Monday, April 13, 2009

Autism Awareness: More Einstein Was Autistic Nonsense

The formula for concluding that an historical genius was autistic is simple:

Genius + Eccentricity + Aversion to Small Talk = Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autism researchers in the UK and Ireland are at it again. Not finding causes of autism or developing knowledge of treatment and possible cures. No our good friends on the other side of the Atlantic are busy promoting the "Einstein was Autistic" picture of autism spectrum disorders. When it comes to autism, our English and Irish friends have no qualms about abandoning scientific certainty and the realities of the severely autistic living today for ideological, historical speculation about whether Einstein, and in addition Newton might have been autistic.

The bold headline on World Update News declares that Einstein and Newton ‘had autism’. In the article Cambridge University researchers are reported to have stated that Einstein might have had Aspergers. The article itself is fairly balanced and cites Dr. Glen Elliot from the University of California at San Francisco as stating that the eccentricities of both esteemed scientific geniuses can simply reflect their high intelligence without indicating that either was autistic. Professor Simon Baron Cohen of Cambridge University, however, clings to the genius as autism speculation. In February Professor Michael Fitzgerald offered his latest in a very long list of historical geniuses that he specultes were autistic - Charles Darwin. Professor Fitgerald even speculates that Mozart was autistic. This is the same Mozart who married, had several children and was a member of more than one lodge including the Freemasons in which he achieved the status of Master, had many friends and was well regarded. Just your typical autistic?

In the formula above "learned" professors like Mr. Baron Cohen and Mr Fitzgerald simply disregard some uncomfortable realities in making their historical speculative diagnoses:

1) Total lack of observation of the "patients"

2) Reliance on second and third hand accounts of persons no longer alive many of whom were not health care of psychological professionals.

3) Contrary evidence concerning ability to form intense interpersonal relationships iincluding marriages.

4) Lack of discomfort in public speaking.

Professors Fitzgerald and Baron Cohen are academics. They are of course free to speculate about any subject that flits through their consciousness. But it seems strange that these two learned men do not find it worthy to mention that there are many severely autistic persons living lives dependent on the care of others, some with limited intellectual and practical skills.

It seems, for one reason or another, that the learned professors are ashamed of the plight of the severely autistic who live with us today, preferring to speculate about long dead historical geniuses.

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Stephanie said...

People with high IQs dislike small talk as well: they find it rather boring.

HFA/AS and simply having a very high IQ have many traits in common...but for VERY different reasons.

Any highly intelligent, introverted person with a hobby is being diagnosed with an ASD. Scientists, doctors, researchers, etc. are failing to truly follow the DSM when it comes to diagnosis. They forget this criteria when diagnosing people with Asperger's:

"C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."

So, according the official diagnosis of Asperger's, if a person is not severely impaired in some way than they DO NOT have Asperger's.

farmwifetwo said...

Did you read "Defeating Autism a Damaging Delusion"?? I put it on my Goodreads (fw2books) list... gave it a 1 and a blast.

Glad he's not, nor will ever be, my children's Dr.


Marius Filip said...

There is another story, very similar to the "Eistein had Asperger's".

For some time there was the opinion that Jesus Christ had a rare disease at his hand. I forgot the name of the disease, but it attacks and deforms the bones. Hence, that disease was somehow "sanctified".

The "evidence" consisted in the fact that the Christian iconography represents Jesus with the fingers of his right hand crossed in that well known but curious posture. Hence, some people concluded that Christ had a bone disease.

The truth: the awkward posture of the fingers has nothing to do with bones. It simply represents the letters ICXC, an abreviation of Yessouss Christos, which is ... Jesus Christ in Greek!

In fact, the very same posture is the customary blessing sign in the Orthodox tradition up to this day. In the West, the Pope still uses this posture of the fingers when giving blessings.

So, by taking fragmented facts from the past, extracting them out of context and assembling them back one can prove anything.

In the "Einstein had Asperger's" kind of campaign there is another thing which we should not miss. Maybe Eistein did, in fact, have Asperger's.

The question is: SO WHAT? Did he construct his Theories of Relativity because he had Asperger's?

The truth is, a real genius has such an enormous and unusual talent that no matter what disease he might have, it is hard to establish a link between the disease and his outstanding achievements.

In other words, if Einstein had Asperger's AND he discovered the Theories of Relativity says nothing neither about Asperger's nor about how a brilliant brain produces a result that will last for centuries.

Stephanie said...

I have an IQ over 160 and I'm still severely disabled by autism.

The whole theory that having a high-IQ "cancels out" any autism is meaningless.

Autism is not an intellectual disorder, it is a social disorder, so a person can have Asperger's and a low IQ or severe autism and a very high IQ (and vice versa).

If a person with HFA/AS has a very high IQ, like myself, then, since autism is a SOCIAL disorder, that person will be very disabled socially. I am not disabled intellectually in any way.

