I have occasionally read the musings of Donna Williams, a/k/a “the arty autie.” Although our views rarely intersect, I have usually found her to be thoughtful and a good writer. Last week, I came upon her latest piece, What is autism? Beyond the symptoms and stereotypes. She hits this one out of the park:
In my view, autism is NOT ONE CONDITION and hence there is no one-size-fits-all approach which will best fit ALL people diagnosed with autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).Ms. Williams refers to the constellation of autistic manifestations as a “fruit salad,” the ingredients of which are sometimes inherited and sometimes acquired. Leaving aside the question of how much is inherited and how much is the result of external factors ⎯ and that is likely to differ with each individual ⎯ the focus turns to our response. Ms. Williams seems to believe, as do I, that the appropriate response depends upon the manifestations:
What determines the abilities and progress of any person with autism, is how the fruit salad is respectfully managed based on solid understanding of those components. Some aspects of an ‘autism fruit salad’, in some people (and may not be present in all for them to be equally ‘autistic’), will require treatment, others management, others adaptation and some only understanding, respect and acceptance.I’m not familiar enough with Ms. Williams’ views to speak for her. Based on her background, though, I can surmise that she does not approve of many of the “biomedical” or “alternative” interventions many of us believe are appropriate in the individual cases of our children. As a statement of general principle, however, I could not agree more with her on the nature of ASD, and the spirit with which we must formulate a response.