Friday, July 16, 2010

Against Autism Absurdity

Neurodiversity blogger Astrid has regurgitated Neurodiversity's most absurd claim .... that "functioning levels" are meaningless concepts.  The ideology that purportedly celebrates diversity also tries to claim that there is only one autism and they know what it is because ... well .. it is the autism they know and have. 

What strikes me as astonishing in all these autism dichotomies, you-are-not-like-my-child posts, etc., is that no-one ever actually draws a line somewhere. If autism is a dichotomy, then where, exactly, is the line between high and low functioning? How many points on an autism questionnaire does one need? How many words must one be able to say? How often must one bite one’s hands? What IQ must one have? What household chore must one be able to perform? There is no objective measure to draw the line, and that is precisely the problem with any similar dichotomy.

This comment by Astrid lacks any element of common sense. Measuring functioning levels occurs every day in the real world.  Every job interview or work performance review involves an assessment of a person's functioning level.  Every time a student passes or fails a test in school it is a measurement of functioning level. When the World Cup played out in South Africa the entire world measured the functioning levels of the various teams, the players, the coaches  and ... especially the referees with their botched calls.  

As a child and youth I played a lot of sports, In Junior High, as Middle School was then called, I almost made the school soccer team. I say almost because I was with the team long enough to be included in the photo for the local newspaper but did not make the final cut.  As a soccer player there were other players who functioned better than I did.

Yes, if a child engages in serious self injury that is an indication of functioning level in the real world.  If Astrid can, like Amanda Baggs, author a blog and discuss abstract concepts then  yes those are indications of high functioning levels.  My 14 year old son with Autistic Disorder and intellectual disabilities is low functioning. He requires adult supervision.  He can not be left to walk unattended down neighborhood streets because he does not fully understand the risks the world presents. If I were to allow him to do so then I would be knowingly putting his life at risk. If someone  can attend college and study psychology, or master the challenging work environment at Canada Post and become an autism  researcher, or  attend a college for gifted youths, then they function better in the real world than someone who, at the same age, is still reading Dr. Seuss and watching Dora the Explorer.

Neurodiversity ideologues want to tell parents how to talk about our child's autism disorders. Do not talk about curing autism. Do not call autism a disorder.  Do not suggest there is any connection between autism and intellectual disability.  Do not talk about functioning levels.
No Astrid you are not like my son in your functioning levels. He can not author blog sites about autism and does not understand what the word autism means.   Astrid is against Autism Dichotomy.  I am against Astrid, and other very high functioning persons, trying to equate their life and their challenges with my son's.  

Speak for yourself Astrid and stop trying to dictate to parents of autistic children  how we should discuss our children and their challenges.


coc said...

Perhaps the neurodiversity people could focus on the 'S' in ASD? There need not be a single line delineating 'high' and 'low' functioning, no more than there is a line between ulta-violet and infra-red. It's a continuum of variation.

But I suppose when we consider their aversion (oh yeah, I went there!) to the 'D' in ASD, we should not be surprised to learn they have difficulties with the concept of 'S'.

Can we even assume they know much about the 'A'?

M.J. said...

If Astrid wants a clear line delimiting higher from lower functioning, then perhaps the test should be whether the person has enough functional communication and abstract reasoning skills to understand the ideas in her post.

If they do, they would be higher functioning. If they lack the abstract reasoning or functional communication skills (i.e. can't read or talk), then they would be lower functioning.

We could call it the Astrid test.

Astrid said...

Harold, you missed the entire point of my post. I never said I am like your son. I never said all autism is exactly the same. I never denied autistics may have intellectual disabilities, and you know all this if you even care to read my posts before commenting. All I said was that there is no rigid dichotomy between HF and LF autism. I completely agree with Coc that autism is a spectrum. Some autistics are better at certains kills than others, and some autistics are better at virtually every skill than others. That does not mean these are two different autisms.

Lastly, please stop assessing my "functioning level" based on my blogging skills. That kind of jumping to conclusions contributes directly to the lack of needed services for autistics who do not fulfill your autism stereotype.

M.J. said...

"That kind of jumping to conclusions contributes directly to the lack of needed services for autistics who do not fulfill your autism stereotype."

If that stereotype contributes to the lack of appropriate services, then just think what the typical ND stereotype does to the availability of services for children with lower functioning autism (otherwise known as the majority of cases of autism).

Now imagine if you were a parent and found that the services your children needed were limited because everyone things that they all little Einsteins just waiting to be discovered.

That is the dichotomy in the spectrum.

Astrid said...

MJ, I'm fine with your test, despite its huge limitations. For one thing, people might be able to access my blog via sophisticated technology that isn't available to others. For another, the "Astrid test" would be valid only for English-speaking autistics. But my real point is, if you want to use this test to split high and low functioning autistics apart, please stop making all these assumptions that have nothing to do with reading comphrehension. For example, it is possible tha tone autistic might understand my posts, but still be obsessed with infant toys.

Ian MacGregor said...

Low-functioning autism has an accepted definition. It refers to those individuals with autism that are intellectually disabled. They have IQ's less than 70.

One cannot distinguish someone who has an IQ of 69 from someone with an IQ of 71. The line is fuzzy. However it is not overly broad either. One can conclude from your writings that you are not intellectually disabled and are therefore not low-functioning.

