Although autism spectrum disorder has only been recognized as a diagnosis for a short time, it has sparked heated controversy over whether it is a disease or a characteristic of neurodiversity.
Autism is a permanent developmental condition that often manifests in early childhood and has a negative influence on a person's social skills, communication, relationships, and self-control. Autism is a "spectrum condition" that affects people differently and to varying degrees. It is defined by a set of behaviors.
While there is no one cause of autism, early diagnosis allows a person to obtain the care and assistance they require, which can lead to a fulfilling life full of opportunities.
There are signs that ASD is becoming more prevalent. This growth has been attributed to environmental factors by some. Experts disagree about whether there is a real increase in instances or if it is simply a result of more frequent diagnoses.
The degree of coincidence between autism and intellectual handicap, as well as whether autism has a primarily genetic or developmental etiology, are all topics of ongoing scientific debate and investigation. There is also a sociopolitical discussion on whether autism should be classified as a separate disability.
On a personal note, I feel Autism is a disability.
There are tens of millions of neurodivergent people in the world, who are at various degrees of awareness of their identity, rights, and the wider community.
“Disability culture is so full of joy. We dance together; we support each other; we share pictures; we make families together.”
When the term autism was first coined, it truly meant something. Now it appears that everyone else considers themselves to be on the same spectrum in some way. Many people blame their 'autism' on a little obsessive or nerdy interest or social ineptitude. In any case, autism has been persistently trivialized as a diagnostic term. Many people regard autism as only one feature of "neurodiversity" - as merely a "different way of being" rather than the serious handicap that it is.
Despite its curiously sympathetic portrayal of Nazi collaborator Hans Asperger (from whom we inherit Asperger's syndrome), Steve Silberman's NeuroTribes was hailed as the official history of autism upon its release. The book was essential in bringing the neurodiversity movement, which embraces autism as a distinct identity, into the mainstream.
A robust community of ‘neurodivergent' people has evolved, with a strong internet presence. Even though many people haven't been formally diagnosed with autism, the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic has become a major identification for those who claim to be autistic.
Self-diagnosis is, in fact, widely accepted and frequently encouraged. The neurodiversity movement likewise emphasizes a ‘social' rather than a ‘personal' approach to learning. The neurodiversity movement also advocates for a "social" rather than a "medical" understanding of disability, claiming that the former is less stigmatizing and more tolerant and inclusive.
The unavoidable consequence of de-medicalizing a serious disorder like autism is that people begin to use it in the same way they use transgender identities to obtain a much-vaunted victim status and bolster the self-esteem of the needy and narcissistic. As a result, the genuine victims of autism are marginalized.
Headbanging, shrieking, nappy-wearing, and numerous visits to A&E due to epilepsy and uncontrollable bouts of aggressiveness are not commonly addressed in the neurodivergent community. The new generation of identity-first neurodiversity advocates regularly chastise parents of profoundly autistic children who speak out about their challenges, often in harsh words.
Asperger's syndrome was originally classified as a separate disorder from autism, but the two were merged in the DSM-V, the most widely used diagnostic tool for psychiatric disorders. This, in my opinion, was a tremendous error. The term "autism" is far too broad.
The distinction between the population of people who identify as neurodivergent online – who frequently position themselves as an autism community and a barometer of autistic sentiment – and the type of autistic person you might meet at a special-needs school is striking, to say the least.
Autism and neurodiversity are worn almost like fashion items in the internet world by persons who can often blend in undetectably with the so-called neurotypical population. ‘Stimming,' or ‘self-stimulating’ repetitive movements like flapping and rocking that can be relaxing for people with autism, is honored in the form of ‘stim dances,' which are uploaded to YouTube or social media.
According to John Elder Robison, a self-described "neurodiversity expert," "neurodiversity stands as the civil-rights issue of our day." Autism is like being black in a white-dominated environment for people like Robison. Autistic people are held back by a biased society, not by any disorder.
In lengthy essays and in big conferences, cognitively capable autistic speakers routinely praise the merits of neurodiversity and discuss the various "gifts" that autism gives. Meanwhile, many people with severe autism are cooped up in their rooms, cut off from the rest of the world, and restricted to a world of their own narrow, often infantile obsessions.
Autistics who disagree with the neurodiversity script are branded as heretics and subjected to social media witch hunts in a cult-like manner. Jonathan Mitchell, a long-time opponent of neurodiversity and autistic identity politics, receives angry phone calls, emails, and death threats on a regular basis.
Judith Newman, the author of To Siri with Love, has been constantly slammed for stating that she had previously contemplated a vasectomy for her autistic son, whom she feared. She might have struggled with the obligations of fatherhood owing to his condition.
It's high time for society to take a more objective look at autism. It's impossible that accepting and even taking pride in being autistic brings comfort to some people. However, for many people with autism, as well as their parents and caregivers, this is simply not the case.
Autism is first and foremost a disability and not a personality trait.
A motivated student of Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) at R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata, having a knack for reading and composing medical literature. When he's not writing content for MEDtalks, Swapnil is usually looking up the latest trends and innovations in Medicine.
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