Disabled rights among worthiest of causes

Leah Ulatowski, Copy Editor

As a journalist/columnist, it is extremely important for me to avoid personalizing my entries, but it is difficult to do so when some opponents take a political debate and quickly turn it into an attack on my personal life. Throughout my existence, I’ve noticed a disturbing theme of individuals bringing my brothers—who have autism—into our debates on national topics. They view it as a gap in my armor, but such people only put their animosity and lack of knowledge on display.

Recently, I received a letter to the editor from Scott Rose, a New York-based gay rights activist, because we disagree on the validity of a study by Mark Regnerus concerning homosexual parenting. He believes the study is a hoax because a federal court judge disregarded it as evidence in DeBoer v. Snyder; however, I maintain that it is valid due to the fact that an integrity officer at the University of Texas looked into Rose’s concerns and dismissed his allegations of scientific misconduct.

While Rose could have spent more time explaining why the court case is important, he chose to research my life and criticize my “huddling” with the boys in my family, which I can only take to mean my caretaking of them. It is a sad day when even human rights activists overlook disabled rights—perhaps one of the most important causes in our world today.

I do not want to get into the details of autism because it is explained in this issue’s feature on Kelly Quick, assistant professor of exercise science, who is an adult with the disorder. Essentially, it is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by repetitive behavior, delays in verbal ability and limited social skills.

The severity of symptoms varies across individuals, but my brothers have a serious case. Their ages range from 13-21, but none of them are fully toilet trained, they are mostly nonverbal, and they must always be supervised.

Autism can certainly be frustrating. My brothers try to eat everything, and if we were to accidentally leave a medicine cabinet open, it could be fatal. They are also easily bored, which makes them agitated, but there are few autism-friendly places to take them—for example, their repetitive gurgling noises are not welcome in movie theaters. It is also sometimes difficult to calm the boys down when they become really angry about something but cannot communicate what is wrong.

In any case, there are a wide range of positives that outweigh the weaknesses of autism, but society often tends to overlook them. Many individuals with the disorder gain mastery of a specific skill; my 13-year-old brother is an artistic prodigy who was replicating Vincent van Gogh works in first grade. Despite the unimaginable pain the disorder causes them, my brothers are also undyingly loyal and innocuous in a world of fickle relationships that sees a friend transform into an enemy over something silly like politics. Even my brothers’ worst tantrums—caused by the unrelenting stress of their disorder—are nothing compared to the maliciousness that I witness in “normal” adults nearly every day.

Finally, many overlook society’s role in complicating autism. Establishments should cater to individuals with the disorder—an occasional autism day at the movies wouldn’t hurt anyone. It wouldn’t kill witnesses of a tantrum to keep their comments to themselves to avoid further agitating the child. If people like my brothers are discriminated against, they are unable to communicate the incident—maybe their lives would be easier if more people cared about disabled rights as much as tree rights and the rights of people who can easily speak up for themselves.

As a college community, autism awareness and disabled rights are some of the best causes that we could educate ourselves and others about. When the prenatal test for autism is someday perfected, it is my hope that a positive result would not instill fear in the majority of individuals. Through increased awareness and more societal efforts to help the individuals affected, we may come to see the sanctity of every life and realize that a positive diagnosis is simply God giving a special family the opportunity to learn about life and love in a way that few ever will.