Please…Label ME Autistic!
I have often used Daryl Hannah as an example to battle those who stand on a platform that Autism is not ‘curable.’ I contend that by ‘cure’ I mean, functional and happy, not being institutionalized or drugged, while still needing protection and support. There are MANY ‘typical’ persons in our society that need protection and support but are completely dysfunctional. They are called typical because they undiagnosed!
I would use Temple Grandin to prove my case but unfortunately, many of those same persons who are self-proclaimed Autism experts aren’t even familiar with who Dr. Temple Grandin really is or what her achievements are.
There is the argument that Temple Grandin is high functioning Autism. High functioning only means an IQ above 80. This supports the fact that most of the persons diagnosed with AD, (which includes Asperger’s Syndrome or AS), are high functioning. The bottom line is that great results should be expected of, and provided for, all children with Autism. The percentages of ‘low functioning’ adults suggest that many Autistic children were only receiving low functioning therapy. This is a huge mistake.
Remember that in older times people often kept journals, or diaries so it is easy to compare their characteristics then with those that would be diagnosed with Autism today. The dark ‘label’ of Autism and the stigma that goes with it are devastating to our healing. Once we embrace the beauty and innocence of Autism so that people no longer ‘fear’ the label, we will all begin to look objectively through the branches of our own family trees. We should recognize the idiosyncrasies in our own genetic lines that would bring on the remarkable titles our children now have.
With more and more research between my ears, I now find myself wondering about three of my own immediate family members as well as myself. It would certainly justify the ‘issues’ in my and others lives.
It would also connect the misunderstandings, uniqueness’ relationship patterns and eccentric histories of a large number of my ancestors. My family tree encompasses members of the Magna Charta, various different countries’ royalty, (both well remembered and notorious), religious crusaders, and many more who led anything but typical lifestyles for their times.
Finding someone to sit down to hash all of this through who possesses the credentials to give appropriate labels to my colorful ancestors is another story. I would feel selfish in knowing I took up anyone’s time while a tremendous portion of our population remains undiagnosed and falling through the cracks on waiting lists. Ugh.
Undiagnosed persons, regardless of condition, are a far greater risk to themselves and others than a managed diagnosed person.
While studying law, I learned of a violent man in family court defending his abuses by alleging horrible things about his soon to be ex wife, (though she was an excellent mother, high functioning and brilliant), simply because she was ‘bi-polar II, manic.’ (She’s in good company with the likes of Christopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark, etc…). Bi-Polars also get a very bad rap though there are millions of them functioning within our society. She replied calmly, “your honor, I am diagnosed and managing my disability, he refuses diagnosis.” That statement of fact combined with a string of protection orders against him left the door wide open to any combination of presumptions.
The court gave her sole custody and permission to relocate out of state 3,000 miles away from him. The Commissioner saw greater stability in a person managing their disability than a violent person in denial.
He later followed her and within weeks was in trouble with the law again and had to flee from her new State. He has pending charges. He stopped making all contact with the child and quickly fell months behind in support. The Court had to threaten contempt to get payments. He had lost it all, the family, the family home, his inheritance, 3 home businesses, her furniture, personal possessions and her vehicle. She had gladly surrendered her material things to him to him to make her and the children’s exodus possible. She only cared about her children and their best interests.
The Court recognized the fact that an ‘undiagnosed’ person does NOT necessitate a ‘typical’ person. On the contrary undiagnosed persons have made up a tremendous part of the unemployed, uneducated, institutionalized, incarcerated and dysfunctional portions of our societies throughout history.
He remains undiagnosed still.
Failure to seek out correct diagnosis’ and ‘labels’ leads to needless destruction of lives. Denial is never good and stigmas can kill. Even the smallest of disabilities can amplify and cause damage to life if gone undiagnosed and/or untreated.
Some people are also quick to play self-proclaimed psychiatrists and think they know what a diagnosis or label means in others. Without the education, background or awareness in any given disability, they are usually wrong and will manipulate a label into ridicule, intimidation and an attack on the diagnosed person’s self esteem. This is all a part of the reason we as a society fear being diagnosed! We fear those who would use them against us in our jobs, communities, relationships and lives.
