I have written quite a bit about Stone and our adventures with Autism. And I’ve also talked a lot about the various therapies we’ve had him in as well as the supplements and other treatments we’ve tried – all in an attempt to help him improve his speech and social development. In some therapy offices we’ve visited I’ve seen brochures proclaiming that “Autism can be cured.”
But I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with some adults on the spectrum via Twitter, and some of them have explained a different perspective. They think it’s insulting to talk about “curing” Autism as they see being Autistic in same way someone is left-handed or just “different” in another way. It’s an interesting perspective and one I hadn’t considered before. They explained how they have had to deal with self-esteem issues after growing up feeling like they have been a burden on their parents or other family members because of their differences or limitations.
It certainly got me thinking and made me more aware and conscientious of how we talk about Autism around Stone and Ty and how we think about it too. I’ve always believed that raising any child creates its own set of challenges because each child is obviously unique. Raising a child on the spectrum is certainly challenging – but it’s just a different kind of challenge than it is dealing with Ty.
What I tried to explain to the Autistic adults I was tweeting with was that I don’t want Stone to ever think that he or any part of who he is should ever feel like he’s been an extra burden to us. I love all of his unique qualities and I’ve learned a ton because of him. But the reality is we live in a world where communication and social interaction is helpful – so I will do whatever I can to help him develop in these areas. And in our case we are fortunate in the sense that because Stone is so highly functioning, the level and intensity of issues we have to deal with are quite different than other parents who have to deal with children on the spectrum who struggle in more areas.
So getting back to the original question: Is Autism something we should be searching for a “cure” for? For me this remains a tricky and complex question. I agree with those who feel that we need to better appreciate, integrate and celebrate those Autistic individuals in our society so they don’t feel like a stigma. But I also think there are certain traits that are associated with Autism where improvements help – whether they come from therapy, supplements, teaching or simply natural (albeit slower) development.