Cure centers those who have not accepted autism (or any other disability) as a concrete and permanent part of a disabled person’s identity. Often, it is the parents of disabled individuals who have not yet been able to grasp the fact that their child is not “normal.” I loved how in the “Fixing Autism” video, the father (presumably) said that his daughter might not ever be “normal”, but she will be “the best Bianca that she can be.” This is an awesome perspective for the parent of an autistic child; to focus on allowing them to be the greatest version of themselves rather than trying to force them to be like the rest of society. On the topic of parenting, I felt that the “Defining Curebie-ism” article was a bit extreme in its claim about “Curebies” hating their autistic children. It reads, “To pay for whatever they see as a potential cure, many curebies go deeply into debt and then blame their child for ruining their life. There are some curebies who fantasize about killing their child, have no qualms about saying so while the child is listening, and seek to justify their murderous views by asserting that all parents of autistic children ‘share that hidden, dark thought.’” Sure, there are parents who endanger their child’s mental health with countless hours of therapies and treatments, which isn’t acceptable by any means, but how would they know if a parent fantasizes about killing their child? And even if there are parents who are this extreme, I feel like it is a very small percentage and doesn’t represent most parents or persons who believe in finding a cure.
The conversations that “cure” might deflect are those which discuss possible ways to enhance the life of an autistic individual, without trying to “delete” the autism. The idea of cure is not disability studies because from this perspective, disability is not a problem that needs to be fixed. Rather, Linton views disability as a construct that can find significance in a social and cultural context. In my opinion, once a person has a disability, no one should try to change or alter them because their disability is a huge part of who they are and it should be embraced. In that sense, I do agree with the idea of not finding a “cure” or a “fix.” However, I do not see a problem with researching the causes of a particuar disability, taking a preventative approach so that less people will be born disabled. I feel like there should be a greater focus on preventing autism in the first place rather than treating it once it has affected an individual. But until we can figure out exactly WHAT autism is and where it comes from, we cannot exactly do this. Either way, it is crucial that instead of trying to find a “cure” for autism, each autistic individual should be encouraged to be the best (and happiest) version of him or herself that they can be.
1) I’m an English major and am Pre-Med. I chose English because I love to write and I enjoy the study of language and rhetoric. I’m president of a Pre-Medical club here on campus called the Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association (Pre-SOMA). My goals for the semester include studying for the MCAT (and hopefully being prepared by January) and focusing on time management. I’m also really looking forward to my English 416 class 🙂
2) In his concept of a “terministic screen,” Burke offers us an understanding of the relationships between language and reality. Correspondingly, Broderick notes that each of her “watershed moments” is paired with a cultural shift in rhetorical content, rhetorical concept, and/or rhetorical strategy. She discusses how various treatment studies and organizations (Lovaas, Maurice, and Autism Speaks) have changed the face of autism, affecting one’s “terministic screen” for which one views autism (in the eyes of the public, and in the eyes of those directly affected). Specifically, the language of recovery, for example, can create the notion of an “implied promise” of normalcy for one affected by autism. It can give them hope. This construct of “recovery” goes along with the language of parenting – parents want their children to be “normal”; that is, non-handicapped. Parents are thought to have a responsibility to protect and do the best that they can for their children. Those with autistic children very well might blame themselves because they feel hopeless; that they are not living up to the rhetoric that goes along with being a good parent. On the other hand, scientific representations of autism might prevent us from seeing the emotional realities of what it is like to be affected by autism. The language of science generates thoughts of empirical data, research, legitimacy. These treatments and methods are thought to be fact-based and accurate. If science says that an autistic person is disabled, or that there is no hope for recovery, then that becomes the new reality for much of society.
Burke’s metaphor of “terministic screens” is useful in examining disabilities because it makes it easier to see how one’s judgment can be affected (negatively and positively) by the various rhetoric surrounding the language for a particular disability. We might better understand why people feel the way they do about the different aspects of disability – treatment, recovery, acceptance. At the same time, though, “terministic screens” is slightly unhelpful in that it does not take into account the fact that there are influences on one’s notion of a disability that may not be symbol or language-based (childhood experiences, cultural differences, etc.).
What questions do you have and/or hope to explore this semester?
I hope to gain a broader sense about the range of autism causes and how it is possible to approach these causes in order to find a cure. As a pre-medical student, I am especially interested in the medical and biological aspects of autism, such as genetics, diet, and brain development. I am curious about why autism has such a wide spectrum, unlike other disorders that are more clear-cut and show signs quite similar to one another. Specifically, I would like to understand the differences between “high” and “low” functioning autism, and why such a difference must exist in the first place. I think it is important to explore and promote awareness about what exactly defines autism, which might ultimately decrease and hopefully eliminate many of the stereotypes about autistic individuals.
What are some common stereotypes about autism?
As a person who does not have anyone close to me with autism, most of what I really knew about it before the first reading for this class came from the stereotypes. The main stereotype that comes to mind is a person who is extremely intelligent in academic areas, yet the “social part of their brain” simply does not work. Autistic children are often thought of as the kids with behavior problems in school and who have trouble making friends. They might learn to read and write more slowly than the other students, but show high capability and passion in other, possibly random, areas. Because people with autism are often put in “special needs” environments, some might think of them as being retarded or just plain stupid. What is interesting is that most of the stereotypes of autism have either “super-power” or basically “brain-dead” qualities. Unfortunately, all of these stereotypes result in labeling and misconceptions about what it means to be autistic.
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