Sunday, May 02, 2010

Autism Disorders and Identity: Some High Functioning Autistics Angry Over Being Associated with Intellectually Disabled

One of the most unusual elements encountered by parents of low functioning, intellectually disabled autistic children is the angry, hostile reactions of some persons with High Functioning Autism and Aspergers to any mention of Intellectual Disability as a characteristic of autism disorders. A recent example amongst many that I have encountered is the May 1 comment by Alan Griswold on his blog Autistic Aphorisms and the comments by some other high functioning autistic persons in response. The commentary, including Mr.Griswold's, dismisses credible authorities like the Canadian Psychological Association and the CDC who have published statements indicating that 80% of persons with Autistic Disorder and 41-44% of all persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also intellectually disabled. In the place of these authorities the commentators substitute their own opinions and their obvious dislike of being associated in a diagnostic category with so many persons who are intellectually disabled.

Mr. Griswold is the author of a piece of autism enlightenment calld "Autistic Symphony".  In that work, apart from the title portraying autism as beautiful music, Mr. Griswold includes a chapter embracing an article which purports to show by a review of historical references that  Jesus Christ was autistic. The "Jesus was Autistic" nonsense is the most extreme example of efforts to comb history and define various remarkable individuals as autistic ... usually geniuses like Einstein, Van Gogh and Mozart.  For those who identify with the autism label any talented, positive figure must have been autistic ... but not those intellectually disabled autistics living with us today. 

The Canadian Psychological Association and CDC figures pointing to high numbers of intellectually disabled autisics can not be trusted but a flimsy, flaky article speculating that Jesus was autistic, well that is truly worthy of embrace by the author of Autistic Symphony.  Identification with a psychiatric diagnostic manual category may help some people understand challenges they have faced.  It can also, in some cases, inflame their bigotry towards those less advantaged ... towards those many  low functioning autistic persons with intellectual disabilities.

Autism may well be a symphony in some people's fantasies but in the real world it is  a number of serious disorders.  In the case of Autistic Disorder 75-80% of persons with the disorder are also intellectually disabled. All the cheap, derogatory insults and bigotry towards those with intellectual disabilities on display at Autistic Aphorisms will not change those facts.


farmwifetwo said...

Actually Harold, some of us with severely autistic kids are upset with your demand that they be labelled at ID or MR. So... we should just send them to the corner and deam them unteachable.

ID or MR is a separate dx. Just look at my IPRC... Communication - Autism, Intellectual - Dev Delay. Should I tell everyone his IQ is in the 60's.. 2 to 3 yr old level or should I tell them that he reads at a 9yr old level, comprehension is at 7yrs and math is at 5. Huge difference from the 2 yr old of the IQ test. I've spent a lot of time an energy making certain that those in his sphere don't judge him on his ability to speak to them. Being unable to speak doesn't make you stupid.

I spent 4mths (Dec to Apr) puting Dev Delay on that IPRC. He's too smart to go into an Autistic class. Also, he's not behavioural, and I'm not sending him into one of those rooms where the kids are violent and sent home a couple of days/wk and not taught. He's going into a slow learners class.... one more week, or the appeal is going to be UGLY... where he'll be taught... amazing teacher we've met her.

Those that ignore IQ level's as part of the ASD dx are correct.. it never has been part of the dx.. I hope it always stays that way and children like mine are given the chance. The spec ed guy recognizes that a true MR child will never develope beyond a certain point... an Autistic one depends on the child and how much work you put into it. My eldest we were to "write off" at 2.5yrs.. at 10.5 is disgustingly normal and getting A's and B's except in English where he get's C's and they are all his... they aren't modified at all.

To get ODSP an autistic person must be dx'd with an intellectual disability. So even if they don't have one but are unable to care for themselves, one is given to get them the services they need.

Unknown said...

FW2 I never demanded that severely autistic kids be "labelled at(s) ID or MR". I have said that credible authorities including the Canadian Psychological Association and the CDC have identified large numbers - 80% of persons with Autistic Disorder and 41-44% of all persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders as being Intellectually Disabled. Please quote me accurately and don't distort what I am saying.

Nor do I say that anyone should b "just sen(d)t to the corner and deam them unteachable".

I have advocated in NB for over a decade for autism interventions for ALL autistic children including in our schools. And including my son.

