Several recent reports in national network news have again raised the issue of "curing" autism. The report cited an article in a research journal (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry) that noted that a small group of young adults who had been diagnosed with autism as young children were able to function independently without special education support.
A careful review of the article reveals that "cure" was not the focus of the article. The authors note that a small group (less than 25%) of those on the autism spectrum had reached this optimal functioning level. They also note that the roles of biology and intervention were not clear. Further, they noted that the "optimal group retained none of the telltale signs of autism with respect to impaired social skills, communication behaviors or the ability to recognize faces" although they did not need any support to function in school. The report did not claim that these individuals would not struggle in other environments as they grew older.
It has been clear for many years, as it is today, that there are individuals on the autism spectrum who have jobs, families, and may look indistinguishable from their neighbors. Most of these individuals will assert that they still have autism in that they think about the world in a different way than others. These differences can be both a source of strength and a challenge.
As a state and as a country, we should focus our energies on being advocates for those with ASD by providing the emotional, physical and financial supports necessary for each individual to function as well and as independently as possible, while continuing to celebrate and value their uniqueness.
Dr. Barbara Luskin, PhD, LP
Autism Society of Minnesota