AUTISM: ETHICS AND MISREPRESENTATION OF IDENTITY

The following is a blog written by Philip Wylie. As a short introduction Philip Wylie was born in Liverpool, UK. He has worked as Company Director, Business Manager, Company Secretary, Finance Manager, Interim Manager, Business Advisor, Tax Consultant, Sales Representative, and Chief Accountant for several SMEs and three top international companies in UK and the Middle East. He is a Fellow of The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (FCA) and holds an MBA (London).

Since moving to Southeast Asia in 2003, Philip has facilitated workshops and worked as a business broker and advisor with Sunbelt Asia in Thailand. Philip has also written several books on subjects ranging from business to travel and culture.

In November 2011, Philip discovered that he had Asperger syndrome. Since then he wrote “Very Late Diagnosis of Asperger’s” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2014) and originated the Nine Degrees of Autism developmental model. Nine Degrees of Freedom became a book presently available through Amazon.com.

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The Nine Degrees of Autism team unanimously agree (among 86% of respondents) that it is unethical to misrepresent our neurotype (eg: neurotypical, autistic or narcissistic) to people with different neurotypes. Although such practices may support survival, chameleon-like behaviour is neither authentic nor honest or ethical.

Although Professor Stephen Shore believes that misrepresentation of identity is unethical he asks, “What if someone has to claim to be an NT (or more likely just not disclose that they have autism) in order to keep their job?  Doing so, (ie hiding their true neurotype) comes at great personal cost and in some ways, societal costs, as the greater population is denied the possibility of developing an increased awareness, acceptance and appreciation of autism.”

However, in many developed countries there are laws to protect autistic people in the workplace, meaning that it would be illegal for an employer to fire a person on the grounds of their neurotype alone. On this point, Shore says, “Although people with autism are protected under ADA there can be all kinds of “other” reasons to let an employee go that cannot be traced back to a disclosure of autism.  This problem becomes particularly egregious when an aspect of autism causes confusion in the employer and is misattributed to willful, volitional behavior.  Whereas, in fact, that individual may just not perceive the hidden curriculum that is infused in the workplace and everywhere else.”

Both Professor Manuel Casanova and Rod Morris unveiled a sinister aspect to this issue of identity misrepresentation. Casanova says, “There are many people with personality disorders that are representing themselves as autistics, which is a major problem because some self-diagnosed individuals would not otherwise comply with the medical criteria for a diagnosis of autism.  This trend is now quite popular and discussed in the internet. They believe that by taking an online survey they would comply with criteria, which is not the case. This is even fostered by celebrities (e.g., Jerry Seinfeld) who have proclaimed to fall into the spectrum.”

“The darker side is that some individuals who are self-diagnosed really have personality disorder (e.g., borderline or antisocial). They take the soapbox to proclaim that all of their problems are due to society, without accepting personal responsibility. For them the world is black or white, either you accept their opinion or you are the enemy. They have never had any friends and now they claim autism was the reason for the same and they tend to be extremely manipulative. Some of them use Irlen lenses as an “autism disguise”.  They proclaim the gifts of autism but readily ignore those severely affected because they are not like themselves,” says Casanova.

Morris believes that being untruthful about our neurotype, “reinforces the notion of stigma and shamefulness as well as inconsistency, especially if the person is mentoring or being an example of what it means to be autistic. Again though, I would put include ethical boundaries with this, such as if the person still coming to terms with their own diagnosis and identity and is weary of ‘coming out’, and if the individual in a position and surrounded by people who would cause harm if they were to disclose publicly? I think maybe a more pertinent question would also be those who do not have a formal diagnosis, but who declare that they are autistic to the public? For example, you could have someone who is a Psychopath or a narcissist infiltrating autistic groups and causing great harm. I for one would never come out as autistic if I wasn’t formally diagnosed and the diagnosis was not correct.”

Morris and Casanova lead us to the frightening fact that out there are antisocial and sadistic people pretending to be autistic so they can access groups of vulnerable individuals to prey upon. Morris comments, “I have heard other people in autism online groups having difficulties with trolls. These are generally psychopaths or/and narcissists who see autistic folk as easy prey, and thus causing upset within the groups.”

Of course, the issue of autism support groups being infiltrated by devious identity fraudsters could be curtailed by asking all group participants to show their formal diagnosis. However, Morris says that many people who run autism groups take participants on their word without asking for sight of their diagnosis.

There may even be sociopaths and narcissists in charge of autism academic departments and Asperger support groups so they can witness the suffering of vulnerable people and even exacerbate their pain. One potential respondent who previously facilitated an Asperger’s support group says, “I’m passing on the questions as they are outside my scope of expertise.” This response implies that some autism facilitators do not need to abide to any code of ethics or even consider ethics with autistic people.

