I hold the belief that Asperger’s/autism is not the “epidemic”‘that it has been made out to be.
More people are being classified as Aspergian/autistic, but there are many other reasons for that, some of which I’ve touched on before, and others of which I’ll discuss in future posts.
But not today.
Today, my goal is to talk about the real epidemic involved in the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. It’s not Asperger’s/autism itself, but rather, the reactions, response, bias, prejudice, stereotypes, misconceptions, and assumptions formed and perpetuated by non-autistic people.
I’ll pause here to clarify that not all non-autistic people do this, but that practically everyone who does this is non-autistic (or believes that they are, like I did a mere short time ago).
With all the hubbub surrounding autism these days, these responses, stereotypes, misconceptions, and so on could be argued to be a natural phenomenon. The loudest, screechiest “information” resources out there aren’t doing us any favors.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s their “awareness” campaigns that perpetuate the most extreme “cases” in hopes of raising money for research, most of which also focuses on those same “cases”, which means that so many of us autistic/Aspergian people who don’t fit that description are actively driven further and further from the truth, and so is the general public. These “awareness” campaigns actually prevent true Awareness by tinting the picture.
What has happened as a result of these “efforts” has actually become its own “epidemic” of sorts: one of ignorance. Of myth. Of misconception.
This has translated to denial and disbelief of the idea that “normal”-looking people could be on the autism spectrum…
…and the perception of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum as a pathology that, by its nature, “needs” treatment…
…and the perception of autistic people as children or inept individuals, no matter what their physical age…
…and the myths that we can’t feel emotion, make friends, work, play, talk, think of valid and useful ideas, or communicate…
…and the bias that stubbornly persists in scientific research and the lengths to which the authors of these studies will go to be sure to paint even our advantages in a negative light…
…and the impression that our views and perspectives aren’t valid enough to listen to, so “they” don’t bother to ask or even google us…
…and the overlook of the people who were very likely to have been on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, without whose inventions society would not have progressed like it has, and we would likely not enjoy half of the contemporary creature comforts that we currently take for granted…
…and the well-intended-but-misguided reaction/response of “I’m so sorry” by well-meaning people when we inform them of our own discovery/status or that of our children…
…or the dire predictions and bleak canvases painted by some older-school medical and mental health professionals…
…or the automatic diminution of competence I risk as a doctor when carefully taking the chance on disclosing my status as Asperger’s/autistic to a patient (I’ve been very lucky so far, but then, I’ve “only” “come out” to three of those people)…
…and the horrendous campaigns we fight against that keep popping up like a Whack-a-Mole game on the midway at the summer county/city fair…
…or The Looks, shot at us or at our autistic children, during a meltdown at the store (and the bad-parenting assumptions that go with such Looks), by other patrons or staff…
…or the way in which we’re suddenly treated like children, even if we’re physically adults, after disclosing our status to someone who had assumed we were non-autistic…
…or those “experts” who assume we’re “abnormal” if we didn’t/don’t meet the arbitrary “milestones” “on time”…
…or those who cling to the idea that we’re mentally/emotionally disabled, incompetent, unfit, or unstable because of our status, even without having an ounce of tangible evidence to support or suggest that idea.
There seems to be a disturbance in the force. A “blind spot” in the population concerning All Things and Matters Autistic.
There seems to be a Different And Less assumption about Asperger’s/autistic people.
There seems to be a fixative fear of vaccines (despite evidence of the lack of correlation), to the point in which large groups of parents won’t vaccinate their children out of fear that they will develop autism.
There seems to be a War On Autism, that sometimes spreads to War On Autistic People.
Why was my mobile phone programmed such that its auto-suggest feature assumes that my next word after “autism spectrum” will be “disorder” or “disorders”, despite ever only having typed the word “community” or a sentence-ending period?
Why must every show, “documentary” or movie paint us in an unfavorable light?
Why was Joel Stein of Time-freaking-Magazine given a pass despite reckless and harmful (not to mention ignorant) journalism? Why was that author and that magazine not pressured by the public to issue a sincere apology? Why were they not required to reprint the revised article (with the inaccurate and offensive phrase removed), so that people could see how the article really should have appeared?
Why are Asperger’s/autistic people ineligible for obtaining a pilot’s license?
Why are autistic parents in jeopardy of being deemed “unfit parents” and losing their children should there ever be a custody issue?
Why is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) still being recommended for autistic children? Why are other horrendous therapies (like shock treatment) still even legal?
Why are companies able to get away with discriminating against autistic people by harassing them, targeting them, singling them out, defaming their character, and terminating them…only after they’ve filed a reasonable accommodations request?
These tactics are almost borderline acts of war. Injury, coercion, shunning, harassment, and so on reflect the true existence of hostility toward autistic people.
And on what grounds do they base this hostility? What is it about us that makes it OK to behave in this way toward us? What did we ever do to the world?
We don’t deserve that. We don’t have it coming. We never did.
It’s not the autistic people who are the subject of an epidemic. We may be the victims, but we’re not the “bug.”.
The “bug” is the apparent, silent War Against Autistic People, and it originates with (some of) the rest of the world.
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(Image Credit: Svetlana)