Einstein didn't really have any social problems. He was married, had friends, was a professor, et.el. He was eccentric, but many gifted people are.

People who are "profoundly gifted," such as myself (having a high IQ) have special traits (or "symptoms") that, on the surface, resemble HFA/AS but are VERY different.

In the gifted they are called "overexcitabilities." Highly gifted people only have social problems with people who are not as intelligent as they are, which is NOT autism. When Einstein was around other highly gifted people he would be quite social.

I'm not social around anyone; I'm socially retarded. I have severe autism but a very high IQ.

Unknown said...


Thank you for your comments. Your honest and informed commentary is always a positive addition to this blog site.


Marius Filip said...

For Stephanie Lynn Keil: my understanding is that, statistically speaking, autism is associated with mental retardation, at least outside the Asperger part of the spectrum.

My personal opinion is that it is an "induced" retardation, caused rather by the reduced capacity to learn naturally from the environment than an "inner" incapacity to learn (like it is with the Down syndrome, I guess) - otherwise ABA would be perhaps without effect.

In any case, from what I've talked with other parents, and I admit I share that feeling, the concern from a parent's perspective lies rather in the intellectual zone than in the social zone.

That is, a parent can accept better his child to be socially inept but able to take care of himself as an adult (i.e. hold a job) than the other way around (i.e. be friendly and open to people but having limited cognitive abilities and not being able to assume responsibilities).

It's hard to choose which one is "better" and it may be very wrong this "utilitarian" approach (being highly intelligent but socially inept can be painful, I guess), but as a parent I cannot stop myself thinking of the utilitarian aspects of the future life of my son.

That's why I subscribe to the advocacy of this blog, because it strives to convince people about these practical aspects of overcoming autism which, although may seem cold-hearted, they do offer - when addressed properly - a chance to an independent life to people who'd be dependent on others for life otherwise.

Your testimony is very moving ...

Stephanie said...

Despite my high IQ I can't hold a job because of my severe social disabilities, extreme sensory sensitivities and severe executive dysfunction. I could rack up a bunch of student loans and earn a PhD but it would be pretty useless because I cannot even attend a normal college (I attend college online). People with low IQs (above a certain threshold) can be quite friendly and are much better able to handle social situations than I am, and so they are able to actually hold a job without having a meltdown.

I was never considered to be intelligent until I was much older, around 16 (and then later was tested). This was because I hardly communicated with anyone and so it was assumed that I wasn't too bright. I have severe "mindblindness," which is, in my opinion and that of many others, a "core" of autism. I used to be pretty severely autistic (repetitive/rigid thinking, not wanting to change environment, et.el.) but at around 18/19 I had a developmental "spurt" (which I later found happened in some people with autism) and became much more aware of the world.

I was actually quite surprised to find that people assumed that I was of average or even below average intelligence just because I didn't talk much and was quite socially inept. Severe mindblindness doesn't effect my ability to solve complicated math problems since that isn't something that requires empathy.

Most people with HFA/AS have average intelligence, despite what ND proponents may tell you because I know I'm a rarity in the autism world.

I just don't understand intelligent people with HFA/AS who don't want to cure autism. Imagine what they and others like them could do if they weren't so socially inept! I would be the same person, except I would be able socialize and thus be much more successful.

Marius Filip said...

I fully agree with you; autism is a huge hindrance on you, a person with very high IQ who cannot fructify this massive intelligence because of autistic impairments.

In the case of ND, my understanding is that their agenda is to redefine eventually what a successful person is (along with what intelligence means, what a valid IQ test is, and so on and so forth).

In other words, if the reality does not fit my capacities, the hell with the reality, it is the reality's duty to curb itself in order to make me fit.

It's a slippery and dangerous track. My country was communist not long ago, I lived in that era, and the regime taught us that we were truly free (and not the Americans, the Canadians or the French) because there were no billionaires in our country to exploit the working class - as it was the case, so they said, in West.

In other words, the very concept of freedom was redefined and transformed into something that had nothing to do with what the sheer common sense says about what freedom is.

That's why I find ND so dangerous - not only because they try to speak in the name of others and they try to stop the battle to heal autism, but also because their very values and system of thinking rely on ideology and not on reality - hence, in my opinion, it is a poisonous lie.

I added your blog to my RSS reader. I would like to contact you by email some time in the future, if you don't mind, because I am deeply interested in how you see the world.

My son, age of 5, thanks to God and to behavioral intervention, makes steady and fast progress. I can foresee when he'll be functional enough to go mainstream.

Although he's got a good chance to recover, I am sure his way of thinking will be forever different. In this respect, your testimonies are invaluable to us, and I am sure, to many others.

Many thanks to Harold who, through his active blog, makes not only a vigorous pro-autism advocacy, but also builds virtual bridges between people.