Rethinking Asperger's: 'If you look at it the right way, it's a gift'

Last week, we spoke to "Neurotribes" author Steve Silberman, who told us it's time to stop thinking of autism as a problem to be cured, and start seeing it as a valuable way of thinking and being. We continue this conversation on rethinking autism.
"Asperger's is negative. But only if you look at it that way. If you look at it the right way, it's a gift." - says Kimberley Dudek, who has Asperger's. (pawpaw67, Flickr cc)

"Asperger's is not a punishment. It's not something wrong." -  11-years-old Devin Smyth has Asperger's

Last week on The Current, we spoke to Steve Silberman, who makes a similar argument about autism in his book, "Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity." Steve Silberman argues that we shouldn't think of autism as a disorder to be cured or fixed ... but rather as a different way of thinking and being that should be welcomed.

'I get sad at school a lot because I don't get the kids and they don't get me." - Devin Smyth, 11

Devin Smyth on living with Asperger's: 'My Reality and Some Fantasy'
 

After our interview with Steve Silberman, we hosted a live web chat with Marg Spoelstra, the Executive Director of Autism Ontario. We received a wide range of questions and comments, many from people who are on the autism spectrum. So we decided to keep the conversation going.

  • Marg Spoelstra is the executive director of Autism Ontario. She was in our Toronto studio.
  • Kimberley Dudek wrote in to tell us about her experience as an adult living with Asperger's Syndrome. She was in Winnipeg.
  •  Liz Laugesonis an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA and the director of UCLA PEERS, a program that teaches social, including romantic, interaction skills to teens and young adults on the spectrum. She was in Los Angeles.
     

"Autism is a way of being. It is not possible to separate the person from the autism. Therefore, when parents say, I wish my child did not have autism, what they're really saying is, I wish the autistic child I have did not exist, and I had a different (non-autistic) child instead. Read that again. This is what we hear when you mourn over our existence. This is what we hear when you pray for a cure. This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces."   

 -  excerpt from Jim Sinclair's "Don't Mourn For Us", 1993

Read the Full Essay: "Don't Mourn for Us" by Jim Sinclair


This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar.