With all of the discussion in social media lately about vaccinations, there have been some pretty uninformed statements being made about autism. And I’m not just talking about the “vaccinations cause autism” statements. I’m thinking of the words many people use when debating this highly complex issue.
For instance, I recently read an article written by Anne Theriault titled, “Austism Isn’t the Worst Thing to Happen to a Child.” In her article, Theriault states that our society tends to treat autistic people as though their neurological make-up is a catastrophe. She goes on to suggest that perhaps anti-vaxers should start reading “articles written by people who actually have autism” in an effort to “re-evaluate why you think so negatively of autism.”
It is a good idea to talk to those living with autism. That is, of course, if the person with autism can speak. Or write. Or read. Or use utensils. Or go to the bathroom by themselves. Or dress themselves. Or go to school.
My point is that Theriault’s suggestion is filled with assumptions that do not reflect reality for all autistic children and their families. Like the disorder itself, there are as many variables to consider as there are people.
Yes, there are many highly functional autistic people who have benefitted from therapies, who write, speak, blog, acquire degrees, hold down jobs, and who live independently. Perhaps those are the people Theriault had in mind. But what about those parents who do happen to feel that autism, especially in its more severe forms, is the worst thing to happen to their child?
Simplistic solutions have the potential to do more harm than good. History has shown us just how damaging generalizations can be – whether we’re talking about religious, gender, class, racial, economic, or cultural minorities, lumping individuals together and applying our assumptions to everyone in that group can have grave consequences.
Generalizations and assumptions diminish a person’s value and worth as a human being. Which is why I wish people on both sides of the vaccination debate would consider their words more carefully before venturing out onto social media with opinions about autism.