Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wikipedia's Misleading List of People on the Autism Spectrum

Wikipedia's credibility has taken a big hit of late. See for example "Facts and friction: Wikipedia's quest for credibility, By STEPHEN HUTCHEON - SMH | Tuesday, 24 April 2007"


One area that Wikipedia has not cleaned up in its attempts to address it's credibility issues is a beauty entitled "List of people on the autism spectrum" The list is flat out misleading in that most of the names on the list are high functioning or Aspergers with only 4 entries listed for "people with severe autism". Of the four names none are non-verbal low intelligence persons. You would never know from this Wikipedia entry that many autistic people have very severe intellectual and communication deficits. Everyone on the Wikipedia list is someone who can communicate extremely well. With one exception. The exception is a dead girl who died by her mother's hand at the age of 3.

Wikipedia's Misleading List of People on the Autism Spectrum:

People with unspecified forms of autism

Main article: Pervasive developmental disorder

The following people have been diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic spectrum but the specific classification is unknown.

* Taylor Crowe, autism advocate and artist [1]
* Christopher Knowles, American poet [2]
* Katherine McCarron, autistic child murdered at the age of three by her mother, Karen McCarron. [3]
* Jason McElwain, high school basketball player [4]
* Michael Moon, adopted son of author Elizabeth Moon [5]
* Abubakar Tariq Nadama [6]
* Jasmine O'Neill, author of Through the Eyes of Aliens [7]
* Sue Rubin, subject of documentary Autism Is a World; Sue Rubin has no oral speech but does communicate with facilitated communication [8]
* Birger Sellin, author from Germany [9]
* Daniel Tammet, British autistic savant, believed to have Asperger Syndrome [10]

[edit] People with Asperger syndrome

Main article: Asperger syndrome

* Nikki Bacharach, daughter of composer Burt Bacharach and actress Angie Dickinson; committed suicide on January 4, 2007 [11]
* William Cottrell, student who was sentenced to eight years in jail for fire-bombing SUV dealerships [12]
* Luke Jackson, author of Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence [13]
* Craig Nicholls, frontman of the Australian garage rock band The Vines [14]
* Gary Numan, British singer and songwriter [15]
* Dawn Prince-Hughes, PhD, primate anthropologist, ethologist, and author of Songs for the Gorilla Nation [16]
* Judy Singer, Australian disability rights activist [17]
* Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics [18]
* Satoshi Tajiri, creator and designer of Pocket Monsters/Pokémon [19]
* Liane Holliday Willey, author of Pretending to be Normal, Asperger Syndrome in the Family [20]

[edit] People with high-functioning autism

Main article: high-functioning autism

* Michelle Dawson, autism researcher and autism rights activist who has made ethical challenges to Applied Behavior Analysis [21]
* Temple Grandin, a designer of humane food animal handling systems. [22]
* Hikari Oe, Japanese composer [23]
* Bhumi Jensen, Thai prince, grandson of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand; killed by drowning in the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake [24]
* Dylan Scott Pierce, wildlife illustrator [25]
* Jim Sinclair, autism rights activist [26]
* Donna Williams, Australian author of Nobody Nowhere and Somebody Somewhere; after testing for deafness from infancy until late childhood, and labeled psychotic and 'disturbed', Donna was formally diagnosed as autistic in her 20s with an IQ score under 80 (not technically in the HFA range) in spite of achieving a higher education. [27] .
* Stephen Wiltshire, British architectural artist [28]
* Caiseal Mor author of A Blessing and a Curse: Autism and Me; bestselling fantasy fiction author, musician and artist [29]

[edit] Autistic savants

Main article: Autistic savant

* Alonzo Clemons, American clay sculptor [30]
* Tony DeBlois, blind American musician [31]
* Leslie Lemke, blind American musician [32]
* Jonathan Lerman, American artist [33]
* Thristan Mendoza, Filipino marimba prodigy [34]
* Derek Paravicini, blind British musician [35]
* James Henry Pullen, gifted British carpenter [36]
* Matt Savage, U.S. autistic jazz prodigy [37]
* Henriett Seth-F., Hungarian autistic savant, poet, writer and artist [38]

[edit] People with severe autism

* Tito Mukhopadhyay, author, poet and philosopher [39]
* Lucy Blackman, university educated autistic author [40]
* Larry Bissonette , accomplished international autistic artist. [41]
* Amanda Baggs, advocate of rights for autistic people. [42]

People like my son Conor who has severe autism with serious developmental delays and communication deficits are not listed at Wikipedia. There is no mention, even generically, to the many autistic people who live out their adult lives in residential and institutional facilities being cared for by professional caregivers. Wikipedia allows the Neurodiversity Ideologues to mislead the world about the nature of autism with nonsense like this list.


Anonymous said...

Feel free to add your son to the wikipedia list. Or don't you understand that you can edit wikipedia yourself?

Unknown said...

I am a wikipedian who happens to have mild autism. I am stunned speechless that anyone, anywhere, should fail to realize that severely disabled people are not famous; their names would be recognizable to nobody, their inclusion in the list pointless.

The list not presented as representative; elsewhere wikipedia makes quite clear the debilitating effects autism can have. You will find the articles quite balanced in that they cover the spectrum from genius to disabled.

I don't mean to be insulting but ... Wow.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your attempted insult ms clark.

Obviously if I want to become a contributor to Wikipedia I could edit the list. I do not wish to do so and the public generally does not know that the list does not represent the true nature of autism disorders.

It says much about you as a person that you disregard the fact that the autistic people who are not poets, authors, etc, the autistic people who live, cared for by others to one extent or another, in institutional care are not disclosed to the world on the Wikipedia list.

Do you condone such misrepresentation? It appears you do, judging by your response.

