Follow Dr. Coplan on Facebook
Follow Dr. Coplan on Facebook

Follow Dr. Coplan on Twitter
Follow Dr. Coplan on Twitter

Follow Dr. Coplan on YouTube
Follow Dr. Coplan on YouTube

Elephants in the Room (a regular feature)

July 11th, 2013 by drcoplan


An Elephant Never Forgets

I’ve been a member of the autism community for 30-plus years, and a member of the disability community in general for sixty. I’ve seen a lot of changes, and — like the elephant, I never forget.
I have not forgotten the time when public schools were able to reject children like my sister, because she has a disability: “Keep her home,” my parents were told; “We have nothing for her.” That was prior to PL 94-142 (1975). I have not forgotten the time when public schools were able to reject children on the basis of race. I am exactly the same age as the first group of “colored” children who were the subject of the Supreme Court ruling “Separate is inherently unequal” (Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KS, 1954) that opened the doors of public schools to all children in America.
I have not forgotten polio epidemics. I was in the first batch of children to be immunized. Meanwhile, Linda G, the girl next door, got paralytic polio, because she was in the wrong grade at school, so was not a participant in the vaccine program.
I have not forgotten all the other “usual childhood diseases” (as we called them in medical school): Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella, Pertussis. Next time you’re listening to Oldies on the radio, pay close attention to the lyrics of Poison Ivy by the Coasters: “A common cold will fool ya, but whooping cough will cool ya” (i.e. kill you).
I have not forgotten the time when having a family member with a disability was a stigma. Admittedly, I was only a toddler when Pearl S. Buck wrote “The Child Who Never Grew,” a candid tale of her own daughter with Down Syndrome, written at a time when the subject of disability was regarded as taboo by most Americans. But I do remember JFK, and his openness and advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities, including his own sister. Perhaps that struck a particular chord with me, because, like JFK, I have a sister with special needs. And I have not forgotten the guts and energy my parents and others of their generation showed, to bring into being the laws and services we have today: Early Intervention, IDEA, IEP’s, due process, and all the rest.
All of this and more, I remember. So I find it especially frustrating to look around, and see so much internal warfare within the autism “community.” In fact, there is no such thing as an autism “community.” Rather, there are a host of mutually exclusive autism camps. I wish I could say “Why can’t everyone just play nicely together?,” but some of the differences are so profound as to be unbridgeable.
I didn’t create this situation, but as a care provider I have strayed into the middle of it.
In this column, I will be talking about “the elephants in the room” – topics that “everyone knows about, but nobody says anything about,” or, topics that are subjects of such heated debate that the truth gets lost in the shuffle. Sadly, there are lots of topics to choose from. My biggest challenge is to decide where to begin. Until the next time….
Want to read more of what Dr. Coplan has to say about autism and related disabilities? Click here

Elephants in the Room 130620



Blog Archives