Dr Altazar Rossiter’s response follows, “To me this is a demonstration of self-rejection being played out in someone’s life expression. If s/he is truly on the spectrum, then it’s evidence of an inner struggle and lack of self-acceptance. Here I would do my best to hold a compassionate perspective, understanding the conflict and pain that must be experienced internally with this. The fear of being found out, by either side, puts this person on a razor’s edge all the time. There can be little inner peace, much inner turmoil and fear…

If the person is not on the spectrum, then we have self-deception at best along with a great deal of inner confusion if s/he believes that s/he is. If s/he is quite aware s/he is not on the spectrum and is pretending it begs the question of what the motives are for this behaviour. Either way we’re in the realm of psychological distress – if not worse. Even if they expect to profit in some way from making such a false claim, it still suggests mental instability of some kind to me. And profiting by pretending to be ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘disabled’ in some way relation to the regular world just sucks.”

Louise Page says about misrepresentation of our neurotype, “I feel it is denying the authenticity of how an autistic person deeply and genuinely identifies themselves as truly being autistic. You are either identifying as being autistic or not. You are NT or not. This also disrespects those who struggle with aspects of autism and, on another hand, belittles the gifts of the autistic individual.”

To conclude, this survey highlights many problems created by people who misrepresent their neurotype, and that the majority of The Nine Degrees of Autism team believes that such behaviour is unethical.

10 responses to “AUTISM: ETHICS AND MISREPRESENTATION OF IDENTITY

  1. Dear Manuel

    You raise some really excellent point about the “autism politics” and “autism identity” and personalty disorders (which can co-exist with a person with autism), in the context of the post it really highlights some important points about what “autism is” (in terms of a “fruit salad/clustering of pre-existing conditions) and what can interact with it. I like that you can talk/blog about real things and not investing in stereotypes that in and around autism. Kindest regards Paul

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment. The blog was written by Philip but he quoted my opinion. We have to keep discussing these issues openly. They are of major importance.

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  2. I have a couple of questions: What is the meaning of this writing? What do references to “neuro-types” mean in this article?

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  3. Hola Manuel, que bueno leer el blog… perdemos el objeto y el objetivo, el objeto es la persona con autismo y el objetivo es su padecimiento… entendamos que es un modo “neurodiverso” y por ello adhiero que NO se trata de un trastorno o enfermedad. Pero ello no priva a la condición de padecimiento, angustia, “sentir que no encaja”, para la psiquiatría clásica, el principio de certeza, ayuda a pesquisar estados alterados de conciencia, tanto que el sujeto no es consciente de su padecimiento, NO sucede eso con la persona con autismo. Creo que efectivamente hay un gran número de personas auto- diagnosticadas, que no padecen la condición (por lo tanto no son autistas), mas bien tienen un goce (en términos psicoanalíticos) por pretender esta condición y ese grupo conforma cualquier otro plano de análisis , lejos del autismo. donde la conducta autista representa un modelo estereotipado. Excelente, no se si fui claro en la idea que intento transmitir.
    Saludos

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hola Humberto.

      In my humble opinion, if you have got enough awareness of the world to get yourself into a state where you feel that you don’t belong, then you ought to have enough awareness to get yourself out of that state. It’s all in the way you look at it. There is nothing “autistic” in sentir que uno no encaja. When feelings of not belonging are painful or disturbing, how exactly are you going to get rid of them through calling yourself autistic? Is it not another form of denial, suppression and repression to mask from your yourself what is really going on?

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  4. Gracias Claudia, lo que te comente en privado y necesito ser mas claro..
    Las personas que se auto diagnostican con Austismo / Asperger, como tú lo dices, tienen un “problema” que no es ni Autismo ni Asperger, creo lo mismo. Necesitan sus 15 min de “gloria”, (es tú ejemplo) y coincido… agrego , como quise expresar antes, que NO padecen los síntomas de lo que ellos mismos se auto diagnostican, más bien “utilizan” este auto diagnóstico en propio beneficio, se esconden detrás de los principios de Neurodiversidad, y “agreden” como hacen con Manuel Casanova, a quienes los denuncian los desenmascaran u osan, poner en duda la calidad de un auto diagnóstico.
    en mi opinión, estas personas, NO quieren salir de su “rotulo” ya que , obtienen de una u otra manera, algún beneficio… Ninguna persona de Condición Autista o Asperger se “beneficia” con serlo, y ninguna se auto diagnostica.

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