What does it mean to cure autism?

Like most postings on Pat Sullivan’s blog, Autism on Good Morning America really got me thinking. In this case, it was the last sentence that sent the wheels spinning (emphasis is Pat’s):

Much like TREATING cancer, diabetes, etc., TREATING autism through ABA appears to be big business. CURING it however, yields little but vehement criticism.

What does it mean to “cure” something? From dictionary.com is the following (as cited from the American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary):

cure (kyr)
n.

  1. Restoration of health;
    recovery from disease.
  2. A method or course of treatment used to restore health.
  3. An agent that restores health; a remedy.

The key seems to be “restore health.” For physical ailments, the meaning of this is well known and understood.

But what does it mean in the context of a disorder that is diagnosed based on observation and behavior and is, at its most basic, simply a deviation from the societal norms of behavior and social interaction? Is “changing behavior to be normal” [God, I hate trying to find the right words cause that one just doesn’t work] the same as “restoring health.” It seems to me that yes, it is.

Of course, all this goes back to the question, “What is autism?” For if you don’t really know what the disease is, how can you say you’ve cured it. Is it possible that there is more than one cause of autism? Are autism and mercury (or heavy-metal) poisoning different problems that just happen to present the same? Is there only one cure, or can there be several?

If, as the transcript of the Good Morning America segment states, the boy is indistinguishable from his peers, isn’t it fair to say the ABA treatment cured him of autism?

– – — — —–
If you haven’t already guessed it, this is kind of what I believe.

Leave a Reply