*Published in the JSA MAS Tide Newspaper*
There are plenty of diseases that are in dire need of a cure: diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, to name a few. Such diseases kill thousands, and perhaps millions, every year. Their results are devastating for both those who live with these conditions and for their families and loved ones. The diseases are unbiased; anybody can be affected by them. Autism has similar effects: A recent study by the CDC estimates that at least one in 150 children are affected by an autistic disorder. The symptoms can be devastating to any parent: Their child is trapped in their own world, sometimes never uttering a word. Their IQs can be in the 50s. The condition has no cure. But is it necessary to find one?
The three main conditions of the autistic spectrum are autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified). While the first causes mental retardation and a lack of communication, the latter two are more forgiving. Those with Asperger’s (Aspies) have average to above-average IQs and have no language delays. However, Asperger’s and autism are connected due to the similar social deficiencies and the fact that no matter what autistic syndrome one may have, their thought processes are similar. As an Aspie myself, I can attest to the fact that we perceive everything differently. Autism causes hypersensitivity (I cannot stand loud noises, the feeling of velvet, or green food), and we think in pictures rather than words. This ability has led to some of the most prominent discoveries and creations of all time throughout several fields such as mathematics and music. Some famous speculated Aspies are Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, Beethoven, and Mozart. A world without such important minds is unimaginable. Who would dare rob the world of some of the most influential ideologies ever? Those with autism need not look further than their family tree.
Autism Speaks, the most well-known autism awareness organization in the world, is mainly made up of parents of autistics who raise funds for researching a cure. My undying, neverending question to such moms and dads is: Why? Why should we rid ourselves of the most unique methods of thinking humanity has ever known? Why do they consider only autism’s downsides in their convictions? And, most importantly, why are they spending their time eradicating their children’s uniqueness from existence and not embracing their differences? Autism Speaks’ mission statement says that they are “dedicated to funding global biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and cure for autism.” Is it not enough to find an adequate treatment? Perhaps realizing the cause of the disorder is enough.
As not only an Aspie but a Special Olympics Volunteer and camp counselor to autistic students, I have a lot of experience with autism and those who experience it. Undoubtedly, the easiest way to not only research autism, but to understand it, is to spend time with those who have it and to observe their methods. It is in this sort of experimenting that we can most effectively find a treatment for the disorder. In my studies I have concluded that the key to treating autism is finding each child’s individual stimulant–what do they connect with? For me, music was a way for me to open up. I have noticed that music is effective in several cases. Some triggers may be more specific–for instance, I have worked with children who respond strongly to geography or nature. The only way to find these stimulants is to spend time with the kids. I strongly believe that members of the Autism Speaks community need to spend more time with their children so they may see what the good effects of autism are rather than focusing on the bad ones. Perhaps then autism can be solved.