What It Means to be Human (& Autistic)

The general view of autism is similar to that of aliens or ghosts. There are autists, aliens, and dead people, and then there is the rest of us. This is probably not the case with aliens or ghosts (there may be hybrids and half-ghosts among us), and it is almost certainly not so with autism. Autism is a spectrum. That means that, at one end, there is one kind of human nature (infrared) and at the other end another (ultraviolet).

Autism is often thought of by the uninformed as a mental disability, similar to Down syndrome (or worse, as brain damage). In fact, autism is a physiological difference that can be traced in infant brains, and its diagnosis relates above all to behavior, not to intelligence or mental ability. The first recorded cases of autism were initially labeled as child schizophrenia, and the idea of an overlap with autism and schizophrenia is, arguably, still pertinent. For now, I will assume some basic knowledge in the reader, while at the same time proceeding on the basis that much of this knowledge is closer to hearsay, i.e., the result of the guesswork of professionals, attempting to come to grips with a phenomena that challenges all of their beliefs and assumptions about what it means to be human.

The fact that autism—and the individuals being diagnosed as autistic—presents such a challenge may have a lot to do with why it’s being seen in such negative and disparaging terms, as a “plague,” a disease, and as a terrible blight upon children (and especially their parents), something that must be understood only in order to be cured, or better yet, prevented.


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