I finally saw the Oscar-nominated documentary Autism is a World. It blew me away.
Autism is a World is the story of Sue Rubin, a 26-year-old woman with autism so severe that for many years she was believed to be mentally retarded. She is mostly nonverbal, but through a communication device she is able to type words, sentences, paragraphs that are not only intelligible, but also profound. Through this technology, she communicates her insights about autism, her reflections on being autistic, and her frustrations with having her inner world of thoughts and ideas trapped under a shroud of disability. It supports - by irrefutable living example - the theory that inside every autistic person is a healthy non-autistic person waiting to come out.
I don't think I have a place in my head to file this one. I haven't had enough time to process it. I don't know what it means. And I don't know what to hope for. Do I hope that Bud is aware of his disability - that he has deep thoughts and feelings that he simply can't (but someday might) express? Or do I hope that he is blissfully unaware - that his perky, happy temperament is Bud through-and-through, and that there's no non-autistic Bud ready to be pulled to the surface? It's a tough question to ponder.
I think this is why, as I read through other autism blogs that are out there, I feel so torn between the "biomedical" folks, who subscribe to the DAN protocol and other interventions focused on finding a cure, and the "neurodiversity" folks, who celebrate people with autism just as they are and who focus their energy in trying to break down barriers to create a world that is fair to and accepting of people on the spectrum. There is significant debate between the two camps, much of it mean-spirited and destructive. But there has also been some civil discourse. A couple of months ago, on his blog Injecting Sense, biomedical proponent Wade Rankin got some healthy conversation going and created a few sturdy bridges. Despite that, this week another autism blogger, neurodiversity proponent Kevin Leitch announced on his blog Left Brain/Right Brain that because of the hostility he's encountered he is no longer comfortable posting about his daughter.
Autism is a World is a remarkable documentary, and it provides an important insight into one woman's experience. But I am reminded again, as I am reminded so often, that "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." There are no universals in this universe. Autism is a world - one in which we must each thoughtfully, carefully make our way. But as we sort out this world as it relates to our particular person with autism, we must also create a village in which it's safe to raise all our children.