I was reading some research papers today. One paper was pretty shocking. It said that researchers are often told to report only negative things about autism. If they find positive things, that's not relevant. Why? We're not entirely sure, but there are some ideas. For example, sometimes they are being paid by groups who get a lot of money from pills, potions and other 'cures' for things. And sometimes they are being paid by groups making large sums from 'challenging behaviour therapists'. If autism is known for its strengths, its positives, who would want it cured? Who would spend a fortune on 'behaviour analysts'?
This week in the newspapers we've been told that a hostile foreign nation had been altering news about whether autism is 'caused' by injections, to put doubt into people's minds. Autism seen as a terrible tragedy, an awful thing. Do we want our children to have it? Oh my! Let's all panic! Let's not vaccinate, and instead risk our children dying of something awful, rather than have That Dreadful Autism Thing.
Wait...we're not dreadful. We're actually mostly rather lovely.
For a start, autism is a natural part of human diversity, not a vaccine damage. We've always been here.
Let's look at some of the shocking things that could happen if you child is autistic. Ready? Are you braced for the horror of it? Sure? OK, here we go... All generalisations of course because we're all individuals, like everyone else...
More honest than the average child.
Will play more fairly than the average child.
Is likely to be far more dedicated than the average child.
Is likely to be more able to focus on a specialist thing than the average child.
Is likely to be an excellent observer.
Is likely to be able to detect things that the average child cannot detect, using senses that can see and hear at a great range than others (for example).
Is likely to be more loyal and settled into a good steady life.
Is more likely to be more generous and give of their time to charities.
This is terrible, isn't it. However will society cope with having too many children with those features?
I know that there'll always be a few who say, "What about the children who are Really Autistic and living in care homes etc?".
I'm really autistic. I can't live independently. No, really. Yes, me. Yes, I'm communicating with you. That's what happens for most of us. We grow, we learn, we communicate. Different timeline. Technology. (Technology is great, isn't it. We built that for you).
Yes, some children are autistic and have severe disabilities too. For example, they might be autistic and have a very low IQ. Or they might be autistic and Blind. Or they might be autistic and have severe epilepsy. Or they might be autistic and have ADHD and a defiant behavioural condition of some kind.
What society has been taught to do is call all of that 'severe autism'. Which it isn't. It's multiple things affecting one child, which of course is hugely difficult for the young person and for their families.
And yes, absolutely there needs to be support for the young person, and support for their family. But getting rid of 'autism' won't get rid of the rest of the situations that mean they need care. What on earth would getting rid of autism mean? It's literally us, as much us as us being (e.g.) female, or age 55, or white, or heterosexual. It's not a disease or an add-on that can be removed.
In this particular post I'm talking about the majority of autistic people. The ones who start off as just-autistic. If they're allowed to thrive, they'll end up just-autistic, too.
Go back and re-read that list of positives.
My family is autistic.
My friends are autistic.
My colleagues are autistic.
Some of my fellow students (Post-Grad) are autistic.
Go into a craft fair and look at the autistic people doing the crafts.
Go listen to some music and spot how many autistic musicians are in that orchestra etc.
Walk into any large Professional Practice in the UK - accounts, law, surveying, etc - and look at how many autistic people are in there, diligently providing excellence.
Go into healthcare places and look at the autistic healthcare professionals.
Wander into the places of faith, and listen to autistic leaders.
1 in 30 of the population around you.
Providing love, care, generosity. Perhaps specialist skill. Passionate interests. Watching out for danger for you.
Next time you're told there may be a future with us still in it, the words you're looking for are 'Hurrah!' and "Yes please!' Because the world needs all kinds of minds, and all kinds of people. It's better because we're here. And it's better because you're here too.
Thank you for listening.