On Monday November 29, my fiancé and I attended Ari Ne’eman’s talk at Ohio State University. The talk was entitled “Neurodiversity and the College Campus”. However, the talk seemed to introduce the topic of neurodiversity by first presenting what he called the “medical” model of disability (which looks at fixing or removing the disability) and then addressing the problem with Autism Speaks and similar organizations, which have been observed to be pro-cure and thus part of the causation-and-cure aspect of the public conversation about autism. Against the medical model, non-profit organizations addressing autism from a cause-and-cure standpoint, and some of the parents and professionals involved with autism he contrasted the idea of neurodiversity, the self-advocacy movement, and the “social” model of disability (which focuses on what it deems to be equal access for disabled people).
This was the first time I have attended a public talk about autism, neurodiversity, or any related issues and as my fiancé and I listened, some thoughts and questions came into my mind. One of these was the question of economic self-sufficiency for the autistic community.
I know how you
move into me. You come
in tides, squeezing through every pore
like nightfall that doesn’t know how to stay put. You don’t know
how you rip apart my senses, bleeding glorias as you
pass though me in double osmosis.
(From my poem, “Touch”)
If you’re reading this post and are on the autism spectrum, you’re already aware (in some cases painfully) of how sensitive our nervous systems are. This sensitivity affects many aspects of our lives, from difficulty tolerating sensory stimuli to impaired ability in handling stress, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I’m going to deal with the sensitive (no pun intended) subject of using medication (such as SSRIs, other classes of antidepressants, and other kinds of medication that affect mood and brain chemicals) in this post.
From what I’ve observed thus far, this topic has been debated from multiple viewpoints, even outside the autism community. Just Google the subject of antidepressants and autism and I’m sure you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of results. Certainly many of us have heard about overuse of these medications and horror stories about side effects, ineffectiveness of medications, or symptoms worsening – or we may have gone through these experiences ourselves. And of course, there is always the question of who benefits by the medication: there are stories of medical professionals pushing such medications to the parents of children on the autism spectrum in order to make their behavior more “tolerable”. And of course for us adults, there’s also the question of something being for our “own good”.