Monday, 25 July 2011

'Cure' vs 'Healing'

An interesting book I’ve been reading lately is The Horse Boy, by Rupert Isaacson[1]. 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.

[1] Isaacson, Rupert. The Horse Boy – a father’s quest to heal his son. Melbourne, Australia: The Text Publishing Co, 2009.


  1. I definitely agree. When people or organizations talk about "Curing Autism" it's clear that they have little REAL understanding. Healing is indeed what's needed.

  2. Great writing! I agree wholeheartedly. My son with moderate autism had terrible gut issues which in turn affected his behaviour & his learning capacity, we took measures to sort these out. Same could be said about his high mercury levels, which we are now on a detox of. And the extra help with OT/physio, helps him to have more independence & feel less frustrated. I believe that by doing these things I am not trying to "cure" him....just to help him reach his full potential by way of healing the things that make life difficult/painful for him. I wouldn't want him NT...I love him just the way he is.

  3. Thanks peeps! I can totally see where you're coming from Simone. It's about healing the stuff that gets in the way of him reaching that full potential as an autistic individual. Not about 'curing' the autism per se.
    Guess too that this proves that autistic adults are not 'anti-treatment' as such, just selective about which ones, i intend to cover this in a future post.

  4. i have read this book also. And for myself I am not looking for a cure but healing. Healing my underlying problems, but at the end of the day I am still Autistic. But what I am doing is healing the unpleasant symptoms of Autism!

  5. And leaving the 'good bits' of Autism! Right on, Gabs!