Taken out of context…

April 1, 2011

“…research has shown that early intervention by therapists and parents can “push” the child into enjoying certain activities, or “pull” him away from his obsessive preoccupations. “We’ve got an amazing ability to affect expression of genes,” she says, “and we believe that with early intervention we’re pushing the best possible gene expression at every stage.” By the time many kids are diagnosed, that window has already started to close, she says, when the “hard-wiring” sets in and some genes are turned off for good.” sounds like the plot to a dystopian sci-fi flick, right?

But it’s actually about early ASD diagnosis and recent research into its genetic causes, so it’s all cool! It’s a good thing!

I’m hesitant to attempt to speak for even the smallest segment of the ASD population, because each experience with autism is so unique, and I have been blessed (or maybe it’s “blessed”) with a pretty high-functioning brand of it, but this just isn’t sitting well with me.

Maybe it’s different for individuals on the lower end of the spectrum. Hell, maybe it’s different for my fellow Aspies. But, personally, the language and focus of articles and research like this strikes me as a little myopic. There’s an assumption being made that making an autistic person more neurotypical is, in and of itself, a solution. That simply making us behave more like them is going to make us “better.”

Certainly, being sculpted into a more neurotypical, or at least NT-appearing child would have spared me a lot of bullying and torture, but just because it would have made me less miserable doesn’t mean that it would have made me happy or functional. Looking back on most of my childhood friendships now, I can see that there was nothing particularly fulfilling or enjoyable about them even before most of them turned into Cat’s Eye-level abuse. We had nothing in common. I just pretended to like stuff they liked so that they’d keep me around, and that was pretty much the extent of my early childhood socialization.

Even if there had been some sort of genetic therapy back then, if I could have been programmed to actually like those things on the same level as my so-called peers, would I really have been any better off? Would I really be a more functional human being now if I had loved Vanilla Ice and some ugly boy a grade ahead of us ironically named Beau instead of the Titanic?

And again, I don’t know what it’s like for anyone else on the spectrum, but for me, autism is a pretty all-encompassing part of my existence. It’s not just my behaviour; it’s my perspective and my desires. We’re talking about both my external and internal life here.

Correcting just the former would be downright cruel. Correcting both is getting eerily close the plot of The Stepford Wives.


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