Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Myth of Destigmatization

Originally posted October 2005

You know that only a psychiatrist could, while keeping a straight face, use a word like "destigmatization" in a sentence. Especially when talking about a group of people whose existence is regularly described by the media, politicians, and bigotry-spreading "charities" as a plague and a calamity. In an article reposted on a neurodiversity activist blog, a director of psychiatry at a children's hospital makes this amazing assertion:

"...the stigma associated with all psychiatric disorders has been decreasing. And thanks to the advocacy of parents, autism has progressed especially far toward destigmatization."

The main point of the article is that the apparent statistical increase in autistic spectrum conditions in recent years is due to broader diagnostic categories and more public awareness, rather than an actual increase. I don't disagree with that, but if this guy seriously believes that there has been great progress toward removing the social stigma, I have to wonder if he got his degree from the Pollyanna Institute of Wishful Thinking.

Apparently without noticing the irony, he goes on to make the following statement later in the article:

"That one's child has an autism-spectrum disorder is usually heartbreaking news, and the impact on family life can be devastating."

Society's actual attitude is reflected quite accurately here, and yes, I suppose you could say that there has been a decrease in stigma if you're comparing this attitude with the professional advice of a few decades ago, which was to abandon small children in abusive institutions as if they had been unwanted kittens. But we are still very far from social acceptance of neurological differences when parents continue to be told, by doctors and other authoritative professionals, that the existence of their children is a heartbreaking and devastating tragedy.

Such language clearly conveys the message that society still thinks we're worthless crap, but that we ought to be happy because the psychs are no longer flushing us down the institutional sewer pipes but are dumping us on the compost heap instead, while cheerfully declaring that because there has been such a great improvement in social attitudes, it's now possible that some of us may turn out to be useful as fertilizer.

They can all kiss my destigmatized ass.

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