Saturday, November 19, 2011

Autism Advantage? NO! Conor Advantage? YES!

If you have been to this blog before you know that I talk about autism as a disorder   not as an advantage. If someone does not have any deficits in daily functioning ability then, by everything I have read in the DSM's, and in materials written by psychologists, psychiatrists and pediatricians working with, and diagnosing, autistic children and adults they should not have one of the "autism spectrum disorder" diagnoses. It is my deeply rooted belief that it is important to speak honestly about autism and the challenges it presents, particularly for those persons who are severely affected by autism. I do not believe that autism, a mental disorder, is an advantage and my commentaries reflect that belief.

That does not, however, mean I agree with the flimsy argument that describing autism challenges honestly means that I am not recognizing the rights of autism persons or recognize that an autistic person has any intrinsic value as a human being. That argument is based on nothing more than ideological rhetoric.

I love my severely autistic, low functioning son Conor very much. I care for him 24/7 and have done so during his nearly 16 years. I speak honestly about his many deficits and challenges including his intellectual disability, his self injurious behavior,and his inability to function independently in daily life. But none of those things mean that I do not recognize his intrinsic value as a human being. That ludicrous argument is contradicted by the care I have given, and the commitment I have made to him, every day of his nearly 16 years. There is nothing exceptional about what I have just said. Parents almost uniformly make sacrifices every day for their autistic children, every day. I am just one of many, many thousands of parents who make those same commitments to our autistic children.

I also recognize the contributions to my life that my autistic son makes every day of his life. He is without any reservation a great joy in my life. Where I differ from some parents is that I do not believe that the joy my son brings to my life, unlike his very serious challenges, arises from his Autistic Disorder (his actual diagnosis). My son brings me joy on his own terms because of who he is as an individual. Those who would say that his smiling face, as shown on this site, is a feature of his autism rather than a feature of his own distinct personality as Conor Doherty do not know him. I do. And I love my time with him; especially our almost daily walks.

The pictures that follow were taken this morning. It is routine for Conor and Dad to go for trail walks, except when winter has arrived with full snow packed force. This morning Conor was in Run, Jump, Fly mode and had to wait several times for Dad to catch up. I enjoyed the walk. I enjoyed the outdoors. I enjoyed the Conor advantage.


Secret Sunshine said...

I like your post. I have read your blog for a long time and always come here when I'm exhausted by being beaten down by self advocates who think parents are the enemy.

What struck me about this particular post was that I think it is SO true that individualism seems to take a back seat to most conversations with so called "neurodiversity" supporters. My child is an individual, not some soldier in the ASD vs. NT, Us vs. Them war some people engage in. He's not the sum of his autistic qualities and using ABA to change his behavior is not tantamount to brainwashing him, or not loving him for who he is.

Nobody could possibly doubt that you love your son and respect him as a human being. It's pretty obvious. Take care.

Unknown said...

Secret Sunshine, thank you for sharing your point of view and your kind words.

Stranded said...

good on you Harold for voicing this so well.

Khaled is a happy, joyful boy because he is a happy joyful boy despite his autism. Not sure why that has to mean we don't recognize his value.

We will use whatever tools are safe and available to help him have more moments of joy, BECAUSE we value him. We will preserve his dignity and honor him. Our life revolves around this cause.

God bless Conor and your family.

BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

Hi -- I posted on this topic in relation to the Nature piece and included a link to this blog.

I thought you had initially referenced the Nature article? I think that's where I first heard about it?

But when I came back I couldn't find it.

Anyway, I think our BLOOM readers will be interested in the topic. THanks! Louise