Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Autism Myths - Is There Something He Is Really Good At?

Yesterday a very good, kind person who I have known for a while professionally, and who has met my son, asked me whether there was something Conor is really good at. Conor is a great joy in my life and I am pleased that he has made progress with language and understanding life primarily by ABA intervention. But he does not have a special gift or talent. The idea that autistic persons all possess some special gift is one of those enduring myths of autism. One unfortunately, that is perpetuated with each media example of one of the talented individuals with autism who do in fact exist.

The myth that ALL autistic persons enjoy a special gift is also perpetuated by the neurodiversity ideologues who assert that autistics have a different, even superior intelligence. These same ideologues like to identify as autistic any historical figure of great intelligence or accomplishment from Einstein to Van Gogh. They also like to deny that many autistic persons are in fact intellectually challenged and that many live out their lives dependent on the care of others, sometimes in institutional settings. Hiding this unfortunate reality is one of the true offenses of the neurodiversity movement. They try to draw society's attention away from the plight of lower functioning autistic persons, rendering them invisible. Lower functioning, non verbal autistic persons are the victims of a myth, they are the victims of true stigma.


Maya M said...

I remember Conor's "circle", the odd word he said unprompted when he was very young.
Has he any interest in geometrical figures?

Unknown said...

Conor likes shapes, numbers, letters. But he is 11 1/2. He does not have a special skill or ability.

There are reports of autistic persons who do possess such skills. But all autistic persons do not. And some have to live their lives in institutional care a reality not always mentioned in mainstream media or internet autism discussions.

Conor will not be able to live independently. That is a reality we have understood for some time.

jypsy said...

Assuming that there's a difference between something someone is "really good at" and a "special skill or talent", it's also possible that the real answer here is "I don't know". I think, given Conor's limited verbal skills and limited communication and his young age, it's quite possible he is "really good at" something and you just don't know it yet (perhaps you never will). Please understand I am not at all pretending to know Conor, I'm just reflecting back on Alex, who is very much like Conor in many ways. At 11 1/2 I was unaware of some of the things I am now aware that Alex is "very good at". (According to his old web page "At 11, in grade 6, he started to put together full, grammatically correct sentences, sometimes, and sometimes two at a time." -- This would mean saying "I want a drink" as opposed to "drink" or "want drink"). Alex is really food at sports statistics; he has a head full of them. He's also really good at identifying popular music given the first couple of notes. He also has the stats to go with the song: the artist, CD, year it was produced, running time etc. These are not savant skills, they are not what I call "special skills" but they are something he is really good at and was really good at long before any of us knew he was.

Casdok said...

My son is really good at making the public stare at him!!!!

Maya M said...

My son is obsessed with numbers, letters and shapes. A year ago, when we handed to him tales illustrated by Tony Wolf, the way he reacted was to put his finger on the first letter of the text and name it. And when I was walking him, he stopped at every single parked car, pointed the symbols on the license plate one by one, named them and demanded from me to repeat the names.
No he is more mature, knows that letters form words (this seems to have taken some of the magic off) and can pass by a license plate.