I wonder if most persons who have an autistic child or in fact a number of persons with autism themselves who might, for various reasons, not be inclined or be able to write about autism on the internet would regard autism as not being harmful. I also wonder whether autism researchers, such as my friend Matthew Belmonte, who has a brother who has never spoken would regard autism as harmless. Apparently, Laurent Mottron, Morton Gernsbacher and Michelle Dawson (her again)question the premise that autism is harmful. In the article I just linked to, they question this premise based on a variety of cognitive tests that research subjects in their lab and other labs have received. They seem to think that because the persons with autism whom they and various other researchers have tested have a superior score on the block design and other types of tests somehow shows that autism is not a harmful disability.
One of the reasons I have linked to this article is because I was having a dialogue with one of my favorite individuals in the ND movement, someone who calls herself "alyric". As part of the dialogue I had noted that Michelle Dawson and her colleagues had pointed out in a journal article they did not believe autism was harmful. Alyric expressed disbelief and challenged me to produce documentation of the article, which I promptly did. Alyric claims that she is a big fan of Michelle's, so I am absolutely shocked that Alyric would be so ignorant of the published work that her idol and those she collaborates with have produced. I am equally shocked that Michelle Dawson would claim to have such great respect for this person who is unaware of her publications, but I suppose that is neither here nor there.
The article goes on to imply that Nicholas Tessla, who was celibate, had autism. It gives a quote from Tessla questioning how many inventions came from married men. Interestingly enough,Thomas Edison one of the most prolific inventors of all time was married. So perhaps Mottron, et. al. should not be implying that Tessla was autistic or even that his autistic celibacy was a gift resulting in the ability to invent.
It then ends with an autistic woman stealing Larry Arnold's well-known metaphor about the one-eyed man being king in the country of the blind. The authors imply that autism would not be harmful if society changed.
I must respectfully disagree. I believe my autism that has impaired my ability to make a living, caused fine motor and perceptual problems (incidentally, I am one of those rare autistics who does poorly on the block design test), inability to have friendships and romantic relationships, causes me to self-stimulate throughout the day and not get things done (except some posts on this blog with a bit of effort), my phobias are harmful. Harold Doherty I am sure, regards the problems of his son Connor harmful. Josh Greenfield has written about his severely autistic son in a few books and how harmful he thought the boy's constant screaming, tantrums, inability to talk or take care of himself was. I wonder if the mother of Ashley Brock (the little girl whose autism caused her to drown because she was too impaired to be aware of the danger water posed for her) would regard autism as harmless. I really don't think so. I must respectfully disagree with Dr. Mottron and his two co-authors. It would be nice if society could be more accepting, I agree, but that is only a small part of the problem. Contrary to what those in the ND movement believe about me, I am not opposed to human rights for persons with disabilities. However, societal acceptance and the lack of rights (alleged or otherwise) do not constitute a lot of the problems that persons with autism have.
I wonder if those persons at autism speaks who review grant proposals for research have read Dr. Mottron's piece. Since they provide funding to his laboratory, I can either conclude that they have not read the above article that I have linked to or they are asleep at the switch, indeed incompetent in regards to whom they decide to fund. I suspect there are many parents who try to raise money for autism speaks, through walks, solicitations of donations from their friends, etc. who would disagree with Dr. Mottron's view that autism is not harmful. I wonder how they would feel about this man receiving funding with their money. In their case, I suspect many of these parents have never read Dr. Mottron's treatise and never will. I wonder how the powers that be at autism speaks can explain themselves to these good people who have so much frustration over their child's disability. These people I suspect long for a cure, or at least a way that the behaviors and problems that their children have can be mitigated in order to not be harmful. I wonder what these people would think of Dr. Mottron's essay.