How did ‘cure’ and ‘acceptance’ get to be such bad words?

It’s no secret that the Autism community is quite divided on many topics and I’ve even written before about how easy it is to offend one side or another depending on what you say.

For the last 4 months, I had been trying to organize a rather large campaign to get as many people to write about “Understanding and Acceptance” for those that live with Autism every day.

It’s done well but has perhaps also added fuel to an already hot topic. One that has turned two very good, very positive words into opposing sides of a war.


This word is often used in finite terms, such as how antibiotics can kill a virus or infection and leave you without a trace of the offending agent of illness.

The issue here is that many people with Autism (especially Aspergers) and even those that love them, feel that autism is a part of what makes a person the person that they are. It affects every aspect of their life from birth to where they are today and to remove that would be like removing a part of who they are.

When a loved one (usually a parent) is presented with a child that is “low functioning”, they would love nothing more than to cure their child. Some children (even those that are of adult age) are unable to speak, use a toilet, live independently, they hurt themselves, wander off with no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going… they’re unable to express themselves, their feelings or desires.. they’re trapped.

What results is the people from group a (Aspergers/high functioning) often resenting those from group b (lower functioning loved ones) for wishing to “remove” a part of their children. They consider it quite offensive to think that Autism is an invasive illness that needs removing.


Acceptance is the cornerstone in giving women equal rights, abolishing slavery and in squashing racism… it is therefore considered necessary to give those that are different a chance to co-exist as equals among those that are “normal.”

Many people view Autism/Aspergers as a gift, an ability to think and visualize the world in a very different way from a person without it, however, it also comes with some complications in that their senses may over load them, they are unable to socialize as easily or effectively and may need some “allowances” from people such as added patience and understanding in both their professional and personal lives.

Should people learn to accept and understand these differences, not only could those with Autism/Aspergers excel but may be able to excel much further than anyone has before them in their field!

Well, the problem is that it’s all well and good for those that can work, those that can socialize even if only a little but for those parents/loved ones who witness their child being bullied, beaten, isolated and even institutionalized because they don’t even have a chance at acceptance since they are unable to truly interact with the world to begin with, acceptance is not only impossible but it’s a source of anger.

Those loved ones don’t need anyone to accept their child. They need for their child to learn to talk. They need for their child to learn to use the toilet. Acceptance, to them, is like expecting a bird to be able to fly before it even hatches from it’s egg… much less grows it’s feathers.

They can’t even think about acceptance because without a cure, there will never be acceptance… and if they had a cure, why would they need it?


bad words

bad words

The disconnect here happens because people view the world in black and white… there is their world, and then… well, that’s it. Their world. You can’t blame them if it’s someone they love, especially a child. You very quickly learn to not care about other people’s rainbow coloured happy places when you want your child to simply have a chance at a normal life and people attack you for it.

Likewise, you can understand how someone, anyone really, would get upset when others think that you should have a part of yourself removed because they don’t think you’re good enough the way you are. If you have any self worth, any self confidence, you are more than happy with who you are and don’t care what anyone else thinks.

The thing is, there’s a world beyond our own and we can’t push our world onto other people. What someone wants for themself isn’t necessarily a reflection of what they want for you… or how they view you for that matter.

One mother that wants the autism out of their grown, non verbal child doesn’t necessarily want the autism out of a 12 year child that has a higher IQ than Einstein.

Likewise, I’m sure most people with Autism/Aspergers that can fend for themselves would never want a parent to have to take care of their child forever.

These are not bad words and certainly not a cause for hatred. We just have to stop taking things so personally. We have to learn to accept that there can be a compromise.

A new way to think about old words

Perhaps a cure doesn’t have to mean “removing all” and instead can mean “removing the barriers”… implying that they’ll still have autism but maybe now they can talk, leave home, hold down a job and start a family of their own.

Perhaps acceptance doesn’t have to mean that the world just says “well, they’ll never talk.. accept it” and instead means that the world accepts that there needs to be a change in priorities, a change in how funding is not available, a change in how parents feel so alone with no where to go.

The world isn’t black and white. And the world isn’t just about you. We can co-exist… and understand that people want what they want and that they have their reasons for wanting it.

Don’t be so quick to judge, don’t be so quick to get defensive. A cure is not a cure for all and acceptance isn’t acceptance for all. Either support each other in their goals and desires or don’t. There’s no reason to hate.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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9 Responses to How did ‘cure’ and ‘acceptance’ get to be such bad words?

  1. MarsupialMama April 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    What an awesome post. I couldn’t agree more, especially with the last bit about a new way to think about old words. Amen brother. You put into words what I couldn’t quite articulate. I want to cure my child, I don’t want to take away a part of who he is. I want acceptance for my child and other children, without meaning that they should forgo therapy and things that could help them live a fuller, less restrictive life.

    You rock!

  2. April 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    Beautifully written.

  3. Gina @ Special Happens April 7, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    Thank you Stuart!

  4. Brian April 7, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Pretty good post. I goes to the old adage, “If you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism.” I wish people would stop trying to put their thoughts on everyone else.

  5. Big Daddy April 7, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    I never really thought of these commonly thrown around words in quite this way. Especially your perspective on “cure.” Great post, Stuart.

  6. Laura April 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    Great post. Funny, I actually wrote something similar today. Though not nearly as articulately.


  7. Jennifer K April 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    You are so right, this is so hot button. I have a 3 year old Aspie son, and a 34 year old Aspie Husband. Gotta say that the ASD in both of them sucks at times, but it is what makes them whom they are. I’m not a cure seeker… and I’ve been working hard for people out there to accept others with ASDs for whom they are. I’ll occasionally get remarks from angry HFA/Aspie Adults telling me that I’m wrong for my thinking, or that I shouldn’t be honest with my son from the get-go and explain in terms that he can understand why exactly he has hours of therapy per week while his older brother doesn’t.

    Obviously Autism has been affecting people for centuries, we just diagnose it now and call it something. Since it’s obviously not going anywhere any time soon, we might as well accept those that have ASDs as who they are.

  8. KYD April 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Great points: “we can’t push our world onto other people… we can coexist.”
    We need to learn to give people the benefit of the doubt and understand and respect that their circumstances, background, etc are different from ours.
    I even believe that cultures, even religions play an important role, some believe that “accepting” is part of having dignity. A good example is: accepting your child as he is, makes you a better mother.
    I say this from personal experience.

  9. Maria April 9, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    One of the frustrating things for me?

    A lot of these cure vs acceptance debates are not between “high-functioning” autistic adults and parents of “low functioning” autistics. Rather, they’re between parents of quite young autistic children (often pre-K, usually pre-teen) and autistic adults who were often not dramatically different at the same age.

    [mental spoon failure – lots more to say, can’t find words right now]

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