Conor Doherty on World Autism Awareness Day 2014, as I tried to take a "selfie" of the two of us wearing blue, gave his old Dad an unexpected hug.
As in this pic, Conor brings us great joy but his autism is a disorder
which restricts his life and causes him harm.
Joel Rubinoff father of a high functioning, smart autistic son is angry and he is using his position as an arts and entertainment columnist to tell Canadians that parents and organizations who disagree with his feel good views of autism need "attitude adjustments". In Joel Rubinoff's ill informed view of autism people should not discuss autism like it is a ... disorder. They should not talk about any of the serious, sometimes harmful, sometimes deadly deficits that actually restrict the lives of many with autism disorders, a group of neurological disorders marked by heterogeneity, complexity and variation. (See for example, Lynn Waterhouse, Rethinking Autism: Variation and Complexity).
Autism for Joel Rubinoff is Temple Grandin, Darryl Hannah, Einstein, Mozart, Bill Gates and Susan Boyle. Forget for the moment that Einstein and Mozart lived and died before autism was a recognized disorder and that any speculation that they were autistic is exactly that ... speculation. Rubinoff, like any of the autism is beautiful crowd that have fought against recognizing the harsher realities faced by many on the autism spectrum of disorders, likes to equate his son's autism with very smart, talented people. Rubinoff's son is, by Rubinoff's evidence, very intelligent and high functioning with good communication skills:
"But did you know that half way through senior kindergarten, he's already learning to read. That he can do puzzles with almost 100 pieces. That he's fascinated with space and science, and can name all the planets. That if you tell him it's Hot Dog Day at school he'll squeal with delight. "I'm so excited, Dad — I can't wait!"
Joel Rubinoff's son, like some on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum of disorders is very intelligent. I am happy for him and his son. My son, now 18 lives on the severe end of the autism spectrum of disorders. He has an intellectual disability and suffers from seizures, like many on that severe end of the autism spectrum. My son brings us, and everyone who has worked with him, great joy but his disorder limits his life severely in the ways described by the autism advocates that Rubinoff despises.
Mr. Rubinoff appears to be unaware of sources like the World Health Organization which, in September 2013, stated that approximately 50% of persons with an autism disorder also have an intellectual disability. Joel Rubinoff may not realize that many autistic children are prone to wandering and some lose their lives as a result. Some engage in very serious self injurious behavior as my son has done at times.
If Mr. Rubinoff doubts what I am saying I would be happy to take the time to provide him with sources pointing to the very harsh realities facing many on the autism spectrum of disorders ... if he would start acting like a reporter/journalist and read and report to Canadians that autism is far from being about undiagnosed historical geniuses. Nor is it only about actually diagnosed, highly intelligent children like his son. For many including my son Conor Doherty, autism is a complex, serious disorder. I love my son dearly and I know, contrary to Mr Rubinoff's "reporting" that my son's life is very restricted and his future as an adult whose parents will not always be with him is very bleak.
(For Mr. Rubinoff's benefit I am the father of a severely autistic son and I have been involved in autism advocacy for 15 years in New Brunswick where, together with fellow parent advocates, we were able to establish a model early intervention for autism program, obtain some autism educated Education Aides and Resource Teachers, and successfully fight the closure of the Stan Cassidy Centre Autism Team which treats and helps many children and young people with serious autism disorder issues, the kind of issues Mr Rubinoff appears to be unaware of.)