OK – before I start its important for me to confess to a conflict of interest in this matter. As a fresh faced young man, Sigourney Weaver formed part of my Godess Trifecta in that I lusted after her, Gillian Anderson and Geena Davis with equal amounts of teenage/twenties lechery.
Ms Weaver has recently finished filming Snowcake in which she plays an autistic woman whos daughter dies in a car crash. My good friend, the incomparable Autism Diva has written a piece about it here.
During an interview, Ms Weaver said:
“I think we have to begin to see it [autism] as a gift,” she told a news conference. “We may not understand what it’s there for, but if you’re in the presence of someone with autism you learn so much. You learn how to play, you learn how to see things, you learn how to experience things and how jarring the world is.”
I have to say that despite my teenage carnal desires for Ms Weaver (OK, OK, I still have them) I don’t agree with her stating that ‘autism is a gift’. I don’t agree with it for the same reason that I don’t agree with the ‘autism is hell/death sentence/evil/etc’ viewpoint. Both views, taken literally, are misleading and superficial. Its my opinion that autism simply ‘is’. To be autistic is to be autistic. To be right-handed is to be right-handed. To be gay is to be gay. None of the states of being have moral or ethical states associated intrinsically with them and they don’t, in my view, need that status thrust on them either.
That said, its difficult to disagree with the positivity
my future bride Ms Weaver brings to the state of being autistic and how we as NT’s can relate to it positively.
As ever though, there’s a bunch of literalists who still can’t see the woods for the trees:
A gift to whom? Surely not the person with autism, or his or her family. Perhaps actresses in search of roles? If autism is a gift, what’s terminal brain cancer? Hitting the Lotto?
…If I sent her a letter I think that it would be along the lines of telling her how very happy it would make me to have her experience this ‘gift’ in her own life, ie, by injecting HER with enough toxins to destroy her body and mind.
Ms. Weaver is no doubt confused over the junk label “high functioning autism.” It is not too late for her to personally experience the joy of autism. I’m sure she could find one of those mercury lusting doctors to shoot her up enough Thimerosal for her to join the bandwagon of the neurologically injured. OK, that’s my sarcastic take.
What a bunch of me-me’s. These are the people who refer to themselves, with no apparent irony, as the autism community.
However, there was one great post on EoH which I have pleasure in quoting in full:
Well, even though I know this is gonna open a can of worms, I agree with her. When I’m in the presence of people with autism, I do learn a great deal. I learn acceptance of others who I would not have accepted as people only a few years ago. I learn that the person with autism has just as much dignity and right to be respected as anyone else. I also learn what pure love is and how scary it is for people with autism to trust others because they are often ridiculed by others. I teach my daughter every day that having autism should be source of pride; to contrast, it certainly isn’t something she should be ashamed
of. Yes we work on healing her body, but I’m proud of her and want her to have pride in herself regardless of treatment status. Because people with autism can suffer with horrid medical conditions and the people who care from them suffer does not mean people with autism are not wonderful people. From what I read, that’s the meaning I got from her, that people with autism need love, respect, and acceptance.
Debi, if you ever read this, you may be alarmed to know that you’re frighteningly close to espousing something very very close to what I think of as neurodiversity. Good on you for seeing the bigger picture.
Then we swung back to comedy:
Well, she’s just an actress…and unfortunately, we place too much value on the opinions of actors in this country.
Something of an irony when one considers that in the EoH file repository is a document that contains the sentence:
Finally, for the ultimate inspiration, here is a video of actor Lou Diamond Phillips introducting a cast of recovered autistic children
Many people on the EoH list suggested emailing the films writer Angela Pell to let her know that she obviously had no idea about the hell of autism. Apparently they missed the bit where Ms Pell is described as having an autistic son and therefore knows just as well as they do both the lowpoints and the highpoints of parenting an autistic child.
And you are the parent of a child diagnosed with autism, everyday you are immersed in your child’s life and you deal
with the hardships that come with autism. You have a right to say that. Weaver doesn’t. Weaver is talking about what other people can get out of people with autism. She is not part of our community, she hasn’t paid her dues.
Just to reiterate for the hard of comprehension – Ms Weaver is an actress, playing a role written for her by someone _just like you_ – the parent of an autistic child. All the words she utters were put in her mouth by the writer. Her beliefs have come from interacting with Ms Pell, Ms Pell’s son and people like him – y’know – autistic people.
In the post quoted above Gilmore goes on to say:
Our children are gifts and we should be grateful for them exactly the way they are. This is exactly what the neurodiversity types are saying.
Not quite John. I don’t consider autism a gift or a curse – it simply is what it is. Also, no one is saying you should ignore bad situations. What I’m saying as someone who respects the state of being autistic is that _that’s_ whats important – respect. You don’t have to be grateful for anything other than the fact that you managed to have a healthy living child. Some people don’t even get that. Whining on about ‘its not fair’ is pointless.
Then there’s the usual mistaken identities:
Sigourney Weaver is more than welcome to join me at the IEP meeting at my son’s school. Maybe she can make them understand that my son has been granted the “gift” of a comprehension level of a preschooler when he is 9 years old.
I’m not sure I would consider the way other children treat my son “really good fun”. I wonder if he’s having fun when they pull his hat over his eyes or just grab it off and throw it as far as they can. It’s not “really good fun” for me to try to explain to him that these children are not his friends. Apparently it is “really good fun” for these children that my son does have “high-functioning autism” Maybe Ms. Weaver and Ms. Pell would like to take a trip to Long Island and see “the gift” my son enjoys every day.
Both tragic, horrifying situations but *not the fault of autism*. One is the fault of a schools ignorance and one is the fault of bad parenting by the people Cathie’s son has to deal with.
We really do have to find a way to move away from demonising a state of being that simply is what it is. The fact that its still poorly understood, badly catered to and swept aside is something that parents should be campaigning about – not getting caught up in fictional causative arguments.