I have also advocated specifically for ABA which you also take offence to but is also accepted by credible authorities and numerous studies as an effective health AND educational intervention for autistic children.

Further I have posted numerous comments and pictures on my site, including on the sidebar of this blog site, showing my son's involvement in education so please stop making things up.

Unknown said...

80% mentally retarded? Dude, that is a myth from the 1990s. It has been debunked long ago, after it has been realized that just because autistics cannot speak, it does not mean they are intellectually disabled.

Though people with intellectual disabilities often resemble autistics because they also have trouble learning social skills and executive functioning. Yet it is an entirely separate disorder, and it needs to be ruled out before an autism diagnosis.

Unknown said...


I am sorry but you are wrong. The Canadian Psychological Association information was presented to a Canadian Senate Committee in 2006.

Autism Brief to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology November 9, 2006.

The CDC data arises from two surveys conducted 2 years apart 2004 and 2006.

CDC, Counting Autism

Dude you reacted emotionally without doing your homework.

Adrianna said...


Why is it that every time someone brings up the REALITY of intellectual disability in the autistic population, you feel the need to promote yourself? Your beliefs, how capable your son is, etc. This isn't all about you. And why can't you learn a thing or two about how statistics are derived and what they mean, or about how autism affects people other than you?

You complain that your younger son is overshadowed by people like Ari Ne'eman, but when you refuse to acknowledge intellectual disability in autism, you overshadow people like Conor by insisting that their issues aren't an important consideration in autism.

If you are so offended by this issue, you can always choose to not post. Save yourself the energy.

Unknown said...

Wow. That was very impressive, Harold. As if psychology studies do not have any flaws or inaccuracies. I guess I was naive to think that by now, most people have begun to notice how much more intelligent autistics are than thought before. I still think that MR should be considered a separate diagnosis, and be screened out before an autism diagnosis. Just because there are overlapping similarities does not mean that people usually have both.

Either way, of course the MR people should be treated decently, too. I am not at all offended by the fact that autistics are rarely geniuses. I'm far from that myself. I used to think that mental retardation was a common side occurrence to autism, and THAT is what held some LFAs back, and therefore needed the cure. If Conor has some sort of intellectual disability, or anyone's kids, why not try curing that instead?

By the way, I am not a dude, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Adrianna for stating this about FW2. It seems no matter whose blog it is her comments are always literally the same. Her self promotion is repetitive and quite old. I am beginning to think that she too is on the spectrum.

Unknown said...


I don't know you and simply used the expression you used when commenting here, which seemed flippant.

I don't usually check commentators to determine their gender or other background. Given your comments I visited your web and blog. I see that you are a person with High Functioning Autism. You simply ignore the information that I presented from the Canadian Psychological Association AND the Center for Disease Control and state that Intellectual Disability is separate.

80% of persons with Autistic Disorder and 40% of all persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also Intellectually disabled.

Those are not coincidences.

Anonymous said...

Most children with autism who are nonverbal like my child who are also labelled mentally retarded or intellectually disabled aren't!

How in the heck can you diagnose a person by merely tests, and by their behavior if they cannot speak. They have written off people who are deaf for this very same reason. I have seen it first hand, with a child who was in my sons class, severely nonverbal mentally retarded autistic boy who at 8 completely nonverbal, still in diapers, fecal smearier, and banged his head a lot ;however with some help from therapists and bio-medicals, this boy now at 17 is potty trained, talking, and no longer feels the need to bang his head. His diagnosis of mental retardation was eventually dropped because they soon realized he had intelligence all along just couldn't let the world see it! He is still very affected by autism, but no longer shut off from the world. These kids aren't mentally retarded, the numbers can say anything especially when you meet kids who do not speak, do not point, cannot socialize, and communicate mostly through behaviors, of course 80% will get the diagnosis of ID or MR, doesn't actually mean they are!

There are individuals in there, we just have to find the key to get them out of their world to show us how amazing they are! I will not give up until I find that key for my son!

Unknown said...


Tests are used to assess a persons level of intellectual ability. So too are the lack of ability to do basic life tasks like those you described.

My son is intellectually disabled. He is low functioning. I do not write him off and calling him intellectually disabled is being honest. His disabilities do not prevent him from learning completely but they make learning very difficult.

I prefer to approach my son's autism and intellectual disability honestly.

I do not react with shame, or anger, to the Intellectual Disability aspect which is very, very common in persons with Autistic Disorder.