This Blog is written by a person with autism who is a careful observer of the Spectrum scene. Claudia Mazzucco is a writer, researcher, historian, editor and teacher of the history of golf. The hypothesis that she offers is that it is worth knowing the differences between the symptoms of possible autism and behavioral issues that look like autism but they are not.
It is quite odd. I would never have thought of having autism as a lifelong disorder until I came to the United States and became familiar with those in the social media who are inducing the disorder in themselves. Life is indeed full of contrasts and surprises. When I was a girl of seven years old, I was diagnosed with autism by my pediatrician Dr. Nazario. My grandma Irma shielded me, in those early years, from the knowledge of having autism. But she knew, although she could not then acknowledge it, that she was not protecting me; I had to fight it out for myself. This diagnosis was later confirmed in London in the summer of 2001 and in the United States last March.
Much as we might wish it otherwise, fake news on the nature of autism has been passed on in the last twenty years: that autism has a milder cousin called Asperger’s. Why should we think they are related? Neurodiversity is making the most of the “distinction” between being autistic and neurotypical, trying to mislead the rest of the world into believing that there is a real difference between the two. Though it is a plain fact that a great number of people are referred to or consider themselves to be autistic, the meanings implied by the term “autistic” in this context may be as many and as personal as the number of claimants. It may simply mean that the individual feels that he has traits of personality of a distinct characteristic which separate them from the rest of the people in this world. They may also use the term to indicate the sense of estrangement which runs deep in the modern world. We are reaching a state of affairs, however, where those who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s, especially in adulthood, and belong to the Neurodiversity Movement should have nothing to say about comprehending the essential nature of what I’d call classic autism, which is a neurological disorder, often resulting in lack of integration and synchronization across the large-scale cortical network.
I write from the experience of a person who has survived classic autism with the limitations and effects of the disorder still present in myself. When you have classic autism, sensation, reflection, feeling and intuition are different activities separated from one another. Things being what they are, perhaps it would be better if both parties – those who survived classic autism and Aspies – did not dispute on whether (or not) supporting a cure, ABA, mercury causation theory, or disability-model. Both parties should not misjudge or underappreciate the other. We have separate – not mutual – problem to be solved. That we are under the same category in the DSM is a mélange which excites ridicule and gives disgust.
The problem in autism is not so much in finding who is really autistic but in recognizing who is not. When people call themselves “autistic” these days, they usually do not conceptualize what they mean by that. I’ve made a constant effort to perceive their interpretation of autism as much as possible from within. However, each time self-described autistic people define autism as “a different way of perceiving and responding to the world,” I want to ask them immediately to present evidence that their way of perception and response to the world is unconventional. On the basic of lack of evidence, one is bound to ask whether they believe that two “neurotypical” people have identical ways of thinking so that the one could not be distinguished from the other. No two persons are completely identical in voice and thought, though they are built in the same way, so the mind of every person differs although it shares something common and universal so that the mind of one can make contact with the mind of another.
Neurologists and psychologists throughout the world could easily demonstrate that each human brain is unique. As psychologist Tom Kitwood said:
“The key functioning part is a system of around ten thousand million … neurons, with their myriads of branches and connections, or synapses. A synapse is a point at which a “message” moves from one neuron to another, thus creating the possibility of very complex “circuits.” So far as is known, the basic elements of this system, some general features of its development and most of the “deeper” forms of circuitry (older in evolutionary terms) are genetically “given.” On the other hand, the elaboration of the whole structure and particularly the cerebral cortex is unique to each individual and not pre-given. The elaboration, then, is epigenetic, subject to processes of learning that occur after the genes have had their say. Each human face is unique; so also is each human brain.”
There is no greater declaration than to declare the obvious. It is easy to declare that in the past it was common for people with autism to go undiagnosed or received no diagnosis at all; it is much more difficult to provide evidence because you don’t bother to look for medical records and take its non-existence for granted. Neurodiversity should have declared what is obvious: that they would only feel a connection to others by noticing they are the same people as everyone else. For if it is true that their self-definition as “autistics” give them a strong sense of common identity, what then constitutes an autistic identity? Is it an abstract identity or is it directly related to a specific culture?
