Published Apr 16, 2012 10:21 PM
By Scott Thomas
Scott Thomas, who prefers to write under a pseudonym, is an Autistic young adult, a member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and a candidate member of Workers World Party. Thomas, like the majority of the Autistic community, rejects person-first language and prefers to be called “Autistic” rather than “a person with autism.” Autistic is capitalized because being Autistic encompasses more than a diagnosis of autism; there is an Autistic culture and an Autistic community that goes beyond the mere diagnostic criteria for the neurological disability called autism.
Much hype has been generated in the media about a group of diagnoses whose incidence has been greatly increasing over the last 10 years. These diagnoses, widely believed to be genetic in nature, are known collectively as the Autism Spectrum.
Autistics embody a variety of diverse characteristics that constitute the various diagnoses, but most Autistics share the following characteristics in various degrees: intense interests and rituals, repetitive movements, difficulty in social situations, difficulty communicating, and difficulty processing sensory information. While many of these difficulties seem challenging, many of the challenges that Autistics face are precipitated by a society that is unwilling to accommodate a diverse set of needs that humans face.
The increase in diagnosis over the past 10 years is because clinicians are now beginning to accurately diagnose people previously not believed to have a disability. The increase in diagnoses has prompted more accommodations for Autistics, both in the education world and in the workforce. Research indicates that Autism Spectrum Disorders are still greatly underdiagnosed and may affect as many as 1 in 38 people. Invisible disabilities are especially underdiagnosed in women, people of color, and those in dire financial straits who cannot afford the expensive, specialized health care required to receive a diagnosis.
Sometimes anti-Autistic propaganda is set forth by groups that purport to assist people. For example, the charity Autism Speaks promotes the Tragedy Model of Autism, which is the idea that a diagnosis of autism means certain, unbearable, financial and emotional hardship for the family of the Autistic. A promotional video called “Autism Every Day” includes former executive vice president of Autism Speaks, Alison Tepper Singer, voicing her fantasy to drive her daughter and herself off of the George Washington Bridge.
The organization stated that non-Autistic parents of Autistics should embrace these types of feelings rather than flee from them or seek help for them. This propaganda creates an attitude of dehumanization; the message is that we are so devastating to abled peoples’ lives that we should be eradicated via whatever means necessary (whether by cure or another method), and that our lives are so miserable they must not be worth living. Sometimes, tragically, this occurs, like the 2006 case of Katie McCarron, a three-year-old Autistic girl in Illinois whose mother was convicted of first-degree murder for suffocating her. People who kill Autistic and other people with disabilities are more likely to be acquitted by sympathetic juries or more lightly sentenced by judges than those who murder non-disabled people. (thiswayoflife.org)
Socialism, disabilities and the 99%
The dehumanization of Autistics and people with other disabilities stems from a fundamental element of the capitalist system. Under capitalism, all things that exist are valued according to their ability to generate profit for the 1%. Even the 99%, who have nothing to sell but their labor, are given value according to their ability to produce profit for the 1%, who make money purely via their ownership of the means of production.
Because of this, those in the 99% are valued according to their ability to work within the profit-producing machine that the 1% engineered. Therefore, the 1% want to give us as little as possible; they attack us with institutionalization, poor education and austerity measures. Because of this devaluation, people with disabilities have been neglected, abused and killed since the dawn of class society.
Despite the many transgressions which capitalist society has carried out against Autistics and other people with disabilities, there is still hope for the future. In Cuba, a country where the 99% rose up and drove out the 1%, people with disabilities are viewed, first and foremost, as people who have something to contribute to society, rather than a burden.
Rather than cut away at education, health care and benefits, as is happening in the U.S. and other capitalist countries, Cuban society provides excellent education free through the university level, free health care, and jobs or income for all.
Cuban schools use a diverse set of educational approaches geared toward helping Autistic children become educated and happy citizens capable of making a contribution to socialist society, rather than being trained to become cogs in the profit machine as in the U.S. People with disabilities who are unable to do the work that most Cubans do are given jobs reading to other workers so that the workers are better able to enjoy the time spent at work. These jobs provide people with disabilities both the income to support themselves and the satisfaction that comes with knowing that one is valuable to society.
Capitalism offers only dehumanization, destitution and even death to people with disabilities. Only by smashing the 1% can people with disabilities have the full freedom to live the most fulfilling lives possible, unhindered by the misdeeds of a system that seeks to destroy us.