I have been getting into natural therapies lately. I have been planning on changing careers for quite some time now, and this looks like the direction that I will be heading. What has surprised me though, are the number of therapists claiming to be able to “fix” or “cure” autism. I didn’t realise I needed a cure.
One of the problems with understanding and treating autism is realising that it is a “spectrum”. The difficulties experienced by one autistic person can differ vastly from those of another. I, personally, am able to lead a fairly “normal” life. I can work, live on my own, and generally take care of myself without being a burden to the state or my family. Others cannot. So I can understand that the families of autistic children who appear unlikely to be able to live independently as adults would like to “cure” their children. I don’t have a problem with helping people to develop the skills they will need in the future, but I do have a problem with thinking that autism is something that needs to be “fixed”.
Are people with autism defective in some way? Is it really a disability? I don’t see myself as disabled. I see myself as different. My mind appears to work very differently from that of the people around me. Then again, do others really think alike? How am I supposed to know? I grew up feeling very isolated and alone, but I thought that everyone ultimately felt that way. People often complain that no one understands them. So are my mental differences just part of my individualism, or are they because I am autistic? Is the autism part of what makes me me? Yes, I would like improve my social skills. I would like to be able to make connections with people. I would like to not freak out every time I need to call someone on the phone or order a pizza. Nevertheless, I don’t want to stop being me. I don’t want to deny or remove those things that make me unique, and perhaps my fears and oddities are part of that. We all of things we don’t like doing. We all have things we are afraid of. I am scared of changes in my routine and talking to strangers. Someone else may be afraid of death. Who is to say which fear is “normal” and “acceptable” and which is not? I can learn skills and train myself to be able to perform the functions I need to, but that doesn’t mean the fear and insecurity will ever leave. For example, I can make myself call strangers when absolutely necessary, but I doubt I will ever do it willingly or joyfully. It will probably never be a completely easy thing for me to do, but who cares? Why should it be? If we have no fears, we have no need of courage, but that’s a topic for another day.
Back to talking about cures for autism. I understand that it’s important to help children learn to communicate with others, and many autistic children need a lot of help in this area. I am not against that. I just don’t think we should see these treatments or therapies as “cures”. Many people with autism are intellectual geniuses. If we “cure” their autism, will we also destroy that side of them? By trying to make everyone “normal” aren’t we just encouraging everyone to be mediocre? After all, isn’t that what “normal” is? Rather than helping autistic people live “normal” lives, wouldn’t it be better to encourage us to live the extraordinary lives we could achieve? Maybe we have been purpose built to be more than normal. Maybe it doesn’t matter if we can’t hold down an “ordinary” job, because we may actually be more suited to an “extraordinary” job. Shouldn’t the focus be on finding our strengths in our autism, than trying to strengthen our weaknesses?
I want to reiterate that I am not against helping people gain skills that they will need in life. There are things that I can do and take that could help me focus and communicate better. That’s true whether you have autism or not. Healthy living in general will improve your quality of life. Go ahead and try therapies and treatments that will improve your daily functioning. Just don’t get into the mindset of thinking that there is inherently something wrong with you if you have autism. I’m not disabled; I’m just different.