The year is 2016. A time in history where we have access to information more easily, from more sources than ever before. It is a matter of ease to google it, to bing it or whatever other search engine you choose to use. We can do this from laptop, smart phone, tablet, desktop computer, eReader, smartwatch.
Never before has it been so easy to access quality reliable evidence based information about just about anything. Never before has this been the case and yet still it seems so many people are easily swayed by snake oil sellers, and purveyors of pseudo science and fear.
Still so many hope against hope, even when it need not be.
We hope against hope for a miracle cure for cancer, for autism, for whatever the thing is that we wish not to be. We hope that a little white pill will cure-all ills. A miracle solution that is the cure-all of everything. Regardless of the science we seem just as vulnerable as when the travelling purveyors pulled their wagons behind horses all those years ago.
Take for example autism. There are a range of different snake oil solutions that are foisted upon families of autistic children. Against all reason and logic parents are convinced to feed their kids bleach by mouth and by enema. They are conned into believing that this is required because their child’s autism is apparently caused by parasitic worms in their guts. They foolishly believe that the intestine linings that are passed with their stools are in fact worms. They are convinced to not tell anyone they are using the treatment.
In a time when we have such access to quality evidence based information this so-called miracle cure is even a thing? How can this be?
The vaccination debate is another case in point. Even though we have seen diseases such us smallpox, measles etc effectively eradicated the need for vaccination is questioned. Conspiracy theorists warn us of government and big pharma trying to poison us and control us. Parent groups scream about personal choice. The anti-vaccination movement is a blight on society that purvey lies and falsehoods with every breath they take.
In terms of autism this movement has managed to convince many that it is vaccinations that cause autism. This is primarily on the so-called findings of Andrew Wakefield from a 1998 study where he claimed a link. A study of 12 children. The fact that multiple million children studied and his findings unable to be replicated even once are apparently easily ignored.
The fact that Wakefield was discredited, stripped of his right to practice medicine and shown to have falsified his study, and to have a conflict of interest is lost on the anti-vaccination brigade.
Unfortunately, for as long as the negative narrative from autism organisations such as Autism Speaks calling for cure and finding the cause, speaking of disease and disorder parents will be vulnerable to the lies and deceit of both the snake-oil sellers and the anti-vaccination brigade. This is true to the point that parents are heard to claim they would rather their child have cancer than autism.
Still we hope against hope when no hope is needed.
I say no hope is needed, and I mean no hope for a cure, obviously we hope for the very best outcomes for our children. We hope they will be able to use their skills to achieve their dreams. But we don’t need hope for a cure. Talk of cure is simple stupidity. It is stupidity because autism is not a disease. It is not a disease so it doesn’t need a cure.
Autism is a neurological difference. A different brain development. It is not abnormal, it is different. Different does not equal abnormal.
And how does one define normal anyway?
Normal is a fiction. No one is normal.
Many are what is termed neurotypical, it’s not normal it is just typical. Typical in the way their brains or neurology is wired.
Clearly it is time to halt the narrative of disease and disorder and time to cement into public discourse the narrative of difference and diversity.
Just as being left-handed is not a disease or disorder, neither is being autistic.
Imagine the situation were reversed and neurotypical people were constantly sidelined and separated from everyday society because of their neurology. Imagine if their was a major narrative calling for a cure to Neurotypical Spectrum Disorder.
I am a proud autistic man. I am not diseased. I am not disordered. But….
Yes. I am wired differently. I am different and I am not less.
I’m hoping against hope. Hoping for a change in narrative. Hoping for a halt in the search for a cure and a surge in seeking to provide needed services to family. Hoping for inclusion and an end to ableism of autistics. Hoping to never again hear of children bleached. Hoping to never again here of children locked in cages in classrooms.
Yes I am hoping against hope for a triumph of diversity and difference. For true acceptance of the neurodiversity paradigm. For true acceptance of autistics as an integral permanent part of society.
Forget the awareness campaigns it’s time for acceptance campaigns. No more lighting it up blue and autism walks. Instead advocate for accommodations for autistic children, advocate for jobs for autistics, if you are an employer I challenge you to employ an autistic next time you have a vacancy.
Advocate for Autistic rights.
Autistic rights are human rights!