Monday, 19 August 2013

Autism is NOT the new "orange".

This hateful diatribe was surreptiously left by a pathetic creature.  She claims to be a mother.  From the vile tone of her letter, one might also suspect she's a "pro-life" zealot, one who wants government to police women's uterus as though they were public property, but doesn't want her taxes supporting pre-natal health care, or anything in support of children's well-being once they're born and dependent upon adults' care.

Since the letter's writer suggests that the child she calls a hindrance should be euthanized and "whatever non retarded body parts he possesses" be donated to science, his family have contacted the police to investigate, and hopefully, lay charges.

Autism is a different way of being human.  Scientific and educational research is evolving; neurological differences that once were labeled "abnormal" are now accepted as one manifestation of how the brain is organized.  Adaptions are still necessary for autistic persons to be be able to navigate a world that is geared to the neurotypical.

The ugliness of that woman's letter harkens to the violence and persecution that albino folks still suffer in regions of the world, for example.

Superstition and ignorance are an affliction; autism is not.

Grand merci to @matttbastard for link to news story.

ADDED by fh: Reaction from someone who knows whereof she speaks.

UPDATE:  People rally from all around Oshawa and Newcastle in support of the autistic boy targeted by the letter, and his family.


Niles said...

given the spate of abuse out there in tweeter and boggy posting land, I m shocked an anonymous letter is getting any law investigation. shocked in a good way. I don't suppose this has any implication for e-threats does it? Or is it becuz the target is a juvenile?

Luna said...

Fuck. I knew I shouldn't have read it. :( SO MANY TEARS.

deBeauxOs said...

What is wrong with people?

This women is probably fine with the ideologically-driven decisions that the Harper government has made that will harm her family and damage their health, security, housing and so on.

But a grandmother cares for her grandson in her house and in her yard for a few hours a day and this woman feels entitled to direct her rage and hatred towards a child, to suggest he would be better off dead.

If I had to choose between a woman spouting vile threats and an autistic adolescent, I would vote the former off the island and perhaps even off the planet.

Sol said...

As long as we're on about parenting, I really have to wonder about that awful woman's parents ...

Purple library guy said...

Vile, horrible stuff. It boggles my mind how hateful people can be.

I kind of don't agree about autism not being an affliction though. But I don't see what that has to do with it. There are myriad different afflictions, of greater and lesser weight, right down to trivial ones like my lower back pain or my difficulty remembering names. There's no moral or normative significance to that; having an affliction doesn't make you less valuable, less an end in yourself, less a protagonist in your own story, as it were.

Some afflictions come with side benefits of some sort, or lead to the creation of communities with value, but that doesn't make them stop being afflictions. So for instance there are those who worry about cures for various causes of deafness, fearing that the close-knit community of deaf people will fade away if people stop being deaf. Well, yeah, they will, and that's bad, but deafness is still an affliction; being able to hear is a function, a useful and often beautiful one, not being able to hear is a failure of that.
Autism involves the brain not being able to do certain things, or not being able to do them well. Sometimes there will be compensations, the neurons will get put to use for different jury-rigged functions, a person unable to do one thing will concentrate on other things and get good at them. But it still represents a failure in the brain, and I would much rather uncover the cause of the recent drastic rise in the incidence of autism and do something about it so that people are less likely to be afflicted by it. It is not just a different way of being any more than missing a leg is just a different way of being, and treating it as if it were is problematic in that it implies one shouldn't do any research into prevention or cure.

I don't think we should be pushed into the untenable position that a problem isn't a problem out of the fear that admitting it's a problem would open the way to discrimination, prejudice, hate. People will discriminate over anything. To me it's more robust to say having afflictions, problems, handicaps or what have you has no bearing on whether an individual is an individual, on their moral worth or what have you.

Námo Mandos said...

plg: Ability and disability are complicated categories. If it is possible to cure deafness completely and forever, does it mean that Gallaudet University should go away?

deBeauxOs said...

With autism and the Asperger's spectrum, those categories are further muddled by neurotypical bias, though in the future, I suspect that NT folks may be in the minority.

Many exceptional traits, abilities, potential are genetically linked to autism. "Eliminating" - not curing, as it's not a disease - autism would also destroy those.

Purple library guy said...

