Saturday, July 22, 2006

Autism Lit

On the surface, this essay is an overview of recent books written mostly by parents about their children with autism. But it is also a criticism of many of the popular "causes" and "cures" for autism. I know it is sure to be controversial, and I usually try to stay out of this fray. But I think the essay is worth reading, no matter which side of the "war" you are on. It pains me to see parents of children with autism divided over these issues. We should be sharing our insights, resources, laughter and tears and the political infighting reduces us all. The last two paragraphs say it so well:

" 'Acceptance is all’ writes Charlotte Moore, whose account of her two autistic sons George and Sam has recently been republished in paperback. Perhaps this is why that, of all the parental accounts, hers is the one in which the children themselves emerge most vividly as personalities, as children with autism rather than as the autistic children of parents preoccupied with their own predicament. Acceptance does not mean falsely celebrating the different individuality of the autistic child, nor does it mean adopting a fatalistic posture that nothing can be done. But it does mean parents and others accepting and loving the autistic child as another human being, and it means accepting that the quest for a miracle cure is not likely to be helpful for their autistic child, for any other children they might have (Ollie and Daniel, like Joe and George and Sam, and my son, all have long-suffering siblings), or for themselves.
Parents feel sadness and anger when their child is diagnosed as autistic, but in time they usually stop railing at the world and direct their energies into strategies that will benefit their child and their families. Campaigns that channel parents’ energies into the pursuit of wonder cures, or into futile confrontations with doctors, scientists or other professionals, or into litigation over vaccines, offer illusory hopes - and targets for blame and recrimination. At best they divert and dissipate already overstretched parental energies. At worst they encourage an enduring rage that is likely to compound family difficulties, to intensify isolation and lead ultimately to demoralisation. "

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