Hi. I'm a recently diagnosed 26-year old autistic woman. There seems to be pretty widespread agreement in the autistic community that it's bad to want a cure, but I kinda don't get it? As far as I can tell, autism only contributes negatives to my life. I would love to get rid of the sensory issues, the executive function issues, and the trouble understanding people. I get that it may be impractical to find a cure, but if it weren't, why is it bad to want one?
trigger warning for ableism, eugenics, genocide
Autism is a real disability. Some things truly are harder for us. Some things we can’t do. It’s okay to be frustrated by this. Many autistic people sometimes wish that they were not autistic.
Let’s talk about how autism works for a minute. Autism is caused by a “supercharged brain,” with more neural connections and activity (at least, if I am interpreting the research correctly). It is hardwired into the structure of your brain.
You couldn’t remove autism from your brain without ripping it apart. There’s no one “autism part” of your brain. It’s everywhere. It’s deeply ingrained.
There are 2 types of autism cures that people talk about:
- Fake “cures” sold by scammers (e.g. Miracle Mineral Solution), which may be useless, harmful, or potentially deadly
- Eugenic cure (creating a test for autism, testing fetuses for autism, and aborting the fetuses that test positive)
(The eugenics movement around WWII posed two more solutions: forced sterilization of disabled people, or killing disabled people, which Hitler did. Nowadays we don’t see many people advocating for these.)
A world without autism would be a world in which you and I are either dead or never given a chance to live.
Realistically speaking… you were born autistic, and you will die autistic. There is no magic pill to ravage your brain and destroy its structure, as that would tend to kill you.
Will humans someday learn how to change the intricate structure of the brain without destroying it? Maybe. I’m not a scientist. But I don’t think we should pin our hopes on a possibility that is unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, and could be very dangerous.
Now let’s talk about attitudes about autism.
Society tends to see autism in a deeply negative light. This isn’t an accident; society is inherently ableist and we have groups like Autism Speaks working to keep it that way.
Ever heard of the social model of disability? It’s the idea that disability is caused by society, not by inability. I always like to describe it using my glasses.
My eyesight is not great. With my eyes, I can’t read clocks, signs, even these words on the screen. My eyes are less capable. There are things my eyes can’t do.
And you know what? None of that matters! I have these magical things called glasses. They level the playing field. I have exactly the same opportunities as my friends with 20/20 vision.
Poor vision is a difference in ability that society accommodates.
Autism is not.
What if nobody paid attention to your stimming because they considered it normal? What if the world was designed to eliminate painful sensory stimuli, and to provide opportunities for sensory seekers to get their needs met? What if meltdowns and shutdowns were seen as normal, and there were quiet rooms in every building where you could go to calm down? What if honesty about one’s feelings were more common? Autism might not be such a big deal then, huh?
The problem isn’t that you were born different. The problem is that society does not adequately support your differences. This lack of support is what defines a disability.
Besides, not all your differences are deficits. Some of these strengths may sound like you:
- Enhanced pattern recognition
- Focused special interests
- Better observation skills
- Helpfulness towards other
- Superior long-term memory
…and that’s just the beginning. Check out this article for even more.
I’d also like you to read the article “How to Accept Your Autism.” Heck, bookmark it. You shouldn’t have to go through life hating the way you are. Autistic people can be wonderful, capable, caring people. Redefine what success means for you, and work towards goals that will improve your happiness.
(”Being more neurotypical” is a garbage goal. Please take out the trash. You are only going to be sadder if you spend your time comparing yourself to others.)
Here are some example goals that are really good for you:
- Spend time with my special interest(s) each day
- Hang out with people who make me happy
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Get better at recognizing sensory overload, and taking breaks to keep it from getting worse
- Buying and using some great stim toys
- Writing down 3 good things that happened today before going to bed
You are good enough the way you are. You are not bad for being autistic. Please stop looking down on yourself. You are worth so much more.