This week sees the annual gathering of autism researchers known as IMFAR (International Meeting for Autism Research). These conventional affairs always carry the danger of being rather dreary occasions, but judging from the 2009 program guide, it would seem a spirited attempt has been made to jazz up this year's event by casting it into a bacchanalic celebration of everything autistically dysfunctional—noxious neurobiology, genetic degeneracy, molecular malfeasance, morbid comorbidity—a veritable gorge-fest of autism as disorder and disease.
I am uncertain when science will eventually turn in favor of autistic individuals, and be no longer lined up against them—certainly not soon enough for my own taste—but when science does begin to make that turn, I hope the names of Lord, Bear, Scherer, etc. are not then quickly forgotten. Mass ignorance is no excuse for the atrocities being spewed forth by such researchers, for indeed, where do we think mass ignorance originates. From the very beginning, there were unmistakable signs that autism-as-defect was inaccurate, harmful and prejudicial, and researchers such as Lord, Bear, Scherer, etc.—no matter what excuses they may happen to give—they have simply chosen to ignore those signs.
When science eventually does make that turn, let us have the courage to look back in a kind of sickening wonder, look back on that lugubrious jubilee known as IMFAR 2009.