I kind of really hate how the word “intervention” is used when people talk about autism, as if autism is some kind of conflict or chaotic situation that needs to be “intervened” in. When I hear/read the phrase “autism intervention,” I sometimes imagine a scenario like this:
Autism Therapists: Oh noes! Someone somewhere isn’t acting exactly the same as everyone else! We must… INTERVEEEEEENE!!!
Autism Therapist #1: (dramatically) To the Autism Intervention Mobile!
(They all jump into a car and it screeches loudly as it speeds away. They drive well past the speed limit, and eventually park in front of a high school. Everyone frantically jumps out and races into the building. An autistic student is busy putting things away in her locker. She’s stunned when the autism therapists approach her.)
Autism Therapist #2: Young lady! You are a fan of bands that aren’t popular among your typically developing peer group! This is Socially Inappropriate Behaviour and will impede your goals of Social Success!
Student: But… lots of teenagers don’t listen to the same music. (shrugs) It’s not really a big deal.
Autism Therapist #3: Your typically developing peer group is allowed to do whatever the hell they want, no matter how weird and unusual, and have it referred to as being “unique,” “rebellious,” or “individualistic.” You, however, as a person with autism —
Student: Autistic person —
(Autism Therapists glare her down disapprovingly)
Autism Therapist #3 (continuing): You, however, as a person with autism, are obligated to be completely and utterly normal, and do everything the same way everyone else does it!
Student: But if everyone’s not doing everything in the same way, then —
Autism Therapist #1: Never fear! Use this as your guide! (whips out a glossy paperback with the title “Socially Appropriate Behaviour(tm) for Fitting in as a High School Student!” There is a sticker on the cover, announcing the fact that the book has been “Updated for the MySpace Generation!”)
Student: But, wasn’t this written by a bunch of adults who don’t even really remember what their own high school experience was like, let alone know what it’s like to be a teenager today? And wasn’t it published five years ago?
Autism Therapist #2: Her inability to understand human social conventions and her impaired theory of mind is making her fail to respect the social hierarchy that makes us, as adults and as therapists, her unquestioned superiors!
Autism Therapist #3: Oh noes, we must —
All Three Together: INTERVEEEEEENE!!!!!
Student: (sighing) Look, I’m going to be late to my English Lit class… (starts walking away)
Autism Therapist #1: English Lit? If she’s been able to overcome her disability to the point where she can understand fiction, then perhaps our fears are misplaced. Clearly, further intervention is not needed. The very fact that she’s high functioning enough to take a literature class shows that she has recovered!
All Three: (high-fiving each other) Autism Intervention, Yeah!
Autism Therapist #2: I just got a text telling me that a person with autism asked someone else “How are you?” — but he actually cared to know how the other person felt!
Autism Therapist #3: Clearly he has impaired empathy if he’s not just saying that phrase because it’s a social convention to do so.
All Three: (dramatically) To the Autism Intervention Mobile!