Springingtiger's Blog


Battle Lines

And so Autism Awareness Month has begun and already the battle lines are being drawn between the various factions of the Autism Community – a misnomer if ever there were one! – this is sad. There seem to be several groups, some of which overlap. The two main groups are obviously parents of autistics and autistics, but within these are those who consider autism as an evil that must be eliminated and those – particularly those of us who are autistic – who believe that it is merely what makes us who we are and it has both its good and bad aspects, but we don’t want a cure. There are a group of so called professionals whose aim appears to be to make money from the families of autistics, and those who are genuinely supporting autistics by providing services and serious scientific research. Sadly the different groups are digging in to spend a month presenting the world with the edifying spectacle of autism advocates belittling each other and, in some cases, the autistics they claim to champion.

This is an arena in which I can claim no moral high ground I am as prone as anyone to push my position aggressively and, sometimes, at the expense of good manners. As an autistic I may be expected to hold a position obsessively, in this I find we are actually no different from neurotypicals. Perhaps,if there is a difference it is that we will argue our position logically whereas our opponents are unreasonable. There are people using autism as a marketing opportunity, however this is not always a bad thing. A number of people selling autism related products are the parents of autistics who are sharing a solution they have found to a problem related to autism, further if they have an autistic child they need all the money they can get. Of course some of the people marketing autism related products are simply out to make money, but we live in a capitalist society and trade is the norm. If businessmen did not seek to profit by satisfying a need it might not be satisfied; it’s a lousy system , but its what we’ve got. There are also people peddling unscientific and unproven treatments to desperate parents, and the debate around these treatments can get very unpleasant, as is since often the way when money is concerned.

It is right that we should debate robustly, particularly when lives may be at risk. It may be a little over optimistic of me to ask people to respect empirical fact, many people seem incapable of separating proven fact from anecdote. However I do think I have a right and a duty to ask that we respect each other. It can be difficult when someone clings doggedly to an untenable position, or evinces a fatuous argument. However we will make little progress collectively if we cannot learn a little patience, if we don’t learn to listen and respect the sincerity with which someone holds an opinion. If we must challenge their views, let it be only their errors and not their identity. That someone’s opinions are wrong does not make them wrong as a person; that they are capable of believing something stupid doesn’t mean they are stupid. That someone argues with me doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong…actually it does, obviously! All I ask is that we put our collective goal to get the best for autistic people before our need to be “right”and or to win. Come on, come on, let’s get together!

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