The Washington Times-Herald

Community News Network

January 17, 2013

Slate: Is the neurodiversity movement misrepresenting autism?

Much of what we know about autism has changed since my son Jonah was diagnosed in 2001, but the metaphors we use to conceptualize it have remained largely the same. Portia Iversen, founder of Cure Autism Now, writes in her book "Strange Son" that she thought of her son's autism as a "deep well" he had fallen into. Jenny McCarthy describes the "window" through which she struggled to free her son from his autism. Arthur Fleischmann states in Carly's Voice, his account of how his severely autistic daughter developed the ability to communicate using a keyboard, that "There was a wall that couldn't be breached, locking her in and us out." The more profoundly impaired the child, it seems, the more likely these images of physical barriers are to crop up, as parents search desperately for the "intact mind" (Iversen again) they believe is there, somewhere deep down, despite often brutal symptoms that suggest the opposite.

It's not just the hope of desperate parents that fuels this quest — although, as one of those parents myself, I would never underestimate our ability to persist in our hopes and efforts even in the face of abundant evidence. Over the past decade, our faith has been validated by the emergence of several seemingly low-functioning autistics whose "intact minds" have been revealed through their brilliant writing. These celebrities, including Amanda Baggs, Sue Rubin, Tracy Thresher, Larry Bissonnette and others, speak minimally, if at all, and require support for even the most basic of life skills. Yet their blogs, videos and written commentary — as seen on major networks such as CNN and in Academy Award nominated documentaries — have inspired countless parents around the world.

Jonah was 4 years old when he started writing in chalk on our driveway without ever having been taught — although his phrases, like "FBI WARNING," were admittedly less communicative than Carly Fleischmann's complaint, "HELP TEETH HURT." Despite that, I really believed, for many years, that Jonah would develop into the next Tito Mukhopadhyay, the Indian boy featured in Iversen's "Strange Son," who published several books of poetry despite autism so severe he was nonverbal; prone to constant, repetitive movements, or "stims"; and, not infrequently, disruptive, noncompliant, and even aggressive with his mother.

1
2 3 4 5 6 7
Text Only
Community News Network
  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014