Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rest easy – autists are in control: powerful and political people who may be or may have been on the autistic spectrum
(updated February 2008)


Daisy Bates (1863-1951, real name Daisy May (O'Dwyer) Bates, Irish-Australian journalist, welfare worker and amateur anthropologist involved with the Australian Aboriginal people, briefly married to “Breaker” Morant (both of her husbands were breakers of wild horses), applied for position Protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory in 1912, rejected due to being female, appointed Honorary Protector of Aborigines at Eucla, her welfare work financed by sale of her cattle station, in later years she advised the federal government on Aboriginal affairs, made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1934, wore Edwardian fashions including boots, gloves and veil her whole life, is believed to have worn pistols even in old age and was prepared to use them, identified as possibly having had Asperger syndrome (AS) in the book Unstoppable brilliance: Irish geniuses and Asperger’s syndrome by Prof. M. Fitzgerald and A. Walker)

Gordon Brown (b. 1951, full name James Gordon Brown, born in Scotland, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, former Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK, leader of the Labour Party in the UK, an academic high achiever in high school, accepted into university at the age of 16, completed a doctorate, “dour and often awkward in public”, Brown has been accused by various political enemies of being autistic, a control freak, uncollegiate and psychologically flawed, recently described as “tough as steel” regarding national security issues but compassionate)

King Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718, displayed talent as a tactician from a young age by defeating invading nations, Sweden reached it’s height of power under Charles’s reign but his decision to attack Russia lead to the end of the Swedish Empire, Charles abstained from alcohol and women, displayed a high tolerance for pain, and was thought to lack emotion, he was interested in mathematics and is thought to have invented an octal numeral system, identified as possibly on the autistic spectrum by Swedish Asperger syndrome expert Professor C. Gillberg, Charles XII has been described as "pretty hardcore")

Bram Cohen (b.1975, author of the BitTorrent computer downloading program, co-founder and CEO of the BitTorrent company, the first words that he learned to read were computer programming commands, displayed precocious talent in computer programming, dropped out of college, self-diagnosed with Asperger syndrome)

Robert Emmet (1778-1803, Irish nationalist leader who was captured, tried and executed after leading an unsuccessful rebellion against British rule, a heroic figure in Irish history, identified as possibly having had AS in the book Unstoppable brilliance: Irish geniuses and Asperger’s syndrome by Prof M. Fitzgerald and A. Walker)

Tim Fischer AC (b. 1946, Australian ex-politician, a railway enthusiast since childhood, drafted into the army and led a platoon in Vietnam, married at age of 46, was the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Trade Minister and leader of the National Party of Australia, resigned as party leader and minister in 1999, left politics to spend time with family including a son diagnosed with autism, Fischer quoted in 1999: “…to some extent I had a very mild form of autism in my early years.”, has a reputation for being inarticulate but is a well-respected public figure, M)

Bill Gates (b.1955, real name William Gates III, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation and has been the chief software architect and CEO of Microsoft, has been the richest person in the world for many years and still is, a global philanthropist, dropped out of Harvard, is reputed to have a very high IQ and an extraordinary memory, is reputed to have a bad temper and a tendency towards arrogance, rudeness and absent-mindedness, at least in his younger years, according to Rivlin Gates read an encyclopaedia through when he was a child and Gates' mother took him to see a psychiatrist at the age of 11 because she was concerned at his shyness and remoteness, the outcome being that the psychiatrist considered Gates to be unchangeable, at least one sequence of images exists of Gates rocking in an autistic manner, Gates has been the subject of speculation about being autistic from a number of different sources over many years)

John Howard (1726–1790, English philanthropist and prison reformer, NOT the Australian P.M., described in the book Asperger syndrome and high achievement by Prof. I. James and also identified as having had AS by psychiatrist Philip Lucas)

Stonewall Jackson (1824-1863, real name Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, confederate general in the American Civil War, identified as having had AS in an academic paper by Asperger syndrome expert Prof. Michael Fitzgerald)

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826, US President, identified as having had AS in the book Asperger syndrome and high achievement by Prof. I. James and also in two books by Norman Ledgin)

