By Anne Dachel
This Jan 10, 2016 story from CNN is a very concerning preview of the politics of autism. In Autism: Can other candidates match Hillary Clinton's plan? Professor David Perry discussed various reactions to Clinton's autism proposals, which he called, "the most detailed policy document on autism in U.S. presidential election history."
(Considering that autism--a disorder with no known cause or cure--is now at such horrific numbers, one in every 45 children, one in every 28 boys, the candidates can expect that the subject will come up and they'll be asked what they intend to do about it.)
Perry described Clinton's plan as "informed and friendly to the autistic community."
Perry praised the fact that Clinton didn't use "stigmatizing words such as 'cure' or 'epidemic.'"
According to Perry, Clinton is the first to modernize our image of autism with an emphasis on "rights, services and supports." He asked what the other candidates were going to do about autism, and he was especially interested in Clinton's emphasis on adults. (The assumption here is that there's a comparable rate of autism among adults, we just haven't made an effort to look for them yet.)
"We still have no idea how many adults have autism, whether undiagnosed or, even worse, misdiagnosed and poorly treated."
And Perry believes that it's important to find the adult cohort because "the undercounting lends credence to the fearmongering about an epidemic of autism today. Yes, rates are higher now, but that's because we're better at counting. Clinton's plan seems to get that distinction."
So will Clinton be at all interested in the cause of something affecting a million children in the U.S.? Will she call for research on regressive autism? Will she look for classic autism among adults, whose symptoms are easily recognized? Will she acknowledge the huge controvesy over vaccines and call for a vaxxed/unvaxxed study?
One advocate cited by Perry is opposed to even looking at a genetic cause for autism. Jessica Wright feels that this will lead to eugenics. She was quoted saying, 'Autism is not a disease, a brain cannot be prevented...'
Obviously the pressure is on Clinton and the other candidates to play it safe in dealing with autism. Quite possibly, if elected, Clinton could push to normalize autism even more in the American psyche. Even calling autism a disability is questioned by the neurodiversity crowd.
Parents struggling to care for severely disabled children on the spectrum, desperate about what will happen to their kids as adults, will be marginalized into oblivion. The public will be shown the Asperger's end of the spectrum and be told this is autism. It would be quite easy to convince everyone that autism has always been around, we just called it something else. (And as far as those on the severe end, they were formerly called mentally retarded and locked away in institutions. Case closed.)
This underserviced, but significant population deserves our attention. We can no longer cater to those people who want to waste time and limited resources looking for the cause. We're neglected these people for too long.
What I can't figure out is how Perry and all the people he cited here are going to explain the huge cost of supporting these disabled children as adults. IF autism has always been here, albeit undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, what did we do with them as adults? We would have had to provide for them, especially those on the severe end, even if we didn't called their condition "autism." So where are the nursing homes and adult group homes filled with folks on the spectrum? I can't wait for Clinton (or whoever wins the presidential election) to go looking for them.
For possible reactions to the whole idea of having a plan for autism, consider some of the comments on the CNN story. While some called autism a brain disorder that severely limits individuals, others have bought into the claims of better diagnosing/expanded spectrum.
...We no longer send citizens with disabilities off to moldy institutions to waste away. They stay with families and are integrated into society to whatever capacity can be achieved. ...
...We should be looking for ways to be more accepting for those on the Autism Spectrum and their rights, until proven otherwise, should not be infringed upon. ...
...Not long ago, many children with non-life-threatening disabilities were shuttled off to institutions where they were cared for with varying levels of expertise until they died. Now the vast majority go home with their families with substantial, though sub-optimal, support systems to ensure the best possible outcome. There is no reason to believe that this pattern will change in the foreseeable future, thus we need to make better plans for these children, many of whom may outlive their parents. ...
...Great, more handouts! Why does it always come down to other people's money for Democrats!
The Federal Government spends too much money, the last thing we need is more spending! Autism is not a Federal issue, it is an issue for individuals and private charities....
"Autism is a dumping ground for explaining to parents why their child can’t socialize or do well in school. We keep this making up new diagnoses for behaviors, everyone is going to have a
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which is on sale now from Skyhorse Publishing.