Saturday, May 9, 2009

Katie Wright and the Autism Time Machine

On the surface it would appear Katie Wright and I have much in common. We each have a son (of nearly identical age) who is autistic, and we each have been less than impressed with the goings-on at IMFAR 2009. Perhaps I should consider ringing up Ms. Wright so that we might share our similarities over a cup of coffee.

Except...we share no similarities.

In the first place, one of us has a son who is regarded as being as near to perfect as he can possibly be, a true blessing to be enjoyed for every single one of his traits, including—and indeed, most especially—his autistic traits. The other has a son who seems to be regarded as little more than a set of inflamed bowels.

And as for IMFAR, although I can certainly agree with Ms. Wright's assessment that IMFAR's scientists have become stuck in a kind of treacherous time warp—a spinning of the same gerbil's wheel again and again and again—my suggestion would be not to set the time machine back to an era of voodoo and the traveling medicine show, but instead to try something astonishingly new, to envision autistic individuals as people not disordered or diseased, to respect them for exactly who they are, to encourage them to thrive as they were autistically meant to be. Since this approach has not been tried in the past or in the present, I think it would be safe to call it a treatment for the future.

But Ms. Wright would rather we overthrow all the stale neurobiology, genetic studies, mice models, pharmacology, and all the rest, by substituting instead chelation alchemy, lupron elixers, anti-vaccination incantations and biomedical binging. “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog”—that would appear to be the formula most befitting Ms. Wright's logic and modernity.

As I suggested to Mark Blaxill, that other Age of Autism denizen, if Ms. Wright really wishes to gain some insight into why the autism community—and I mean all the autism community—seems to be so stuck in time and unable to forge ahead, perhaps she should consider how much she actually has in common with all those IMFAR scientists she mistakenly supposes are on the opposing team. What she and they share are the conviction that autism is a dreadful disease, a terrible disorder, something in need of being cured, destroyed, eradicated, and if Ms. Wright really wishes to know why the entire autism community has become so irretrievably mired in a thickening mud, there can be found her backwards looking answer.

So instead of ringing up Ms. Wright for that cup of coffee chat, I would rather leave her with just a simple message: the substitution of one set of atrocities with a different set of atrocities is not the same thing as making progress.

No comments: