By Michael Rock
As our society becomes increasingly aware and accepting of disability, it is important to recognize some of the latest developments.
In Maryland, public school authorities are working on a curriculum that includes the history of the disability rights movement, along with that of the LGBT rights movement, as part of the larger history curriculum.
Meanwhile, Buffalo, New York is home to the Museum of disABILITY History, which will soon host a Kids’ Day that will feature recreational activities as well as various opportunities to learn more about people with disabilities. Children of all ages and abilities are invited to attend.
In addition, new light has been cast on the life and work of Grunya Sukahreva, a Soviet-Jewish child psychiatrist who first described autism almost two decades before Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger became famous for their research into the condition. Unlike Kanner and Asperger, who thought it was a behavioral problem caused by bad parenting, Sukahreva saw the condition as neurologically-based and determined by genetics. She also took care to list the strengths of the boys in which she observed autism alongside their deficits. Her findings are closer to the current scholarly consensus on autism than those influenced by Kanner and Asperger that spanned roughy eight decades.
It is important to understand the present and to predict the future by looking to the past. With greater awareness of the history of disability, it will become easier to fully include people with disabilities in nearly all aspects of life.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.