We also briefly talked about the proposed changes in the autism diagnostic criteria. I mentioned that I thought we would see more changes in the future as researchers identify biomarkers, such as in this study showing a significant delay in auditory processing.
"That's interesting," said my mom, lowering her voice almost to a whisper as she confided, "I never thought of myself as autistic, but I do seem to have a delay in hearing and understanding speech."
I replied that it was only to be expected that family members would have somewhat similar traits, and then the conversation moved on to a more general discussion of genetics.
After reading the New York Times article by Roy Richard Grinker on the diagnostic changes, I've been picturing similar conversations taking place in many families. I'm very pleased to see how far Grinker's views have evolved in just the three years since the release of his book Unstrange Minds, which I reviewed on this blog. I noted in my review that although Grinker, a cultural anthropologist, is very well aware of the socially constructed nature of autism, he nevertheless made a number of unfounded assumptions about his daughter based entirely on the prevailing stereotypes in Western culture. Now, just a few years later, those assumptions—such as that his daughter would never leave home or marry—are nowhere to be seen, replaced by this enlightened observation: "Narrow diagnostic categories do not help us understand the way a person will develop over time."
Of course, as with all improvements in society's perception of a minority group, some of its more privileged members have made clear that they would rather keep the stereotypes and prejudice because they can't deal with the prospect of losing what they perceive as their elite status within the group. In Bev's post Angry Aspies, Please Go Away, she calls out two of the usual suspects by name, including (no surprise there) Michael John Carley, who is up to his usual divisive tricks. Clay's blog entry on the topic mentions another culprit. This was only to be expected; and as Clay accurately states, the autistic community needs to have this conversation. Still, it's odious when people make clear that their idea of dealing with stigma is to deflect it onto somebody else instead of working to end it altogether; and I sincerely hope that those who are displaying such attitudes will either grow up or, as Bev says, just go away.
Edit: More posts written from an anti-elitist perspective can be found at LB/RB, Ballastexistenz, Reports from a Resident Alien, Cat in a Dog's World, Journeys with Autism, Uncle Sam's Cabin, The Standard Review, Life with Joey, I'm Somewhere Else, Susan Senator's Blog, Autism Street, Heatherbabes, Homo Autistic, Astrid's Journal, A Time Will Come... and AspieWeb.