Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Autism Politics

I've only seen clips of Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Benefit for Autism Education", hosted live by Jon Stewart. They didn't talk much about autism in the footage I've watched, and I wonder how they represented it in the whole show. Anyone care to opine on it?

A charity event for autism sounds great, doesn't it? Well, it's more complicated than that. I doubt that any of the stars in Sunday's show even know about this complexity.

Other than the whole debate about whether or not vaccines are to blame for this condition, there's a debate between those who want to find a cure and those who advocate the acceptance of autistics as they are. This debate is about almost every aspect of autism:

  • Should autism be cured? Or if autism is just an alternative form of neurological wiring, maybe there should only be intervention and treatment to make autistics' lives easier, like speech therapy and teaching certain social skills.
  • What do you call autism? Many would find "disease" to be offensive. Even the term "developmental disorder", which I think is the most accurate, is unacceptable to some of those who see autism as part of humanity's "neurodiversity". According to this view, autism is different, but there is nothing wrong with it. "Condition" is probably the least controversial description.
  • People with autism or autistics? Both terms seem the same to me, but there are certain groups who have a preference. By the way, on this issue, the divide is not always along the neurodiversity/cure line.
  • Who should speak for autism? Parents of autistics or the autistics themselves? Yes, indeed, some autistics can speak for themselves, whether verbally or through writing. Autism Speaks, one of the organizations receiving money from the show, claims to speak for autism despite the fact that they aren't autistics themselves. Autism Speaks has distributed a video that pretty much shows autism as hell. I'm not sure people with autism would appreciate that.

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