Thursday, May 7, 2009

One Very Personal Essay: Why controversial issues bother me

Image: (from cedarfencesiding.com) Not a fence you'll see too many people balancing on, though I'm willing to give it a try. Read on to see what I mean...

My past few posts have been about the angst I've felt toward controversial issues in our autism community. The top three issues that bother me are vaccines, vaccines, and vaccines. Oh yeah, I'm also a little bit bothered by the arguments over the puzzle piece as a logo (may tackle this one eventually) and the disparity between neurodiversity versus biomedical beliefs.

It's hard to sum up the views of both sides without oversimplifying things or argh, getting something wrong, but I'll do my best. Though they too, love people (and often unconditionally) on the autism spectrum, people embracing biomedical beliefs think that autism can be cured and embrace the ideology of people recovering from autism. As I understand it, this is the side that tends to believe that vaccines cause autism.

On the other side, are people from the neurodiversity realm who would like to see scientists, advocates and parents steer away from curing autism. They focus on embracing people with autism for who they are. Most (but maybe not all) of people in the neurodiversity realm tend to steer away from speculating about the possible causes of autism, such as vaccines.

Someone dear to me, who is more on the neurodiversity side of the fence, believes that autism exists to help humanity advance civilization. The same person believes that autism has been around for eons and that geniuses like Archimedes would have easily been diagnosed with the condition, had it been known in his time. And, as we know, Archimedes lived centuries before we, as a species, started to use vaccines to knock out polio, measles, and even influenza.

I, however, can see both sides of the vaccine issue. As far as the biomedical side of things, I've seen big improvements after removing milk and ice cream from my own son's diet (we haven't removed gluten). I do believe there are some biomedical things that can be done to alleviate discomfort and improve behavior and cognition. However, I also believe that we must remember to embrace the person on the spectrum. It's important not to so focused on the cure/and or certain improvements that you forget to appreciate the loved one for who they are.

That said, I fall somewhere in the middle of the field. There are two sides parallel to white picket fence that separates the autism community. As for that fence, I sometimes feel like I'm balancing on top of it. That's why I don't like controversial issues. I am one who wants to be friends with those in the autism community regardless as to which side of the fence they reside.

Unfortunately, picket fences, as you can see from the picture above, are pretty difficult to balance upon. If I lose my balance and fall, it will hurt. Falling means alienating someone I love from either one of the sides to the point that they'll disappear from my life. The truth is I can't emotionally afford to lose anyone.

All of my grandparents, both parents, and all my aunts and uncles have died. I live more than a three hour drive away from my remaining family members. Further, in the distant past (before I learned some very valuable social skills) some of my own aspie-like traits (have not been diagnosed as being on spectrum though have my suspicions...) have surfaced to the point where "friends" have stopped talking to me for reasons I could not fathom. So that makes everyone of my friends, regardless of belief, extremely valuable to me.

My social past has made me hesitant to reach out to people. Luckily I do have some close friends and I value every single one of them. A few of them are from the autism community. Most friends in my community seem to embrace the biomedical side of things, but my best friend (my husband) and at least one of my closest friends in the blogger world are more in the realm of neurodiversity.

So you see, if I choose to blog about controversial issues, it could be politically and/or socially disastrous. So that's why I will mostly address social and educational issues on this blog. That means, I guess, that I've decided to hush my Scarlett side for a while and remain to be, for the time being, the dreamer who thinks she can maintain a graceful balance on one heck of a fence...

Future post: Prioritizing Autism Issues
P.S. Here is the link to the opening post of this sequence on controversial issues for those of you who haven't visited here for awhile or for those of you who are new here.

7 comments:

mommy~dearest said...

Kudos to you, Julie, for a courageous post. And ya know what? In my opinion, It's okay to chill in the middle. We get knowledge from both sides and are able to make decisions for our own children based on what we feel is best, not based on which "group" we identify with.

I commend your honesty. From another "fence-walker". :)

Sarah said...

WOW, I'm learning so much from you. Thanks for sharing your insights over the issues. Honestly I'm so new I hadn't even realized the two sides of things and it is helping me to potentially prepare myself for things I need to understand and decide what might work best for us. Thanks

Casdok said...

I think you are maintaining your balance very gracefully!

Julie L. said...

A big thanks to everyone for their comments! : )

Morgan said...

I understand not taking sides. I have the problem where I sway too easily from one to the other...I also get not wanting to alienate anyone or lose friends. I've gotten way liberal in my blog compared to what it used to be. I answered the featured question about stances on contraversial issues, and I was sure that I lost readers, not the anonymous ones, but the ones I knew and liked. Well, I probably didn't, but I stressed over it for a long time and wanted to take the post back. I'm way scared of offending people that I like. Someone on Facebook who I don't really know un-friended me, and I freaked out. I went over everything that I had posted, all the groups I was a member of, anything that I could have done to offend her. Well, I got up the courage to ask why, and it turned out that she was just overwhelmed by the number of friends she had, and she added me back! So, yeah...I like to stay pretty neutral myself.

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