Alex Lowery speaks about autism

Should there be a cure for autism?

Written on 22nd Sep 2017 by Alex Lowery

Hello everyone. Today I’m going to be speaking about the subject of a cure for autism and whether or not I think a cure would be necessary. Before bringing up my own views, I will simply remain neutral and bring up what other people have said about the subject. I will also try to take both sides of the debate into consideration.

FullSizeRenderI know of many autistic people who find the very idea of a ‘cure’ to be extremely offensive and ‘ableist’. They will do everything they can to campaign against it. However, there are others (particularly parents of autistics) who have also brought up a point that autism is far more impactful for some people than it is for others. I have heard autistic adults say stuff like, “There is no severe autism. Autism is autism.” And while I believe this could be true to a point; it can’t be denied that it does cover a very wide spectrum. Many parents of autistic children who are non verbal (and may have an accompanying intellectual disability) have mentioned that those autistics who are much higher functioning and have managed to succeed in life (I know a lot of people hate the term ‘high functioning’ and I agree that it’s not ideal, but it gets the point across here) can’t necessarily speak for all people who are on the autistic spectrum. I can also understand where these parents are coming from. If you’ve got a grown up son or daughter who has no language and also still needs assistance to go to the toilet and feed him/her self; it’s not that hard to understand their point of view on the ‘cure’. As a young child, I myself was in a world full of complete torment. I thought I was talking like everyone else, but I wasn’t. This lead to a lot of frustration and extreme behaviour.

Also, while there are many extremely vocal autistics who find the idea of a cure offensive… That doesn’t change the fact that there are other autistic people who hate being autistic and would pay any price to be the rid of autism. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never had times when I wish I wasn’t autistic. I know this might surprise a lot of you because I’m almost always trying to view autism in a positive way but I can’t just sit here and pretend that living with autism is always easy. I have a lot of difficulties (not just from autism, but from ADHD and dyspraxia) that really affect my ability to function. I’m nearly 24 and I still have to depend a lot on my parents for support and this can sometimes be very hard to accept because I wish I could just get on in life with no trouble. I also have an incredible amount of anxiety. I don’t believe a day has ever passed were I’ve been 100% anxiety free, so even though I am able to look at the positives of autism, that doesn’t mean I always find it easy to accept the negatives.

Now I’m actually going to attempt to answer the question, “Would I take a cure for autism?” Due to all that I said before, I can definitely understand why some people may want a cure and I do find autism frustrating at times. However, I still don’t believe I would want to take a cure if there was one available, because (while the deficits can be frustrating); it’s simply a part of who I am and it’s the way God has made me. Like I’ve said many times, it has its advantages as well as disadvantages and I don’t think I’d want to get rid of the things I can do just to be able to do the things I can’t. What if my autism was cured, and I stopped viewing things objectively and started to look at them emotionally? What if I stopped being able to recite things I’ve heard?

What if I stopped being able to remember past events from my life in great detail? What if I stopped being able to remember years that life events happened in?

And while it’s true that I’m not doing things in life that I might be doing if I wasn’t autistic… There are also a good number of things I am doing that I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t be doing if I wasn’t autistic. I probably wouldn’t have written a book and I probably wouldn’t be giving talks to make a difference. God has given me autism and in a lot of ways: it’s a different way of viewing the world with both positives and negatives.

Sometimes I have been asked, “Well, what if only the negative aspects could be cured so the positive aspects would remain?” Now, this is a fair question but as far as I’m concerned… Neither one exists without the other. I mean no one on this planet is perfect. We all have things we’re good at and things we struggle with, so when someone has a particular unique gift, he/she will more than likely have struggles as well. Many experts believe that some of the famous inventors and geniuses from history may have been on the autistic spectrum and if it wasn’t for these people; we’d still be in the Dark Ages. Who do you think would be studying the inventions and such? It likely wouldn’t be the really sociable people would it? It would most likely be the people who were unsociable and fixated on their special interests. Many geniuses in general often seem to have a rather low emotional quotient. Would they want to get rid of their high IQ just so they could have a higher EQ? It’s similar with autism in the sense that there are both good aspects and bad aspects.

OK… Now, I’ve mentioned that I don’t think I’d want to be cured. However, we can’t ignore what I said earlier. There are autistics who may want a cure. The second question I’ll answer is, “Should there be a cure available for people if they do want it?” I mentioned before about the non-verbal autistics. If there was a cure: would they then be able to talk? Well, I would say that would probably depend on whether or not the language difficulty was caused by the autism or something else like an intellectual disability. Even if there were a cure for autism, that wouldn’t necessarily cure an accompanying Intellectual disability. Of course, there isn’t always an ID present when an autistic person can’t talk, but there is in some cases. But even with the non-verbal autistics, autism is still a big part of who they are and they wouldn’t be ‘them’ if the condition were cured. I’ve even seen non-verbal autistics with talents and things they’re good at that may not be present without autism.

I wouldn’t force this view on others. Any autistic person who does want to be cured would be entitled to if there were a cure available. However, the fact to the matter is; I don’t really believe there could ever be a cure for autism simply because it’s the whole way a brain is wired. You can’t cure how someone’s brain is tuned. To quote someone else, “To cure autism, you’d have to take out the brain, rewire it, put it back and it would be left with a completely different personality”. This is true. You couldn’t cure autism because it’s such a big part of a person’s being, so honestly I don’t really think all the research (by organisations like ‘Autism Speaks’) into a cure is really the answer. I think we ought to be looking into how autistic people can be taught skills to cope and be helped to function in society.

Also, a lot of the time when people use the word “cure”; they seem to mean ‘abortion’. This means they want to be able to detect autism before birth so they can terminate the future autistic population. I do not support this at all under any circumstances.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Despite what I said about the cure, I’m not awfully fond of autistic pride day because autism isn’t something I’m exceptionally “proud” of, nor is it something I’m ashamed of. I’m neutral towards it. It’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s simply a part of what makes autistic people who they are. They’re neither superior nor inferior to NTs. We’re all human beings at the end of the day that are made in the image of God.

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4 thoughts on “Should there be a cure for autism?

  1. Jane McCready says:

    I found this a very thoughtful, well written and balanced article, I enjoyed it

  2. Simon Stiel says:

    Hi,

    Great article and I too share the thought at times during my lowest moments that I wish I could expel what I have like a disease and my life would be happier.

    Cure would be an interesting answer but it’s the wrong enquiry. It’s similar to the question asked of those who are bipolar.

    Have you heard of the social disability theory? I heard it in this TED talk from Australia. https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_you_very_much

    What the social disability theory says is disabled people are not disabled by their bodies or brains but by the society they live in.

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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
  • Glyndwr University
  • National Autistic Society
  • St John's Ambulance
  • Welsh Government

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