NY Mag has published a very interesting article about the burgeoning autism-rights movement. What began as a response to a call for more parental awareness of the “disability” has become an organised collection of autistic and Asperger’s people arguing that they are literally differently abled rather than dis-abled. In a manner similar to the attitudes of many in the deaf community, they see autistic children as partakers in an autistic identity, rather than children who suffer from autism.
The movement isn’t entirely new. Here’s a little gem from one of the forerunners in 1993:
It is not possible to separate the autism from the person. Therefore, when parents say, â€˜I wish my child did not have autism,â€™ what theyâ€™re really saying is, â€˜I wish the autistic child I have did not exist and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead.â€™ Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence. This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.
My first contact with positive interpretations of states considered as mental illnesses was in reading a collection of Chester Brown short comics perhaps 10 years ago. I consider Chester Brown to be a bit of a goddam genius, and I wish I knew to whom I lent Ed the Happy Clown all those years ago. You can read his piece online: My Mom was a Schizophrenic.
More recently, I’ve been reading Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, which paints schizophrenia as a process underlying “normal” states of consciousness, and draws a distinction between the process and what people think of as the illness. There’s every chance I’m not understanding that correctly, because fuck Deleuze and Guattari. If you have read them, you will hopefully understand what I mean by that.
Back to autism, if the autism-rights movement interests you, or just different horizons of disclosure in general, I highly recommend In My Language. It is a short film created by an autistic woman who attempts to close the gap a little between her language and that of those around her.