Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Autism Media Breakthrough

A major autism media breakthrough has occurred with the publication of Julie Deardorff's blog on several sites including the Chicago Tribune and the BradentonHerald.com. In Autism's road to recovery full of questions, few answers Ms Deardorff comments on debate over whether autistic children should be "recovered". She presents the perspective of Alex Plank, a high functioning person with Aspergers, attending college, and otherwise functioning very well in society. But the breakthough occurs when Ms Deardorff also presents the perspective of David Royko who tells the story of his autistic son Ben, who, at age 14, is not toilet trained and will never live independently:

Plank has a point, but he also is a functioning member of society. A film and video major at George Mason University in Virginia, Plank speaks on neurodiversity at conferences. He has a girlfriend and friends. His interests include computers, writing and acting.

Autism, however, encompasses a range of individuals, from quirky, socially awkward geniuses to those such as Ben Royko, who is still not completely toilet trained at 14, has to live in a residential school setting, has very limited functional language and will never be able to live independently.

It is rare for an article, column or blog, whether published in hard copy or online, to mention and describe a severely autistic person and the grim realities some of them face.

Full marks to Ms Deardorff, the Chicago Tribune, and other sites which publish her blog for daring to consider and discuss the invisible autistics, the severely autistic, who do not get discussed by Neurodiversity bloggers at the "Autism" Hub and are not invited, and re-invited, to appear on CNN and other feel good, ratings driven, news sources.


Suzanne said...

Would you say there's an emerging political correctness evolving from this issue?

I like your "tell it like it is" style. I wholeheartedly agree with it.

Dan F said...

Grandfather builds Web browser for autistic boy - Brian Bergstein - AP Technology Writer - June 3, 2008

John LeSieur is in the software business, so he took particular interest when computers seemed mostly useless to his 6-year-old grandson, Zackary. The boy has autism, and the whirlwind of options presented by PCs so confounded him that he threw the mouse in frustration.

LeSieur tried to find online tools that could guide autistic children around the Web, but he couldn't find anything satisfactory. So he had one built, named it the Zac Browser For Autistic Children in honor of his grandson, and is making it available to anyone for free.

LeSieur's quest is a reminder that while the Web has created important communication and educational opportunities for some people with cognitive impairments, computers can also introduce new headaches for families trying to navigate the contours of disability.

The Zac Browser greatly simplifies the experience of using a computer. It seals off most Web sites from view, to block violent, sexual or otherwise adult-themed material. Instead it presents a hand-picked slate of choices from free, public Web sites, with an emphasis on educational games, music, videos and visually entertaining images, like a virtual aquarium.
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