Dear “Autism Parents,” We Don’t Want To Be Cured

There’s a worrying trend among parents and carers of autistic children: trying to cure autism. Be it through training autistic children like dogs, sending them to special schools to be “controlled,” by donating money to organisations like Autism Speaks (widely held to be a hate group by autistic adults) in the hopes that their research can find a “cure” for autism, or even through drinking bleach (seriously)- a large number of “autism parents” want to see the end of autism. If you’re unfamiliar with the autistic community then you may ask why this is a problem: what’s wrong with wanting to cure autism?

Everything. Everything is wrong with wanting to cure autism.

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Autism is not a disease, it’s not a sickness, and the vast majority of autistic people do not want to be “cured.” Autism is a huge part of us, and removing it would radically change us as human beings. When you talk about “curing” autism, you are talking about eugenics. You are not helping us, you are not supporting us, and you are certainly not listening to us.

We don’t want to be changed, we don’t want bleach enemas, hug therapy, or to be treated like we’re dogs to be trained to your standards. We want to be listened to. We want to be accepted. We want to live in a world where people don’t see us as burdens that need to be eradicated so that “normal” people can have easier lives. We are not a public health crisis that needs to be stamped out; we’re human beings with – believe it or not – real emotions and thoughts of our own and everything.

Last night, I saw the admin of a Facebook page post a status attacking people who said that autism does not need to be cured. The admin, Gina Crosley-Corcoran (AKA “The Feminist Breeder”), has a son who was recently diagnosed as autistic. She said that autism should be “cured,” and went on to ignore nearly 2,000 comments from dozens of autistic people explaining that they didn’t want to a cure, and then explained to them that they were wrong and why they should want to be cured. It was pointed out to The Feminist Breeder that it’s not acceptable for men to belittle or ignore a woman’s opinions on misogyny, or to sit there and mansplain to them why they’re wrong, so why she can’t see the parallels between that and what she was doing is beyond me, unless she thinks our opinions are worth less than neurotypical people’s. Parents of autistic children and the neurotypical community at large need to understand that this kind of thing is incredibly harmful to us.

Autism Speaks doesn't speak for me

Another example is Autism Speaks: one of the largest autistic charities in the world which has raised millions of dollars. You may think it’s a great thing that so much money has been raised for an autistic charity, but it’s not. Autism Speaks, despite its name, has no autistic people speaking for it. It has no autistic people on its board of directors or anywhere in its decision-making team. Autism Speaks, and its celebrity supporters like “autism mom” Jenny McCarthy, believe in finding a cure for autism, despite the vast majority the autistic community telling them that they don’t want a cure.

Not only does Autism Speaks completely ignore autistic people, but it also dehumanises and demonises us in its advertising campaigns. On top of that, only 4% of the money AS raises goes to helping families of autistic people, and none goes directly to autistic people. One fifth goes on advertising and a further fifth go on fundraising, whilst 44% goes on research to try and find a cure that most autistic people don’t want and have never asked for. 

Why is that one of the largest, if not the largest, autistic charities in the US has no autistic people speaking for it? Why is it that the charity so many autism parents choose to give money to a charity that ignores their childrens opinions and needs?

Say no to Autism Speaks

If you want your autistic children to grow up and be happy, then you need to start listening to them, and to the autistic community as well. When you ignore autistic adults and our opinions, you are adding to the system of oppression that your child is going to face for the rest of their life. When you ignore what your child wants and needs, you are belittling their opinions and emotions and lowering their self-esteem.

When autistic people have been telling you for years and years that you’re wrong and that you’re hurting us, when thousands of autistic have been injured and dozens have been accidentally killed by their teachers who were trying to subdue them, and when dozens of autistic children are murdered by their parents every year because they’re seen as less-than-human, then you need to look at yourselves and ask what you’re doing to the autistic community, what you’re doing to your own children.

Autism is not some horrible condition that will mean that your child will never be happy. In my experience, the worst thing about being autistic is having to live in a world where autistic people’s needs are ignored. Your children are growing up in a world where 1 in 3 young autistic people have never been employed or gone to university 7 years after graduating from school. Your children are growing up in a world where 4/5 of autistic people have reported verbal hate crimes and nearly half said they’d experienced physical ones. Your children are growing up in a world where when autistic children are murdered by their parents, the parents are the ones that people feel sorry for and defend. And instead of trying to change the world and making it a more accepting place for autistic people, you are trying to take away the very thing that makes your children who they are.

Getting rid of autism isn’t the answer to making autistic people happy: getting rid of the bigotry, discrimination, and oppression that we face is, so please start listening to us and it may one day help your own children.

