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  • Posted on March 11, 2011 at 6:44 AM

Willy came home with a single piece of homework.  He had to pick three diseases to research and I needed to sign the paper on which we wrote his choices.  When I first looked over the list of diseases, which were in alphabetical order, I had to pause.  Interesting: the word resounded in my head with a not-so-subtle tone of disapproval.  Towards the end of the A’s was one word I knew was not a disease.  You guessed it.  Autism was listed as one of the diseases Willy can research.  Interesting.

On the one hand, when I told Willy that it would be good for him to research autism, considering he and his brothers have autism, he was somewhat surprised.  I know I’ve told him about autism.  I know we’ve discussed it.  But it’s not something we make a point of bringing up over and over to the boys.  He’d forgotten he and his brothers have autism.  So, researching it will probably be good for him (especially if I’m helping to direct his research).

On the other hand, autism is NOT a disease.  The teacher should know this.  Autism should NOT be listed as a disease.  If the sheet was labeled “diseases and disorders,” then I would have no problem with it.  But it’s not.  It’s a list of diseases that include AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and autism—among others, some of which I know are not diseases (like ADHD) and some of which I suspect are not diseases (like Cerebral Palsy).  I consider this misinformation on the part of the teacher/school district.

Of course, those two hands can clasp together:  Willy can do his work in such a way that misinformation is corrected, which can better inform his peers and (if necessary) his teacher.  This is good, but it bothers me that it should be necessary.  Misinformation in schools is problematic for obvious reasons, but misinformation is problematic in general and Willy’s probably going to have to correct a lot of it as he makes his way in this world.  Autism as a disease as part of my autistic son’s school work: Interesting.