Friday, August 10, 2012
Does Autism Suck?
I read this blog post from another autism dad. It's complaining about people who say that they "wouldn't change their (autistic) child for the world." I was resharing the link on Facebook, but my comment started to get lengthy so I decided to see if I could eke an entire blog post of my own out of this idea.
I'm very concerned about what autistic self-advocates have to say. My son can't get philosophical about his diagnosis yet, so I listen to what people like Ari Ne'eman and Temple Grandin have to say about it. The impression that I get, generally, is that high functioning adults with autism would not choose to be neuro-typical. But that's over-simplifying things. I don't know quite so much about Ari, because no one has made a biopic about him yet, but Temple Grandin has always suffered from crippling anxiety. You can't tell me that if she could take away that anxiety and leave everything else the same that she wouldn't do it. She just wouldn't want to give up the strengths her autism gives her to get rid of the deficits and challenges.
I've got my own psychological diagnoses. I have been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, etc. The ADHD is the only one that I think it's fair to compare in this situation. ADHD has benefits and disadvantages. Whereas depression and anxiety, they just suck all the time. ADHD lets me hyperfocus on a task, whether it's reading a fascinating book or trying to solve a problem or just researching a subject that I'm curious about. ADHD also kept me from getting decent grades in any math class I've taken, ever. Well, ok, except geometry. I got a B in that one. My graduating GPA in high school was 1.666. But I digress. (That's the ADHD too.)
If I could snap my fingers and not be ADHD anymore, would I? I can't say for sure. If I could snap my fingers and not have trouble focusing on stuff that I find boring? In a heartbeat.
Joseph's expressive communication is pretty limited. It's far better than it was two years ago when he was diagnosed with autism and he was effectively non-verbal, but he doesn't come home from school and tell me what he did that day without a lot of help, and he never tells me about his classmates unless I remind him who they are.
Joseph also has a genius level IQ and extraordinary spatial reasoning skills. He builds wonderful creations with his LEGOS and K'nex, or out of cardboard boxes and tubes. His teachers and therapists are always talking about how they expect him to become an amazing architect or civil engineer.
If I could choose for him, would I choose for him to be hitting all his developmental milestones right where the docs say he should, have a 100 point IQ, a C average in school, etc, in exchange for him being able to communicate more effectively? No. I don't think so. And I think that's what people are talking about when they say they wouldn't choose to be neuro-typical, or for their child to not be autistic.
But a little more talking would be super. And a little more awareness of danger. And it would have been nice to have him toilet trained before his 5th birthday. And I'd love to be able to take him to the store and not have to worry about him disappearing at warp speed if I let go of his hand for a moment.
It doesn't mean I love my son any less than I would if he was some abnormally normal kid. Every rose has its thorn. Except now they have these genetically modified roses that actually don't have thorns or something. But that breaks the metaphor that's supposed to anchor this whole post, so let's forget about them.