Thursday, September 02, 2010

For Michelle Dawson Autism Is Whatever She Says It Is

(Left photo is of the Campbellton Regional Hospital home to some persons with low functioning autism.)

Michelle Dawson gained fame in Canada by intervening as  an "autistic" in the Supreme Court of Canada case in Auton where she opposed parents seeking government funded ABA treatment for their own autistic children.    Notwithstanding that ABA is, and was at that time, the most evidence based effective intervention known to assist autistic children in overcoming the deficits posed by their autism disorders Ms Dawson opposed ABA, apparently, as far as I can tell, because she did not feel that ABA research met her own  self described high standards of "science". 
When I say that ABA was the most evidence based effective intervention for autism I am not relying on my opinion which, admittedly, is of little or no weight.  I am relying upon the several public health and research authorities,  including the Office of the US Surgeon General, who, by the time of the Auton case, had already reached that conclusion. But of course Michelle Dawson, adult diagnosed and undefined "autistic", disagreed. She was able to appear as an intervenor at the Supreme Court of Canada because of the supporting affidavit of Dr. Laurent Mottron who shares some of her other ideological views including the "notion" that curing autism is "nonsense". (As summarized by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Dawson v Canada Post where the mysterious "Dr. M" and Ms Dawson gave their gut feeling, unscientific opinions about curing autism).

Now Michelle Dawson is at it again, in  Are you high or low functioning? Examples from autism research  with yet another one of her silly attacks on the idea that one can distinguished between levels of severity or functioning with respect to autism disorders. I don't pretend to understand the logic in her position or in the position of anyone who asserts that it is not possible to distinguish between severity levels of autism.  Michelle Dawson, who claims to be autistic, was by the account in the CHRT case against Canada Post a very good postal worker.  As a former Canada Post labour lawyer I can assure you that the challenges faced by the inside Postal Workers and Letter Carriers are complex and demanding.  I have great admiration for each postal worker. The fact that Ms Dawson was, on the evidence, excellent at her work with CPC is a very real indicator that she is indeed a high functioning person, autistic or not. My severely autistic son does not understand anything about letters or postal systems and so on.  He is barely literate and has minimal functional ability in language period.   Michelle Dawson is a very high functioning "autistic". My son Conor, diagnosed with Autistic Disorder is very low functioning. Those are obvious, common sense realities.

In her life Michelle Dawson has moved from being an excellent letter carrier to being an autism researcher. IMHO she has not distinguished herself as a researcher but her ability to earn a living in research places her far, far above the functioning levels of people, like my son, who are severely affected by autism disorders. Her research career places her far, far above the adults with autism that I have actually visited with and met in psychiatric care hospitals in Saint John and Campbellton, New Brunswick. But those are common sense observations and distinctions.  Common sense is noticeably lacking in the writings and anti-ABA crusades of Michelle Dawson.
Michelle Dawson's latest critique of functioning levels and severity levels in autism disorders (you won't find autism referred to as a disorder in her commentary) carries with it an odor  of hypocrisy.   She mentions how discussion of autism functioning and cognitive levels has become politicized without mentioning her own role in contributing to such politicization. Ms Dawson critiques the notion of severity and functioning levels and provides examples without mentioning the name of her mentor Dr. Laurent Mottron who's supportive expert testimony enabled her appearance before the Supreme Court of Canada and was of assistance to her case against Canada Post before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.   Dr. Mottron's career has been distinguished by volumes of research involving .... HIGH FUNCTIONING ... "autistics".

Dr. Mottron was careful to reference his subjects' functioning level in his study reports .... and his subjects were almost subjects with high functioning autism and Aspergers:

Locally oriented perception with intact global processing among adolescents with high-functioning autism: Evidence from multiple paradigms [PDF]L Mottron, JA Burack, G Iarocci, S … - Journal of Child …, 2003 -

Local and global processing of music in high-functioning persons with autism: beyond central coherence? [PDF]L Mottron, I Peretz, E Menard - The Journal of Child …, 2000 - Cambridge Univ Press... In terms of local processing, we found that persons with high-functioning autism performed better than the com- parison group when AP could ... we also found that persons with autism used a more local graphic strategy than typically developing participants (Mottron, Belleville, et ...Cited by 125 - Related articles - BL Direct - All 12 versions

Matching strategies in cognitive research with individuals with high-functioning autism: Current practices, instrument biases, and recommendations [PDF]L Mottron - Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2004 - Springer A meta-analysis was performed on the 133 cognitive and behavioral papers in autism using
com- parison groups in the 1999–2002 period. High-functioning (average IQ: 84.7), adolescents
(average, 14.4 years) are largely dominant. IQ is the most frequent matching variable in ...
Cited by 54 - Related articles - Get at CISTI - All 8 versions

Atypical visual orienting to gaze-and arrow-cues in adults with high functioning autism

… , JEA Stauder, IAM van Son, L Mottron - Journal of autism and …, 2005 - Springer
The present study investigates visual orienting to directional cues (arrow or eyes) in adults with
high functioning autism (n = 19) and age matched controls (n = 19). A choice reaction time paradigm
is used in which eye- or arrow direction correctly (congruent) or incorrectly (incongruent) ...
Cited by 24 - Related articles - Get at CISTI - All 7 versions

A Study of Memory Functioning in Individuals with Autism

Laurent Mottron a1 c1, Karine Morasse a2 and Sylvie Belleville a3

Abstract Memory tasks were administered to 14 high-functioning individuals with autism  and 14 typically developing individuals matched on chronological age and verbal intelligence

EEG spectral analysis of wakefulness and REM sleep in high functioning autistic spectrum disorders

Anne-Marie Daousta, √Člyse Limogesa, Christianne Bolduca, Laurent Mottron, Roger Godboutab
Accepted 15 January 2004.

Abstract Objective

The aim of this study was to investigate the involvement of temporo-occipital regions in the pathophysiology of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) by using REM sleep and waking EEG.

In Michelle Dawson's Autism world distinctions between low and high functioning autism are arbitrary. I can't wait to see the sequel to her commentary when, hopefully, she will analyze and comment on the many, many studies published by her colleague, High Functioning Autism expert, Dr. Laurent Mottron.  It will also be interesting to see Ms Dawson's own research involving non verbal "autistics" living in psychiatric hospitals and other secure institutions because they are too low functioning to live in most group home settings.


Mom on a Mission said...

Once again Harold you have presented an excellent commentary on the absolute lunacy of Michelle Dawson's opinion. Thanks.

Kent A. said...

Ms. Dawson's view of functioning levels fails to mention that she has never spent time with a low functioning autistic or even a moderate functioning autistic. Instead, she reads other peoples work, extracts arguments out of context and presents them as her thesis. She's actually quite misinformed. I invite her to Greensboro NC to visit my son's school where she can clearly see the difference. But she will never do that because she is afraid of having to face reality.

Perhaps a little video of a LFA with her words overlaid would be helpful to demonstrate the absurdity of her views?