Neurodiversity in action

6 Sep

On….(wait for it)…..the Age of Autism blog.

Have you recovered yet?

A new guest piece has been posted on AoA from a student who has Asperger’s Syndrome named Jake Crosby.

Its a very well written piece and Mr Crosby expresses his viewpoints very well. However, I don’t agree with many of them at all although I respect his right as a self-advocate to say them. He begins thusly:

These are the ways I have been impacted by my AS; I can’t think of anything positive it has done other than my sense of accomplishment after overcoming some of its challenges.

Well, you are in good company! I have heard many of the autistic bloggers on the Hub say exactly the same thing. Of course, some go further and say that their right to be who they are and live as they are within a sometimes less than tolerant society is also gratifying. I wonder if Mr Crosby feels the same.

However, a small, new camp is emerging from within the Autistic community of Aspies who believe AS and even Autism in general is a great thing.

Hmmm, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone say autism is a ‘great thing’ with no form of context. I’ve seen it simply referred to as part of who someone is and that it (as an entity) has no properties. In other words, its neither great, nor terrible, it simply is what it is.

I’d also like to educate Mr Crosby about this ‘small new camp’ he refers to. It is neither small, nor new and nor indeed does it refer solely to Aspergers – or even autism. Its first use dates back to 1997 – a year before the emergence of the autism/vaccine hypotheses. It now encompasses tens of thousands of people worldwide and has widened to include people of varying neurological differences such as OCD, Tourettes, Dyspraxia, Dyscalcula, Manic Depression (chest bump) and a multitude of others. See ‘Mad Pride’ for example. I don’t believe any of us are saying that we do not live with a disability. What I gather from conversations with others like me is that the word ‘disabililty’ does not define or limit our existence. That there is good as well as bad and that nothing in life is as black and white as Mr Crosby sadly wants to see it.

Mr Crosby makes a variety of intelligent challenges:

This politically correct group of people says that Autism is not a disorder, but a “way of life.” They deny that any environmental factors such as mercury and vaccines could have caused Autism and they claim they were meant to be Autistic. Most of all, they rail against any potential for a “cure,” and see wiping out Autism as synonymous with wiping out the people themselves. While there are many mildly Autistic people like me who are busy trying to overcome our challenges as much as we can and severely Autistic people who are struggling to even speak a word, this crowd is getting more and more vocal about their staunchly pro-Autism views.

Again, Mr Crosby is attempting to paint life as black and white. Autism _is_ a disorder. It is also a way of life. I also know of at least one neurodiversity advocate who staunchly believes vaccines cause autism, although my personal opinion based on all available evidence is that it does not.

I personally don’t rail against a cure. I have no opinion on one since one does not exist. I know Alex Plank who runs Wrong Planet – a very large online Asperger’s community – feels the same. In 2006, the actor Stephen Fry made a documentary about manic depression. I’m sure if one visited any number of Torrent sites one would find it. At the end of it, he asked all his interview subjects a question: if you could press a button that would remove your manic depression, would you. the vast majority said ‘no’.

Sadly, Mr Crosby’s piece then degenerates into the core anti-vaccinationism we all know exists on Age of Autism:

Despite this, these people are determined to see AS as a positive advance in nature, not a negative impact from toxicity or any other cause. When confronted with the emerging information that the 6000% increase in Autism is related to poisons in vaccines that are overused, they instantly say there’s “no evidence,” citing the pharmaceutical/CDC party line. Similarly, they ignore mountains of independent studies that show the link to Autism just as the CDC has. While the “neurodiversity” advocates and the pharma-goons clearly have separate agendas, they act similarly.

With all due respect to Mr Crosby, these views and statistics are ridiculous and not based in any kind of reality or science. There are in fact, no reputable studies that link vaccines to autism. Unfortunately, a goodly remainder of his piece carries on in this vein. he then reiterates his main theme:

If only they would stop pretending Autism is in any way beneficial, and realize that their true strengths are who they really are, and that their disability is not. I can’t speak for all, but as someone with Autism I can say these people with my same condition who claim to speak for me do not. I do not believe these people speak for the majority of people with AS. No one else I have known with Autism has actually said they liked having it and I have yet to actually meet these people who do.

Mr Crosby seems to be missing the point of self-advocacy. To _some_ autistic self-advocates, their autism _is_ beneficial. To Mr Crosby, it seems it is not. It is largely a matter of perception and choice in my opinion. I have no idea who (if anyone) speaks for the majority of people with Asperger’s and I’m not sure it really matters that much. What matters is that all people with all forms of disability have a right to express their opinions and share their experiences as those who live the daily reality of living with those conditions.

It is great to hear autistic self advocates like Mr Crosby speak out – particularly on a site like Age of Autism where the views of autistic self advocates have never been welcomed before – and aside from the rather embarrassing and unnecessary sections of his post regarding vaccines, he makes some good and interesting points.

However, I feel that he has, like many before him and no doubt many after, misunderstood what neurodiversity is. I’d gladly have a conversation with him regarding neurodiversity and what it actually is, who it affects and what I think it means to me and my family.

53 Responses to “Neurodiversity in action”

  1. Happy to be Autistic May 14, 2014 at 05:02 #

    Autism IS a great thing in all respects. No need of context.

    Also, Autism is not a disorder. I wouldn’t change any part of it, through “treatments,” modifications, or otherwise. It is a way of being and a way of life. It is a unique neurology and I hope that more and more children get to experience life being born as Autistic.

    I am an Autistic self-advocate, and this is the nature of my views. I love the concept of Neurodiversity, though I don’t agree with all ND advocates, as I DO see the reality of Autism as a great and wonderful thing.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 15, 2014 at 00:35 #

      From my perspective autism is. It just is. I don’t think of it as a great thing. It just is. Autism is a disability. Disabilities shouldn’t be less or worse. It is much harder to live life with a disability. Harder, greater challenge, but I don’t see any purpose to try to make a value judgment either way.

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