Autism charity under fire for promoting research to find medicinal cure

The search to cure autism has upset individuals who believe that it is best to embrace the neurological disorder rather than just cure it.

Graphic contributed by flushinghospital.org

The search to cure autism has upset individuals who believe that it is best to embrace the neurological disorder rather than just cure it.

Abigail Nevin '23, Web News Editor

Recently a charity that promotes autism awareness claimed that finding a cure for the neurological disorder is necessary, yet it is receiving backlash from those who believe it is best to accept the neurological disorder as well as its difficulties.

According to Healthline, “most experts agree that there is no cure for autism,” so implying that there is a cure for autism is misleading. However, there are ways to help those with autism through physical therapy, speech therapy and more.

Westport residents Peggy and her son, David (names changed for anonymity), have over a decade of firsthand experience with autism. They have seen the neurological disorder in its truest and most raw forms, as David qualified for services around 18 months old. 

To help raise awareness for autism in Westport and around the nation, Peggy raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, educating those across the country about autism.

“[I had to prove] through autism education, advocacy and awareness that David wasn’t less than any other ‘neurotypical’ child. David was their equal, who simply learned a different way,” Peggy said.

[I had to prove] through autism education, advocacy and awareness that David wasn’t less than any other ‘neurotypical’ child. David was their equal, who simply learned a different way.”

— Peggy

Peggy continues to raise awareness for David’s condition and educates others about autism by speaking with multiple charities. She recalls the first time she had heard about a “cure” and how it angered people with Asperger syndrome (a form of autism). 

“Several years ago, one mission of Autism Speaks (the largest international autism organization) was to fund medical research for viable autism medications and/or a cure,” Peggy said. “As you can imagine, this caused tremendous uproar.”

According to Autism Speaks, what distinguishes people with Aspergers from other autistic people is that people with Aspergers have “strong verbal language skills and intellectual ability.”

After seeing both sides of the argument, Peggy said she would promote the opportunity for a cure, because no parent would want to see their child suffer.

“The issue isn’t black and white. There are shades of grey,” Peggy said. “People can choose whether to take it, or not. But, don’t deny those people who are severely compromised by the disorder the chance to live a more engaged, pain-free life. Your body, your choice.”

The Assistant Principal for Special Education at Staples, Rosemarie Ampha, believes it is important to support everyone and that we should continue to work on strength-based techniques in order to help those with autism. This includes working on language pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, aqua therapy integrated with swim lessons and music therapy. 

“It’s important to be a champion for all students,” Ampha said. “I love my job because it gives me an opportunity to partner with students, families and teachers, using a strengths based model, to support students in developing the skills to be successful in meeting their post-secondary goals.”