Fact sheet on Autism and Asperger's syndrome being disabilities or not


There is a very human tendency to see anyone as different to the norm as suffering from a disability. Until a few decades ago, homsexuals were defined by medical establishment as having an mental disorder. People in communist Russia were labeled in a similar way by doctors if they did not follow the 'correct' political views. People in the deaf community largely do not see themselves as having a disability, but simply as simply living in a different culture.


Any increasing number of adults on the autism spectrum are refusing to be classified as a disability, syndrome or disorder. They assert that autism is not a disorder, but a healthy variation in neurological hard-wiring. Some would assert that a cure for autism would destroy the original personality of the autistic person in a misguided attempt to replace them with a different (neurotypical) person.


Anti-cure perspective

The anti-cure perspective supports the model of autism that says that autism is a fundamental part of who the autistic person is and that autism is something that cannot be separated from the person. For this reason, some anti-cure autistics such as Jim Sinclair and Michelle Dawson prefer to be referred to as "autistics" or "autistic people" instead of "people with autism" or "people who have autism", because "person with autism" implies that autism is something that can be removed from the person.


Autistics with this perspective oppose the idea of a cure for autism because they see it as destroying the original personality of the autistic individual, forcing them to imitate neurotypical behavior (which they believe is unnatural to an autistic person), simply to make mainstream society feel less threatened by the presence of people who are different.


Anti-cure autistics believe quirks and uniqueness of autistic individuals should be tolerated as the differences of any minority group should be tolerated. When people talk about visions for a future where autism has been eradicated, anti-cure autistics usually see this as a wish for the end of their culture and way of being. Two autistic people with this perspective are Frank Klein and Jim Sinclair. Jim Sinclair has written an article titled Don't Mourn for Us which has been widely distributed over the Internet.


Anti-cure autistics say they wish they had fewer difficulties in life, and that they find some aspects of autism (like sensory issues) painful, but they do not want to have to sacrifice their personalities, values, and basic identities in order to make life easier. Anti-cure autistics ask that society become more tolerant and accommodating instead of pushing a cure. Anti-cure autistics say they are in favor of helping make the lives of autistic people easier, but they prefer the word "education" over "treatment", and they support programs that respect the individuality of the autistic person and only try to teach them things instead of change them, and they think that autism treatments should focus on giving autistics the means to overcome the limitations posed by autism, rather than curing it.


The anti-cure perspective is related to much of the controversy of the movement. Some parents of autistic children see autism as something that gives their children great difficulty in life and therefore see autism as a disorder. Parents with this perspective (which is sometimes called the pro-cure perspective in the autism rights movement) believe that a cure for autism is in their children's best interests because they see a cure as something that will reduce suffering. Sometimes, people with the pro-cure perspective have been disdainfully labeled "curebees."


Opposition to eliminating autism

Some people have the goal of eliminating autism completely, and want there to be a future with no autism. Since those in the autism rights movement see autism as a natural human variation and not a disorder, they are opposed to attempts to eliminate autism.


In particular, there is opposition to prenatal genetic testing of autism in unborn fetuses, which some believe might be possible in the future if autism is genetic. On February 23, 2005 Dr. Joseph Buxbaum of the Autism Genome Project at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine said there might be a prenatal test for autism in 10 years. The genetics of autism have proven to be extremely complex, however, to the relief of some autistic self-advocates. In any case, the Autistic Genocide Clock was started in response to this, which counts down to 10 years after Buxbaum made this announcement.


The public has started to debate the ethics involved in the possible elimination of a genotype that has liabilities and advantages, which may be seen as tampering with nature and natural selection in particular. MSNBC has an article titled Would you have allowed Bill Gates to be born? which deals with this issue.


Opposition to an alleged insulting view of autism

According to those in the autism rights movement, some people have an "insulting view" of autism. This "insulting view", to those in the movement, would be either comparing autism to a national tragedy or fatal disease, and sometimes claims that autism itself is a death sentence (autism cannot directly end a person's life, but the lack of fear of physical danger that sometimes results from it may cause autistics to do risky things). Therein, one of the goals of the movement is to expose and challenge those claims they find offensive. One such challenge was in 2003 when Michelle Dawson has protested the statement "autism is worse than cancer in many ways because the person with autism has a normal lifespan". However, even some "pro-cure" advocates believe some of these statements go too far.


Dr. Boyd Haley, chairman of the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky, recently termed autism "mad child disease" in speaking about children whose autism was allegedly caused by mercury poisoning. This term offended some autistics as well as some parents of autistic children. The "petition to defend the dignity of autistic citizens" was started by Neurodiversity.com in protest. In the same vein, autistic rights activists also reject terming the reported increase in the autistic population as an epidemic since the word epidemic implies autism is a disease.


One 2006 study by the Harvard School of Public Health addressed the cost to society of caring for individuals with autism. The study "broke down the total costs of autism into two components: direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include direct medical costs, such as physician and outpatient services, prescription medication, and behavioral therapies (estimated to cost, on average, more than US$29,000 per person per year) and direct non-medical costs, such as special education, camps, and child care (estimated to annually cost more than US$38,000 for those with lower levels of disability and more than US$43,000 for those with higher levels)".


Autistic rights activists, however, take offense to comparing the cost of autistics in society to those without autism. They believe that this gives the impression that autistics are a burden on tax payers and a waste of money. Autistics. Org compared such arguments to those used in support of the American eugenics movement. Also, some autistic activists believe these campaigns fail to account for what they see as valuable contributions the autistic phenotype has made towards the advancement of the human race. The activists argue that if autism were eradicated, it would cost a great deal more to have to do without the findings and inventions of people who may have been autistic, such as Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, for example.


Some autistic people are offended by the puzzle piece ribbon symbol used by pro-cure organizations, and have responded with their own images and slogans. For example, Autistics. Org has responded to it by selling a button that reads, "I am not a puzzle, I am a person." In addition, Oddizms has created a rainbow moebius ring with the statement: "Many autism spectrum adults object to being objectified by the puzzle ribbon ... They want a different symbol and here is my offering".

This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation and is adapted from an article at http://en.wikipedia.org

Click this button to close this Aspergers information sheet on work

Click here to go to the home page to view the full range of autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org

An increasing number of adults on the autism spectrum say that Autism is a fundamental part of who the autistic person is and that Autism is something that cannot be separated from the person