There are numerous stimuli’s for hiring the physically handicapped but few to employ the managed mental, emotional and neurological disabilitied. Further, there are laws and funds to mandate wheelchair accessibility, braille and touchtone in nearly every business, but where are the quiet rooms for the Autistic? Where are the rooms filled with spectrum lighting, music and beautiful art for the depressed?
With anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs being the most widely prescribed in our culture, where are the accommodations for those recipients in our workplaces? Schools? Restaurants? Courthouses?
We are a society who caters to the physically disabled and shuns the mentally or neurologically impaired. Disability is disability and labels are there to treat properly and not to cause harm. It is no wonder that we hide the majority of our disabilities or fear diagnosis.
Every human being has a disability during some point in their lives, even if it is the flu or the need of glasses. Perhaps we took longer to potty train or ride a bike than others. Some disabilities are brief, and some last a lifetime. Some are interruptions and some are crippling. Some get better with time, some remain the same while some continue to worsen. Some disabilities are physical while some are neurological. Most people have combinations of disabilities.
Once diagnosed, (or ‘labeled’), a person is then responsible to take whatever measures he can to coexist in a ‘typical’ society. Respect is a two way street. All too often, many labeled AD, (AS), persons snub ‘neuro-typicals’ and clique together as a means of defense. This is a step, though understandable, which only makes the lines that separate us all even more defined.
Any lifetime diagnosis like Autism, Bi-Polar, Diabetes, (strange that my grammar and spell check wants me to capitalize diabetes as if it is unrelated to the list), eczema or even seasonal allergies must be treated. It is the responsibility of the caregivers or the affected persons to maintain their own accommodating intervention and treatment.
Whatever the case may be, there is an unnecessary stigma attached to disabilities of the brain and that’s unfortunate. A cold left untreated can kill a person and those around him. Likewise, a mental or neurological condition left untreated can be deadly to a person and those around him.
Too many times a person who has committed murder, acts of domestic violence, burglary, suicide, a drug overdose, an alcohol related accident, etc…is diagnosed with a disabling condition AFTER the damages have been done.
There are very high numbers of Autistic persons incarcerated. Many did not intend to harm but did not understand the repercussions of their actions. Issues like time, space, other people’s rights, emotions, the space of others, touch and even borrowing or lending can be misinterpreted and bring charges.
We would not let a blind child roam the streets without teaching the use of a cane, sight dog or human assistance. It’s incredible that much more disabling disabilities are left to self injure and injure others because their disabilities were not as apparent or acceptable. Still, it all falls upon us as a society that all disabling conditions are not afforded the same accommodations.
If these ‘criminals’ had been treated, we could have spared not only other innocent lives, but their own as well. Removing stigmas paves the way for society to have the comfort zone necessary to get diagnosed and treated.
As screening and awareness guidelines and techniques have improved, more and more institutionalized persons are diagnosed with Spectrum Disorders. It is then noted that their ‘crime’ was merely an action typically associated with their diagnosis. They did not intend harm and often did not ‘see’ things the way typical people do! Many persons with Autism need lifetime protection to save them from being not only the victims of crime, but the perpetrators as well!
Apart from a movie with Al Pacino, no one in their right mind would allow a blind person to drive a car. It’s staggering to think back through history and in present times knowing what role we as a society played by not treating mental illness the same as blindness. We fail to understand, diagnose or treat mental or neurological disabilities like we do physical disabilities. It’s time to change.
Our society must learn to embrace all disabilities and encourage diagnosis’, awareness and accommodating treatment(s). This single change would clear the path for a better future for every man, woman and child. This single change is critical at this point in our history. If we don’t change, not only our quality of life but life itself will be destroyed. The numbers are too high and growing by the second. We got caught with our heads in the sand and we must move quickly.
Awareness, acceptance, diagnosis, treatment, funding, education, compassion, understanding, laws, facilities, accommodating school programs, transportation, media and stigmas need quick re-evaluations and Autism must be on the top of the list. Our children are here and DESERVE quality life.
