…because my role is that of a gadfly, “to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth” -Socrates
Several years ago I met autism’s self-proclaimed social gadfly, Jonathan Mitchel. Autism has made Jonathan’s life difficult; however, this has not prevented him from becoming an avid neuroscience reader with encyclopedic knowledge as to his condition. Many of his thoughts are now published in a popular blog started some 5 years ago (http://autismgadfly.blogspot.com/). A significant portion of the blogs express Jonathan’s opinions in regards to neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity is a term introduced several years ago by a sociologist named Judy Singer. Usage of the neologism was intended as a way of bypassing other terms like “disorder” and “impaired” that had negative connotations. In effect, many people within the neurodiversity movement believe that autism is not a disability and rather the result of normal variations in either the genome or the blueprint of brain connectivity. Unfortunately, neurodiversity has also been the rallying cry of a militant movement that accepts no criticisms. During Jonathan’s search to find a cure to some of his disabling symptoms, he has been called a “Nazi”, “traitor”, or even “a person waging war against the human rights of autistic individuals”. Regardless of hurtful comments Jonathan’s steadfast conviction has lead him to express his opinion and thereby to become a gadfly. The term aptly describes Jonathan’s painstaking provocation of the autism neurodiversity establishment by asking appropriate but nevertheless uncomfortable questions.
Among many positive attributes, Johnathan is a gifted writer and an avid poker player. Although he claims to lose more hands than he wins, it is not surprising that he decided on writing a story involving his hobby. The story is now published in book format and sold in a Kindle edition by Amazon. The same is entitled, “The Mu Rhythm Bluff”. The story could have been a reflection of the proverb, “Lucky in cards, unlucky in love”, but the autistic protagonist, Drake Dumas, is unlucky at both. At least this appears to be the case until he pursues treatment with a life-transforming technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) (see “Why Use Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Autism http://bit.ly/WgGkGB ). In the end, the treatment creates new opportunities as well as new challenges for the protagonist. As an aside, I have to wonder whether the initials of the protagonist, DD, are meant to stand for a term often used within our community: Developmental Disabilities.
The title of the book may be based on work by Lindsay Oberman and others in regards to mu rhythms. The basic idea being that these brain waves may be related to mirror neurons, and these in turn may be affected in autism (a hypothesis marked by a concatenated series of if’s which have never been proven). More recent work by Jaime Pineda has purported that neurofeedback of mu rhythms may be of benefit to autistic individuals. As an aside, despite the use of these reports for the story line, the whole theory on mirror neurons and autism has been thoroughly debunked (see https://corticalchauvinism.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-mirror-neurons-and-autism/ ).
“The Mu Rhythm Bluff” is an excellent read that denotes the trials and tribulations of the author himself. In a certain sense it may offer a glimpse into the neurodiversity debate as to whether pursuing treatment may or may not be beneficial. In asking Jonathan about a message or moral to the story, he said, “I don’t think there is any message or moral to the story of the “Mu Rhythm Bluff” except perhaps maybe somewhat of an acceptance and someone coming to peace (albeit to a limited extent) with their disability even if they are unhappy about being disabled. Or perhaps even though they want a relationship, they have to be careful of women who may be superficial or have an ulterior motive”.
This is a carefully crafted book that embodies the knowledge of the author based both on his reading of neuroscience as well as his personal experiences. For a fictional work it certainly denotes that many autistic individuals, like the author, clearly excel at Theory of Mind. The idea for the story line is intriguing and to those aware of Allan Snyder’s work on TMS the story may offer a ring of truth (see http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/22/magazine/22SAVANT.html?pagewanted=all).
(Note: My own grandson remains nonverbal and wheel chair bound. He has serious deficits in both gross and fine motor skills. Most of his life has been handicapped by relentless seizures. At one point in time he was considered a male Rett syndrome patient. I am happy that many high functioning individuals are satisfied with their own lives and feel no need in pursuing medical treatment. However, they are not representative of the majority of individuals within the autism spectrum. If there was a way for me to help my grandson I would certainly pursue the same.)
Jonathan Mitchell has his story page at http://www.jonathans-stories.com/