Perhaps the New York Times is about to shock me and publish an article discussing potential changes to the "autism spectrum" of disorders in the DSM V from the perspective of the impact such changes might have on the lives of those with severe autism, from the perspective of low functioning persons with Autistic Disorder, like my son, Conor Doherty. For now though, like almost every mainstream media article or opinion piece discussing the "autism spectrum" it has done so from the perspective of those on the High Functioning end of the spectrum. The NYT mentions, but does not explore, the impact on the more severely affected of proposed changes to the "Autism Spectrum" of disorders in the DSM V.
In A Powerful Identity, a Vanishing Diagnosis the NYT focuses on the possible loss of the "Aspergers" label by inclusion of Aspies in an autism spectrum divided by levels of severity without reference to the Aspergers label. Ari Ne'eman is referenced talking about the importance to him of being on the Autism Spectrum:
"My identity is attached to being on the autism spectrum, not some superior Asperger’s identity. I think the consolidation to one category of autism spectrum diagnosis will lead to better services."
The NYT has, once again, found it within itself to discuss autism in terms of the most fortunate amongst the "autistic", those for whom one of the most serious issues is a question of identification with one label as opposed to another. The NYT, as it and the mainstream media at large, almost invariably do, provides little comment on the lives of the most severely affected by autism disorders, the many persons with Autistic Disorder who are low functioning, some with Intellectual Disabilities, some who do not understand the world in which we live on anything but the simplest level, some with very limited comprehension of language ... some of whom live out their lives in residential and institutional care.
The New York Times did mention that the proposed changes to the DSM will possibly include express description of various conditions which often accompany autism disorders, such as "anxiety, attention disorders, gastrointestinal problems, seizures and sensory differences like extreme sensitivity to noise". The Times studiously avoids any express reference to the persons with Autistic Disorder and Intellectual Disorder. A sure sign of the success of the High Functioning Autism and Aspergers groups efforts to prevent any discussion of autism in connection with intellectual deficits.
The NYT quotes Dr. Temple Grandin on the dominance of the Aspergers advocacy groups in dominating public discussion of autism: The Asperger community is a big vocal community, "a reason in itself” to leave the diagnosis in place. For many parents and family members of severely autistic children Dr. Grandin's comments are not news.
This NYT piece itself reflects the domination of autism in the public mind by Aspergers and High Functioning Autism and the exclusion of the Low Functioning, Intellectually Disabled and severely autistic persons with Autistic Disorder.
Organizations such as Autism Speaks are routinely targeted by the big vocal Asperger community for realistically and honestly depicting the life challenges faced by the severely autistic. An even bigger indication of Asperger community dominance occurred when Autism Speaks "kow towed" to this community and pulled its "I Am Autism" video from its web site.
For the NYT, and for Autism Speaks, it is now far more important to talk about Ari Ne'eman's sense of identity than to talk about the severely autistic children who go missing or those who live their lives dependent on the care of others.