Sun Sentinel Editorial Asks: Where Are The Adult Autistic Voices?

The "neurodiversity movement" doesn't get a lot of press. But in the closing hours of "Autism Awareness Month" -- or April, as it's often known -- neurodiversity got an unexpected shot of love in Nichole Brochu's Sun Sentinel column, which she outsourced for the occasion to filmmaker Todd Drezner.

Drezner has an autistic son, and has made a film called Loving Lampposts which explores the ideas and motivations of those on two seemingly irreconcilable sides of the autism debate. By far the larger and louder group is comprised of those who view autism as a disorder in need of cures and treatments. Arrayed against them is a smaller and much less famous group comprised largely of people with autism, who insist autism is a natural variation on human neurology. This latter group is the "neurodiversity movement." (There is considerably more consensus in the latter group than in the former, which is painfully divided between those who seek science-based treatments for autism and those who seek to cure it with chelators and castration drugs.)

In his editorial, Drezner asks why the loudest voices in the various autism debates seem to belong to the parents of autistic children, rather than from autistic adults? He writes:

Maybe we don't want to imagine our disabled kids as disabled adults. The obsession with 'recovering' and 'curing' children from autism is really an obsession with making our kids "normal" enough to function in the world. When we imagine them as disabled adults, we worry that they will be alone, unable to make friends or support themselves. So instead of listening to autistic adults, we tune them out...

The problem is that by ignoring autistic adults, we miss the most important thing that they have to teach us: It's possible to lead a meaningful, fulfilling life as an autistic person. It may not be exactly "normal," but it can still be a satisfying life.

Of course, there are other reasons we hear from the parents of autistic children more often than from autistic adults -- that the majority of those ever diagnosed with autism are still quite young; that parents scared to death by autism will naturally be more voluble than autistic adults who are sanguine about the condition; etc. But as quiet as the voices of autistic adults might seem -- and by all means, not all of them are actually quiet -- Drezner makes the point that these are the voices most in need of a good hearing.

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