In the occasionally some news is good news department, Gadfly is happy to report that there's a new kid on the block, a new lab at MIT started with a private donation, that has expressed a desire to find a cure and prevention for autism. Hock Tan and Lisa Yang, parents of two autistic children and MIT alumni, have donated 20 million dollars for this laboratory. In another article they state they want to erase the devastating effects of autism and want a world free of the burdens of autism. I had wondered if it were possible to use CRISPR genetic editing techniques to prevent or at least do something to help autism. Interestingly enough, CRISPR is something that they are interested in using.
Interestingly, Bob DeSimone who runs MIT's brain research lab stated that NIH would not have supported their research in a million years and that the techniques they plan to use are too far out.
Now that Autism Speaks has announced they no longer seek to cure and prevent autism and very mildly autistic board member Stephen Shore has chortled over this with glee on facebook, I'm glad someone else is willing to pick up the mantle and actually try to do something.
However, from the neurodiversity movement's point of view, dem's fighting words. Cure, prevention, burden are sure to provoke the ire and rancor of these angry and vicious hatemongers.
Tan and Yang's wealth will obliterate the need for the advertising that autism speaks engaged in during their pre sell-out days that angered so many people and led to the cry of "eugenics". Other than AS, the government, and the Simons Foundation, I've never heard of anyone giving this kind of money for autism research.
There has already been some ND activity over this. Michelle Dawson has tweeted about this. More pronounced were the words of Michael J. Carley who stated in the comments section of the first article I linked to: Cure"? Are you serious? It's 2017! Shame on MIT, an otherwise smart and ethical institution. The irascible Forbes contributor Emily Willingham has tweeted that numerous autistics have graduated from MIT and asks "you want to prevent them" An individual on twitter named Michael H who states he's a behavioral neuroscientist and a special educator has called the lab "ableist" So one is a bigot if they want to cure autism (I may be updating this blog post if I see more angry responses from ND's)
Interesting that the "shame on MIT" comment comes from someone who can get an advanced degree from Columbia, make a decent living, get married twice and have two children he can support (something which most autistics, myself included, will never be able to accomplish). Not to mention the fact he was diagnosed with Asperger's who did not want to call himself autistic because he didn't want to be lumped in with people who bang their heads and wear adult diapers. Also, an individual who used someone's death from terminal cancer to aggrandize himself.
I don't know if this lab's work will ever benefit anyone with autism, particularly in my lifetime, but I wanted to write this post, because I'm so glad that someone has the audacity to express how horrible autism is and uses that nasty four letter word that Carley and others are so offended by. I can only hope they won't sell out to neurodiversity the way the government and autism speaks have.