Julia Belluz, Vox.com - August 28, 2014
"What's more, autism spectrum disorders — which causes social impairment and stifles people's ability to communicate — still represents significant suffering globally. 'The burden of disease caused by the disorders is not only high in children but continues throughout the lifespan into adulthood,' says Baxter. In 2010, autism spectrum disorders caused 7.7 million person-years of healthy life lost, around the world."
Two of Vox.com's strengths are explaining things, and dampening hysteria with actual information. I am glad to see them take on the supposed explosive growth of autism. I would love even more for Vox.com do a followup addressing the radically different conceptions of autism that most autistic people, and those of us who read and write disability blogs know about, but most people don’t.
“Suffering” and “healthy life lost” provide an unusually clear picture of the divide between two fundamentally different ways of understanding autism.
The traditional, medical view is that autistic people "suffer from” autism. And because autism apparently means autistic people have no personalities or points of view of their own, families suffer even more, from the stress and anguish of having kids with autism. If they really thought about it, most people would probably say that “autistic” and “healthy” are incompatible concepts, and that autism is one of the most dread of diseases, the very opposite of, "I don't care if it's a boy or a girl. I just want it to be healthy!"
The Neurodiversity or Autism Acceptance views of autism do not deny that autism exists or that it is difficult. Nor do they deny that there is suffering. The difference is where the suffering is thought to come from. In this alternative view, autism is not always inherently painful or debilitating. Rather, it is non-autistic people's lack of understanding of autism and, their pathologizing approaches to it, that cause autistic people to suffer most.
I wonder if and when these different paradigms of autism … and of other disabilities, too … will become more widely known. It seems like an important thing to at least be aware of.