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Autism Advantage? NO! Conor Advantage? YES!

Posted Nov 19 2011 10:40am
If you have been to this blog before you know that I talk about autism as a disorder   not as an advantage. If someone does not have any deficits in daily functioning ability then, by everything I have read in the DSM's, and in materials written by psychologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians working with, and diagnosing, autistic children and adults they should not have one of the "autism spectrum disorder" diagnoses. It is my deeply rooted belief that it is important to speak honestly about autism and the challenges it presents, particularly for those persons who are severely affected by autism. I do not believe that autism, a mental disorder, is an advantage and my commentaries reflect that belief.

That does not, however, mean I agree with the flimsy argument that describing autism challenges honestly means that I am not recognizing the rights of autism persons or recognize that an autistic person has any intrinsic value as a human being. That argument is based on nothing more than ideological rhetoric.

I love my severely autistic, low functioning son Conor very much. I care for him 24/7 and have done so during his nearly 16 years. I speak honestly about his many deficits and challenges including his intellectual disability, his self injurious behavior,and his inability to function independently in daily life. But none of those things mean that I do not recognize his intrinsic value as a human being. That ludicrous argument is contradicted by the care I have given, and the commitment I have made to him, every day of his nearly 16 years. There is nothing exceptional about what I have just said. Parents almost uniformly make sacrifices every day for their autistic children, every day. I am just one of many, many thousands of parents who make those same commitments to our autistic children.
I also recognize the contributions to my life that my autistic son makes every day of his life. He is without any reservation a great joy in my life. Where I differ from some parents is that I do not believe that the joy my son brings to my life, unlike his very serious challenges, arises from his Autistic Disorder (his actual diagnosis). My son brings me joy on his own terms because of who he is as an individual. Those who would say that his smiling face, as shown on this site, is a feature of his autism rather than a feature of his own distinct personality as Conor Doherty do not know him. I do. And I love my time with him; especially our almost daily walks.
The pictures that follow were taken this morning. It is routine for Conor and Dad to go for trail walks, except when winter has arrived with full snow packed force. This morning Conor was in Run, Jump, Fly mode and had to wait several times for Dad to catch up. I enjoyed the walk. I enjoyed the outdoors. I enjoyed the Conor advantage.

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