Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wanting A "Cure" Means You Don't Love Your Child

Well, that's inflammatory, isn't it? I've never exactly been described as subtle. It's kind of an intrinsic part of who I am. Let me explain, you do love your child. A version of it, that is. You love us without Autism. Many people think that's totally compatible and understandable. No. It's bullshit. You don't love us because one, Autism is wholly inseparable from the Autistic; two, cures are code for abuse; and three, by treating us being Autistic as something that needs to be beaten, sometimes literally, out of us, you do not love the child you have but the mythical non-Autistic child that you can think of loving.

I am Autistic. I honestly can't imagine a non-Autistic me. And, no, this is not me "giving up--"what is there to give up on? I'm just sitting here listening to folk music--Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie; Crosby,  Stills, Nash, and Young; Malvina Reynolds; and Buffy Sainte Marie to be exact--repetitively moving my legs, contemplating making some more tea, and typing. All of these things spare for the second can be something any random neurotypical would do, and let's be honest, they're at least 60 if they are. Arlo Guthrie isn't exactly "hip" these days. Well, it's all directly related to being Autistic. How? Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't appreciate the likes of Cyndi Lauper or Lady Gaga; I just can't stand them. Does that sentence seem odd? If you were Autistic it wouldn't. Here's how it works: Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper are pop artists who make some really good music. It's pretty fun to sing Girls Just Want To Have Fun (yes, I'm male--shut it), but you know the part other than the vocals? It's called instrumentals. And that, that is where pop loses me--assuming it's not misogynistic or otherwise problematic which is one reason I'm not super thrilled by pop music. You know what folk has? It has the pointed critique of (good) punk and the actually decent musical quality of progressive rock which just makes the sarcasm inherent to it overflow into some amazing music.
Being Autistic means I have sensory processing disorder (they are overlapping disorders and are not wholly inclusive of each other). That, that is what makes bands like Devo unbearable to me. My fairly comprehensive knowledge of the songs I listen to, like knowing exactly how long they are with maybe 2 seconds of error, is part of being Autistic, too. If I wasn't Autistic, well, maybe I'd like modern (and 80s) music better. But maybe I wouldn't have heard the song It Isn't Nice by Malvina Reynolds, for example. It's one of my favorites. Maybe I wouldn't have heard this in her discography:
"Anyone who puts his or her talent and effort toward changes for the better has tremendous muscle. Much more than the negative people do, the destructive people do, because they have history on their side and they have the desires of the people on their side. So they can be really powerful with not all that much effort. If you want to change you can’t be desperate even if the situation is difficult; a side effect that it’s good, good for the cause, it’s good for you too because you become part of a community that is working to change and that’s a very healthy thing. You’re not just grousing and complaining—but you’re working, that’ll take away your blues."--Malvina Reynolds (The Judge Said Intro')
I live by this quote. Each and every day I think of a way to identify issues and try and think of solutions. That's just who I am. I'm Autistic. What else could I be? Well, yes, I'm not the same as every other Autistic.I'm Eric. I have a completely different life experience than anyone else by virtue of being me. That's just obvious. Still, just like I'm Jewish, or I'm Bisexual, or I'm a Washingtonian, or I'm whatever, my life experiences is shaped by common experiences that other people in my identities have--same with Autism. I have recently become part of a community: the Autistic community. When I stepped into my first Autistic Self Advocacy Network meeting it felt as if I had reconnected with a culture I knew I was in, but felt always out of reach. It felt like one might when they come back to Synagogue and is allowed to be a Jew through and through. Autistic culture is as much real to me as being Jewish or being Queer. If you can't separate me from being Jewish, then how could a person claim that being Autistic is not a part of me. I am Autistic. I am Jewish. I am Eric. They are intertwined intrinsically. My life is defined by being all of my intersecting identities just as it is for everyone else.

When a person advocates for a cure, they want to eliminate something from a person. That's what a cure is. When a person wants to cure Autism, they want to eliminate Autism from a person. That's literally what is being advocated for. Treating means the same thing. To treat something means to reduce so as not to "harm." That's literally what a person means by treatment. There is no cure for Autism. There is no way yet devised to make an Autistic allistic (not Autistic). One common treatment is Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA. ABA is broad. It can range from what the United Nations considers torture, such as the Judge Rotenburg Center's brand of ABA, to Lovass ABA (which requires violence like hitting, so also torture), to what is considered a "gentler" ABA which is becoming more common. The ABA that means you shouldn't hit 7 year olds (wow, really?) still treats an Autistic like a robot to train. It relies heavily on reward and punishment systems. It's classical conditioning, essentially. Humans aren't robots. Humans are complex. ABA forces a singular expression of a human with no regard for how it gets there. This makes terrible connections form and fosters internalized hatred. ABA is abuse.

Many desperate parents who want to rid their children of who they are try pseudo-scientific and often lethal measures such as chelation. Chelation is a medical procedure designed to remove heavy metals from blood. It also deprives people of oxygen.Children die from suffocation because of it. Some try feeding their children bleach or giving them bleach enemas. Others refuse to vaccinate their children. People would rather their children dead than be Autistic.

If you advocate for a cure then you want an allistic child, right? As stated, your child is Autistic, so how can you have an allistic child from that Autistic one? I'm perplexed. You don't want an Autistic child, but you love your Autistic child? Okay, so you don't love their Autism? But, wait, they're Autistic, so how can you love them, but not one of their most defining personality traits? I think I understand. You want a child. You want a normal child. You don't want your Autistic child. You want the conception of a child you had when you met them. You hug them and wonder where that mythical child went--the one that existed in your mind. Your child doesn't understand. They are themselves and no one else. If you don't love what defines them intrinsically, then how can you claim to love them? It's as ridiculous as saying you love your Asexual child, but not the Asexual part. They're Asexual. They're your child. You can't separate that. You can't separate the Autism from the Autistic.They're Autistic. They're your child. You either love them or you don't. And, yes, I judge people who don't love their child. You don't need to be a parent to find the idea repulsive.I can judge you if you don't love your child and I am. Wanting a cure means you don't love your child. I'm asking you to love your child. Love your child. They're waiting. 


EDIT: Yes, ABA is abuse. I thankfully never went through it, but blogger Neurodivergent K has and she has worked with kids who have been through or were going through it. If you don't know what ABA is, don't comment to excuse it.

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