San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Op-Ed

Autism: A human condition, not an insult

I have spent 29 years of my life fighting to improve the quality of life of autistic people and their families. I’ve done this as a mother, as a writer of the only book written on the subject in Costa Rica, and as president of the Autismo Costa Rica association.

That’s why I feel I have the authority and moral obligation to demand, on behalf of all people affected by autism, the respect and consideration they deserve.

At Autismo Costa Rica we work hard every day to improve the quality of life of autistic people and their families through education and sensitivity training.

We host workshops, training sessions, conversation forums, seminars, webinars, presentations and movie viewings. We involve the most qualified people available, both Costa Ricans and foreigners. We offer parents free orientation and guidance. We set up support groups. We work directly with departments of psychology, education, and dentistry at a variety of Costa Rican universities. Our objective is to help educate tomorrow’s professionals to not be merely technically excellent, but to be aware and sensitive to the syndrome of autism.

We also run national campaigns to promote sensitivity to this issue on a countrywide scale, through various forms of mass media, sponsored walks, etc.

We travel throughout the country hosting discussions on autism to address the multiple needs of parents and professionals.

We do all this with our own resources. It is our life mission. We want to make sure that parents and professionals do not feel alone knowing that they can count on our support.

But these baby steps we undertake, which clearly should be supported by the government, aren’t. Quite the opposite, we not only get no government support, some members of the government degrade our work, harming the results of all our work to date. They use the term “autism” as if it were an insult, a criticism, demonstrating their lack of understanding and education, which is completely unacceptable given their position as our governors.

Recently, Patricia Mora, legislator for the Broad Font Party, stated in the Costa Rican daily La Naciόn – as a way of deflecting criticism – that lawmakers from her party “aren’t autistic.”

She doesn’t understand that people with autism and their families have to fight each and every day to be included in our society. She doesn’t understand that autistic people are incredible human beings, who, unlike most other people, don’t even know what evil and hypocrisy are. Just because they aren’t able to communicate their desires, needs, pain and feelings in the way the rest of us do, they understand everything and feel everything the same way we all do. Statements like the one made by Mora simply strengthen old stereotypes and myths regarding autistic people that we have spent years trying to bury – as if autistic people live in some isolated world without feelings!

Enough of trying to impress using hurtful language with no knowledge of the harm it does.

I invite Legislator Mora to take our training on the “Specter of Autism” and instead of slinging mud on our work, help us obtain land to build the Integrated Center for Autism, which is such a critical need for Costa Rica. Help us make it possible for parents not to have to wait years for an autism diagnosis. Help us develop educational programs to help autistic people become active members of society. Help us build networks to take care of autistic children, so their mothers can work. Help us develop national sensitivity campaigns and programs to provide financial support to those with scant resources. Help us build homes to house and care for those with autism so that we parents can die with the knowledge that our children will be protected after we’re gone.

For all of these reasons, hundreds of people who support this cause have made their solidarity with our movement known, and together we repudiate in no uncertain terms this nefarious statement from a person who supposedly represents all the people who voted for her as their representative in government. We demand a public apology and a commitment to respect not only those with autism, but also their families and everyone who suffers from any form of disability.

Maribell Madrigal Cisneros is president of Autismo Costa Rica. She was recently featured in a Tico Times story titled, “Súper Mamá: A Costa Rican mother advocates for autism.” Read that story here.

Log in to comment

NelsWro

That lady insulted not only individuals with autism but also the whole disability community. It’s embarrassing for the country to have a legislator that make things up and have no clue what she’s talking about. She was trying to say “we’re not stupid” instead she utilized the word “autistic”. She meant it. I hope she learns a lesson but I doubt it. She spoke her heart out about what she thinks about people with Developmental Disabilities. Don’t waste your time trying to educate her.

0 0
Merlin Perez

I do understand what Maribel is mad about.

I have been working with these kids for almost twenty years, and I would like you to know a little bit about them. All of these kids are different in the way they behave, some of them would not talk at all or do it a little when they feel really confident , They are sometimes aggressive and many others really passive, they are never absent like most people used to think they are there , paying attention and participating when they feel like doing it, they show nothing to the world or the world isn`t capable of understanding them. When you read or listen to people talking about autism you can not understand anything at all and you merely recognise their characteristics because their mothers talk about them with love and passion. I am not the mother of a child with autism and I love them because I understand that they are what many members of the society called “normal ” iif this word can ever be used, since every human being is different and unique how can we define this term, it is ludicrous. We make their lives more difficult when we stereotyped them instead of learning what this condition is about.Therefore you should know this:

Autistic children are intelligent, capable of learning anything, they communicate with the people they love and trust , they are aware of the world they are surrounded by , they are honest and with a fantastic soul , they are sensible and of course charismatic. Let me tell you that when you make a comparison using these children condition then once again you are demonstrating your lack of knowledge or ingnorance.

0 0
Rick Smalley

Autism is never an insult and often a gift to those around the autistic. At the same time, early autism prevention is a good idea!

If you’re willing to stick with me, we can think this issue through… but we’re going to have to use numbers, hope that’s ok!

About 76,000 new cases of autism are being diagnosed each year in the United States. Since we know fathers are passing DNA mutations responsible for 80% of autism, that means father’s reproductive cells are responsible for about 61,000 new cases of autism every year.

To review, fathers are causing about 61,000 cases of autism a year. So fathers are driving our major increase in autism since 1995.

What WhyAutismHappens is saying is that if the father’s reproductive DNA is causing 61,000 cases of autism…well this is happening BEFORE any immunization is given. In fact, it’s happening BEFORE the baby is conceived.

So basically some environmental toxin since 1995 has made fathers’s sperm cells very very sick, but has not made women’s eggs sick. And WhyAutismHappens is saying that this can be explained by genotoxic radiation from cell phones being 16 times stronger on men’s sperm than on women’s eggs (based on the physics of distance to reproductive cells when commonly carried around).

But looking at our numbers, we see that 15,000 new cases of autism each year are NOT caused by mutations in father’s DNA. WhyAutismHappens honestly has no idea what causes these 15,000 cases to happen. Some are surely caused by natural mutations due to the human aging process. And maybe a small percentage is caused by immunizations…that would still be hundreds of cases each year…which could be your family’s exact situation.

WhyAutismHappens is saying we should focus on stopping the 61,000 new cases of autism each year that are likely being caused by mutations to sperm cells. This would be very easy to stop, requiring only education.

Ok, all done lecturing! Sorry to get technical, but it’s the only way to clear up what WhyAutismHappens is saying. It’s a technical issue, but a very important one, with many lives in the balance, so we feel it is worth thinking through! http://www.WhyAutismHappens.com

See you around!

PS – short video on this at http://youtu.be/RZAhwED6xW8

0 0
Mark Kahle

As a step-brother and an uncle to two very sweet autistic gentlemen I would like to say to Maribell and the rest of the Autism support people here that you can’t fix stupid by being combative or by demanding that someone be and speak “politically correct”.

You can’t fix uncaring and or stupid. Those come from bad upbringing and even worse education while undoubtedly showing a lack of intelligence.

We should feel sorry for Ms. Mora… not disparage her. She obviously has immense problems.

0 0