Sir Keith Joseph (CH, PC) (1918-1994, British conservative politician, has been described as “the founder of modern conservatism in Britain” and “one of the most influential politicians of the late twentieth century.”, identified as autistic in the book Autism and creativity: is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability? by AS expert Prof. Michael Fitzgerald)

Patrick Pearse (1879- 1916, also known as Pádraig Pearse, Irish nationalist rebel and political activist, also a teacher, barrister, poet and writer, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, may have been declared the President of the Provisional Government but this is unclear, was executed, was the subject of speculation during his life and after his death that he may have been homosexual despite there apparently being no evidence that he engaged in hetero or homo-sexual activity, identified as possibly having had AS in the book Unstoppable brilliance: geniuses and Asperger’s syndrome by Prof. M. Fitzgerald and A. Walker)

King Philip II of Spain (1527–1598, under Philip II Spain reached the peak of it’s power, Philip organized a Holy League between Spain and other states and assembled a fleet of ships which were used to destroy most of the fleet of the Ottoman Empire in the decisive Battle of Lepanto, in 1588 Philip sent the Spanish Armada in an attempt at a Catholic invasion of England, Philip was a “fervent Roman Catholic” who made a substantial contribution to opposing Protestantism in Europe, he showed consideration of some of his most humble subjects but had a bad relationship with his eldest son, identified as possibly having been on the autistic spectrum in the book Asperger syndrome and high achievement by Prof. I. James, who also claims that the co-authors of a medical history of Philip published in the 1950s identified his personality as “autistic or schizotypal”)

Enoch Powell (MBE) (1912-1998, real name John Enoch Powell, controversial right-wing British politician, identified as having had AS in the book Asperger Syndrome - A Gift or a Curse? by Viktoria Lyons and Prof Fitzgerald)

Paul Robeson (1898-1976, American singer, civil rights activist, actor, athlete and writer, qualified as a lawyer, of African-American heritage, was the only black student during his time at Rutgers University, condemned racism, segregation and lynching in the US, defended Stalin’s policies and won a Stalin Peace Prize in 1952, had a powerful bass-baritone singing voice, fluent in around 12 languages and studied other languages)

Richard Stallman (b.1953, software engineer, founder of the free software movement, inventor of the “copyleft” concept, awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1990, leads an unconventional spartan lifestyle based at a university, speaks a number of languages, in an interview Stallman described a difficult and rebellious childhood in which he was sent to a private school in which most students “were either insane or stupid”, and according to another source “Stallman considers himself afflicted, to some degree, by autism, a condition that, he says, makes it difficult for him to interact with people.”)

Screaming Lord Sutch (1940-1999, born David Edward Sutch, changed his name to Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow even though he had no such title, British eccentric, rock musician, co-founder of a successful protest party, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party which had the election slogan "Vote for insanity: you know it makes sense.", an LP of Sutch's was voted the worst album of all time, he combined horror themes with rock music in stage shows years before glam rock or Alice Cooper, disliked illicit drugs but drank a lot of tea, closet dyslexic and a poor speller but a fan of George Orwell, memorized the political satire novel Animal Farm, a house-clutterer, used note-taking for organization but had a reputation for being late, one ex-girlfriend reported in a biography to have claimed that she and Sutch knew he had Asperger syndrome, irregular sleeper, suffered from severe headaches, reported as diagnosed with depression, committed suicide late in life reportedly with depression and bipolar disorder drugs Prozac and Lithium in his system, never married but survived by a son)

Eamon de Valera (1882-1975, Irish president, author of Ireland’s constitution, professor of mathematics, identified as having AS or autistic features in the book Autism and creativity: is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability? by AS expert Prof. Michael Fitzgerald and also in the book Unstoppable brilliance: Irish geniuses and Asperger’s syndrome by Prof. M. Fitzgerald and A. Walker and also in an academic paper by Prof. M. Fitzgerald)


