I had heart surgery when I was 7 to treat a murmur that someone failed to notice when I was born, or at least little-bitty, or whenever solid doctors are meant to notice these things. By the time I had my surgery, methods had changed. They used to cut us down the middle and leave a scar that would peak above any shirt aside from a turtle-neck. But since they’d delayed, the foolishness left me with an updated version that curved around my chest in a half-circle that can only be seen in a really scant bikini or full-on unrobed.
The two big terms in special education, far as I’ve experienced, are “evidence-based” and “autism spectrum disorder.” Addressing the needs of children with ASD is vital, but I’ve heard too many voices that want to slap that ASD on every other kid they come across. We’ve learned a lot, done plenty of research, have plenty of new methods, so it may be easier at this point to put the label on someone so that we have a “fix” for something non-concrete, something we can’t operate on. The idea should give discomfort to anyone who sees a child as a holistic human being as opposed to an organism that needs fixing.
Practitioners for education of students with visual impairments have built a shaky battlement against the label. Are our students as susceptible as anyone else? Probably. Still we have to work against the behaviorist tide that tells us that sensory sensitivity, anti-social behavior, and inability to understand point-of-view immediately give our children the ASD stamp. We cannot slip back into the age of the traveling medicine show — one diagnosis does not save the world.
My uncle is CLEARLY on the spectrum. No doubt. But he was born in a tiny, rural community where nobody had a clue that such a condition existed. Even today the residents aren’t sure. Would the knowledge have helped him in certain areas of his life? It might give an excuse for why he’s so bizarre and obsessive and annoying to those who don’t understand him. But this educated and researched science may serve him in an opposite fashion than science served me. New science let my impairment go unnoticed, old science let him just be strange.