Last Wednesday, Sesame Street added a new character, Julia, to its roster of characters. In an online story, Julia, who has autism, meets Elmo and Abby and Elmo explains why Julia might sometimes do things a little bit differently. The story was written by Leslie Kimmerman, who has a child with autism, and the entire series will be developed in collaboration with parents, advocates, and people with autism.
I just checked and they are talking about this story on the Boycott Autism Speaks Facebook page.
To me that page is the real voice of people with autism.
I question the concept of giving labels to various mental illnesses. Diagnosis of mental illness is based entirely on doctor’s subjective evaluations – there are no blood tests, tissue tests, X-rays or any of that – no objective tests at all. Diagnosis made this way also fails to meet the Virchowian standard of disease. Instead of giving labels to mental illnesses, I think treatment should focus on the symptoms of the patient (such as stress, worry, a habit, hearing voices, etc.) and direct attention on treating those specific symptoms. This can itself reduce stigma.
Cool, I question that too, Nancy. But a lot of folks are self-identifying as Autistic, and doing really great work/advocacy around saying that it’s not a mental illness at all, but a human variation that deserves respect and accommodation. Like, check out autisticadvocacy dot org.
(*I question whether it’s appropriate for me to say I’m on the spectrum…)