Dawn Kovacovich at Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
In The Politics of Autism, I write:
The most basic questions trigger angry arguments. For instance, into what category do we put autism in the first place? In 2013, President Obama said that “we’re still unable to cure diseases like Alzheimer's or autism or fully reverse the effects of a stroke.” The language of “disease” and “cure” offends some in the autism community. “We don’t view autism as a disease to be cured and we don’t think we need fixing,” says Ari Ne’eman of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. “We do feel comfortable with the word disability because we understand what it means.” From this perspective, autism is difference that requires accommodation, not an illness that requires eradication. Adherents of this position liken autism to homosexuality, which psychiatrists once deemed to be a disorder. Conversely, some parents take offense at opposition to a cure. “Anyone with the mental and verbal ability to challenge autism research is not autistic on a scale that I care to recognize,” writes autism parent James Terminello. “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.”
We adore our autistic daughter exactly as she is. But that doesn't mean we would wish on anyone the heartache, frustrations and limitations she lives with on a daily basis as a result of her condition. She often says she "wishes there were a cure for OCD and autism." Could there be a cure for the neurological dysfunction that causes her brain to cycle in circles and short-circuit into violent tantrums? Maybe there could be. We might never know if funding for autism research is stymied because a certain subset of autistic individuals do not wish to acknowledge it as a disability.
The staggering increase of autism should be great cause for alarm. Research, prevention and programming are seriously affecting by the dismissive tone that AUSM has adopted toward the seriousness of this condition. I am, quite frankly, disgusted by this attitude. AUSM is no longer advocating for half of the very people it claims to serve. While we accept our daughter, we will never "accept" autism — or any other developmental disability.
The National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA) recognizes this. It is long past time to separate the diagnosis of mildly autistic people, whose brain structures more closely resemble ADHD, with those who have been born with profound autism. It is time to recognize that one size does not fit all.