References

Bezroukov, Nikolai (1996-2006) Portraits of open source pioneers: chapter 3 Prince Kropotkin of software: Richard Stallman and the war of the software clones.
http://softpanorama.org/People/Stallman/index.shtml
[Richard Stallman]

Bill Gates. (1998) You Tube. (recorded September 2nd 1998).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qNVe024RvI
[video of Bill Gates rocking]

Caplan, Arthur (2005) Would you have allowed Bill Gates to be born?: advances in prenatal genetic testing pose tough questions. MSNBC.com. May 31 2005.
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7899821/
[Bill Gates]

Elmer-DeWitt, Philip and Farley, Christopher Joh (1994) Diagnosing Bill Gates. Time. Vol. 142 Issue 4:p 25.
[Bill Gates]

Fischer `mildly autistic' as child (1999) The Newcastle Herald (includes the Central Coast Herald). Dec 14, 1999. Edition: Late, Section: News, pg. 5
[Tim Fischer]

Fitzgerald, Michael (2004) Autism and creativity: is there a link between autism in men and exceptional ability? Brunner-Routledge.
[Wittgenstein, Sir Keith Joseph, Eamon de Valera, W. B. Yeats, Lewis Carroll, Ramanujan, Socrates, this book is partially available to read through Google Book Search]

Fitzgerald M. (2003) Did ‘Stonewall’ Jackson have Asperger’s syndrome? Society of Clinical Psychiatrists
http://www.scpnet.com/paper2_2.htm
[Stonewall Jackson]

Fitzgerald, Michael (2001) Did President Eamon De Valera have a developmental disorder? Journal of Medical Biography. Vol. 9, no. 4 (Nov. 2001).
[Eamon De Valera]

Gillberg, C. (2002) [Charles XII seems to have fulfilled all the criteria of Asperger syndrome] (article in Swedish) Lakartidningen. 2002 Nov. 28;99 (48):4837-8.
[Charles XII of Sweden]

Grandin, Temple (1995) Thinking in pictures: and other reports from my life with autism. 1st edition. Doubleday. 1995.
[Einstein, Wittgenstein, van Gogh, Bill Gates]

Gross, Michael (accessed 2007) Richard Stallman, high school misfit, symbol of free software, MacArthur-certified genius. The More Things Change.
http://www.mgross.com/MoreThgsChng/index.html
http://www.mgross.com/MoreThgsChng/interviews/stallman1.html
[Richard Stallman]

Harris, Robert (2006) “Autistic” Brown loses the plot. The Sunday Times. TimesOnline. September 10, 2006.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2350740.html
[Gordon Brown]

James, Ioan (2005) Asperger syndrome and high achievement: some very remarkable people. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
[Michelangelo, Philip of Spain, Newton, Swift, John Howard, Cavendish, Jefferson, van Gogh, Satie, Russell, Einstein, Bartók, Ramanujan, Wittgenstein, Kinsey, Weil, Turing, Highsmith, Warhol, Glenn Gould]

Lagerkvist, B. (2002) [Charles XII had all symptoms of Asperger syndrome: stubbornness, a stereotyped existence and lack of compassion] (article in Swedish) Lakartidningen. 2002 Nov. 28;99(48):4874-8.
[Charles XII of Sweden]

Ledgin, Norman (2002) Asperger’s and self-esteem: insight and hope through famous role models. Future Horizons, 2002.
[Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Orson Welles, Marie Curie, Carl Sagan, Glenn Gould, Mozart, Thomas Jefferson, Bela Bartok, Paul Robeson, Gregor Mendel, Oscar Levant, John Hartford, Temple Grandin, a book that is supposed to be an esteem-builder that appears to be loaded with negative and antiquated language]

Ledgin, Norman (2000) Diagnosing Jefferson: evidence of a condition that guided his beliefs, behavior and personal associations. Future Horizons, 2000.
[Thomas Jefferson, this entire book appears to be available to read through Google Book Search]

Lee, Ellen (2006) Founder of BitTorrent unlocks the secrets of online file sharing. San Francisco Chronicle. August 8th 2006 Edition: final, Section: business, p. F1.
[Bram Cohen]

