I’ve been thinking about this question in the wake of the Polling case at the Vaccine Court, especially with all the discussion around the term “autism-like symptoms”. In his post Reports of the debate’s death were greatly exaggerated, Wade Rankin echoes my initial thought that autism is, by its very definition, nothing more than a collection of “autism-like symptoms.” But is that really true?
And if it is, is there really something – one thing – that is “autism”? Or are there a lot of “autisms”?
As I hinted at a couple of days ago, I lean toward the latter. And I can’t help thinking that each of these autisms needs to be considered independently of the others. What may help in one group of cases – say ABA – may be catastrophic in other groups. A change in diet for one group may actually work, even if it can’t be repeated in another group. (I’m not even going to touch chelation, because I don’t believe that has any merit at all as a treatment for autism, along with any number of other snake oils.)
A much better discussion of this idea, especially what it means in terms of how autism(s) is (are) treated, can be found in Harold Doherty’s post Alex Plank with Aspergers Does Not Want To Be Cured But He Does Not Speak for My Son with Autistic Disorder. It reminds us that just as we want the world to remember that all autistic people are not the same, we need to remember that the needs and wants of all autistic people are not the same.
No single individual speaks for, or should pretend to speak for, all autistics.