Friday, April 04, 2008

Alex Plank with Aspergers Does Not Want To Be Cured But He Does Not Speak for My Son with Autistic Disorder

The major media is again featuring a high functioning person with Aspergers who claims that autistics don't want to be cured. In the Chicago Alex Plank offers the anti-cure ideology promoted by Jim Sinclair, Michelle Dawson and Amanda Baggs, all very high functioning persons with pervasive developmental disorders which are often casually referred to as autism spectrum disorders. Mr. Plank according to the article " has a girlfriend and is interested in computers, writing and acting." So why should Mr. Plank want to be cured? I am not sure how or why Mr. Plank, or family members, sought and obtained his pervasive developmental disorder diagnosis. Given his own self description it is hard to see why he was even diagnosed in the first place but he certainly is not qualified to make the statements about autistics not wanting to be cured.

Mr. Plank according to the Tribune article:

1. Is a college student and founder of a Web Community.
2. He has a girlfriend and is interested in computers, writing and acting.
3. Had friends and had no problem with eye contact or socialization.

Given the above description I can understand why Mr. Plank would not want to be cured although I am not sure what he could be cured of since it sounds like he is an ordinary functioning individual.

What Mr. Plank is not is a person with Autistic Disorder with profound developmental delays like my son. Unlike Mr. Plank my son does have problems with language and has cognitive challenges. He can not function in the world without 24/7 supervision. Occasionally he bites himself and he has put his hands through windows and smashed holes in walls. He does not understand all the dangers of everyday life like automobile traffic and he will not be able, like the fortune blessed Mr. Plank, to live an independent life with girlfriends, college and computers.

Mr. Plank though is offended that parents like me talk about the harsh realities faced by our severely autistic children because it makes him uncomfortable as an "autistic". He is also offended that parents seek treatment and cure for their own children which, given Mr. Plank's good fortune are almost assuredly more severely disabled than he. Mr. Plank, by his own self description, does not face the severe challenges that are faced by many autistic people with actual Autistic Disorder. He should be thankful for his blessings and quit posing as a spokesperson for all "autistics".

Mr. Plank, Michelle Dawson, Amanda Baggs, Jim Sinclair and other very high functioning persons at the upper end of the "autism spectrum" should be thankful for their blessings and stop attacking parents trying to help their own children. No one wants to cure you Alex, stop trying to keep my son and other persons with Autistic Disorder down so that you can feel better about the "autistic" label you have embraced.


Judith U. said...

Thank you for this Harold.

jonathan said...

Hi Mr. Doherty,

much thanks for posting this. As you know I am a person on the spectrum who wishes I could be cured. I have written a post on my blog giving the opposing viewpoint as a person on the spectrum, though my post was probably not as good as yours, I have tried to ask Alex Plank where he comes up with this figure that most or all autistics do not wish for a cure

Unknown said...

judith and jonathan

You are each quite welcome.

John Best said...

Thanks for trying to educate Alex. I tried to help the kid but he was just incapable of learning. He probably never had any guidance from educated adults.

Unknown said...

John (foresam) I am really at a loss to understand why the Planks, Baggs, Dawsons and Sinclairs think they have anything in common with, let alone the right to speak on behalf of, my son, or other severely autistic children.

John Best said...

This inquiry by Cliff Shoemaker into Seidel and her gang may uncover the motives for all of these strange attitudes. Her deposition is only ten minutes from my house but they don't allow the public into those things, do they?

Mark said...

Good Work

Nancy Bea Miller said...

I so agree with you. My 14 year old son with autism sounds very similar to your son with autism. It's like a different world from Mr.Plank's experience.

BTW, I also liked your pithy comment on the Paging Dr Gupta blog, which is how I found your blog. Thanks for speaking the unpopular truth.

Anonymous said...

Cure and treatment are not the same things. To take autistic traits out of humanity would severely limit our creativity and our ability to discover innovative solutions to our dilemmas.

Treatment, on the other hand, is more about modifying the methods with which we survive life. We wear clothes; we wear shoes; we use fire and build houses . . . these are all modifications on life to enable us to live to higher levels of potential.

OT, PT, AT, MT . . . these are all therapies that help make life better for all people, especially in regards to the latter two (Art and music therapy).

We don't need to be cured, but rather given a chance at using all of the tools available to us in the toolbox.

Many of those self-injurious behaviors relate directly to anxiety levels and sensory problems. I know. I was once self-injurious. You figure out what those sorts of problems are, what's causing the anxiety, what helps alleviate it . . . then, that's when the really neat stuff starts to happen.

Give us music. Give us art. Give us understanding and compassion. We can sense dishonesty. We can sense your distrust and underlying dislike for everything that we are. It adds to our unease with life. Show us joy. Love others. Do all of this with others.

Don't assume to know us, to know what we think . . . both sides are guilty of that, but I think that the neurotypicals started it. And it's the neurotypicals who constantly accuse us of it, never taking responsibility for themselves in that regards.

No one knows everything. No one is in the same situation. I speak these word out of personal knowledge of my experiences on the spectrum.

And don't judge us purely by what we are now. Don't trivialize our pasts and don't ignore our hard fought for achievements. Don't laugh when we fall and don't claim that we are broken in some way, as Foresam has done time and time again.

We are all humans. No one functions at the same level. No one reacts the same way.

Alex says what he says based on the words of nearly 20,000 aspies. I don't claim to speak for him, but I'm sure that must have a large part in it.

Sure, he seems good now, but did you know him ten years ago? Did you know me ten years ago? Fifteen? Twenty?

You say that we don't resemble your children. Well that's true; after all, you are not our parent(s). But we still have the sensory issues; the coordination difficulties; the language/expression problems, comprehension difficulties . . . to a lesser extent though in some cases (and in some cases not).

But look at the colors: navy blue and sky blue are definitely different colors, and yet, they're still blue. Their core is the same.

It's strange how they say that aspies think purely in black and white. It seems to me that neurotypicals are the washed out ends of the extreme--black and white--while aspies and auties, we make up the shades in-between. Don't discount our differences.

Or our similarities.

Anonymous said...

"I read Martha Nussbaum's "Disabled Lives" and I chuckle at the play on words. Where she sees un-able lives, I see dis-enabled lives; where she sees dependence and inability, I see barriers.

"And yet . . . the barriers are not so clear, not so easily addressed as some writers seem to believe, and it is not as clear as we might think how we should re-envision our society to welcome, to value, to enable all people to full membership."

--Cal Montgomery, Critic of the Dawn, 2001.

Unknown said...


Once again you use the royal we, speaking on behalf, not only of "aspies" but also of "auties" a term I find offensive because it trivializes the harsh realities my son endures. You presume to speak for my son. You, from your comments I believe, have Aspergers and communicate very well.

My son has Autistic Disorder, assessed with profound developmental delays. He can not read and understand your comments. He can not be left to leave the house unattended. He must have 24/7 supervision and he will require the care of others for ther rest of his life.

You do not speak for my son. Try to 'accept' that fact and move on.

John Best said...

" To take autistic traits out of humanity would severely limit our creativity and our ability to discover innovative solutions to our dilemmas."
If this was true, you geniuses would have all cured yourselves by now.