Lucas, Philip (2001) John Howard and Asperger's Syndrome: psychopathology and philanthropy. History of Psychiatry. 2001 12: p.73-101.
http://hpy.sagepub.com/content/vol12/issue45/
http://www.palucas.co.uk/john_howard_aspergers.htm
[John Howard (1726-1790)]

Lucas, Philip and Anne Sheeran (2006) Asperger’s syndrome and the eccentricity and genius of Jeremy Bentham. Journal of Bentham Studies. Number 8
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham-Project/journal/aspergers.pdf
[Jeremy Bentham]

Lyons, Viktoria and Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) Asperger Syndrome - A Gift or a Curse? Nova Science Publishers Inc.
[Kinsey, Kubrick, Patricia Highsmith, Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell, Robert Walser, Joy Adamson, Enoch Powell, William James Sidis, Kurt Goedel]

On the brink 1 – Tim Fischer. Life Matters. ABC Radio National. 13th December 1999.
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/1999/60356.htm
[“The first of our series 'On the Brink', about the teenage years…” Fischer claimed to have had a degree of autism]

Rivlin, Gary (1999) The plot to get Bill Gates: an irreverent investigation of the world's richest man and the people who hate him. Random House.
[Bill Gates]

Roth, Daniel (2006) Torrential reign. In: The best American science and nature writing 2006. editor; Brian Greene, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, p. 201-209.
[Bram Cohen]

Roth, Daniel (2005) Torrential reign. CNNMoney.com. Fortune. October 31 2005. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2005/10/31/8359146/index.htm
[Bram Cohen]

Royal College of Psychiatrists (2006) Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting 2006 Glasgow: Thatcherism founder had Asperger's Syndrome. (press release) The Royal College of Psychiatrists. 11th July 2006.
http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pressparliament/pressreleases2006/pr820.aspx
[Sir Keith Joseph, Enoch Powell, Eamon de Valera, W. B. Yeats, Sir Isaac Newton]

Sharpe, Graham (2005) The man who was Screaming Lord Sutch. Aurum Press. 2005.
[David (Screaming Lord) Sutch]

Thompson, Ben (accessed 2007) Badass of the week: Charles XII of Sweden. Ben Thompson: my stupid website.
http://www.amazingben.com/arf0080.html
[an amusing piece about Charles XII of Sweden]

Walker, Antionette and Fitzgerald, Michael (2006) Unstoppable brilliance: Irish geniuses and Asperger’s syndrome. Liberties Press. 2006.
[Robert Emmet, Pádraig Pearse, Éamon de Valera, Robert Boyle, William Rowan Hamilton, Daisy Bates, WB Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett]

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/

Wright, Tony and Gray, Darren (1999) Fischer claims autistic links with his child. The Age (Melbourne). December 14th 1999. Edition: National, Section: News, pg. 3.
[Tim Fischer]

WrongPlanet.net (2005) Bram Cohen: creator of BitTorrent. WrongPlanet.net.
http://www.wrongplanet.net/modules.php?name=Articles&pa=showpage&pid=98
[Bram Cohen]

Copyright Lili Marlene 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Have your heard about the court proceedings starting this month in the US, which will investigate claims filed by parents of autistic kids, who claim that vaccinations caused their childrens' autism?

Here's a link to a story in Slate about this:
http://www.slate.com/id/2166939/

I sincerely hope that publicizing the unethical things that parents have had done to their kids will further discredit these parent groups, and their misguided cause.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It appears that the 7.30 Report on ABC TV has refused to publish my (brief) comment in the "Letters" section of their web site, about their recent story about parents of autistic children lobbying for funding from the government. How naive of me to think that the national broadcaster, funded by the Australian taxpayer, is obliged to acknowledge explicit criticism of their journalism. My question remains unanswered.

To their credit the 7.30 Report has allowed the publication of a couple of "letters" by autistic people putting their point of view (which contradict the completely negative portrayal of autism in the autism story that was screened).

