Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Epidemic of Autism

In general, I feel that I'm more "easy-going" than many of my colleagues on the spectrum in that the language of autism generally doesn't faze me.

There is however one phrase which really "gets my goat". It's "the epidemic of autism". There is so much fear, inaccuracy and segregation hidden in this phrase that it passes through all of my barriers and actually manages to offend me.

First of all, there's the negativity associated with comparing autism with a plague. An association which brings to mind words like; avoidance, quarantine, cure and eradication.

Then there's the concept of rapid and uncontrolled spread, suggesting that autism is a new "disease" which has only recently appeared and is "spreading like wildfire".

All of these concepts do damage to the work of autism advocacy and to the support networks of children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They build on the concept of fear and target those who need our help.

Unfortunately, fear is a common tactic employed by some "autism organisations" and political platforms as a means of increasing revenue or votes.

If you hear this language being used, please take steps to correct the speaker. After all, if autism is part of your world, you need to advocate as well as care.


Stephanie Tihanyi said...

Great post!. I could not agree with you more. It is offensive to me too.

Anonymous said...

True, im finding myself getting a bit cross about the inacurate language. I am a fan of the 7pm Project on TV but nearly threw my remote at a story that focussed on two people with aspergers gaining employment; throughout the segment it was described as a 'mental illness'. A few weeks following the same show reported on the singer from the band The Vines and his 'disease' called Aspergers!! Good grief, this does nothing in terns of community awareness/education...

IMKenny said...

Yes, I dislike the illness/disease language, including epidemic. The term epidemic seems to indicate a sudden increase in the real incidence of a condition, not just a sudden increase in diagnoses or reporting. To the extent that the rise in ASD diagnoses is due to changes in the definition of ASDs and to increased awareness among health professionals and even to increased funding of services for autism, it is not a real epidemic at all. Perhaps we should call it "a massive drop in the under-diagnosis of ASD" rather than an epidemic.

Anonymous said...

Here's another article on why it's not an epidemic: http://nymag.com/news/features/autism-spectrum-2012-11/