Autistic People Are Not Allowed to Feel Things Parents Don't Like


Last week I posted about Andrew Solomon's book Far From the Tree, which is about parents who have children who are different in a significant way.  Writing for The Huffington Post, Lisa Belkin uses the words of an autistic adult quoted in the book to explain the author's point of view:

"If we give a deaf person hearing, are we releasing him into fuller selfhood, or compromising his integrity?" he wonders. "Does reforming a criminal's mind give him a more authentic self, or just one that suits the rest of us? Most parents suppose that an authentic nonautistic self is hidden inside autistic people, but (many) with autism do not see anyone else inside them, any more than I would see a straight person -- or a pro football player -- locked away within me."

Or, as he quotes one adult with autism as saying :

When parents say 'I wish my child did not have autism,' what they are really saying is 'I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (nonautistic) child instead.'...This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will ceause to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.

And Ellen Painter Dollar at the Christian blog Patheos needs no more than those words to condemn the entire neurodiversity movement.  See, she and her daughter have a disorder that causes fragile bones, so she must know just what it is like to be told every day that your brain is wrong and must be qualified to sit in judgement of us:

This quote made my gut clench, along with my teeth, because it ascribes an intent to parents that is utterly foreign to my own experience as the parent of a physically and genetically different child (although in our case, she fell quite close to the tree, seeing as she inherited her brittle bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta, directly from me).

I want to be generous to the person who said this of parents (his or her parents, or parents in general?…I wonder). I know that autism is very different than the bone disorder I and my daughter live with. It affects personality and social interaction, while ours affects bones. Note, however, that I did not say our disorder “merely” affects bones. I refuse the easy categorization of physical disabilities as fundamentally different than other types of disorders, as “merely” physical, for I know firsthand how tangled up body, mind, spirit, and soul really are. My three dozen fractures, crooked spine, mismatched legs, and scars have made me who I am, in private and in public, inside and outside, just as surely as an autistic person’s inability to read body language or disinterest in others’ emotional reactions have made her who she is. And I have no doubt that my daughter’s dozen fractures, along with the despair and anger she feels every time they occur, have made and are making her who she is and will become.

She claims that she wants to understand autistic people who reject a cure, but she is lying.  The way to understand people is to learn about them, not write  blog posts condeming them:

I want to understand those who feel that a desire to cure, to alleviate suffering, is an assault on identity. Intellectually and even, to an extent, emotionally, I can understand why they feel so. But I also don’t want to sit by silently as every ancient measure with which we define good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust is sacrificed to the cause of acceptance. In our well-meaning zeal to affirm unique identity, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that when bones and brains and psyches don’t work as they were intended to, many things of value are lost even as other things of value are gained—and that it hurts to have bones or a brain or a psyche that doesn’t work as it ought, and not only because of other people’s inability to understand or accept.

People actually interested in the very long history of autistic people and the word "cure" can read this