Everyone with autism shares to some degree some common traits. But we need to look at the entire person not at just those traits in evaluating what services they will need. Parents need to plan for their children's future. Labels are very helpful in identifying those who will need the most help.

Unknown said...


I will draw my own conclusions based on the obvious evidence in front of me, evidence in the form of your very advanced language abilities as demonstrated in your blogging, to conclude that you are much more high functioning than my son in this important part of human life.

You do not get to tell me what conclusions to draw. You are wasting your time with such commands.

Kent Adams said...

God, someone needs to put this bullshit to rest. These fakers need to get out and be forced into a classroom of autistic students so they will get a clue and shut the fuck up.

Real autistic people are being hurt by this bullshit. These childless introverts who one day wake up to think they are autistic are going to really hurt the real autistic people I see in my support group and in my son's school. They are evil.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the point is here. Because no one has drawn a line, it doesn't exist? Solidarity in diagnosis? To what end?

I suspect, maybe incorrectly, that the point is to validate the viewpoints of people with Asperger's in regard to raising children with autism. I don't get this. If I have a red-headed far-sighted child who is gifted in math and dyslexic and left-handed and hates pickles, am I expected to subscribe to the parenting philosophies of other red-headed, left-handed, dyslexic, mathematical pickle-haters? No. I will, like anyone, raise him or her myself. Sharing a trait with my child, any trait, in no way gives you any kind of parental authority. Why should it?

As far as the idea of a spectrum - I tend to look at other disorders that exist on a spectrum. The aloof, genius professor with schizoid personality traits, vs. the delusional, psychotic homeless man with severe schizophrenia, for example. Yes, schizophrenia is a spectrum too. No, having full blown schizophrenia is not the same as being an eccentric who frequents conspiracy theory websites. No, it would not be appropriate to intervene in the same way in both of these cases. Yes, there are people who fall into gray areas but this doesn't change the above distinction.

That said, I don't agree with extremists in any arena (not necessarily talking about Astrid, here, as I know little about the blog,) but I do know extremism is like getting flipped off in traffic. It will always exist, there's nothing you can do about it, and it's usually best ignored. Left wing, right wing, animal rights, diet... there will always be a small percentage of the population that falls into the extremist category. As long as it's just that - a small and fairly non-influential minority, it's generally pretty inconsequential.

Anonymous said...

Wanted to add...Astrid, you said:

For example, it is possible tha tone autistic might understand my posts, but still be obsessed with infant toys.

Highly unlikely, but even so, I still don't get where you're going with this. So what if we take people with totally different levels of skill, abilities, preferences, cognition, and say "Ok, ok - they're both autistic." What does that even mean? That the interventions / supports for each should be the same? That they automatically understand each other? That one should be allowed to 'speak for' the other?

If not, then what difference does it make anyways? I'm not being a smart mouth here, I really just don't see the point, other than an interesting semantics debate.

Astrid said...

MJ, you obviously only care to pick the bits of my blogging that you disagree with. I am totally against the Einstein stereotype, and consider it very harmful to any autistics who need any support at all, including many so-called "higher-functioning" autistics. I, in fact, have my own history of being harmed by the Einstin stereotype. I can imagine how hamrful it is ot autistics who are profoundly intellectually disabled, for instance. However, can you tell me where exactly I said autistics are little Einsteins? I am not "neurodiversitity". I am not Ari Ne'eman (who hasn't said this thing either). I am just one blogger. Please hold me accountable for what I write.

Anonymous said...

If Astrid really believes that lower functioning autistic individuals who still play with infant toys and who have serious deficits in language and in all other domains would really understand her posts and have the same thoughts that she has then she is completely delusional. Sorry but that is HIGHLY unlikely Astrid. People like you do nothing for the children on the lower functioning side of the spectrum and I really question the autism at all in people such as yourself.

Astrid is bad enough but what is even worse are the ND parents who are in such denial that, although they have very low functioning children, continue to think that they have these complex thoughts and make excuses for them at every turn. (think Dr. Kristina Chew) This attitude (or should I say blindness) does NOTHING to help, advocate or support the need for highly intensive, good quality ABA services. The ND movement just has to go!

M.J. said...


I think the you are missing the point. When I originally wrote the post entitled "Autism Spectrum Dichotomy", you assumed that I was talking about functioning levels. I wasn't really writing about functioning levels but rather about how those at higher function levels want to control the debate about what autism is and isn't. And more importantly, they want to decide what treatments are appropriate and to redirect the scarce funding away from looking at the genetics and for a cure and towards just supports and accommodations.

While doing so would be an obvious benefit to them, the cost of such a shift would be borne by those "lower" functioning who need more than just supports and accommodations. This group, which I believe includes the majority of children with autism, needs a cure or more effective treatments for the disabling nature of their autism. They are unable to speak for themselves and yet their needs are almost completely ignored by the "higher" functioning.

I simply used your statement about stereotypes contributing to a lack of services to try and demonstrate this point.

Lynn said...

I know that I'm late to this party...I'm your newest follower and am just catching up on some older posts. I just want to say that I agree with you completely and am so glad that I've found some people who I can stand with against the neurodiversity crowd. These Aspies/HFA's do not speak for me or my autistic child. I can't always put my thoughts into words because I get so angry about it was nice to see you and your commenters take on this blogger.