Throwing the Baby out with the Dishwater: Not Even Looking at it from a Disability Perspective.

Kowalski offers a thought-provoking blogpost on the whole AoA-baby fiasco that is well worth your time in reading.

I've posted my response to it (left at T & K as well) below:

It’s no surprise that there are those on the vaccines-don’t-cause-autism camp who can be insensitive to those with disabilities. Nor is it surprising that many read that picture as calling those individuals photoshopped in baby-killers, without seeing a subtext that suggested that the baby represents autistics (and for that matter, other disabled).

I don’t think the subtext you’ve read into it is an intended subtext on AoA’s part; their readership makes pretty clear that they consider these people to be the mass murderers of innocent children. They believe they had the perfect babies and autism stole them away and that this horrible entity autism is a poison propagated by people like Offit. I don’t think AoA considered autistic individuals at all. I think that in the justifiable outrage at the picture and the comments by the worst of the AoAers, any message about autistic people was passed over.

Those who believe vaccines made their children autistic want that autism eradicated; this is, yes, much like the abhorrent, overwhelming abortion of Down Syndrome babies. Many parents who don’t think the autism was caused by vaccines also want their children cured of the autism; they see it as a scourge standing between them and their real child. If that child is severely disabled, not potty trained, non-verbal and non-communicative and self-injurious, in addition, you can certainly understand the parents’ desire for an improvement in their child’s condition. Using untested, dangerous treatments to “help,” though, is harder to empathize with.

Then there are other parents, who see autism as a spectrum of personality traits and behaviors, who do not believe that autism is standing in between them and their real child. We want our children to be happy, to be healthy, and to achieve their potential, whatever that potential might be. We wish to help our childre cope adaptively and to change society so that it will be more accepting of differences. We seek appropriate, safe therapies that will help our children learn to communicate, to be able to function as well as they can. We don’t do this to make them fit in a prescribed mold of neurotypicality (and it may be because we don’t fit terribly well in that mold itself). We aren’t perfect, but we are trying hard, hard to see things from others’ perspectives, trying to understand where our children our coming from, trying to fight negative stereotypes of autistic individuals, of disability in general. We are working hard to counter, to stand against bullying, against discrimination.

To thank you for offering a counterpoint to the outrage already covered without sounding patronizing, I’m not sure can be done, and I hope you know that I would not engage in that kind of behavior. I will say that I always enjoy reading your blog posts and that you almost always provide me a point of view I hadn’t considered before.

You provide here a subtext not offered by other bloggers, me included. It’s a valuable contribution and it’s a shame that is was met by language that devalued the parents at AoA by besmirching intellect. The bright boy has a cognitive impairment. He is not less because of this and he is in no way comparable to the dumbasses and wackaloons at AoA (some of whom are educated quite well). Nor are others who have an intellectual impairment. I don’t know how you address these dumbasses except to keept it to that: dumbasses and wackaloons. There is no implied disability, no use of previously used language regarding the intellectually disabled. No comparison because there is none and should be none.


Countering Age of Autism


kathleen said...

I haven't read the T and K piece yet..but,I have been thinking a lot on this subject lately. I too agree in the sense that AoA's subtext was not intended to represent autistic or disabled individuals(in the picture) I say this because AoA fails to recognize that there are people-human beings behind the diagnosis. They always have. Aoa isn't about people with autism..hell, it really isn't even about autism at all.
You are right-there is no message about autistic people-unless it is negative..and always in the context of "woe is me-I've lost my child"
When AoA posts something like this..something even more horrific than their usual crap..there is a call to arms-unity, blog posts galore..righteous indignation..and I think, what is it about this post, this particular one that gets people going? The picture? The comments? What? I also wonder that in doing this, are we doing people with autism an injustice as well? Don't get me wrong-Aoa needed to be called out on this..but sometimes I wonder-is it more about the fight than about the people? Are we so caught up in the indignation-that we are not seeing the forest for the trees?
Sorry about being long winded..:)

Corina Becker said...

I think T and K point out that it's not just the abuses that autistic people face in the hands of the AoA and "biomed" crowd with the "alternative" treatments and such.

Now, I know that this blog is specifically for countering AoA, but it should be also in our focus that while autistics suffer from woo abuse, that we and other disabled people also suffer abuse from non-woo treatment.
As noted by Michelle Dawson, there have been a huge lack of good quality research on autism treatments and therapies.

For example, it has been pointed out that the studies for ABA were only really successful when using restraints and adversives.

Example: the use of electric shocks at the Judge Rotenberg Center.

Example: the many cases of autistic students being inappropriately restrained, isolated, physically harmed, and otherwise abused by teachers that have been reported in the news lately.

I personally clump these together with what the AoA/"biomed" crowd come up with and say, "autistic people deserve better. We need to stop this now."