Thoughts on autism research

[CN: cures, research, functioning labels]

Yesterday, I shared a link on my personal Facebook page, and expressed my strong disapproval of it. This led to a discussion with someone who is currently studying psychology, and that’s really awesome because if he can hear a different perspective now then that means in future he may become a better psychologist who is less concerned with normalisation.

So, I thought that I needed to create a post which provides this different perspective using my own and other people’s words on the subject.

You may be wondering what is wrong with that research. Hopefully, you aren’t, but if you are, then the simple answer is everything.

Primarily, it’s focused on curing autism. Many, many, many Autistic people do not want to be cured. Being autistic is an integral part of who we are. If you take that away from us, who will we be? What will be left of us?

But, you might be thinking, that’s all good and well for someone like me who is “high functioning” but what about those who aren’t. To that I say, functioning labels are a horribly ableist approach to autism. Functioning labels have the effect of making some of us appear absolutely useless and not worth helping, and others of us appear to require no support. Neither of those two perceptions are accurate. Not one of us is useless, and all of us require support – even if it is simply in the form of acceptance that we can be who we are without judgement. Several people have written about the inaccuracy of functioning labels. So, for further reading:

And, now, you might be thinking that I have the opinion that functioning labels are ableist but I can still communicate and those who can’t must surely still want a cure, so I offer you this:

Does this mean that I’m against all autism research? No. It doesn’t. I’m against any type of research and/or therapy that aims to cure/normalise us. Unfortunately, that’s what most research is aimed at. There are a few exceptions though: Karla McLaren has done some great research. I want to see a whole lot more like that, and a whole lot less like the linked article at the start of this post.

For those of you who have taken the time to read this from beginning to end, please take this message with you: We don’t want a cure. We want acceptance, so that we can be our authentic autistic selves without judgement from others. It make me sad that we have to continually ask for permission to do this, and we have to continue to argue against attempts to normalise us.