As the mother of an autistic son, I’ve grappled with whether it’s morally or medically right to talk about ‘curing’ autism
Seventy years ago, child psychiatrist Leo Kanner described what was then an extremely rare disorder, autism. This complex neurodevelopmental disorder – which affects an individual’s ability to communicate and interact socially and is often accompanied with behavioral difficulties – is now diagnosed in one in 88 children in the US. A 2011 study of South Korean school children even found that one in 38 were on the autism spectrum.
Autism is now seen as a spectrum disorder, in which those with the diagnosis have similar communicative, social and other challenges, in different degrees of severity. As a result, autism is a diagnosis given both to a college student majoring in a STEM field who is an eloquentadvocate for autism rights and to my son Charlie. A teenager, Charlie attends a special school for children with severe behavioral issues and intellectual disabilities. He talks in short phrases but is not able to ask why is it raining so that he can’t ride his bike or how did he get so big that I can’t carry him anymore.
When my son was first diagnosed in 1999, we sought out ways to “recover” him from autism. But when he turned five and we saw that he would not be able to go to kindergarten, we began to devote ourselves to figuring out how to make the world a better place for him.
The whole article is available on the Guardian website here.