I guess most media producers and journalists realize that parents of autistic kids, the various types of autism-related professionals and quackery-peddlers and the autism "experts" who have lots of letters after their names are collectively a much more politically-correct, powerful, organized, united, presentable and articulate interest group compared with the people who are the real voice of autism; people who actually have autism spectrum conditions. Why rock the boat?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

What autism epidemic?

Allen, Arthur (2007) The autism numbers: why there’s no epidemic. Slate. January 15 2007.
http://www.slate.com/id/2157496/

Fombonne, Eric MD FRCPsych (2001) Commentary: is there an epidemic of autism? Pediatrics. Vol. 107 No. 2 February 2001, pp. 411-412
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/107/2/411?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=fombonne&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

Gernsbacher, Morton Ann (2007) A conspicuous absence of scientific leadership: the illusory epidemic of autism.

http://jepson.richmond.edu/academics/projects/ESSAYGernsbacher.pdf

Grinker, Roy (2007) Unstrange minds: remapping the world of autism. Basic Books.
http://www.unstrange.com/index.html

Grinker, Roy and Chew, Kristina (2006) If There's No Autism Epidemic, Where are all the Adults with Autism? Unstrange minds (web site)
http://www.unstrange.com/essay.html

Lawton, Graham (2005) The autism epidemic that never was. New Scientist. Number 2512, August 13 2005.
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/mg18725121.900-the-autism-epidemic-that-never-was.html

Lilienfeld, Scott O. and Hal Arkowitz, Hal (2007) Autism: An Epidemic?: a closer look at the statistics suggests something more than a simple rise in incidence. Scientific American Mind. April 4th 2007. Volume 18, Number 2 April/May 2007, p. 82-83.
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=BE0AE421-E7F2-99DF-3D40AEC9DDF04D72&sc=I100322

Ritvo, Edward R. MD (1999) No epidemic of autism. FEAT Daily Online Newsletter. Aril 30, 1999.
http://list.feat.org/wa.exe?A2=ind9904E&L=FEATNEWS&T=0&F=&S=&P=593

Monday, June 04, 2007

The 7.30 Report stuffs up: why do standards of journalism usually plummet when reporters do stories about autism?

Just as I had expected, the 7.30 Report on ABC TV presented a thoroughly one-sided and deceptive story tonight about the experiences and desires of a group of parents of autistic children in Australia. The first blast of bullshit in the story was the host Kerry O’Brien telling us in the introduction that there is an autism epidemic. There is NO autism epidemic. Did anyone do any independent journalistic research for this story? I’m sure no one at the ABC bothered to read Professor Roy Grinker’s new book debunking the notion of an autism epidemic, or the scholarly article in a recent edition of Scientific American Mind that did the same (see the references section at the end of this article). What to academics know anyway? They are only paid to be smart and knowledgeable, and their opinions count for nothing compared to the heartfelt declarations of emotionally labile mothers.

This current affairs story was really about parents (to be exact mothers) demanding that the Australian government or medical authorities re-categorize autism as a medical disease, so that the exorbitant price of ABA type “treatments” for autism would (they seem to think) automatically become covered by Medicare, thus transferring the cost of ABA from parents to the taxpayer. I didn’t notice the term “ABA” used in the report, but that clearly must be what the parents are demanding for their children, as they were complaining about the cost of interventions that they currently pay for which they claimed is in the tens of thousands of dollars. I guess that the lobby group of parents maynot have wanted to mention the term "ABA" even if it was what the story was really about, to avoid association with the controversies surrounding ABA.

There’s one little problem with the assumption that getting autism re-classified as a disease would automatically mean ABA as a preventative or therapeutic intervention would be funded by Medicare. The little hitch is the fact that medical or therapeutic interventions have to be supported by solid or at least reasonable scientific evidence showing that they work, before the Australian government will pay for them with Medicare. The evidence required would be randomized controlled trials conducted to the highest methodological standards of science, and not just one or two trials. As far as I know no such evidence exists to show that ABA is of any use at all. Autistic children can learn new skills and grow and develop without interventions. “Improvement” following an intervention proves absolutely nothing.

