Trigger Warning: References to eugenics, ABA, quack treatments
So I got interviewed for a thing, and it's a bit on the down low for now, so that's all I'm going to say about it. But one of the questions was what I thought about people who want to treat or cure autism. Well, it really was if I'm offended by the movement to treat or cure autism. I'm more scared of the damage it does with ableism than offended by it.
There's a lot of things that go under those two banners. Some I think are fine, even helpful and needed- helping us learn skills that we're capable of learning, helping us figure out how to work with the abilities we have, helping us find ways to communicate that work for us. Of course, that communication one tends to go under the banner of "therapy" more than of "treatment," but if Paul Offit felt the need to write about facilitated communication not curing autism (he does that in Autism's False Prophets, where he unfortunately also seems to think it's a hack,) someone probably thought it did. Which, um, what? Even good things, when under the banner of "treatment" or "cure," tend to come with a lot of bad ideas wrapped up in them, bad goals that they think the good things will help make happen.
Some treatments I think are harmful- most ABA goes there, since the goal is usually to make us act less autistic thanks to conflations of less autistic with happier and more able to do things. Anything that conflates those two things is a problem. The fact that it's compliance-based also scares me. Really the only ABA that doesn't scare me is the stuff that people call ABA to get insurance coverage but where if you look at what they're doing and what ABA actually is, you can tell it's nothing of the sort. (Not all the things in ABA are ABA themself. Collecting data, for example? That's part of scientific method, which is a cool thing.)
Conflations worry me me, like when people conflate various medical issues that some autistic people have with autism and then think they're treating autism by treating those medical issues. Like everyone else, autistic people are happier and more functional when we don't have various medical issues bothering us, but that's different from being less autistic. I think this also relates to the conflation of happier/more functional with less autistic.
Some treatment terrifies me. Chelation, MMS, and the like go here. If the thing is dangerous, medically warranted under a very few circumstances that aren't actually autism, or is based on bad science (often all of these at once,) it's safe to say that it goes here. So do people who think that giving anyone a "cure" for autism without their express consent would be acceptable under any circumstances.
I also tend to be scared of people who think it's possible to “cure” autism, since it's not really a statement that makes sense... we're talking about the entire way a person's brain is wired here. Curing the random other medical issues a lot of us have? Yeah, that makes sense. Autism itself, not so much. (Conflating those two things? Go back two paragraphs, conflations are scary.) Preventing autism usually just means prenatal testing and selective abortion, which also terrifies me. It smells of eugenics, especially since forced sterilizations of disabled people, court-ordered abortions for disabled people, insistence that disabled people can't consent, disabled people having court orders that say they can't have sex (because they can't consent)? Those are all things that happen, and those all look like eugenics too. There's a lot of stuff like that, and a lot of it goes under "cure," "prevent," or "treat."