A few evenings ago, I watched a Horizon’s program about genetic cures. It seems that in the future many of the things we thought would always be incurable like cancer will almost certainly be cured. The possibility of curing autism was not mentioned. Probably because it cannot be cured using this method as it is a problem with the way our brains are developed. But it did get me thinking.
On the way to work the next morning I had a thought. If, many years from now, I was offered the choice to be cured from autism would I do this. Then I also thought what would it be like. It kind of felt strange to wonder this. I have made so much progress with my autism recently. I am talking to more people and making some friendships at work. I am even starting to be liked by a few people. The other day I was walking in the country side and even had a bit of a conversation with a complete stranger who was walking beside me. Totally unthinkable, even a year ago.
I quickly realised if I was not autistic I would not be me. I would not live in the life I am living now and everything would be different. This disability has led me on the path I am on and I am very happy with my life. Sure there are things I would like to change. There are even times my autism causes me unbelievable difficulties. But it has made me who I am.
Then I came to the realisation that I am where I am today and that would not change if I turned my autism off today. I would get to keep my current life. So what would change in the future.
- I would socialise a lot more and become more natural at talking to people and striking up friendships
- I would almost certainly become more popular and likeable
- Enjoy and look forward to social events such as parties, weddings, stag nights and so on.
- See friends much more regularly and have more friends to see
- I wouldn’t have any sensory difficulties so would probably achieve more in life
- Things like interviews would be brushed off like a bit of fun
- I would be able to improve my career in many ways such as improved confidence, getting on with everyone around me naturally, being more outgoing, going for new jobs with my increased confidence, being able to prioritise work over family
But there would be many negatives
- I would seek out more immediate rewards that involve a greater risk. Rather than being risk averse and aiming to improve things later in life. This would have major disadvantages such as:
- Being more open to temptation
- Being disloyal
- Having more fun but at the expense of other people’s feelings
- Spending less time with family and instead going drinking, gambling and so on.
- Certainly becoming more selfish and more centred on myself than the wellbeing of others
- I wouldn’t do many of the leisure activities that I do now such as reading, cycling and walking. These would probably seem to be boring and a waste of time to the new me.
I thought that the answer would be simple. I initially thought, yeah I would be love to be cured but it is not that straight forward. By being autistic I naturally think about the consequences of my actions. In many ways my autism makes me who I am. It is my personality, the way I think, influences the decisions I make and ultimately led to the life I lead now. It would not be an easy decision but a very difficult one. Even if it would be reversible, would the new me want to go back to being autistic. The answer is probably not, even if being autistic would be the best thing for me.
I was very curious as to how other people with autism felt about this. Luckily with the help of modern technology and Twitter I could find out. I ran a survey on twitter and found that most people (23 out of 27) said they would not want to stop being autistic and only 4 out of 27 people would want to be cured.
The results of the Twitter survey totally surprised me. I was expecting a much might percentage that would like to cure their high functioning autism if they had the chance. But like me they realised that it would change them as a person.