Monday, February 25, 2008



I, too, wish we would stop talking about cures for autism, but my emphasis in this is different to that of the author's.

There have been so many fraudulent claims regarding autism over the years, providing almost a history of snake-oil salesmanship and marketing.

Not many years ago, idiotic "facilitators" were a fad, people who were somehow magically supposed to be able to help autistic children respond correctly in classrooms. It was a complete self-deceiving sham, a case of the emperor's new clothes, costing millions and raising false hopes.

The simple, hard truth is that there is no cure.

The "treatment" over which parents sued the Ontario government is not even a treatment.

It is training, very much the same as dog obedience training. Children are taught to follow certain cues and respond in given ways.

It is horribly expensive training, and I think it fair to say the public should not be paying for it.

Yes, all mental disabilities may be viewed to a certain extent as just "otherness." After all, Einstein was likely an autistic, Rousseau a manic-depressive or schizophrenic, and some form of depression has almost been a requirement for great writers.

But the natural impulse towards cure is irresistible, and when science, someday, offers a genuine cure for any of these conditions, the positive response will be overwhelming.

But real cures or even good treatments do not exist for many of these conditions. The drugs for schizophrenia, for example, can be dangerous, have horrible side-effects, and by no means make the condition go away.

No wonder many schizophrenics avoid them and wander our streets, and the wandering is better than what we did only forty or fifty years ago: locking them in institutions against their will, and inflicting horrible "treatments" like electro-shock and sometimes lobotomies.

We really are still at a primitive state of understanding the human brain.