yourself (it is called self-esteem). I can understand taking pride in your accomplishments and overcoming difficulties. I can even understand taking pride in being your own person and being "different" than other people around you.  But I cannot understand taking pride in a disorder that causes so many problems for so many people and at the same time dismissing the needs of those who are most profoundly affected.

Enough is enough.

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