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Autism Movements

July 8, 2008

Regarding the autism spectrum, there are controversies regarding wheat-free and casein-free diets, naturopathic remedies, enzyme supplements, chelation (a dangerous procedure to supposedly remove mercury from vaccinations), and other treatments. Most of these treatments for autism are pseudoscientific, i.e., either they are unsupported by peer-reviewed research or they are actually refuted by research findings. For instance, there is no scientific evidence that mercury in vaccines has ever caused autism.

There are, broadly speaking, three viewpoints on the autism spectrum.

The first, which is my own view, is variously called autistic self-advocacy and neurodiversity. We are interested in treatments which will help autistics to become better adapted at living in their societies. Since we consider autism to be a part of our identities, we regard proposals to cure autism to be, in effect, a rejection of ourselves. Although some self-advocates would go even further and call the pro-cure advocates “proponents of genocide,” to me, that is taking the idea to a silly extreme.

The second, which is represented by websites like AutismSpeaks.org, is the pro-cure movement. They are the ones infamous for promoting all sorts of unscientific treatments (including chelation), for speaking of autism as an “epidemic,” and for portraying autistics is very unflattering fashions. Unfortunately (from my perspective), AutismSpeaks.org has become the public face of the autism spectrum, and they raise a lot of money to benefit the causes they support. The vast majority of those who are involved with the pro-cure movement are the parents of autistics. Very few autistics are a part of this movement.

The third, which I only mention to be comprehensive, is the autistic superiority movement. Most, but not all, of the persons who hold to this view are teenagers. They speak in terms of “aspie superpowers” and “aspie genetic superiority.” Many autistic self-advocates, myself included, find this viewpoint to be unfortunate and even an embarrassment. Nonetheless, I have sympathy for these people, and, as I mention in my narrative, as a kid, I would most likely have agreed with their position. Hopefully, most of them will outgrow it.

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