There is a reason why every time someone I know posts something about vaccines or pesticides causing the "autism epidemic" my heart starts pounding and I feel like I have been punched in the gut . . . and I am tired of being nice about, tired of pretending this is just some academic question about which we can agree to disagree.
If you are someone who promotes these kinds of articles, what you are about to read might make you a little uncomfortable. But its nothing compared to what you do to me and to people like me when you spread unfounded stories that treat our existence as a tragedy or a blight.
Before the Nazis began murdering Jews, they rounded up people they considered mentally or physically "defective" and murdered them, often with the knowledge and blessing of their families.
Yes, I went there. Why? Because actual fucking Nazis killed actual people like me.
And you know where they got the idea from? Not from some mis-reading of Nietzsche, They got it from the leading minds of the Ivy League medical schools in the U.S. who were promoting the "science" of eugenics -- the practice of "strengthening the gene pool" by deciding who did and didn't get to have children.
Most overt expressions of eugenic thought are frowned upon today, at least in their most extreme forms. But its influence isn't hard to find. Just notice the casualness with which people will express their discomfort with two adults with Down's Syndrome kissing each other. The aversion is based on a fear that those two adults will have a child who is like them. And treating that possibility as tragic is tremendously cruel.
And one place that eugenicist thinking shows its head is in the search for ways to prevent or "cure" Autism.
You see, when you talk about preventing or curing Autism, you are talking about creating a world in which people like me don't exist, or at least are not as common.
I want you to stop and think about that for a moment.
How do you think a Queer friend would feel if you posted something about xeno-estrogens causing homosexuality?
How do you think a Black friend would feel if you posted a graphic from text book from the last century that purported to show scientific proof that white people were more intelligent than Black people based on comparisons of the shapes of different people's skulls?
Because besides representing the same kind of hatred the memes and articles you post about the "causes of the autism epidemic," these ideas have something else in common with the claims you are promoting -- they are all demonstrably false.
There is no such thing as an "autism epidemic." The late Dr. Lorna Wing, who was part of the group that developed the diagnostic criteria for Autism in the DSM-IV demonstrated that the increase in Autism diagnoses in recent years exactly followed the increase predicted when the criteria were modified. There is no basis for asserting that Autism rates are on the rise.
The claim that vaccines cause Autism was first advanced by a now discredited British gastroenterologist, Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield fabricated the data and seems to have sought to profit from a class action lawsuit. (Again -- think about this. Would you sue someone because your child were like me and you wish they weren't).
Now, I no some of you will say that you knew a kid who never seemed Autistic until they were vaccinated. Maybe the kid was speaking and then stopped. The truth is we Autistic people frequently experience "regressive" events when we are under stress. I sometimes lose speech for brief periods of time. I experience loss of my already limited executive function for longer stretches. Sure, it is possible that in some instances an immunological response to a vaccine might bring on a regressive event by creating neuroendocrineimmune dysregulation. But regression has been happening to Autistic people living in a world of enforced neurotypicality long before vaccines existed.
Autisms is not new. We have been here as long as humanity has. We pre-exist this culture and we will outlast it.
Do you still think you can talk about preventing more people like me from existing and call yourself my friend? And to think, they say Autistic people "lack empathy" . . .
p.s. On that comparison with questioning the origin of Queer people -- "conversion therapy" for Queer people was based on the most popular form of therapy administered to Autistic people, developed in the same lab with involvement from the same researchers. Conversion therapy for Queer people is finally outlawed in the U.S. But in Massachusetts, Autistic people are still locked up and given electric shocks.