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Intellectual Disability Acceptance in the Autism Community

Posted Jan 02 2010 10:59am
One of the major problems arising from the expansion of the "autism spectrum" concept since 1994, and particularly in the last decade, is the tendency to hide the straight forward, incontestable fact that an over whelming majority, approximately 75-80% of persons with Autistic Disorder are intellectually disabled or cognitively impaired. The concept of "autism" was expanded to include a large group of people who, by definition, do not have intellectual disabilities or cognitive impairment. This expansion resulted in a glossing over of the close association between Autism and Intellectual Disability.

Even an important study like the autism prevalence study recently reported by the CDC expressly obscures the high number of persons with Autistic Disorder who are also intellectually disabled or cognitively impaired by spreading that percentage along the entire spectrum:

"Data show a similar proportion of children with an ASD also had signs of intellectual disability, averaging 44% in 2004 and 41% in 2006."

CDC Counting Autism

The estimated number of persons with Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disability would be much higher if the CDC figures had excluded persons with Aspergers, none of whom would, by definition, be intellectually disabled or cognitively impaired.  Assuming equal numbers of persons with Autistic Disability and Aspergers Disorder the percentage of persons with Autistic Disorder and ID would be  doubled to roughly 80%.

The 80% figure is consistent with the estimates made by the Canadian Psychological Association in its "Autism Brief to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology November 9, 2006:

"Symptoms and Impairments:

• Cognitive impairment is present in about 80% of persons diagnosed with Autism and general intellectual functioning is most often below average. 

Although intellectual disability is so common in persons with Autistic Disorder it is rarely mentioned yet alone discussed in the autism "community" and almost never discussed by the Neurodiversity branch of the autism "community. Neurodiversity bloggers and ideologues tend for the most part to be persons with Aspergers Disorder who themselves are not intellectually disabled,  and by some high functioning persons with autism. While both of these groups like to identify with the term "autism" and like to identify with historical figures who they speculate to have been autistic they do not like to identify with  the many low functioning autistic persons with Intellectual Disability.

It is common to read blog comments about  "awetism" and the "joy of autism", Autistic Disorder itself is a serious disorder which impairs the lives of many who actually live with it but for those who embrace the term autism ... well it is just plain .. cool.  Mozart, Einstein,  Orwell, Van Gogh ... are all speculated to have been autistic. In the most extreme case of such wild speculation that I have read  Jesus Christ  is speculated to have been autistic.  Yet the existence of the 80% of persons with diagnosed Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disabilities are barely mentioned or acknowledged.

To the contrary, any portrayal of persons with Autistic Disorder as living difficult, challenging lives restricted by their disorder are subject to organized protest campaigns by some very high functioning persons with Aspergers Disorder.  Parents who speak openly about the challenges faced by their low functioning autistic children are maligned as being engaged in pity parties  or parades of woe, usually by the same very high functioning persons, often "aspies" who like to identify with autism. 

The fact is that approximately 80% of persons with Autistic Disorder, the original "auties",  are intellectually disabled or cognitively impaired.

Those who try to suppress this information are suppressing the most basic of human rights, the right of  every person to have their existence acknowledged by the world and to be known by the world as who they really are.

It is time, as we begin a new decade, for "autism" self advocacy organizations and Neurodiversity bloggers alike to start showing respect for the 80% of persons with Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disability, stop denying their existence and stop being ashamed of the less fortunate members of their alleged autism community.

It is time for persons with High Functioning Autism and Aspergers to start accepting autistic persons with Intellectual Disability and recognize that their Intellectual Disabilities are not just  unrelated coexisting or comorbid conditions. Intellectual Disorders are a very real and integral part of Autistic Disorders. 

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