Friday, October 03, 2008

The Mysterious Dr. M: The Notion of Curing Autism Is Nonsensical

Above: Dr. Laurent Mottron, Psychiatrist, High Functioning Autism Expert
Below: Dr. M, Psychiatrist, CHRT Recognized Autism Expert, Identity Unknown

I would like to commend and congratulate Michelle Dawson who has won her human rights complaint against Canada Post Corporation. The decision in her favor will be of assistance to other autistic Canadians facing discrimination on the basis of their autism disability. In Dawson v. Canada Post Corporation, 2008 CHRT 41, 2008/10/03 a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, comprised of member Pierre Deschamps, rejected some complaints made by Ms Dawson but ruled that:

[219] However well-intended Canada Post management was in seeking a medical evaluation, the Tribunal finds that, in the present circumstances, the general behavior of those Canada Post employees who were involved in the medical evaluation process constitutes harassment. .....

[220] The Tribunal thus finds that Ms. Dawson’s disability was an important factor in the way she was treated by the Respondent in relation to the above mentioned events and that theRespondent’s conduct amounts to harassment and contravenes section 14 of the Act. However, the Tribunal finds that there exists no conclusive evidence that the Respondent’s conduct and that of its employees constitute retaliation.

[235] In view of the evidence, the Tribunal finds that the Complainant and the Commission have not established a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation. The evidence shows clearly that the delay in providing Ms. Dawson with the permission to tape-record conversations with management stems from the reluctance of certain employees to be tape-recorded. In the present circumstances, the Tribunal finds that the Respondent had to balance the needs of the Complainant with the concerns expressed by certain of its employees. This said, the tense relations between Ms. Dawson and management at Canada Post cannot be totally excluded as a factor having contributed to the delays.

Some of the evidence about autism and autistic person's generally was provided by Michelle Dawson herself although the tribunal did not qualify her as an expert. The expert evidence was provided solely by a Dr. M called as a witness by Ms. Dawson. Dr. M. was qualified as a credible expert witness by the Tribunal despite his close ties to Ms. Dawson:

b) The testimony of Dr. M

[99] At the beginning of his testimony, Dr. M., who is a psychiatrist, was qualified by theTribunal as an expert in autism. Dr. M. filed a report as well as three letters pertaining to Ms.Dawson’s condition.

[100] Dr. M. testified on the nature of autism, autistic individuals as well as on Ms. Dawson’scondition. The credibility of Dr. M. as well as the accuracy of his statements and opinions wasnot challenged by the Respondent. The Tribunal finds Dr. M.’s testimony highly credible even ifthe evidence shows that in recent years, Ms. Dawson has worked with him and has co-authored scientific articles with Dr. M.

It is truly an amazing coincidence that the mysterious Dr. M. worked with and co-authored scientific articles with Michelle Dawson. I wonder if Dr. M. has ever met high functioning autism expert Dr. Laurent Mottron, who is also a psychiatrist who has worked with and co-authored scientific papers with Ms Dawson? Of course Dr. Mottron has also provided affidavit evidence in support of Ms Dawson's intervenor appearance before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Auton case, and has appeared with, and offered personal testimonial support for, Ms Dawson's particular form of autism advocacy in general media publications and programs such as CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks. None of that background is cited by the CHRT when it discussed how it concluded that Dr. M. was credible despite his ties to the Compalinant Ms. Dawson so I will have to assume that Dr. M. and Dr. Mottron are two separate individuals.

The expert evidence of the mysterious Dr. M in Dawson v CPC will certainly be of assistance to the broader autism community beset as it is by so many controversies. Dr. M offers his expert evidence to settle many burning controversies in world autism arguments. In particular Dr. M. leaves no doubt that there is no point in seeking to cure autism:

[86] Ms. Dawson testified that autism is a neurological disability and that people generally do not have a good understanding of this reality. Ms. Dawson stated repeatedly that autism was not a mental illness. For her, a mental illness has an onset, various treatments, and there is a return to the previous state to a greater or lesser degree. Both Ms. Dawson and Dr. M., as will be seen,pointed out that the notion of curing autism was nonsensical. Still many people want to cure autism.

It might be helpful for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research which organized the "National Autism Symposium" held last November to get in touch with Dr. M. One of the keynote speakers at the Symposium was Dr. Laurent Mottron. Had CIHR, which is involved with funding some of Dr. Mottron's high functioning autism research, instead chosen Dr. M. he could have advised everyone involved to stop wasting time and money on research aimed at finding a cure for autism.

I have been unable to find any of the papers written by Dr. M. but I do look forward to reading some of his work. And I hope also to be able to meet him some day. I have lived with and cared for a 12 year old severely autistic boy but after reading Dr. M's expert testimony before the CHRT about the nature of autism and autistics I have the haunting feeling that he may not truly be autistic since he does not share many of the characteristics of autistic persons as defined by Dr. M in his testimony.

