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Living--and Thriving--With Autism and Asperger's

March 26, 2001

Regarding Cure Autism Now co-founder Portia Iversen's quote on how autism is "this terrible disease that is basically stealing away [her son's] mind": I wish to differ on it, because I know that my mind is not stolen away but richly blessed ("Special Report: Autism," March 12).

I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 3, and my family did not view me as the child that replaced their ideal daughter but a human being fully capable of thought and feeling. Of course, growing up autistic is difficult--but it is by no means the greatest tragedy.

If my mind was "stolen away," how would you explain my ability to earn an amateur radio license, study in college and dream of getting my master's in historical theology? If having autism is the "worst thing you can imagine," why then did it not kill me but point me to Christianity? I focused on history and theology as a child, and now this year I will graduate with a bachelor's degree and hopes of a fulfilling career.

Rather than searching for an elusive cure, people should focus on providing services that fully promote and encourage the abilities of autistic people. If there is something that people with autism would benefit from, it is respect for our needs and human rights, not a cure.

CAROLINA RODRIGUEZ

Irvine

*

As someone with Asperger's syndrome, I have begun to realize that we are not the problem. It is society's reaction to us that is the problem.

We, as one of the people you profiled said, use intelligence and logic. At all times. Think of this. It means that the majority of you do not.

CHARLES J. THOMAS

North Hollywood

*

The series of articles on autism in the March 12 issue was wonderful. Of particular interest to me was your understanding of Asperger's syndrome, especially in adults. You have no idea how few people truly understand all of the nuances and subtleties of this disorder.

The effects on the spouses/partners/families living with an adult with Asperger's have long been ignored. Even worse have been the professionals who have no understanding of Asperger's syndrome and tell the spouse that she is exaggerating or is "hysterical," that it's just a case of "men behaving badly." Reading this series makes it clear that Rosie Mestel truly "gets it." It's wonderful to have someone in the talking about Asperger's syndrome and giving useful information.

PAM BLACK

Half Moon Bay

*

Re: "Learning to Read a Smile" (Page A1 story accompanying Health stories): Your excellent article begins to shed some light on this misunderstood condition of Asperger's syndrome. However, by emphasizing the detailed description of one young man, it is misleading. Asperger's syndrome can occur in children and adults with all levels of overall ability.

While a few children with Asperger's are strikingly gifted in a particular area, some have other learning problems as well. It is more like dyslexia in this regard. Although difficulties are often more pervasive, Asperger's can be thought of as comparable to dyslexia, in that the child has difficulty "reading" faces, emotions and tone of voice.

--DR. WENDY MITCHELL

Professor of neurology

USC Keck School of Medicine

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