home link

about me, meow link

edmund information link

contact link

cartoons link page, out of the katbox

autism link page

A Difference, not a Disease


I am related, by blood and by marriage, to a number of people with autism. I have friends on the Autism Spectrum. I probably have autism genes in me... most people do. Autism is largely, though not exclusively, an issue of genetics.* And for me, it is most definitely not a disease nor even a dysfunction. It is a difference. A difference from the standard format of brain wiring and chemicals. The most satisfying line I have ever seen about autism was on a t-shirt:

I am NOT a defective dog.
I am a perfectly good cat.

It’s not just that I like cats, it’s because I also like dogs, and the above really gets at the heart of the matter. Neither neuro-typicals (non autistic people) nor autists are inherently damaged or diseased or defective, in need of “fixing”. Both are just fine as what they are. What both groups need are understanding of each other, skills for coping with the other, and respect from and for the other.

That last is why I have not been a fan of the organization “Autism Speaks.” Despite the name, until quite recently they had not one single autistic person serving in their organization in any capacity, and certainly not on the board. Until recently, their entire mindset was that autism was a horrible destructive disease and it had to be stopped and autists “cured”; they did nothing to support autistic people or the families trying to find help – likeschools and therapies – for their autistic children. Autism Speaks does not have a good track record, so far, in respecting autistic people as whole, real, viable, people many of whom can speak for themselves, thank you very much.

On that front, I would like to draw people’s attention to a very remarkable organization:
The Golden Hat Foundation (www.goldenhatfoundation.org). You can learn the details of its origin at their site, but let me say here that at its core are a group of people who have been working devotedly to enable non-verbal autists to communicate in ways us neuro-typicals can understand. Their slogan is “honouring the intelligence of those with autism”, and they certainly do. Whether or not you have anyone close to you with autism, I highly recommend the documentary that started it all. I prefer its original Icelandic title of “Sunshine Boy” but even under the overly-dramatic title of “A Mother’s Courage” it is a genuinely moving record of a reality we all are better people for understanding.

An excellent site to go to both for information and for a plethora of links to other good sites is The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism (www.thinkingautismguide.blogspot.com). Most of their contributors are on the spectrum and they recently came out with a fabulous book that is useful for, as its subtitle says, “autistics, parents, and professionals.”

Whether you know it or not, you know at least one person and probably several on the autism spectrum. They are not damaged goods. Untold riches of invention, imagination, art, and simple love have come out of autistic people. The world would be a very much poorer place without them.

*Autism is absolutely NOT caused by vaccinations. The vaccine-notion has been dis-proven multiple times by multiple studies in multiple countries; the original proponent of this notion and his ‘methodology’ have been thoroughly debunked. If you love your kids and don’t want them, or other kids, to die from preventable diseases (that used to slaughter children, and adults, by the thousands) get them vaccinated.

That said, I’m quite willing to believe, because there seems to be sound scientific evidence for it, that there is a rise in autism cases (not just better diagnosis, which accounts for some but not all of the rise), and that this rise is caused by environmental factors. My personal suspect, simply because of the ubiquity of the substance, is plastics.