It is the infinite variety that makes people on this planet interesting. America as a whole, which has become through its own history hospitable to all kinds of differences, accepts and understands their self-definition as “autistics.” In America, you are what you say you are. But if we read about those who have come to believe they have autism, or promote themselves as «autistic» in social media, as if there is a philosophy of life behind this “identity,” we will find that people in the spectrum of Asperger’s are prone to believe that what they experienced in their lives does not happen to other people and because of this (false) belief their experiences must be the result of a neurological difference.
Sometimes I look at the cover of John Elder Robinson’s book, Look Me in the Eye, and I perform a little exercise of thought and imagination. I try to imagine what I would do if I were the mother of this child, and if someone is yelling at him to produce such a reaction, I would first protect my child and tell the offender, don’t ever – ever – talk to my child that way again. And if you don’t apologize, don’t ever speak to him again. Now, don’t you think that it could be remotely possible that instead of suffering from autism, Robinson was a victim of child abuse? The cover of his book would certainly suggest that.
Obviously, in Asperger’s the «autistic» symptoms are a by-product of a great variety of psychological and psychosomatic factors. To know to what extent one’s auto-induced autism derives from the particular abuse they suffered at home, the people they encounter early in their lives who did not listen to them compassionately, what cultural factors have contributed significantly to their self-diagnosis, and so on, and to what extent any early traumatic event made relating to the other not possible, these are mysteries not given to us to know. Nonetheless, many were forged by trauma, which permeates much of their personal narratives and their very identity. With time the events themselves evolved into a core element of the person’s identity, incorporating a perpetual sense of loss – a loss they insist must be recognized not by the perpetrator but by society itself. Later, they would imbue themselves with a sense of exceptionalism; hence the baseless belief that they are “neuro-divergent” and see the world differently. I’ve come to the decision that it is a pointless act to persuade them otherwise.
The notion of Asperger’s as having its own pathology makes good sense. It stems from an unyielding faith in personal-spaces and a quickness to separate themselves from others by creating fake and divisive walls or borders. They are obsessed with not being like the other, and therefore tend to exaggerate the differences. They are terrified of the projection of the other onto themselves.
I’ve chosen to understand the origin of social deficiencies, which are currently misinterpreted as “autism,” in the context of the world situation. We live through a time of extraordinary turmoil and chaos. Images of alienation and isolation abound. How is it possible to establish meaningful relationships when your neighbor is a stranger? My theory is that when someone – with no development issues whatsoever – experiences extreme difficulty in communicating with other people which could lead to a diagnosis of ASD, it is not because, I’d suggest, their brain is «autistic» or he is suffering of Asperger’s; rather, it is because in this sophisticated technological age we have yet to define the rules of social interaction between people who are strangers to each other. If we cannot establish communication, neither theory of mind nor empathy will ever be possible.
For instance, what happens if your overriding concern in life is centered in the self? Well, in that case you might not be open to spending time with people who won’t agree with you in everything. You might be less likely to believe there are thousands of people who had had the same experience and don’t call themselves “autistics.” You might even begin to see other people as too ordinary – or worse, objects – in your quest for upward uniqueness. Gradually you might start to see everything as revolving around you, what you believe your condition is, and desire to be different.
It takes a deliberate effort to solve the “mystery” of how to be socially effective. While socially skilled people have an intuitive sense of social situations, Aspies, or awkward people have to be deliberate to understand other people’s intentions and figure out the appropriate social response. This is neither a disability nor a neurological difference. To have a “localized processing style” as Uta Frith at University College London says, which describes people who tend to narrowly focus on some of the trees rather than the entire forest, is neither a disability nor a neurological difference.