Perhaps if we would all seek out our own diagnosis, when our children ARE labeled, they would not be ‘alone.’ I personally feel LUCKY to be a part of a child with Autism’s world. Life is enhanced, miracles are witnessed and I learn about my own abilities and disabilities every day. I am a much better person for being a part of Autism. I am proud.
My son is part of a pivotal influence group that has already changed the course of history for the better. I am teaching him to have pride in his Autism label as well.
So, to answer those who, after hearing that Daryl Hannah has Autism, always ask…Daryl Hannah? I will begin my own list comprised of those with AD, or the characteristics that would qualify the diagnosis of AD. It is important to note that until the 1940s, Autism was mistakenly categorized as various other disorders such as Schizophrenia. Dr. Leo Kanner noted the uniquely distinct patterns of behaviors while at the same time Dr. Hans Asperger came up with the name “Autism.” In 1943, Dr. Kanner published the first book specifically related to Autism entitle, the Nervous Child. By actual diagnosis and characteristics of, this partial list was compiled.
With fame comes almost instant endorsement credibility. Societal acknowledgement that Autism is curable would bring it far more into the open and we all would be closer to ending debates and getting positive results! We would stop crucifying each other and stand together to battle Autism.
In summation, I wanted to share the partially compiled list of famous characteristically AD persons with the readers in hopes of turning around the negative stigma associated with our children’s diagnosis. I personally wish that some of them would come forward and speak out until our kids are able to. The successes tell the story: autism is curable and hard, appropriate therapy at the correct age frame is the key.
Daryl Hannah is an Autistic person, really! OK, and how about her co-star Tom Hanks? Tom Hanks is also Autistic. Surprised? Then how about Peter Howson, Luke Jackson, Heather Kuzmich, Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare, Hans Christian Anderson, Goethe, Isaac Asimov, Craig Nicholls, Alexander Graham Bell, Gary Numan, Tim Page, Dawn Prince-Hughes, Vernon L. Smith, Satoshi Tajiri, Raymond Thompson, Liane Holliday Willey, Michelle Dawson, Temple Grandin, Caiseal Mor, Hikari Oe, Dylan Scott Pierce, Jim Sinclair, Amanda Baggs, Lucy Blackman, Alonzo Clemons, Tony DeBlois, Christopher Knowles, Leslie Lemke, Jonathan Lerman, Jason McElwain, Thristan Mendoza, Tito Mukhopadhyay, Derek Paravicini, Kim Peek, James Henry Pullen, Matt Savage, Birger Sellin, Henriett Seth, Daniel Tammet, Richard Wawro, Stephen Wiltshire, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, Harry Truman, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Elvis Presley, Peter the Great, Wilhelm II, Alexander the Great, Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jeremy Bentham, Socrates, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Robin Williams, Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Charles Dickinson, Jane Austen, Béla Bartók, Ludwig von Beethoven, Anton Bruckner, Henry Cavendish, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Kaspar Hauser, Oliver Heaviside, Thomas Jefferson, Carl Jung, Franz Kafka, Wasily Kandinsky, H P Lovecraft, Ludwig II, 1845-1886, King of Bavaria, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Gustav Mahler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Strauss, Nikola Tesla, Henry Thoreau, Alan Turing, Mark Twain, Vincent Van Gogh, Matthew Laborteaux, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Isaac Asimov, Hans Asperger, John Denver, Glenn Gould, Jim Henson, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hughes, Andy Kaufman, L S Lowry, Charles Schulz, Andy Warhol, Woody Allen, Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Joseph Erber, Bobby Fischer, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jeff Greenfield. David Helfgott, Garrison Keillor, John Motson, John Nash, Keith Olbermann, Michael Palin, Keanu Reeves, Oliver Sacks, James Taylor, Dezi Carden, Dan Aykroyd, Shannon Bull, Louis IV of France, Catherine the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, Peter Tork, Stephen Spielburg…
Just to name a few…
If being diagnosed Autistic would put me in with this great company…
PLEASE, label me Autistic.