Autists’ Come Together to Fight for Their Rights

by Medindia Content Team on Aug 9 2007 6:35 PM

Autists are only differently abled people, not disabled. Accept them as they are and evolve conditions in which they could carry on with their lives as best as possible, says a growing campaign in the West.

Aspies for Freedom (AFF), a website dedicated to autists and those suffering from Asperger’s syndrome is growing popular in the West, and not just among those suffering from such problems.

We know that autism is not a disease, and we oppose any attempts to "cure" someone of an autism spectrum condition, or any attempts to make them 'normal' against their will. We are part of building the autism culture. We aim to strengthen autism rights, oppose all forms of discrimination against aspies and auties, and work to bring the community together both online and offline, AFF declares.

Autism is actually a severe disorder of brain function marked by problems with social contact, intelligence and language, together with ritualistic or compulsive behavior and bizarre responses to the environment.

Autism occurs in as many as one or two per 1,000 children. It is found four times more often in boys (usually the first-born) and occurs around the world in all races and social backgrounds. Autism usually is evident in the first three years of life, although in some children it's hard to tell when the problem develops. Sometimes the condition isn't diagnosed until the child enters school.

It is a brain disorder that affects the way the brain uses or transmits information. Studies have found abnormalities in several parts of the brain that almost certainly occurred during fetal development. The problem may be centered in the parts of the brain responsible for processing language and information from the senses.

Asperger Syndrome or (Asperger's Disorder) is a neurobiological disorder named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. But they don’t have the learning difficulties that autists suffer from.

More than 500,000 people in the UK are on the autistic spectrum millions of dollars are devolved for research into autism, though with not much of a breakthrough so far.

Whatever one might say of the problems associated with autism or Asperger, Gareth Nelson, the founder of the AFF, remains defiant.

He says, “It's the same as black people, who seem to be more at risk of sickle cell disease than white people but you're not going to attempt to cure 'blackness' to cure sickle cell."Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells.

Sickle cell disease affects more than 72,000 Americans, primarily those of African heritage, but also those of Arabian, Asian, Caribbean, Indian, Mediterranean, and South and Central American descent.

Normal red blood cells are smooth and round like a doughnut without a hole. They move easily through blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Sickle-shaped cells don’t move easily through blood. They’re stiff and sticky and tend to form clumps and get stuck in blood vessels.

The clumps of sickle cells block blood flow in the blood vessels that lead to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage.

Nelson’s argument is that even though sickle cell is more prevalent among blacks none says blackness has to be eradicated in order to eradicate sickle cell. You simply learn to live with. So too you should, with autism or Asperger.

AFFs want to get autism recognised as a minority rather than a disability, believing that existing disability discrimination laws don't protect those who are not disabled but who "still have something that makes them look or act differently from other people".

"The classic example," Nelson says in his slow, careful sentences, "is someone going into a job interview and looking a bit odd, maybe not making eye contact, but otherwise having excellent qualifications. They probably won't get the job."

On YouTube, the online video posting site, Amanda Baggs, a 26-year-old woman with autism who lives in the US, became one of the most-watched stars of this year. Her eight-minute film, In My Language, provided an insight into her life and showed an ability to communicate, via computer and voice synthesiser, that shatters the view that autistics are "locked in a world of their own".

Although she finds it impossible to communicate verbally, she is able to type very quickly and her blog shows that she is articulate and funny.

There is another crusader, Valerie Paradiz, who has Asperger's syndrome. "In most schools, kids with Asperger's syndrome are placed in settings that are either overwhelming in a social or sensory way, or underwhelming in an intellectual way and many adolescents end up struggling with profound isolation and depression," she says. "I actually see educational access issues for these kids as something very similar to wheelchair access."

Autism, she says, is "not a pathological condition or a disease, but a way of life that possesses a culture and history all its own".

Autism is seen as this devastating condition but accepting the child and working on the child's strengths will help them to develop positive self-esteem," he says. "We wouldn't get Nobel prize-winners with autism if there weren't some strengths to autism."

The many who are considered, in hindsight, to have been somewhere on the autistic spectrum include Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Marie Curie. Many Aspies believe that Bill Gates shares some of their traits.

Interestingly, while a person with autism can have symptoms ranging from mild to severe, about 10% have an extraordinary ability in one area, such as in mathematics, memory, music, or art. Such children are known as "autistic savants."