As to the idle speculation that many famous people had Asperger’s Syndrome: People have many mistaken assumptions about genius and autism. Some people have qualities not shared by everyone. Take the case of Thomas Jefferson. He was devoted to the ideal of improving mankind but had comparatively little interest in people in particular. Indeed, he knew very little of the nature of man. He rarely ever revealed his inner feelings. He was somewhat remote, subtle, and serene by all appearances. He scarcely said a word in Congress. Jefferson had many exceptional traits. But I have never yet been able to fathom why, instead of speculating that Jefferson was not diagnosed with autism because autism has yet to be discovered, why don’t we simply conclude that there have always been people with a lack of fascination for their fellow beings and that it is utterly unnecessary to describe them as having some form of autism?
P. S. The Group Autistic Worldwide on Facebook has overreacted to my article, and it was deleted after I shared it in the Group, and asked a few angry members questions like «What is the difference between yourself and someone without autism?» «What reason do you have to think that you are autistic?» or «And you feel that on what basis?»
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P.S. 2 Are these questions so dangerous that they cannot be talked about?
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I definitely agree that the diagnosis of Autism should not be applied lightly. It is true that it is important to look for many factors as to why a person behaves the way they do.
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I think it was a serious mistake to lump Asperger’s in with autism as two forms of the same condition.A few neurodiversity advocates,like John Elder Robison have also said as much.There was a very interesting discussion about just what we should consider to be autism at the last IACC meeting,and if the IACC should allow representation of the more severely disabled autistics,because it was clear they were being underserved.There was a woman,I forget who,that spoke up and said she wanted to include intellectual disability,and some of the various medical problems in the DSM description of autism,but she was voted down.
Claudia,you don’t often hear of someone recovering from classic autism.I guess it could be done,if you didn’t have severe illnesses causing one regression after another,well into adulthood,
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Two cases spring to mind. One, Raun K. Kaufman has recovered from classic autism. As a child, Raun was diagnosed with severe Autism. His parents developed The Son-Rise Program, which enabled Raun to completely recover from his Autism with no trace of his former condition. His story was recounted in the book, Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues, and the NBC-TV movie, Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love.
Two, Temple Grandin has also recovered. Thirty-one years ago when Temple’s first book, Emergence Labeled Autistic was published in 1986, it was promoted as «A true story that is both uniquely moving and exceptionally inspiring, Emergence is the first-hand account of a courageous autistic woman who beat the odds and cured herself.»
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And Kaufman himself wrote an autobiography in the last five years.
I used to see the gentleman on newsgroups and also visiting the message board of the Autism Treatment Centre of America. There was a lecture in the UK in September-October 2001.
I wonder if a lot of people bought EMERGENCE because of that promise? I acquired it from a psychologist who acquired it from an autism library in 1997, and by that time, the gloss of recovery had fallen in a big way.
I do agree that Grandin is courageous. The story can be moving and inspiring as you take it. «Beat whose odds? Cured herself from what?» is something a critical reader would ask.
The introduction does tend to support that narrative and if we never got any further we still would believe Grandin had recovered.
Recovered from colitis and from panic attacks and the associated hypersensitivity, yes. Recovered from bullying and discrimination and intolerance – that bit is tougher.
Another person who comes up in these «recovery» discussions, Claudia, is Georgiana Stehli Thomas. She wrote her book Overcoming Autism in the late 1990s-early 2000s and was the first American to experience Auditory Integration Therapy as practised by Guy Berard. This was when she was 11 years old in 1977 or about to turn 12.
Unlike Kaufman or Grandin, she had been institutionalised. [If we count the Mountain Day School as institutionalisation…] She went to Bellevue and Childville from when she was 3 to when she was 10.
The NOS magazine had more or less a transcript of IACC [Inter Agency Coordinating Committee] for October 2017.
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So his traumatic childhood is called autism out of John Elder Robinson’s fantasies. Nobody should be diagnosed with Asperger’s or in the ASD if there is such a traumatic event (like being a victim of child abuse) in their past that could explain their social awkwardness or isolation.
