If given the choice...

I recently reread Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keys [1], a book I had not read for some time, and now I have a much different perspective. I can see why the book fell out of favor as it was written in the late 1950s, but the science of the book is still amazingly thought-provoking. Charlie is a simple man in his 30s who desperately wants to be smart. Given his innate sweetness and desire to please, as well as his longing to fit in, he is recommended to a research facility with the aim of improving his intelligence. Algernon is a mouse who has had the treatment and has become very smart for a mouse. Charlie gives his consent as does his long-lost sister on Charlie’s behalf, and Charlie proceeds with the experiment. Charlie narrates the book with insights along the way of I’ll show them, to realizations of mistreatment by wrong-doers, and gratitude for those who had accepted him all along.

Forward to 2020, the here and now, stem cells for autism are under investigation. The studies started at Duke University, initially for children under the age of 10, but now extending up to age 26-years [2]. To parallel with the book Flowers for Algernon, now an autistic adult can give his or her own consent for this trial. I couldn’t help but be blown away by thinking of Charlie and the decision he would certainly make. Autism does not equate with simpleness or low IQ, and I am not looking at this from that angle, but from how Charlie desperately wanted to fit-in and be accepted. I daresay autism is not simple in any way, but rather complex. More and more, autistics want autism to be looked at as neurodiversity, different not less. So, I wonder how autistic adults might approach this study. I think some might be interested, while others would not want to be anything other than who they are—unconditionally accepted with their unique perceptions and qualities.

But I’d be interested in others’ opinions.

1. Keyes, Daniel. Flowers for Algernon. 1st Harvest ed. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004. Print.


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