Thursday, September 24, 2009

Autism Myth Making and Sloppy Autism Journalism at the UK Guardian

The UK Guardian is practicing sloppy autism journalism, peddling as fact the speculation that Mozart, Orwell, Einstein, Beethoven and Newton were autistic:

"Mozart, Orwell, Einstein, Beethoven and Newton all had it, and now new research funded by the Department of Health shows that one in every 100 adults has it too – autism, that is."

These historical figures all lived before autism disorders were recognized as medical conditions and none of them were diagnosed during their life times by a treating medical professional. But it makes for a good article intro line. Mozart may have been eccentric but he also lived out his career in a very demanding, highly social environment, married and had several children. So where is the autism?

Autism Speaks is currently being ripped by the persons with Asperger's Disorder who purport to speak on behalf of all persons with ASD's, including those like my severely autistic son with Autistic Disorder, because of a new video which portrays autism disorders in a negative light. Speculation about historical figures who might have been autistic is fine though as long as they were extremely intelligent or talented.

The UK Guardian is happy to practice sloppy autism journalism to accommodate those whose agenda focuses on recasting autism, changing public perception of it from the disorder which restricts the lives of so many of our children, to a blessing in disguise. Maybe the UK autism "journalists" should join my CBC friends in visiting an institution where some persons with actual, severe autism disorders spend their lives. Maybe then both institutions of journalism would cease glorifying what for many is a severe, life limiting disorder.

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Robert said...

people with Aspergers who denounce Autism Speaks dont say that we speak we for your son. Just like you dont speak for people like me by suggesting that some how I need to be cured of my autism. I have Aspergers am about to graduate with a degree in journalism and am about to commence with my second internship at the Fox News Channel. At the same time that Autism Speaks for us we dont speak for your son because your sons condition is truly dehabilitating. You speak for your son. We only speak for ourselves because this movement is about SELF-ADVOCACY. I like others who think this way dont think its fair its to suggest that somehow our lives have been as severely handicapped as your son's because they haven't. Unfortunately Autism Speaks makes such a comparison.

Unknown said...

Robert I thank you for your comments.

I wish I could agree with what you are saying but I can't.

Ari Ne'eman is a gentleman with Aspergers who heads the AUTISM Self Advocacy Network. He and others in the ASAN organization and Neurodiversity movements commonly say things like "WE" don't want to be cured when talking about autism. Today you will find them saying things like "the autism community" objects to the Autism Speaks video etc. My son with Autistic Disorder is not part of THEIR Autism Community.

farmwifetwo said...

I did my best yesterday Harold to slap at them. Have no idea how many of my posts got deleted along the way in Hub-land.

Yes, autism like my eldest has is "ok, normal, etc". And he's nearly 10 and has no idea he has a dx. Nor will I tell him. It's still necessary for the OT but otherwise he's fine.

My FSW (Comm. Living) told me yesterday that people are wanting ASD dx's b/c any other LD/MR they can't get services - in or out of school... how wrong is that????

Autism like yours and my youngest has.... is not glorious.

ASAN and it's ilk would prefer that our children did not exist. Since when is Autism some cutsie club?? If you can live in regular society without supports there is nothing wrong with you. Therefore you should not require a diagnosis of any kind. Sorry... you're as normal as everyone else.

Diagnosis' are for services and services only. Diagnosis' are for diseases and disabilities.

I suspect the DSM-V is going to be worse than the IV yet every professional I have dealt with, wishes it was going to be more stringent.

Ian MacGregor said...

The Guardian is breaking new ground here. "Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is known to have had autism. " known??!!! Here, I thought it was conjecture and pretty weak speculation at that. But now I find it is an established fact. One does learn something new every day.

Speechie said...

Seriously, that's some pretty crappy reporting. Sadly, I've seen worse though.

I find the whole idea of trying to identify disability along a spectrum disorder interesting. Autism is certainly not the only instance of this. Look at the schizophrenia spectrum, for example, which ranges from severe schizophrenia to schizotypal disorders to schizoid personality. On one hand you may have someone who is totally out of touch with reality, on the other, a quirky creative genius. In fact, there actually are studies to suggest people with very mild schizophrenic traits are in fact more creative due to decreased latent inhibition.

It seems that many of the more common mental illnesses / conditions exist to some degree in our genes because in some forms they are beneficial to humans. As we move down the spectrum of severity, however, these same traits become increasingly detrimental. Finding a 'stopping point' where we identify a 'disorder' vs. a 'personality' is nearly impossible, though, as there will always be a large grey area.

Speechie said...

Wanted to some ways it seems that ND supporters and autism parents could find some common ground here. Surely both parties prefer the idea of spectrum disorders that exist in the 'personality type' end of the range. Perhaps ND groups would be willing to consider that environmental triggers throw people who should have been functioning autistic people (i.e., Aspergers) into the range of disability.