Saturday, October 27, 2007

Expectations and Hope

I'm at a conference about autism right now. Last night, a guest speaker about ABA gave his closing remarks, talking about raising expectations and hope for the future. Listening to him, I realized something. His whole idea of the kind of expectations you could have for an autistic child was fundamentally prejudiced.
There was no possibly of being autistic and living well in his view. The height of progress for an autistic, in his opinion, was when they came closest to the functioning of a neurotypical person. He viewed higher ability to function, as measured by speech, tested IQ, self-care, adult living placement - the usual - as synonymous with being less autistic. There was no place in his view for people like Amanda Baggs, who live well in their own home without testing high functioning on measures like speech and self-care. Or people like me, who are very much autistic but have no trouble speaking, minimal self-care problems, and a high tested IQ.
Contrast that with this quote from A Parents' Guide to Inclusive Education, published by the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, which was being given out free at the conference.

"Myth #6: 'Your child is not ready to be included.'
Your child cannot 'get ready' to be in a regular classroom by being segregated from it. A child may never reach the 'level' of skill or behave the way that the administration deems as good enough. A child should not be discriminated against for not being the same as another child. Keep fighting for an inclusive placement. Your child has a right to be there."

Once, someone in the Schafer Autism Report said once (paraphrasing, because I can't find the exact quote - here's a reply to it) 'Suppose you were the person who, without treatment, was destined to spend your life banging your head on the walls of an institution, would you want someone speaking for you and counseling against treatment? No, I wouldn't either.' If I was in danger of being institutionalized and couldn't, for whatever reason, fight it myself, I wouldn't want ABA people fighting for me. They'd try to make me prove I'm 'capable enough' to get my rights.
Instead, I'd want the likes of SACL speaking for me. I'd want people who felt I deserved my rights no matter what my level of ability was, who felt that I could live a good life at any level of ability. I'd want people like Cath's mother in Does She Know She's There, who refused to institutionalize her severely disabled daughter when such behavior was standard. I'd want people like Amanda Baggs advocating for me. And (I'm lucky I can say this) I'd want my parents speaking for me, just as they did when my school wanted me to get Ritalin.

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Blogger Kara said...

I love it when people blog from conferences-it's a way to spread the fire that emits from those gatherings of learning and to allow yourself to think away from the clamor of what you are sometimes told to think at those events-great post!
Also-thanks for participating in the blog carnival last week. It was my first time hosting and I really appreciated the awesome quality of posts.

9:28 PM  

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