Amy Nelson

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Cure Autism Report

"There is a great debate currently on the issue of finding a cure for autism. Parents seek it as an answer to their childs autism, yet there is a movement of adults with autism that puzzle some, as they say that they do not want a cure to be found.

Autism is a spectrum condition, some people are non-verbal, some use other forms of communication such as sign language, some are able to speak, but find social comminucation very difficult. It affects each person with autism in a unique way. It is not a mental illness, but a neurological variant from the norm.

Some people question the attitude of adults with autism who state that they do not want a cure. There are many personal reasons that an individual may have for refusing to support a cure, but if we look at this in comparison to other conditions, and try to reach a logical conclusion about what a cure may be, I think there is strong evidence for those on the spectrum to be concerned.

Cure Autism Now state on their website that they are looking for a cure or prevention for autism. Prevention would most likely be pre-natal testing and abortion, as it is known that autism is predominantly genetically inherited.
As autism is part of the actual brain structure, a cure, or treatment that was tantamount to a cure, would most likely be in the form of a medication. This would be similar to the type of treatments that are used for depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar, I surmise this because these are treatments that act on the chemical reactions in the brain, such as inhibiting serotonin uptake, in order to affect behaviour.
While autism is not a mental illness, it is considered by many to be in that category, and to require treatment.

If we picture a scenario in five years time, a medication has been developed that will be used to cure autism, and that it acts on specific chemicals in the brain. It increases desire for communication, it takes away obsesssive interests, it extends the use of imagniation in play and work, and it takes away any need for strict routine following.
People marvel at it, and parents want their kids to take it.
Then we come to administering it, and adults on the spectrum are asked to try it, anyone on the spectrum going to their doctor would be told to try it, "you want to be helped dont you?"

Those that try it find that their interests that fascinated and excited them are no longer fascinating. The appeal is gone and enjoyment of it is dulled. They have the desire to talk more to people, but nothing of interest to discuss now that their interest is gone. They find that they dont need a routine as much, and plod on with life like an average person. Imaginative ideas may come to mind for them, but their inner reality and whole way of thinking that was unique is gone. Their thoughts now seem in black and white, instead of colour. They are now normal thinkers and this is strange and foreign to them.

Some people refuse the medication altogether, wanting to retain their personality and way of life, and some people start taking it, then stop. There could be side effects that are imparing, such as with many drug treatments.
Comparing this scenario with similar treatments available now for instance with schizophrenia, its possible to make a comparison to what may happen.

These are comments from people with schizophrenia-

"I have been recently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and am currently being treated by mainstream therapies. I am forced to take medication, but object to taking any mind-altering substances."

"I have been diagnosed as schizophrenic by psychiatrists. I have been out of hospital and have not taken any medication for 2 years. The psychiatrist is now trying to force me to take medication."

This is an extract from an article called "Forced medication is inhumane"

"Should the mentally ill be allowed to refuse to take their medication?
States have always had legal methods for committing disturbed people to psychiatric facilities and a process for forced drug treatment in that environment. By passing involuntary commitment legislation, states are asserting the right to demand that people living in the community take ''antipsychotic'' drugs, which represents a profound expansion of state control over the mentally ill."

Extract from another article-

"Ten years ago, after a series of "psychotic" episodes, I was diagnosed as "manic-depressive" and told that I would have to be on Lithium for the rest of my life"..... "As a patient, I was battered by psychiatric aids, locked in empty rooms, given shock "therapy," and treated to a host of other major and minor assaults. Against my will, I was forced to take drugs that caused many unpleasant side-effects including parkinsonism, photo-sensitivity and excessive thirst."

I am comparing the experiences of those with mental illness and who are forced medications, to show that we need to be cautious with the idea of a cure for autism. Why would those with autism be treated differently and be given a choice of whether to be treated? The fact that society is deciding that a cure is needed at all, is stating that a cure should be given.

I have asperger's, which is a form of autism, it does affect my everyday life, but I am against the notion of a cure. I dont want to change my whole personality, thought processes, ideas, interests, and culture, just because I am different from the norm. I do believe that people should be helped with areas in which they want help, such as speech therapy, but that is radically different from attempting to chemically alter ones brain, and different from wiping autism out of the gene pool.
When people say to me "Ok, you dont want a cure, but let other people have the chance, what difference does it make to you". It will make a difference to ALL of us. Nothing happens in isolation. Why wont people with autism be pressurized to take a cure?

People need to be aware of the reality of having a cure, millions of dollars are being spent to achieve it, it is not in the realms of fantasy anymore. And the consequences will be very real too.


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