The case of Dawson v CPC confirms that federally regulated employers must accommodate autistic employees in their workforce.

As a side benefit it has also highlighted the autism expertise of the mysterious Dr. M who can enlighten the world about the true nature of autism. As a further benefit he could persuade the CIHR to stop wasting money researching autism cures.


jonathan said...

I guess he could also dissuade Autism Speaks from trying to cure and prevent autism also, since Dr. Mottron mentors post doctoral fellow Luc Keitain his lab who receive funding from that organization as well. Dr. Mottron also travels thousands of miles from Montreal, Canada, to Los Angeles, California in the U.S.A. to go to an autism speaks meeting that I was in attendance at. It seems Michelle Dawson's mentor has a rather cozy relationship with this organization which has stated that their intended purpose for being is to cure and prevent autism Unlike, the other Dr. M, I presume he was going there to try to get funding for research rather than going there to try to dissuade them from curing and preventing autism.

Arthur Golden said...

I just posted a comment to the blog entry of Alyric about this blog entry, which is copied below:

The Friday, October 3, 2008 blog entry of Harold Doherty
"The Mysterious Dr. M: The Notion of Curing Autism Is Nonsensical" was obviously written in a somewhat sarcastic tone but I am not aware of any "lies, defamation and an appeal to the readers worst instincts." Since I do not wish to encourage the public posting of negative statements, I would prefer to receive any specific information to make me aware of such matters by private email to My overall impression of the blog entry of Harold Doherty is that the tone is neither "extreme" nor "blunt" - comments made about the statements of Michelle Dawson.

Further, I do not think that I would characterize the position of Harold Doherty to be:

"It must be noted that everything Harold writes should be seen through the filter of his personal agenda, which is that if the family, for whatever reason, decides that their offspring is too much of a burden, then the State should provide care. Basically it’s a return to institutionalisation."

In the sparsely populated province of New Brunswick I believe there never have been any institutions. But complete independence as an adult does not seem to be a realistic goal for Conor, the now 12 year-old son of Harold Doherty. It has been my experience that almost everyone in his situation is ignorant about the realistic goals for "community connectedness" and I doubt that New Brunswick currently has the assistance found in similarly sparsely populated Western Australia, but extensive material is available to arrange such assistance before Conor becomes an adult. Too bad no one in Canada is trying to be positive by making Harold Doherty aware of such realistic options. Thanks to the internet, I am willing to try to provide such information from 6,000 miles away.

Both Harold Doherty and I are lawyers, but there seems to be confusion about the use of the term "witness." While there may not have been any witnesses for Michelle Dawson to the facts of the case, there is a different type of witness which I would refer to as an "expert witness." Dr. M may not have been the first type of witness but was he the second type of witness? Or, was the nature of these proceedings such that the usual court procedures of either type of witness was not technically applicable. The information provided is very confusing to me about this issue of who was a witness.

As I wrote in my first post to the blog entry about "defaming autistics" I think it is quite appropriate to end this post:

"I think it is very important that everyone who wishes to help persons with autism try to work together and help each other, even if we have some differences in our opinions."

"...let us try to go forward in cooperation to help persons with autism."

Arthur Golden

Unknown said...

Thank you Dr. Golden

Both Alyric and Michelle Dawson provide tortured interpretations of positions taken by parents advocating for ABA or other treatment for their own children. I generally do not respond to Alyric on her site although I do occasionally on other pro-neurodiversity sites such as Autism Vox.

Canada has a public health care system. I, along with many other parents, argue for inclusion of autism treatment in our health care coverage. We are opposed in that regard by Ms Dawson who has appeared as an "autistic" intervenor before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Canadian Senate. Alyric is a devoted follower of Ms Dawson and her arguments are simply not rational with all respect.

I am not the only one Alyric has accused of lying and defaming Ms Dawson simply because I disagree with Ms Dawson's public policy positions on funding of ABA, to date, the only evidence based intervention for autism, according to the AAP, the MADSEC Autism Task Force, the NY State Dept of Health, the US Surgeon General and the Association for Science in Autism Treatment.

Again I thank you for your comments here, and at Alyric's blog site.

Arthur Golden said...

You're welcome.

My 36 year-old son Ben, has a successful adult life as a "co-resident" in the same apartment as my wife and I, only assisted by my wife and I (his birth parents). From the limited description I have read about Conor, at age 12 he is much higher-functioning than my son Ben was at that age. However, there seems to be no realistic options for Conor in New Brunswick when he becomes an adult. Please feel free to contact me at if you wish to discuss "Planning for the Future" (for an adult life for Conor and others with more severe autism, or as I might state persons with "old definition" autism). I am now wondering how much commonality there is between persons with "old definition" autism and the several-fold more of persons with "new defition" autism - when DSM IV came out in the early 1990s.

Arthur Golden