NB: this isn’t aimed at all parents of autistic children, it’s aimed at the rather large proportion of them who think that autism needs to be cured, as well as other neurotypical people who hold the same view. There are many wonderful, supportive parents of autistic children. I should also say that I do not speak for the entire autistic community.

 

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9 thoughts on “Dear “Autism Parents,” We Don’t Want To Be Cured

  1. I am an autism parent. I say to you ‘BRAVO!’
    I agree with all you write. I wish no cure for my son, I do not want to change him. I certainly will not change him so that other NT’s can feel more comfortable. I listen and read what autistic adults have to say with great interest, and take on board what you all have to say. I have never used ABA (it’s not very popular in the UK anyway!) and never would. My son is perfect to me just as my NT daughter is. Without autism he would be a stranger to me.
    Keep talking. There are many of us autism parents who want to hear everything you have to say.

  2. The main “problem” is that we live in a herd-type society and times that seem to require sameness, not value difference. Difference is difficult because we have been conditioned to believe, or think, that it is abnormal or wrong or an anomaly to BE different. WHO said there is a requirement to be a certain way? Who said having anything different is a wrongness? Growing up I was told to just be myself, but that myself was not acceptable to a limited-viewing culture, because I am different! I am in my mid-60’s, recently discovering “I” “have” aspergers. High-functioning, but even just that has made my life difficult…uh, WAS it that, or was/is it the narrow-mindedness of the culture that surrounds me? My first response was to try to change me… then I woke up and realized there IS nothing to change. This me is it. At least step back and look at your children on the spectrum from a different vantage – and not as something to be molded to “fit”. There is a culture out there that needs to grow up, wake up. If we keep adjusting who we are to fit, there will never be incentive for that change.
    Respectfully submitted with full awareness of the variances involved.

  3. Why of why has Autism become such a subject of discrimination?
    Autism has been with us always. It is in our genes in the same way that having blue eyes, blond hair or an athletic build are.
    In the past we were just accepted. We were the absent minded professor, the shy young woman, the hermit, the recluse, the wise woman, the witch doctor or the brilliant entrepreneur who established ground breaking inventions like the steam engine or the motor car.
    We were the ones people turned to for solutions to long ongoing or difficult problems.
    We mapped the heavens, we aligned the stones in ancient rings to predict the seasons.
    We designed the ships and sailed the seas to discover the world.
    And no one thought we were ill in those days.
    We painted and sculpted the great art and wrote superb music, wrote great literature and discovered the laws of Physics.
    We built the roads the bridges and the railways.
    And yet they say this is an illness.
    Unfortunately the hyper sensitivity of many with autism is so overwhelmed by the overwhelming sensory onslaught of this modern electronic age that they are unable to cope with it and it leaves them locked within themselves.

    We are, unfortunately, subject to the modern academic extreme of scientists making their reputation by naming perfectly ordinary and normal behaviours as defects, diseases, syndromes or conditions.

    It is high time it was accepted there is nothing wrong with us; that we are part of the variability, the wide range of normal human types.

  4. This is not the first time The Feminist Breeder has shown rampant ableism. Look at her attitude toward women who don’t want to breastfeed or have babies at home without drugs. She thinks they’re idiots who don’t deserve to have children and attacks them all the time. Rather than accept that people have all sorts of needs and wants, and that their bodies shouldn’t define their worth, she has to shove her view of birth and taking care of babies down everyone’s throats, and call herself a feminist. She is well known for verbally harassing and then siccing her similarly ableist followers on anyone who disagrees, then banning them so they can’t even stick up for themselves. There are facebook groups for people who have been banned because that kind of immature behavior is so common.

    On top of this, her son, who was just diagnosed with autism, was a c-section baby. Her youngest was born at home and was breastfed, and is clearly favored for having the “right” kind of birth/feeding experience. She is now using her oldest to somehow prove that autism is caused by epidurals during birth, which is such utter nonsense, it’s amazing this person has been considered a legitimate voice in the parenting world.

  5. Hi 🙂
    I’m so glad that you wrote the ‘NB’ at the end of your blog post…and I’m so glad that you realise that not all of us autism parents want our children ‘cured’ of autism. My husband and I are the very proud parents of 2 children with autism and good luck to anyone that tries to tell us that our kids aren’t perfect the way they are!
    Please remember that there are many parents, like us, that get how privileged we are to be parenting these incredible kids!

    Thanks for your writing, because we learn more from listening people on the spectrum than we can from the so called ‘specialists’. It’s all a learning curve and it’s nice to have places to turn to for quality advice 🙂

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