At 59, Mitchell easily admits that he is lonely. He walks with heavy shoulders, and a facial expression that is part grin, part grimace. His social life revolves around weekly dinners with his parents, both in their 80s. He can’t keep a job. He can’t find a girlfriend. He paces, obsesses, repeats himself and sometimes doesn’t realize when he’s saying something rude. Mitchell blames it all on his autism. “I hate it,” he says. “It’s a horrible disability. I wish there were a cure.”
He has reiterated those three sentences on the Internet many times, in many ways, and his unapologetic, blunt stance has made him one of the most controversial voices in the autism blogosphere—he’s one of the few who have shown outspoken support for the effort to find a cure. “Hopefully on my tombstone they will write, ‘We don't need no stinkin’ neurodiversity,’” Mitchell writes, taking a direct shot at the growing movement for acceptance and inclusion for people with everything from Asperger’s to attention deficit disorder, epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome.
When it comes to the question of whether and how to “treat” autism, many neurodiversity advocates try to make a fine distinction: Remedies that aim to relieve suffering are OK, but the idea of a “cure” is repellent. Many believe, as autistic educator and author Nick Walker puts it, that the effect of a cure would be “the reduction of naturally evolved human diversity.”