In the beginning there was Gay Pride Day. Then there was Nerd/Geek Pride Day. Now, there is also an Autistic Pride Day.
Autism is “not a pathological condition or a disease, but a way of life that possesses a culture and history all its own”,
said Valerie Paradiz, who has Asperger’s syndrome, in The Guardian. She founded the School for Autistic Strength, Purpose and Independence in Education (Aspie) in New York State.
Of course there are some high-functioning autists, autistic savants like Kim Peek (who is actually not autistic), Daniel Tammet and Temple Grandin, but these people are the exceptions that prove the rule. Then – IMHO – there are a lot of people who’s behavior is too easily labelled as “Asperger” to be relieved of the responsibility of dealing with people who prefer realizing themselves in science, facts, computers, technology above socializing and gossiping.
The symptoms of autism can vary dramatically from child to child. While one child may be entirely unable to communicate, another may be able to recite entire Shakespearian plays. One child may be unable to add 3 + 4, another may be able to perform advanced calculus functions. In addition to autism, four other conditions fall under the header of Autistic Spectrum Disorders:
- Asperger syndrome – Children with this condition have some symptoms of autism, including poor social skills and a lack of empathy, but they have age-appropriate language skills and a normal or high IQ.
- Rett syndrome – This condition affects only 1 out of every 10,000 to 15,000 children, the vast majority of them girls. Those with Rett syndrome shy away from social contact. They may wring their hands and be unable to control the movement of their feet.
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD) – This rare disorder affects only about two out of every 100,000 children with ASDs, most of them male. Children with CDD will develop normally until about age 3 or 4, then will suddenly and dramatically lose their motor, language and social skills.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) – This condition shares some of the same symptoms with autism (communication and social delays), but does not meet the full criteria for diagnosis.
– How Stuff Works
Autistic Pride Day? Be honest: of course it is not a defamation to be autistic, but OTOH it is not a great honour either.
Oliver Sacks wrote in his beautiful book “An Anthropologist on Mars” about autistic savant Stephen Wiltshire who has a prodigious memory for pictures and is known for his ability to draw a landscape after seeing it just once. On page 207-208 Sachs writes about a voyage by train he made with Stephen:
“I had the feeling that the whole visible world flowed through Stephen like a river, without making sense, without being appropriated, without becoming part of him in the least.(…)I found myself thinking of him as a sort of train himself, a perceptual missile, travelling through life, noting,recording, but never appropriating, a sort of transmitter of all that rushed past – but himself unchanged, unfed, by the experience”.
And then, on page 216, he concludes:
Normally there is a cohering and unifying power (Coleridge calls it an “esemplastic power”) that integrates all the seperate faculties of mind, integrates them, too, with our experiences and emotions, so that they take on a uniquely personal cast. It is this global, or integrating power that allows us to generalize and reflect, to develop subjectivity and a self-conscious self.