Deadline Now: Autism
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Deadline Now: Autism

Friday, August 19, 2011

Deadline Now takes an in-depth look at Autism and finds out what resources are available here in the WGTE viewing area. Guests include Catina Harding, MSW, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Collaborative for Autism, Linell Weinberg, Executive Director for the Autism Society of Northwest Ohio, and Kelly Elton, Community Services Director at Bittersweet Farms.

On the web: www.greatlakesautism.org
On the web: www.asno.org
On the web: www.bittersweetfarms.org

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

A few years ago, a friend of mine was running for a judgeship in northern Michigan, when one day she got devastating news. Her young son had just been diagnosed with autism.

She didn’t know what to do. Should she give up her dream of becoming a judge? Would she and her husband and other children be able to have anything resembling a normal life?

After some deliberation, she decided to go ahead with the race. She won, and the last time I talked to her, she told me that she thought having a child with autism made her a better person, and perhaps a better jurist as well.  We’ve come a long way from the days when people thought the autistic were possessed by demons and ought to be burned at the stake. Even in my childhood, the autistic were often institutionalized, kept in back rooms or shunned.

We’ve come a long way since then. Today, some members of the community -- those we refer to as the “high-functioning autistic” have become spokesmen for those like themselves. Temple Grandin, perhaps the most famous of these, has earned a PhD, become a best-selling author and a leading advocate for the animal welfare movement. And when asked if she would like to be cured of autism, she says emphatically no, adding “autism is part of who I am.”

But she admits she is unable to form emotional relationships. And few of the autistic are able to function as well as Temple Grandin does. Most of those whose family members are autistic would probably choose to have them what we consider “normal.”

Normal, or at least better able to function in our world. There’s a lot that science needs to learn yet about autism, how it is caused; and what if anything can be done to cure it, if that’s the right word. We also need to explore and understand ways in which we can better live with autism, and help those with the disorder to lead happier and more fulfilling and productive lives. Our guests tonight are spending their professional lives doing just that.  

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