Aam Aadmi said...

I'm afraid your interpretation is wrong -- the list is not "misleading".

Consider the list of vegans, which lists highly notable people including famous authors, musicians and sportspeople. This doesn't mean that all vegans are famous celebrities. Some vegans are famous and notable, and therefore, they're on that list. You can't say that this article is misleading, because it indicates that all vegans are celebrities -- that would be a wrong interpretation.

Similarly, the list of people on the autistic spectrum consists of notable people who are known to have a condition on the autistic spectrum. The list doesn't imply that all the people on the autistic spectrum are exceptional people who've excelled in their fields.

The Wikipedia article on Autism clearly mentions, "Autism presents in a wide degree, from those who are nearly dysfunctional and apparently mentally disabled to those whose symptoms are mild or remedied enough to appear normal to others.".

The reason why your son Conor or several other people with severe autism don't feature on the list is that Wikipedia is not a directory. The Wikipedia article doesn't aim to be a list of all the people in the world on the autistic spectrum. The article is aims to be a list of notable people who are on the autistic spectrum.

The list has very few people with severe autism, because very few people with severe autism have been able to become famous or notable, due to their intellectual and communication deficits.

If you know of any such notable people with severe autism, just click edit, and add their names to the list. Or alternatively, start a discussion on the talk page.

Unknown said...


You have mild autism. I wish that my son had "mild" autism not the autism that severely restricts his understanding of the world and his ability to communicate that you obviously enjoy.

Your comment that "severely disabled people are not famous" misses the point and is silly. Of course the many severely autistic people who live in institutional care are not famous. But the list itself is meaningless unless it is intended to tell us something about the reasons for why the names are listed. In this case autism and severe autism. Whether articulated or not such a list assumes for the reader a representative quality, especially if they are generally ignorant of the subject matter.

I know because I am the father of a severely autistic 11 year old boy, and 8 years of autism advocacy, that the list on Wikipedia is not actually representative of autism. A member of the public may not and the list creates a false impression of autism and its severity. Hollywood and CNN like to talk about savants and success stories. They do not want to talk about severely autistic persons who have limited or not communication skills and who engage in seriously self injurious behavior or who live out their adult lives in institutional care.

As for other wikipedia articles fine. THIS article should not be used to misrepresent the realities of autism.

Unknown said...

Utkarshraj Atmaram

I disagree with your conclusion. The list IS misleading. You add qualifications in your comment which do not appear on the article page in question. A member of the public may or may not make the same assumptions that you assert in your comment. For many it will be often be seen as representative or will at least leave an impression with them that autism something shared by poets, authors and researchers.

If Wikipedia ON THIS ARTICLE page made the qualifiers you mentioned AND informed the world that the list is non representative of the realies of autims, that many non famous autistics have limited communication skills, severe behavioral challengs and live their adult lives in institional care, not writing poetery and authoring novels then I would not have a problem with the list. The article makes no comments to place the list in a context which would convey to the reader the full realities of autism including the very harsh realities for many "people with autism|/

Unknown said...

It is a classic error of publication to assume the reader will jump to conclusions (which us smart people avoid.) This situation is analagous to, "a list of prisoners who have written important books while in prison." Do we really have to say that not everyone in prison is a noted author?

Can we never mention positive aspects of autism without the qualifier that autism is sometimes tragic?

Turn it around - when we mention a severely autistic person - must be also be careful to mention that autism in milder forms can be beneficial?

I am tempted to add the qualifying text you speak of, but it opens up the above two questions.

The fact of the matter is the people listed DID have autism. Nothing else is stated or implied.

The purpose of an encyclopedia is to present facts, not teach people how to read and think.

Unknown said...

ceilingcrash you are going over old ground on this. The fact is that the article in question is on the internet, and it leaves a grossly inaccurate impression of what autism is to readers who know little about autism

You can talk abot out all the poets, authors, researcherers etc that you know or believe to be autistic as you wish but the way the article is presented it hides the negative realities faced by so many autistic persons who face more serious challenges than the high functioning high communicating autistic persons on your list

The list is misleading. Are you ashamed to acknowledge that many autistic persons are low functioning and have to be cared for by other people as adults?

ballastexistenz said...

I'm on the list (although not fond of the divisions put forth in the list, so my objections to it are a little different than yours). And I do have to be cared for by other people as an adult. So do several of the other people on the list for that matter.

Unknown said...


Thank you for sharing that information. My point remains the same though. There are many autistic persons who do not, and will not, communicate at anywhere near the level that you do and who are not artists, authors, poets, researchers etc. Unlike you, many of the autistic persons residing in institutional care will remain unknown to the world. Dr. Gupta will not be visiting an insititutional care facility where severely autistic people reside. And Wikipedia will not be publishing a list of such facilities or naming the persons residing therein.

This list and other such efforts create a misleading impression of autism for uninformed internet readers. The truly invisible, unheard autistic persons will remain unheard and invisible unknown to the world.

Unknown said...

Personality I think that it's great that Wikipedipa made a list of people who have some form of autism and were able to make terrific accomplishments They over a lot of barriers. More importantly many probably didn't overcome the barriers of have autism but has used their unique skills to achieve their dreams. If anything the list should give parents and the individuals a sense of hope

Unknown said...


You say you are autistic. I take you at your word. You and every autistic person on that list who can communicate at such an excellent level do not share the same challenges as more severely autistic persons such as my son.

To suggest that because some people such as those on the list can communicate so well and accomplish so much means that more severely autistic persons such as those living in institutional care with little or no communication skills might someday "overcome" their limitations is not realistic.

That is why the list is so misleading. For the uninformed reader they will come away thinking all autistic persons have such potential. And that is not true.