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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pushing Back Against Cure Critics

James Terminiello has an emotional article in The South Jersey Times.  The father of a low-functioning autistic adult, he criticizes criticizes expansive definitions of autism and pushes back against those who oppose the quest for a cure.
Anyone with the mental and verbal ability to challenge autism research is not autistic on a scale that I care to recognize. Opposition to finding a cure is particularly hurtful to parents who still mourn the loss of the child that could have been. A line has been crossed.
It is time to stare directly at the plain, raw face of real autism: a world of painfully slow, unrewarding therapy carried out by near-angelic professionals who suffer very high burnout rates. It is a place where marriages are wrecked or destroyed amid tears, accusations, anger and arms thrust in the air to the words “I can’t deal with this anymore!” It is a realm where non-autistic siblings are often given short shrift by strained parents and grandparents.
At the center is the autistic person himself. Real autism borders on the metaphysical. It suppresses or deletes aspects of humanity that you thought were an immutable part of the basic human package. Real autistics live in a world of strange obsessions, confusion, totally missed signals, seizures and bouts of irrational anger. Concepts like death, God, love, embarrassment, urgency, are often beyond them.
The world of autism that I know features uncontrolled laughter, grunts and mumbling, hurled feces, nude walks in the street, drugs to quell anger and knife attacks.
Why paint such a dark picture? Because real autism is a dark picture. By expanding the definition to include quirky and colorful individuals who make good copy, autism seems to be getting an unneeded, glossy makeover. I’m happy for these individuals, whatever their condition may be, and wish them all the best, but calling them autistic is like saying a man with a broken finger is as handicapped as a quadriplegic.
As for me, I want my autism back.