I’m sure many people on the autistic spectrum would be horrified at the idea of reclassifying the autism spectrum as a disease, rather than a disability or a neurological difference, as though being on the autism spectrum is a state no more valuable or worthy of respect than having cancer or piles or AIDS. I’m constantly amazed and surprised by the callous insensitivity and idiotic offensiveness of lobby groups of neurotypical parents of autistic children.

I was also offended by the negative language used by the journalists with regard to autism, with phrases such as “the agony of autism” etc. Of course, the agony referred to appeared to be a reference to the feelings of the neurotypical mothers, who are the centre of most media stories about autism. A neurotypical mother of an autistic girl explained how she cried and was very distressed after her daughter was diagnosed. I would argue that her agony was caused by her own negative attitudes and beliefs and expectations with regard to autism.

The little omission of explicit mentioning of the politically and scientifically controversial subject of ABA wasn’t the only deceptive trick in this ABC news report. At the beginning of the report it was explained that autism spectrum disorder (I think that was the term used) affects something like 1 in 160 children. That is I believe a fairly accurate claim. The presenter also described autism as a child being unable to make eye contact or communicate. Not all children on the autistic spectrum fit that description, in fact the children on the autistic spectrum diagnosed with Asperger syndrome must by definition start speaking within the normal range of language development. Many "non-verbal" autistic people are able to communicate through typing written language, some even taking part in interviews or writing published works by this means. The idea that all autists avoid eye contact is also an inaccurate cliche. Some autistic people give other people long, hard stares, the opposite of eye contact avoidance. The presenter thus, at the beginning of the story, painted a deceptive picture of 1 in something like 160 kids being unable to communicate or make eye contact because of their autism. That is bullshit, and it's bullshit from the ABC, funded by the Australian taxpayer.

There was a scene of a group of autistic children being subjected to what appeared to be an autism intervention session. A female adult was singing and there was a racket being made as an accompaniment, it might have been a tambourine. As many autistic people have sensory hypersensitivity, it was not at all surprising that one of the children was screaming and covering his ears with his hands. That is the only sensible way to react to the sound of a tambourine in my opinion, and I don’t even have sensory issues. Could someone please explain to me how tormenting a young child with loud, unpleasant noise constitutes a therapy? When the American government does that kind of thing to foreign political prisoners it’s called torture. If you started rattling a tambourine at any of the adults in our family who have sensory hypersensitivity, you would end up wearing the bloody thing wrapped around your head!

There was another scene of a mother explaining how pleased she was with the results of the therapy as her son kissed her on demand, like a trained poodle. Isn’t there something a little bit odd, dare I say autistic, about a person who is pleased when another person responds to their demands like a programmed robot? I’ve read that some autistic children have an odd liking for predictable, controllable robot toys as surrogates for human company. Like son, like mother?

Another thing that I found suspect about the story was the idea presented that autism is the same as being unable to communicate added to the idea presented that the Australian government refuses to pay for autism interventions, therefore one might assume that the government refuses to pay for speech therapy for autistic kids. As far as I know, this is not true, at least in the state where I live. I believe there are long waiting lists for some kids to see government-funded speech therapists, but by no means is it true that speech therapy is not provided by government funding, and I’d be very surprised if kids diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition weren’t jumped ahead of these lists.

