21 January 2016

Autism and the Media

Please be forewarned this is a ranty post.  All because I heard a radio program today. That made me want to go to the radio station and smack the crap out of the hosts. But I can't do that without getting into trouble. So...I write this post instead.

Dear media hosts, please stop talking about autism. Because you're doing way more harm to those of us on the spectrum than helping. Seriously. Unless you're talking to Dr. Temple Grandin, someone with autism, or people with ACTUAL credentials (and I mean advanced degrees that haven't been discredited) just...stop. Don't talk.

Because every time you talk about the increase in the number of people diagnosed and how something in the world changed, whether it be vaccines or food or f'ing space aliens mucking about with our DNA, you make things a thousand times worse for those trying to help people on the spectrum and 10,000 times worse for those on the spectrum. Because all of those things that you say, whether you mean it or not, make it sound like we're less of a person. That we're an accident caused by something that our parents or doctors should have controlled. And that those of us on the spectrum...we shouldn't be alive.

Maybe you don't say that last thing. Maybe you don't support it. But you keep talking to people that do. That treat those of us on the spectrum like we're some type of disease that shouldn't exist. The anti-vaccers basically say it. They would rather have dead children or children with debilitating diseases like polio, than a child on the spectrum. And I get it. They want the "normal" happy child everyone does...but "normal" is bullshit horrible term that doesn't exist.  You treat us like we're a mental illness that can be wiped out. That can be solved. But that isn't us.

Maybe some real facts will help you understand why all of this is a dangerous thing for non-experts (and even for experts) to talk about. Take a look at modern medicine in relation to "mental health" care that many people with autism fell into.

  • We didn't really understand germs and washing hands until well into the 1900's. 
  • Gave mental health patients typhoid fever in the 1920's to rid them of the illness. They won the Nobel Prize in 1927 for that theory.
  • Put people with mental health issues into diabetic comas in the 1930's
  • Didn't understand that x-rays could give radiation poisoning until the 1950's. 
  • Preformed electric shock therapy and lobotomies into the 1960's
  • Well into the 2000's many people on the spectrum were misdiagnosed as ADHD, bipolar, shy, anti-social behavior, etc.
  • and this doesn't include the numerous other theories or institutions that people were shoved into in order to "help them" disappear from "polite society." 
People on the spectrum are not a mental illness. People on the spectrum are people. We've been around since the beginning of time.The reason you see an increase in numbers? That's because people finally stopped trying to shove us out of sight or diagnosing us incorrectly because god forbid we use the label autism, and went "Oh...oh. They are real people."

It's not that we need treatment "to get better." It's that we need understanding. Why does that matter you ask? Because it changes how people treat us. Because more than anything, it changes how we treat ourselves.

I was a misdiagnosed as being ADHD in the 1980's during the boom of, if a kid is weird, different, can't pay attention, seems shy, it must be ADHD. I took medication all the way up until college when I decided to stop. That it wasn't really helping. That often times...it seemed to hurt. It killed my creativity. It stopped my imagination. 

I was told I was shy, that I'd grow out of it. That when I was turned down on dates that I was a nice guy and one day girls would magically mature and fall for the nice guy. They didn't. And I didn't stop being shy.  

Things didn't get better when I got into the "real world." Things that had been over looked when I was younger, the way I worded things, the way I would approach things, suddenly stopped being acceptable and I couldn't understand why. I still had trouble making friends. I alienated people. I put them off because I did things that weren't "normal." And I had trouble to keep going. I had trouble to understand the point of life and where I fit in. Because maybe since I wasn't "normal" I didn't fit in anywhere. And my life wasn't worth living.

It wasn't until a conversation with a friend whose daughter was on the spectrum. When she described her I kept thinking..."that's me. I do that. Maybe I'm on the spectrum." And when I was diagnosed it helped. It didn't magically change the world. But it made me know that I wasn't stupid or abnormal or whatever else popped into my head. That the things I did, the way I behaved, the who I am, was ok. That the things that I needed to change to fit into "polite society" I could at least figure out. But more than anything it helped me know that I wasn't alone. And that my life was worth living.

So please. Stop talking about Autism. Please stop spreading the lies and inaccurate facts about how "we can be cured" or that this is a disease that needs to be stopped. It isn't. We aren't. Please. Let the world know that we're real people too. And that we deserve respect and understanding. We deserve to live as ourselves.