Friday, July 27, 2012

Invisible Real Autistics Suffer While Self Promoters Peddle False View of Autism Disorder As An Alternative, Superior Way of Thinking

Some self promoting, self proclaimed "geeks" are pushing a distorted view of autism disorders as being  the domain of different, even superior, thinkers.  Historical geniuses long dead are often cited as examples of "suspected" autistic thinkers. Of course, the self promoting ideologues do not go so far as to embrace possible evil "autistic thinkers".  Joe Scarborough was rightly criticized very recently for suggesting that an alleged mass murderer, whose name will not appear on this site, might be a person "on the autism scale".  Neurodiverisity autism "self advocates" were vehement in their criticism. Yet the same self promoting "autistics" will diagnose virtually every scientific, musical or artistic genius today, or long dead relics of history, as being or having been autistic.  Meanwhile those for whom autism is in fact a disorder, a disorder which limits their lives to institutional care in various forms, that inflicts bouts of serious, sometimes brutally serious self injury, those who wander to their demise, the many with autistic disorder who are intellectually disabled or generally lacking in cognitive development and understanding of the world are never mentioned by the self promoters of "aren't we smart" autism.

Yet another example of the misrepresentation of autism disorders as an alternative, superior way of thinking has been posted at the io9 web site under the title  How Autism is Changing the World for Everybody.  Admittedly io9 is not an online peer reviewed science journal.  It is a science fiction, futurism and fantasy oriented blog site.  That said the Changing the World article is breathless, even giddy, in its promotion of autism as superior thinking.  It features interviews with various neurodiversity promoters including online magazine writer and soon to be Penguin author Steve Silberman.  Neither Silberman nor the article's author, or anyone else referenced in the article,  mention that autism is in fact a disorder listed in the DSM and ICD manuals dealing with disorder.  No mention is made of the very severe challenges facing those with autism disorders.

Silberman has been busy writing articles online for several years promoting the neurodiversity,  alternative way of thinking picture that all too often is posted online, and in the mainstream media, as representing autism.  It has worked well for him and has landed him a book deal on autism and neurodiversity for Avery/Penguin to be published in 2013. Way to go Steve! Maybe you will land a movie deal too?

Bold prediction: assuming Silberman acknowledges the existence of those who actually have, and suffer from, the neurological, mental health disorder, soon to be officially recognized as Autism Spectrum Disorder, there will be nothing in Silberman's Penguin Neurodiversity Manifesto to help them. 


jonathan said...

When I first found out about Silberman's book, I wrote him pointing out how I suffered as someone on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. He acknowledged to me that autism can be a disabling condition and suggested I wait for his book to come out. I guess we can't judge a book by it's cover and I will wait until passing judgment, though I suspect there will be some things I won't be pleased with (nor you). However, is possible, based on his wired article, he will at least acknowledge that autism can be a disorder, alongside his statements about autism being a gift in some cases.

Steve Silberman said...


To be kind in the face of your latest unfair personal attack on me, because I know well the daily difficult struggles that you and your son face -- having talked to dozens of parents of profoundly disabled autistic kids, as well as autistic people themselves about their own suffering and challenges -- if you were more observant, you would have noticed that I did not tweet or Facebook that io9 article (in fact, I criticized it on Facebook in several different places) because I felt it misrepresented my views in many crucial ways, *particularly* in the way that it made light of how serious a disability autism is (like with the comment about "Rain Man.") I have no illusions about autism, and at this point, you've promoted this misguided article much more than I have, which is: not at all.

By the way, your comments about my allegedly massive book deal will be amusing to my husband, who is a high-school chemistry teacher (not, shall we say, a high-paying profession in the US) who has been patiently supporting me -- including paying our rent, food, expenses, and health insurance -- ever since my money totally ran out months ago. Believe me, I was earning a better living as a journalist for Wired (not Discover, as you claimed a couple of weeks ago). I turn down paying freelance jobs every week because I'm trying to write a book that will help both suffering parents and their suffering kids. That's one reason I keep forwarding tweets to you relevant to the pervasive corruption of Big Pharma. Should I stop?

Anyway, Harold, honestly, I wish you and your son well. I know you're trying to do the best you can for him. I'm trying to help in my own way.

Be well,
Steve Silberman

Unknown said...

Steve thank you for your response. I am disappointed though in the quality of that response and in particular with your opening salvo:

"To be kind in the face of your latest unfair personal attack on me"

That's quite an allegation Steve. To my knowledge it is untrue.

I criticize your promotion of a misleading, harmful ideology which distorts public understanding of the very serious challenges facing those with autism DISORDERS.

I am concerned that a major publisher like Penguin will promote further this harmful ideology.

If you consider those concerns to be personal attacks on you rather than attacks on the harmful ideology you promote so be it.

Unknown said...

Thank you jonathan. I do not believe for one second though that Steve Silberman, or any other promoter of Neurodiversity ideology, will acknowledge in any meaningful way that autism is a disorder and that it is characterized as a disorder because of the very serious challenges it presents to so many who suffer from it.