Thursday, January 01, 2009

Inane Autism Quote of the Year Award for 2008 Goes to Dr. Laurent Mottron, Who Else?

The main thing is that nobody knows what it is. We know that a society decided to call it autism. So, autism is a definition currently. It is a DSMIV. It groups certain numbers of people who have in common, who share, atypicalities at the social level, at the communication level, and in the variety of interests. So they may be in some ways quite different, but they all share these peculiarities. Autism is currently included in psychiatric diseases. This is a sociological fact. It doesn’t mean that it is psychiatric. It means that it is incorporated in psychiatric books which list all the variations of typical development, for example.

- Dr. Laurent Mottron, High Functioning Autism Expert, Interviewed on CBC's Positively Autistic

Dr. Mottron has made many comments that seem inane to me. As the parent of an almost 13 year old boy with Autistic Disorder and profound developmental delays I am not impressed by Dr. Mottron's grasp of the realities faced by autistic persons with more severe deficits than those presented by his colleague, and mentor, Michelle Dawson. His comment above, from the onesided CBC presentation Positively Autistic is one of the good Doctor's most absurd.

I have read nothing in his pubished reports that disclose any contact between the good Dr. Mottron and the more severly afflicted autistic people who do not understand the world well enough to be left unattended by family or carers, who injure themselves and people who love them. Nor have I seen any evidence that Dr. Mottron gives a damn about the severely autistic as he churns out government funded research papers on high functioning autism, Aspergers and autistic savants while opposing government funding of evidence based ABA treatment for autistic children.

I can not pretend to respect Dr. Mottron. I do not respect his legal (Auton, assisting Michelle Dawson), political (appearance before the Canadian Senate) and media (Quirks and Quarks on CBC radio, Positively Autistic on CBC television and countless newspaper interviews) campaign that helps disavow the existence of severely autistic persons like my son or those who in fact live their lives in institutional care. I do not respect his opposition to government funding of ABA the only evidence based intervention substantiated as effective by serious autism experts including those who actually work with the severely autistic.

The above quote is the most absurd autism comment that I came across in 2008 and has earned the good Doctor Mottron the Inane Autism Quote of the Year Award for 2008. In this beauty of a quote the good Doctor, a psychiatrist, disavows a disorder category specified in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, a disorder which he references in his dozens of studies and articles on high functioning autism, Aspergers Disorder and autistic savants.

As the parent of a youth with Autistic Disorder who I love dearly, I concern myself with ensuring that he does not wonder off across traffic as he once did, or hurt himself or family members. I try to ensure that he learns and develops to the fullest extent possible. As an engaged autism advocate I fight for real autism awareness and I fight to overcome the drivel that Dr. Mottron spews in misrepresenting the serious challenges faced by many persons with Autistic Disorder.

No doubt Dr. Mottron will publish several more papers on autism intelligence, high functioning autism and autistic savants in 2009. And no doubt he will appear for several more media interviews in which he praises Michelle Dawson for what she has taught him about autism. But what will he mean by use of the term autism? Will he be referring to autistic disorder as defined by the DSM or will he be referring to what he now describes as "atypicalities at the social level"? Or will the good Doctor really know himself what he means?

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1 comment:

Jemma Lee said...

Just for fun, I have tried writing variants of the quote, by substituting "autism" with other diseases of unknown causes. Here is one example:

"The main thing is that nobody knows what it is. We know that a society decided to call it lupus. So, lupus is a definition currently. It is a NIAMS. It groups certain numbers of people who have in common, who share, atypicalities at the musculoskeletal level, at the internal organ level, and in the variety of life span. So they may be in some ways quite different, but they all share these peculiarities. Lupus is currently included in medical disorders. This is a sociological fact. It doesn't mean that it is medical. It means that it is incorporated in medical books which list all the variations of typical immune response, for example."

We should stop making all young lupus patients feel inferior by insisting that their immune systems are abnormal (rather than just atypical). More importantly, we should stop forcing them to take drugs and suffer horrible side effects. Since it's their own immune systems attacking their organs, outsiders have no right to interfere. Instead, we should all learn to respect "Immuno-Diversity."

Jemma