An interesting book I’ve been reading lately is The Horse Boy, by Rupert Isaacson. It’s written by the father of an autistic child, but it’s a bit different from the usual run of such books. He rejects the usual path of trying to ‘fix’ his child through the rigidities of ABA etc, and instead takes him horse-riding, and to shamanistic healers in Mongolia. It’s intriguing in its own right, but one particular thing he says, more than once, really resonates with me.
He talks about the difference between ‘curing’ his son, and ‘healing’ him. Aren’t they the same, I can hear someone saying. Perhaps he says it best….
“Rowan is still autistic - his essence, his many talents, are all tied up with it. He has been healed of the terrible dysfunctions that afflicted him – his physical and emotional incontinence, his neurological firestorms, his anxiety and hyperactivity. But he has not been cured. Nor would I want him to be. To “cure” him, in terms of trying to tear the autism out, now seems to me completely wrong. Why can’t he exist between the worlds, with a foot in both, as many neurotypical people do? Think of immigrants to the United States, living with one foot in their home language and culture, the other in the West, walking in two worlds. It is a rich place to be.” (pgs 348-349)
My feeling is, many people who search for what they call a ‘cure’ (or ‘recovery’) for their autistic child, might actually be wanting ‘healing’ instead. Healing for the worst, most dysfunctional aspects of the condition, so that the child can function in the world, yet still be clearly autistic; rather than, as he puts it, trying to ‘tear the autism out’. That always seems to me a deep down denial not only of a child’s autism, but of how intrinsic it is to the autistic individual.
I believe it’s a distinction worth remembering. I’d be interested to know what others think.