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.
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.
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?
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.