Thursday, August 16, 2007

Treatment vs. Cure

Just read this while perusing AFF:

From what I've read of neurodiversity, they aren't against treating autism. They're all in favor of services, educations (that don't just force the kid to perform NT-ish tricks, but rather to do something meaningful), and tools to help autistics do better in the world.

What they're against is trying to eliminate all autistic traits in people altogether, especially using therapies that are not proven to be able to do so, and not even giving autistic people a chance in life.

Consider the case of treating blindness or deafness, both of which are essentially incurable. They are given educations in alternative communication methods like Braille, sign language, or lipreading; and they are given tools such as canes, service dogs, specialized computers, and text phones to help them get around the missing sense in daily life. Yes, there are hearing aids for deaf people, but they don't work perfectly.

You don't see throngs of parents trying to cure their children's blindness or deafness with a special diet (although some people do benefit from special diets) or with antidotes to poisons for which there's no proof that these poisons are the cause of blindness or deafness. You don't hear of blind children being taught in behaviorism classes to not close their eyes or move their eyes around when talking to another person, lest the other person think the blind person is being evasive. You do sometimes hear of deaf children being taught to always wear their hearing aids, lipread, and speak as best they can to mask their deafness...but a deaf person I know who was raised that way thinks it was a totally dumb idea (no pun intended). Blindness, especially, is hard to mask, and people who have it are allowed - even encouraged - to be open about it, sporting those red-and-white canes and service dogs and dark sunglasses, so that people can accommodate their disabilities.

Why not do the same with autism? Why not just let them show their disabilities and accommodate them with the proper tools? Why try to train them like dogs to make eye contact like a normal person? Why lob onto the most ridiculous theories for why they ended up autistic, and use the most ridiculous quack cures to try to undo their autism?

Perhaps because of the cognitive difficulties of autism, and how they're hyped up by the media. A blind or deaf person is presumed to be able to think and feel like the rest of us. They can generally also take care of themselves physically, missing senses aside - go to the bathroom and so on. But an autistic, especially a low-functioning autistic with many disabilities and sensory processing issues, is presumed oftentimes to not be a sentient being. And even high-functioning autistics can be labeled monsters.

I hope the neurodiversity movement will eventually become believable and visible enough that the general public will start to see and treat autistics as human beings, much as is done with blind people.

1 comment:

Axinar said...

Yes, but you have to understand that blindness and deafness don't OFFEND the neurotypicals ... :)