Mandos: In a word, yes. Or adjust its curriculum at any rate. Or reinvent it as a museum. I'm sure it's an amazing institution, but who would you be telling to stay deaf despite a cure existing so that wonderful institution could be perpetuated?
To take an extreme example, I understand there was some beautiful caring, sharing and generally wonderful social behaviour in many leper colonies. Should we then refuse to cure leprosy so we can keep the colonies?

deBeauxOs, how can anything be "genetically linked to autism"? Nobody knows what causes autism! There certainly isn't some kind of clear genetic marker accounting for the majority of cases (or for the rapid rise in incidence--what, are certain genes appearing spontaneously in millions of lineages just in the last generation or so?)
In fact, despite all the hype there are only a few diseases for which any great degree of genetic determination or even linkage has been established. My understanding is that, past the usual suspects (Cystic Fibrosis, Parkinson's and a couple of others) there has been remarkably little luck getting serious genetic correlation to stand up. Tentative results are always being announced (with the media largely ignoring the 'tentative' part), but then failing to be replicated. I'm pretty sure autism isn't one of that few.
But let's imagine there was a genetic link between autism and some instances of some exceptional traits. Again, the frequency of autism is rapidly rising. Clearly it's possible to have the genes without having autism itself, since they were present in previous generations. So if it's truly a genetic link, as in the traits are linked to the genes not the syndrome, a cure is not a problem; the exception traits should carry on fine in people with the genes who have been cured of actual autism.

On the third hand, say your exceptional traits are not genetically linked, but actually linked to actual autism, which is IMO more plausible. Well, I'm a parent. If my kid was about to be born and there was something we could be doing that would ensure the kid would not be autistic, and you said to me "Don't do it because we hope if he/she is born autistic he/she might also have some kind of exceptional traits," I would tell you in no uncertain terms to fuck off. I'm pretty confident most parents would.

Now Asperger's is a very fuzzy thing. There are degrees of "Asperger's syndrome" which to me seem to be just an overdiagnosis of "Mild social cluelessness and introversion" or something. Kind of like the relentless hyping of "ADHD" among children, otherwise known as "Being impatient with sitting on one's butt for hours at a time being told boring stuff". Might be nice if we could have a massive pseudomedical industry devoted to the problem of "being an asshole" instead, complete with impenetrable jargon.

There's a lot of overmedicalization going on. But that doesn't mean all kinds of crazy are just being different. I don't buy your term "neurotypical bias". It seems to me that it airbrushes away differences that are not just a matter of going another way, but instead represent major failures of stuff to work that ought to. Full blown autism is a serious dysfunction. I think the impulse to refuse to acknowledge that comes basically from fear that acknowledging it would represent a failure to appreciate autistic individuals as much as others. I think that's misleading. We can appreciate kids born with Aids and try to cure them, we can appreciate people with autism too.

Námo Mandos said...

I used to kind of sort of think like that when I was much younger, but later I found that many members of the deaf community view e.g. the invention of cochlear implants as an attempt at perpetuating an at-minimum-cultural genocide on them, and while it's not cut and dry, the case is not very hard to make. Deaf people, given access to a reasonable quantity of educational resources, function very well as deaf in the wider society.

I occasionally fulfill a pedagogical role and have taught very-autistic-but-high-functioning students, ie, very much non-neurotypical but still teachable. (Social adaptation and teachability seem to be two different axes of autism.) I would say to some extent that---for some of them---it really is a different way of being that is disadvantaged only because it is a minority, and one must interact on the terms and mentality of the majority.

However I realize that there are some very non-socially-adapted autistic people who require continuous supervision and care, and treatment may be required for their own safety, at least.

Námo Mandos said...

In the case of one student I taught, he *did* have some mildly disruptive behaviours, by the way---odd postures, getting up and feeling the chalkboard, occasional peculiar noises, the whole works. But they're only disruptive because of the conventional learning format we are generally used to using. He was a very good student with excellent grades and I suspect a good career now, if he could find a workplace into which he could fit.

deBeauxOs said...

"Autism involves the brain not being able to do certain things, or not being able to do them well."

That statement could also apply to people who are unable to learn how to "control" their anger, their aggressivity, their libido, and a number of other extreme actions associated with agonic behaviour and aberrant adrenaline-fuelled impulses.

Most manifestations of such behaviour are held up as admirable since they result in financial, sports-related, political or military "successes" though often disastrous in terms of harm and damage it causes to many people.

For those with that neural disposition, if taught how to harness it and use it wisely, it may be not be destructive.

Many people thus afflicted may end up in prison, unless of course they're Wall Street operatives, CEOs, generals, or presidents of important countries.

Post a Comment