One other thing that I noticed about this story, which I fully predicted, is that there appeared to be a total absence of adult males, including an absence of fathers, with the exception of the male reporter. The sex ratio of the autistic kids was of course biased in the other direction; most of the ones that I noticed were boys. All of the parents and people running the group session that I noticed in the story were women. I find this absence of a male point of view and male contribution to the whole enterprise of caring for autistic children to be a great concern. I wrote a blog piece about this concern in February of 2007. If autism is in fact the extreme male brain, then I think it follows that adult non-autistic females are the people in our population who have the very least in common with autistic children psychologically and cognitively. It would be reasonable to question the ability of non-autistic adult female parents and teachers and therapists to empathize with and understand autistic, predominantly male children. So why, when I watch media stories about autism and ADHD, is it almost always Mums and female professionals shown raising or teaching or directing or speaking for the predominantly male child patients? Don’t these kids have fathers? I’ve read that fathers of autistic children often see their autistic children as less abnormal than the children’s mothers believe they are, and it tends to be mothers who push for the child to have a diagnosis. Could the so-called autism epidemic be the result of decades of a shift of power between the sexes in Western societies, resulting in the dominance of feminine values and expectations within family and school life? Everyone must be aware of the severe sex imbalance in the teaching profession in Australian government primary schools. In our experience, the principals are usually male, but primary school teachers tend to be 6 females to 1 male. Is a long-term power shift between the sexes the reason why Australian children are now under unprecedented pressures to be docile, verbally articulate, academically compliant, sociable, popular and smartly presented? Is this the reason why more children are being identified as autistic? Some of the weakest areas of skill in autistic people are in verbal communication, personal presentation, sociability and generally behaving in a way that is expected by peers or superiors. Autistic kids are often academically non-compliant; avoiding doing school homework and disliking studying subjects that do not interest them. Have mildly autistic children and adults become so unfashionable that we are now considered to be disabled? It’s a pity the 7.30 Report’s reporter didn’t have the smarts to ask these questions.

I know that the social expectations placed on our children by their schools are much greater in many different ways than I had to contend with at the same age when I was young. Their schools organize social events that just didn't happen when I was a student. I believe the pendulum is beginning to swing too far in this direction. My kids are coming home from school complaining that they spent too much time doing team-building and esteem-building activitites in class, but learned nothing academically. I’m not saying that this 21st century collective obsession with social skills, personal appearance and emotions is all bad, but I am alarmed that no one seems to be aware of what has happened in the last few decades in Australian society, perhaps because the changes have been so gradual.

To conclude, my opinion is that the story about autism screened on the 7.30 Report on ABC TV on Monday June 4th 2007 was a f***-up from beginning to end. The story was crap even before it started, because the introduction to the story by the host was crap too. Crap.


References and Further Reading

Allen, Arthur
(2007) The autism numbers: why there’s no epidemic. Slate. January 15 2007.
http://www.slate.com/id/2157496/

Grinker, Roy (2007) Unstrange minds: remapping the world of autism. Basic Books.
http://www.unstrange.com/index.html

Grinker, Roy and Chew, Kristina (2006) If There's No Autism Epidemic, Where are all the Adults with Autism? Unstrange minds (web site)
http://www.unstrange.com/essay.html

Lawton, Graham (2005) The autism epidemic that never was. New Scientist. Number 2512, August 13 2005.
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/mg18725121.900-the-autism-epidemic-that-never-was.html

Lilienfeld, Scott O. and Hal Arkowitz, Hal (2007) Autism: An Epidemic?: a closer look at the statistics suggests something more than a simple rise in incidence. Scientific American Mind. April 04, 2007.
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=BE0AE421-E7F2-99DF-3D40AEC9DDF04D72&sc=I100322

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Know your DSM!



The use of “metaphorical language” was mentioned in one of the diagnostic criteria for “Infantile Autism” in the DSM-III published in 1980, but metaphorical language or use of metaphor is not mentioned at all in the diagnostic criteria for “Autistic Disorder” in the DSM-IV, which only mentions “idiosyncratic language”. Was mention of metaphorical language use as an autistic trait dropped from the official diagnostic criteria in order to bring official definitions of autism into line with the belief held by some clinicians that autistic people have no imagination and have no ability to understand metaphor? I’m totally confused now; is it a healthy thing or is it a sign of pathology to use metaphorical language? My head is spinning!

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; it’s a zany, zany book!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It looks like the 7.30 Report, a generally good quality Australian current affairs show, has a story coming up on Monday that will be one of those classic media stories presenting the "tragic, lost child, burdened family, martyr mother" view of autism. Intelligent as the reporters on this show are, it appears that they are unable to imagine that autistic people do have minds and are capable of having a point of view of our own, and may be offended by being presented as tragic, lost and burdensome by the media and reporters, and could even conceivably be viewers of their TV program. And they say that WE have a lack of imagination!

The 7.30 Report on ABC television
http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/