Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Conor's Autism is a Disorder Not "A Way of Life"
" Autism is not a pathological condition or a disease, but a way of life that possesses a culture and history all its own" - Valerie Paradiz, School for Autistic Strength, Purpose and Independence in Education (Aspie) in New York State
I wish much happiness for the high functioning autistic persons who feel that their Asperger's is "a way of life" as recently reported in the UK Guardian. But I really wish they would stop speaking about "autism" in a general sense when they make statements like that. My son, Conor, does not have Asperger's or High Functioning Autism. At 11 his language is limited and he still does not understand many of the dangers of everyday life. He has Autism Disorder and he is low functioning in a real world sense. He did not choose to be autistic and his autism is not "a way of life". It is a disorder. He is autistic; but he did not choose to be autistic as
"a way of life".
Conor was diagnosed as autistic because of his several deficits which prompted us to seek medical attention for his lack of development. He was diagnosed at the age of 2, early for our area, at that time - 9 years ago. A way of life is a lifestyle that is chosen whether it be vegetarianism, a life spent as a deep sea fisherman, or practicing law. A way of life might be a decision to become an actor or a Buddhist but it is not a medical disorder.
If the high functioning autistic persons who blog on the internet, appear before political committees and get interviewed by CNN wish to call their high functioning autism a "way of life" that is their right even though they are using the expression incorrectly. If that bolsters their self esteem or helps them organize politically to achieve public policy goals fine. If it helps some parents adjust to their children's autism fine. But the "Autism Is a Way of Life" crowd do not have the right to speak for my son and other low functioning autistic persons and call their autism disorder "a way of life". Conor has enough challenges ahead of him in life. He should not have to shovel his way through other peoples' nonsense while doing so.