Autism is not a disease; Why I hate anti-vaxersPosted: January 30, 2015
A few nights ago I was tabling an event for the bookstore collective I am a member of. (for the uninitiated ‘tabling’ is were you take the collective’s merchandise to a book fair, flea market, anti-capitalists-only orgy etc, with a view to selling the merch, and raising awareness of your collective.) As is wont to happen in such a situation when any anti-establishment type is out and about in the capacity of the on sight radical; a terrible person decided to talk to me. This is something that happens a lot, people who believe that the twin towers were brought down by a controlled explosion, because the only thing the airplanes had in them were chem-trail tanks, seem to think that because you believe that the ruling class’ interests are almost never aligned with your own, that you’ll agree with them, as both your world views are minority ones.
This specific crazy person wanted to talk about toxins in the water and air, and their effect on our precious bodily fluids (giggle with me Strangelove fans). His specific problem is that modern fetuses are apparently gestating in 25 alien toxins and that women (for some reason he specified young women) need detoxify themselves before planning a pregnancy, his evidence for this was the rise in kids in special education classes, specifically for being identified as on the autism spectrum (A.S.D). This line of argument about the results of weird stuff various powerful people do to us has always irked me as apart from the fact that, as far as we can tell, that isn’t even close to how autism works, the whole argument is premised on the idea that Autistic people are in some way broken, and nowhere is this more prevalent that the trend of hippies not vaccinating their kids.
As mentioned previously in this blog, I have Dyslexia; Autism’s cute sibling. So I tend to get jumpy and frustrated when people suggest that the structure of people’s brains and thought patterns and as a result a large factor in their personality is an indication of illness to be corrected rather than just of difference to be understood. This said I’m not pretending these are social equivalents; where as a lot of people are so fond of using the condition as side-effect-of-nefarious–governmental-shit de-jour for some reason people find Dyslexics fucking adorable. People think of Autistic people as a fundamental societal problem, where as I am a cutesy, fun, and something most people think they are a bit because they misspelled something that one time in college on a dare and liked it. The way people treat me is frustrating, but it’s not like it gets me shot.
I understand there is a problem with autism, however that problem is how we – the non autistic – choose to interact with autistic people. It would do us all well to remember that aspergers was only identified in 1981 and only started appearing in general medical literature a decade later so the time-frame medical science has had to document and understand the full variety of A.S.D. conditions out there is limited. This means there are large gaps in popular understanding of the science leading to people like Jenny McCarthy claiming to have “cured” her son’s autism, rather than theorize that he might have been misdiagnosed somewhere along the line, something that is not uncommon in the world of neural science particularly when dealing with potential barriers to traditional learning processes, particularly when what we are talking about has less than Forty years of medical documentation regarding it.
This is not just some harmless idiocy, you don’t cure Autism any more than you can cure being left-handed. Ms McCarthy and others like her advocating a dangerous view of Autism as just something they inject into kids with vaccines and gluten, has undoubtedly sentenced a significant number of people to feelings of inadequacy and isolation from their well-meaning families and potential advancement in life because they just ‘weren’t trying hard enough’ to not be Autistic. Having had a parent who grew up Dyslexic in a time and place where they just called that ‘being stupid and lazy’, I very much resent that.
Just to be clear A.S.D.s are, for the most part, not the problem. Society and the way we treat and interact with people on the Autism scale is. It is also not new, despite not having been established as a condition until very recently. As the diagnosis was and is based on characterises that people have displayed for centuries. I will admit it is sometimes frustrating and difficult to interact with someone with an A.S.D. condition; It is equally frustrating and difficult for an exclusive English speaker to interact with someone who just speaks Mandarin, as not only would the two people have a language barrier, they would have limited amounts of culturally norms in common. A.S.D.s, rather like a lot of different neural structures, are fundamentally a series of conditions that make communication with the outside world harder as opposed to effecting intelligence; the only thing ‘wrong’ with an Autistic person is that the society they live in isn’t built or conditioned for them to live in it, and the more we keep thinking of A.S.D.s as illnesses rather than natural conditions, the longer we are going to continue to cruelly make people with A.S.D.s suffer marginalization and exclusion because we keep insisting that they’re the ones who need to adapt to us and never vice versa.
There are a lot of legitimate social discussions to be had over why people are suspicious of vaccines; an unwillingness by Doctors to explain why they’re safe; a rise in popularity of the idea of self-care; the fact that Pharmaceutical companies do in fact do some sketchy shit more often than not; the fact that Autism is generally misunderstood by the public; just plain ignorance. Whatever the merits of this discussion are, I would have a lot more time and sympathy for it if those who want to talk about the safety of various medicines didn’t keep rounding back to the idea that absolutely anything, including Measles and Polio is better than a child whose conception of the world is wholly different to yours. There are more concise and better worked out explanations as to why vaccines are good and necessary in the Internet; I’m not a medical professional or a scientist so I’m not going to pretend to argue those points. However If you are reading this and you are against vaccines; I would really appreciate if you stop insisting that Autistic people are broken to prop up your argument.