Beyond Cure Autism

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cheerful boy

In late 2006, I was discussing with a lady from a special education school about autism treatment. Citing examples of cheerful and sociable autistic children (who apparently underwent early intervention programmes), she stated that if a child shows affection and interacts with people, this means that he is cured of autism.

I was rather taken aback by this superficial view. To me, autism is more than a set of (mis)behaviors. While it is possible to "normalize" the autistic behavior of autistic children (via medication, behavioral therapy and intensive social skills training), yet they will still operate with an autistic consciousness.

[No offense intended; this is just an illustration.] As an analogy, imagine a circus successfully training an ape to behave like a gentleman. But he is still an ape. He has ape instincts, thoughts and emotions. He can pretend to date a female human but he will only be interested in female apes. Hidden under human guises, the way he solves problems would still be that of how apes solve problems.


 

For instance, many people believe that theatre helps us understand other people. This sounds perfect for autistic children. However, acting will not have any effect on those who have yet to understand the concept of "self" and "human intentions ". How can they step into the character when they have no idea what is it like to "be a person" themselves?

Yet autistics may be very good actors, because to them, theatre is a social dream come true. They are placed in surroundings that can only change according to plan, people who speak according to script. They are told exactly what to do and speak, down to the last gesture. There is no room for error or spontaneity and therefore no room for messing up the plan that they have painstakingly computed.

Unfortunately, instead of understanding the autistic consciousness as it is and creating social systems for autistics to contribute to our society, most people cannot help but see it as a disorder of the Neurotypical consciousness that must be corrected. Yet, measuring the success of a therapy using objective behavior is like measuring the success of a charity based on the amount of money it has raised, rather than how much its work has helped improve the lives of the needy.


 

The Solution

Albert Einstein once observed that we cannot solve a problem using the same frame of mind that created it. Instead, we must use a different frame of mind. A true "autism cure" goes beyond "being normal". It is about expanding the autistic consciousness to become compatible with NeuroTypical consciousness, and to some extent, vice-versa.

When we heal the divide between any two peoples, we come to realize that there is nothing wrong with anyone. Everyone is only doing the best they can from their own perspective and situation. What is wrong is our judgment of what we think the other party is about. Thus, I see my autism work as part of Humanity's evolution towards World Peace. Conversations with God, a series of books that have inspired me, told me that:

In every choice we only need to ask:
"Is this Who I Really Am? Is this who I now choose to be?"

When I ask that question, I find that...
I am not a functionally recovered autistic, just as I am not a computer expert. 

People may call me that.
And sometimes, for convenience, I may call myself that.
And to facilitate my life work, I may even ask others to call me that.

But these are not me.
I am more than that.

Autism is not my true work, just as computer programming is not my true career.
People do not know my true potential.
They do not know why I am here on Planet Earth.
And until the moment I accomplish my life work, many will continue to deny my potential.  
Then after that, they will continue to deny it for everyone else by saying that I am a special exception.


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When I say that I am a "functionally recovered autistic",
It is like someone saying, "I am a cancer survivor. I have battled cancer".
Or the resistance fighters saying, "We are fighting for our motherland's freedom".

What happens after their cancer is gone, and they must live another 40 years more?
What happens when the war is over, and the survivors are left with a devastated and barren land?
And what happens when the autism is gone, and the child is caught in the limbo between autistic and NeuroTypical?

The cancer patient should not live for the sake of conquering cancer.
Neither should the resistance fighters be living for the sake of independence.
Neither should the child and his family be living for the sake of autism recovery.

They are more than that.
They have far greater potential than that.
Their struggle is more than the last chapter in their story; it is only the first.


 

Autism is no longer my reality.
Since I cannot resist something unreal, I simply set it aside.
I do not need to label myself in relation to it, such as by using the word "recovery".

But at the same time, millions of people still struggle with autism.
Autism is still very real to them.
When I work with them, I use my old labels.

Yet I do not describe myself like one, because…
I am living proof that autistics have more than 3 dimensions:

  • Their behavior
  • Their skills
  • Their diagnostic label

Most people describe autism in such a limiting manner: Professionals, parents, volunteers and even autistics themselves. Hence, people measure progress by how much they enlarge this box of 3 dimensions:

  • The change in behaviors
  • The learning of new skills
  • The accuracy of diagnosis (based on syndromes)

 

I take a dim view of many common assumptions and strategies because they are based on these limiting dimensions.

It is not necessary to have autism awareness campaigns to educate people about autism. We already have enough advertisements ranging from world poverty to washing detergent. Instead, people wish to be entertained by something novel and insightful. Imagine the impact of a blockbuster movie about the inner consciousness of an autistic.

It is not necessary to show off the skills of autistic savants to show that autistics are capable. To me, that trivializes the true potential of autism, just as we trivialize the true potential of animals by making them perform in circuses. Animals don't belong in circuses; they can't use the skills and instincts gifted by Mother Nature there. Autistics are not on Planet Earth to perform hat tricks: their skills are there for us to use to solve Humanity's problems.

It is not necessary for autistics to go on stage and talk about how much they love their family to show that they care for the people around them. To me, talk is cheap and parroting social norms trivializes the true expression of autistic love. While autistics may not express social or intimate love for their own friends, race and family, we can see their higher passion for knowledge, inventions or for Humanity as a whole. Let them be the saints and engineers of the New Era.

It is not necessary for autistics to have good social skills, or be able to live independently. Neither do autistics require therapy or university degrees to make up for their deficits. Given the suitable social systems and arrangements, they can live meaningful lives making many contributions to Humanity.


 

When will people recognize that? When will people stop telling them to bury their potential and live like NeuroTypicals with the following advice?

  • Studying hard instead of inventing smart
  • Connect with people, not systems
  • Get a girlfriend, not a life passion
  • Work to feed one's family, not Humanity (through engineering & inventing)
  • Aspire to be normal instead of extraordinary

Thus, I use my life to demonstrate how to "think out of the box". Like many before me, I shall change the world in my own style. Emerging from autism is only the beginning of what I shall do.

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