In a certain sense I of course agree with the many responses given to my recent post that expressed extreme displeasure with that post's choice of words. The use of words such as “cure” and “eradication” to describe individuals and their characteristics is always offensive, insulting, and inexcusable. Count me as guilty. Express your outrage. It's a reasonable thing to do.
But of course I did not choose either those words or the target of those words idly. Ms. Stagliano, her supporters and Autism Speaks all routinely employ words such as “cure” and “eradication” to describe autistic individuals and their characteristics, and the application of those words against autistic individuals is no less offensive, insulting and outrageous than in any other instance. I only wish that those who are so quick to take umbrage at my remarks about Ms. Stagliano would be as equally quick to take umbrage when she and others apply such terms to autistic individuals. If that were to happen more frequently, I would gladly accept any humbling that is my due.
It is interesting to note that a similar course of events has already played out for the most part in the homosexual community. Forty to fifty years ago it was a routine practice to describe homosexuals as in need of a cure and to target their characteristics for eradication. Homosexual individuals quite rightly took offense to such terms and ideas, fought long and hard to overcome them, and today such phrases and efforts have all but disappeared from the culture. The few holdouts who continue to spew mindless invective against homosexuality are now widely recognized as being bigoted and narrow-minded; they are actively spoken out against, they are no longer tacitly approved. (And if someone were to suggest to these homophobic individuals that they were the ones in need of a cure and it was their intolerance that was in need of eradication, you can be sure it would be they and their supporters who would be the first to holler about being insulted and offended.)
If one wants to be treated with respect and dignity, then the place to begin is by treating others with respect and dignity—all others. This is a lesson the autism advocacy community is badly in need of learning, because the number one issue facing that community is its ongoing lack of respect and understanding for autistic individuals. The whole point of my original post was to impress upon the members of that community their need to treat autistic individuals with more acceptance and to see the situation more often from the perspective of autistic individuals. My rhetoric might seem a little too shocking and harsh at times, but if this culture is ever going to rise to the level of treating its autistic members with the dignity and respect they deserve, the autism advocacy community is going to have to be disturbed out of its currently offensive, insulting, and mindless ways. Maybe I go too far at times, but sometimes it's of more value to be a prod than to be polite.