In a huge set back for autistic children and their parents US President Barack Obama has nominated Ari Ne'eman, a university student with Aspergers Disorder, for appointment to the US National Council on disabilities. Mr. Ne'eman is a staunch opponent of curing, or seeking cures for, autism.
The appointment, in addition to signaling President Obama's opposition to curing autism is bizarre in that Mr. Ne'eman does not even regard autism as a disability. As Jonathan Mitchell points out at Autism's Gadfly, Mr. Ne'eman does not even view autism disorders as disabilities having written:
We see the world in a different way than our neurotypical peers (neurotypical is a word in the autistic community meaning those of the majority neurology). This does not imply a defect, but merely a difference — one that we have just the same right to as those of a different race, nationality or religion.The belief was that anyone society labeled "disabled" could only go so far. Sadly, these misconceptions had the potential to become self-fulfilling prophecies. When the expectation is that people of a certain type can only reach so far, they are not provided with the same challenges and opportunities that educators give mainstreamed students....
We should recognize what diversity of neurology has contributed to the human race and what it can bring to the future. Difference is not disability and someday, I hope, the world will recognize that those who think in different ways should be welcomed
Certainly difference is not a disability if you are a person with very mild Asperger's but for those persons with severe Autistic Disorder, some of whom freeze to death in snowstorms, drown in neighborhood pools, wander into traffic, bite their hands and chew their cheeks, bang their heads until bloody, starve themselves to death because of their intense aversion to many food tastes and textures or live their lives in institutional care; for many of these truly autistic persons, their difference is a disability.
For the severely autistic their difference is a disorder, not a cool way to meet a US President.
I am a Canadian with no right to pick a US President. But like many people around the world I believed in the great promise of Barack Obama.
Now I am beginning to understand why so many are starting to reel from the great disappointment with the man who said Yes We Can and now has clearly signaled to families of autistic children that No You Can't.
There will be no autism cure sought during an Obama administration. Ari Ne'eman will see to that.