Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Conscientious Objective

War has been declared against those who are technologically challenged. We are bent on removing all indications of computer illiteracy. All children of parents afflicted with this disease deserve your pity and support. Many of these parents have been brought back from the brink of certain lifelessness and can be taught to behave like all of us online...

We must understand and accept those with bi-polar disorder. These bouts or euphoria and depression are not a problem to be fixed, but a way of being to be understood. We should allow them to decide for themselves if they wish to change.

Neither of these two statements make real sense, but in essence that’s what ‘battle’ lines are being drawn between the neurodiverse and many other groups advocating an all out war on autism. I'm really not trying to get into a discussion about what analogies can be drawn between bipolar and autism, I was just trying to make an extreme comparison to some non-life threatening (bipolar can be, I think) neurological disorder.

Wars are society’s way of mobilization, I know it’s not right, but what other metaphor do we use? War analogies provide rallying cries, stir feelings, promote conviction and imply a grand effort. But I guess what’s at the core of the discussion is the connotation that war brings. It’s the fact that the terms are too strong and negative to be used.: War, Battle, Combat and, what’s really at the core of this discussion, the word ‘HATE’.

But there is a war of sorts being fought for services, for awareness, for tolerance, for better diagnosis. I guess that's where the difference is, we are fighting FOR someone and not necessarily AGAINST anything except maybe fear, ignorance and prejudice-- against society’s perception of autism.

I guess you could rally around a relief effort banner; it’s the only other time we have mobilization. But like the tsunami, a relief implies some kind of disaster; and the same way you can imply a war against autism you can mis-attribute the disaster to those people on the spectrum rather than the condition of services, diagnosis, and insurance coverage.

We clearly have to step away from the 'autism is the enemy' type of speech, as well as the autism-as-trainwreck language. Autism, regardless of your views on causations, is a lifelong way of being for autistics and we can see how the language is received by those on the spectrum. I used to try the ‘hate the disease, love the child’ creedo, but that would imply that :
A: it is a disease and:
B: you can separate it from the child.
I can accept neither statement at this point. It is a disease only in that something is preventing her from communicating to the best of her ability. I can separate it only in that I can see past what’s blocking her from me.

This brings us to the ‘passive’ side of the discussion. While every step of the way, I want my girls to feel that they are sliced bread cubed (mathematically not culinar-ily), I feel I owe it to them to push every avenue I can. I want them to know that we have tried every reasonable approach. That something as trivial as money was not an obstacle; that time was not a consideration. “TO DO WHAT?”--- you and me and my girls figuratively ask? I want to improve their communication, their concentration, their mood, in short, I want to improve their chances in life.

My wife and I come from similar backgrounds; where praise was sparse, excellence was assumed and more was expected. Blame it on my roots…we’re pushing the girls the same way we push the other three. Not towards normalcy; just toward their excellence.

So can we use the war analogies? I think not. Too many battles are raging in real life with real people fighting and dying. War analogies have been used too many times to stamp out monsters like polio, small pox; to fight cancer, leukemia, muscular dystrophy. Leave the war analogies to the killers and maimers. Let autism fight the fight of passive resistance; but nobody’s gonna stamp out my girls in my lifetime…

Meanwhile…I think I’ll teach my dad how to blog…

1 comment:

Club 166 said...

Great post, Bill.

War analogies are definitely not the ones I want to use when describing my son and his being autistic, for all the reasons you describe.

Another thing is that war is generally something that is time limited, and then you move on to something else.

I don't want to concentrate school districts, legislatures, and society's attention in general to autism for a short period of time, and then let them move on to something else.

Autism is here to stay. And what I want for my son is acceptance, and the chance to compete on an equal footing.

I'm not looking to "win" concessions, I'm looking for changed attitudes. While I'm fighting tooth and nail for an "appropriate" education for my son today, I am also looking to change the way society sees my son tomorrow. Painting him as tainted by some grave "disease" does not further my long term goals at all, even if they might result in greater short term gains.