I see that my friends from the autistic self-advocacy network are at it again. This is the organization that was famous for pressuring the autism clinic in New York to eliminate the ransom notes campaign for the language that they perceived to be insulting. Also, they are well known for the statement that Ari Neeman, their president, made on the Good Morning America television show, "being anti-cure is not being anti-progress". Though it is puzzling to this blogger how eliminating the ransom notes was any sort of progress that could be substituted for a cure. More on that later though.
In this instance, a lady named Meg Evans who states that she is autistic, yet is high functioning enough to be married takes umbrage at the language used on the Cincinnati Marathon web site that is used to raise funds for autism. Ms Evans states:
On your front page, promoting the Run/Walk for Autism, there is a comparison of autism to cancer, diabetes, and AIDS, which misleadingly causes people to view autism as a disease that their family members are at risk of catching
She further goes on:
In fact, autism is a developmental condition, not a disease; it does not make anyone sick or kill anyone, and it cannot be acquired from contact with autistic people. Comparing autism to deadly diseases such as AIDS can cause uninformed people to shun autistic individuals out of a groundless fear that they or their family members will somehow catch autism. For the same reason, autism should not be characterized as an "epidemic," which is a term that usually refers to an outbreak of contagious disease.
Let's view each of these statements in context. On perusal of the run for autism organizer's web site we see that the only comparisons made to Cancer, diabetes and AIDS are the citing of the CDC's 1/150 prevalence number for autism and stating that autism is more common than these other conditions. I am not sure that this is saying the conditions are analogous. As far as someone "catching autism", the only one of three conditions cited that someone can get with contact with another human being is AIDS. AIDS can only be transmitted through sex or a blood transfusion, it is not like transmitting a cold or a sore throat, so we see a very specious comparison on the part of Ms. Evans. Even if there was a comparison of autism with AIDS in the fact that they both could be considered medical conditions, certainly no one in their right mind would read this statement and conclude that someone could catch autism.
Ms Evans also goes on to state that autism is not a disease and that autism should not be viewed as an epidemic, because the term epidemic is used to connote outbreaks of infectious conditions.
My dictionary defines disease: A condition of the living animal or plant body or one of its parts that impairs the performance of a vital function. The fact that autistics often can't make a living, in the more severe cases, can't speak, can't fend for themselves, have uncontrollable behavior that causes them to get into trouble or self-mutilate certain is the impairment of a vital function, so i must respectfully disagree with Ms. Evans' definition of disease.
My dictionary defines epidemic: 1. affecting or tending to affect many individuals within a population community or region at the same time. excessively prevalent. I do not know if the prevalence of autism is actually increasing or not. As is the case of neurodiversitites, I do believe that at least part of the increase is due to more people actually being diagnosed than were diagnosed before and not necessarily a real increase in the numbers; however, that is neither here nor there. The point is, that an epidemic can be used to refer to an increase in any phenomena, not necessarily a medical condition.
Autistic people are largely unemployed. The problem of celibacy and loneliness does exist for many of us. There are problems with housing, self-mutilation, phobias and academic performances. How, this current crusade of Ms. Evans' How Ari Neeman's pro-progress, anti-cure metaphors are helping anyone with autism is beyond me. I won't attempt to speak for most or all autistics as many neurodiversitites seem to have an inclination to do. However, many of us do suffer, many of us have the problems stated above, myself included. This is in addition to the perceptual motor deficits that I have (which I realize not all autistic people have) which makes it practically impossible for me to handwrite and wrap presents at Christmas time. How does the absurd claim that statements saying that autism is more common than AIDS, cancer or diabetes lead anyone to believe that autism could be contagious help anyone with autism?
What of Ms. Evans' statements that autism does not kill anyone. In my own personal case, I demonstrated poor social judgment at age 17 and let a friend without a driver's license drive my car while we were drunk. He crashed the car into a wall and I went through the windshield and was injured but did not die. I could have died at age 17. What about Ashley Brock who died of accidental drowning due to her autism? There was also a boy who was run over by a train in North Carolina. Also, I don't recall the name but there is an autistic man who killed his mother. This has recently received some media attention. It could certainly be argued that this woman would be alive today if her son had not had autism. There was also an article in a recent Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders about a 10 year old autistic girl who threw her six month old baby sibling out a window and killed them. Certainly Ms. Evans' arguments that autism can't kill or have the potential to kill are fallacious.
When we look at the t-shirt on the web site that Ms. Evans links to, we see the moving message on it: Because I love someone with autism. So the organizers of these fund raisers are certainly not trying to offend people. They are only raising money out of love for their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Neurodiversitites seem to have some trouble realizing this.
Once again ASAN's statements and actions truly baffle me.