Autism Is Different Not Less like Equating a Broken Finger with Being a Quadriplegic
Posted May 01 2013 12:00am
Managing Editor's Note: James Terminiello has nailed the white washing that is Autism "Acceptance and Awareness" month in his editorial in New Jersey.com . What began as Leo Kanner's diagnosis of a whole body, thoroughly debilitating diagnosis has been broadened to include the quirky guy who doesn't talk much at parties - and this hurts those people with full blown autism - who are no longer the face of the diagnosis and who have the greatest needs. I'm reminded of the Monty Python Black Knight scene , " It's just a flesh wound!" Except it's not at all funny.
By James Terminiello
Special to the Times
1991, a torpedo blasted the engine room of our little family when
doctors confirmed that our 3-year old son Alex was autistic. They said:
“The little boy you knew is dead, but a new one has come along whom you
will also love.”
That rather oblique optimism was tempered with warnings that Alex might throttle his baby sister in her crib.
forward to today. I recently saw a t-shirt that read “Autism,
Different, Not Less.” Clearly, times have changed, and so has what we
call autism. The definition of “autistic” has expanded beyond reasonable
bounds, leaving those who truly suffer in the dust.
clumsily worded t-shirt speaks directly to a rebranded autism. The media
are full of stories of the “autistic” who writes plays, achieves
marvels on the basketball court, or gets swindled by a used car dealer.
do these items have in common? They have no bearing whatsoever with the
experiences and suffering of those who must daily face what I can only
call “autism prime.” Such people exist in a swirling, nearly
impenetrable world of their own punctuated by violence, lack of
articulate speech, weird obsessions, incredible indifference and a
hundred other heart-breaking negatives.
When my son was born,
autism was still a largely unknown, baffling condition that effectively
destroyed the lives of three in 10,000 children. Today, autism has
become a Hollywood-fueled, pop-culture phenomenon purportedly impacting
as many as one in 95 kids. The attention it gets drives funds in the
direction of research and has begotten programs that will give my son
some semblance of a life after my wife and I are gone.
So, what’s the problem? It all sounds positive.
but really no. Today, autism seems to encompass individuals with
personality quirks and slight disorders who otherwise carry on with
their lives. That fastidious guy in the office who lines his pencils in
size order and has no friends may be lightly tinged by autism. On the
other hand, he holds a job, owns a car, pays rent and earns $75,000 a
year. Should he really be placed on the autistic spectrum? Read the full editorial Opinion: Expanded definition of 'autism' goes astray .