It is a basic instinct of the human psyche to try to solve problems. It perfects our character and develops resilience. There is not telling the psychological damage such a diagnosis might do; in many cases, the moment they receive it healing becomes impossible. Because the belief they have “autism” that what they have is a matter of genes or nature doesn’t allow them to be aware of the real reason of their suffering. The diagnosis thus disregards the need for soul searching.
The testimonies of people with Asperger’s – those diagnosed in adulthood or in their teens – are perfectly consonant to unresolved issues that should be kept private in the doctor-patient confidentiality. Not to be publicly as “autism cases,” or examples of “Neurodiversity.”
Paula J. Caplan (author of the book They Say You’re Crazy) is a dissident psychologist who along with a with a group of psychiatric and allies have raised fundamental questions about the harm that often results from psychiatric diagnosis and called upon the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to stop it.
The group wants to send three main messages to the general public about psychiatric diagnosis:
1. It simply is not scientifically grounded.
2. It does not help improve outcomes for it doesn’t reduce human suffering.
3. It carries enormous risks for the individual so labeled.
In a Blog written by Khali Raymond (The Art of Autism, November 10, 2017) he outlined what I would call a story of harm by a diagnosis of Asperger’s. Khali said,
«Living with Asperger’s is not an easy feat. It never is. Imagine yourself in a room full of people. All of those people are laughing and mingling. Meanwhile, you aren’t. You’re sitting there in the corner all alone, watching everyone make nice with each other. Nobody even acknowledges that you’re there. You just sit there, crushed from the inside. You have trouble expressing yourself because you don’t know how to. Your fear of being rejected eats you up. Your fear or feeling inadequate to others eats you up. As you’re living with this disorder, those whom you’re around can’t understand your pain. You’re constantly feeling glum and angry. You feel as if this condition drags you into an abyss … an abyss that leads you to a point of no return.»
«I have this feeling. Growing up, I could never fit in with others. As a kid, I couldn’t look an adult in the eye. I never had the capacity to. There was just something about looking at another person that made me feel very uncomfortable. In social situations, my heart would pound very fast. I would tend to get nervous. I would always be the one that got left out because I couldn’t relate to the other children.»
First of all, I don’t believe for a minute that a family who does love you will make you feel unfit, and it is the duty of a loving and caring family to initiate the process by which one of its members could relate to others. Khali is a sensitive and emotionally fragile young man who perhaps would never recover from being diagnosed with Asperger’s. That is why is important to challenge it.
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The effects of autism and the effects of abuse are superimposed on each other yet clearly distinguished and distinguishable – if your clinician is good and understands both.
Usually through timing and history. That is what a good diagnosis can be – a sense of history as I think you referred to in your reply.
And then we get into the hole of autism-related abuse.
The late Polly Samuel’s first book – Lawrence Bartak was very clear on this – unlike others in the field – including many psychoanalysts.
[Nobody Nowhere: 1992 and Bartak’s introduction and Anthony Clare’s preface].* will check to see if it is Storr or Clare.
Fantasy is another realm altogether from imagination and from fancy. The cognitivists [like Vermeulen and Peeters and Frith] talk about autism as a lack of social imagination in great part, especially imagining about the past and the future and outside the present.
Which is where you come in to talk about problem solving and humanity and how that lumps and splits.
And autistic people do do a lot of soul-searching. The idea that there was «no power to introspect or report» in classical autism is one that went out in the mid-1990s, though again it may have taken clinicians time to catch up.
Anyone following the Society for Neuroscience symposium in 2017? The Spectrum crew are.
K. Raymond’s work is awesome and mindblowing. Thought I would read some of his poems and his autobiography. He mentions in the early pages how 2011 was the worst year of his life.
Like Stephen Wiltshire – though a bit younger because Raymond was 2 and Wiltshire was 3 – he had a father die, his father.
He has used it as one of many life-changing events in defining his story.
And again, unresolved issues do run alongside like a brook and a river.
I have read similar books to THEY SAY YOU ARE CRAZY. There is one called CRAZY THERAPISTS which was written in the 1990s and I read last year.
And there are leaps and condensations in K Raymond’s account for the journalistic audience who goes to Art of Autism.
A good paper on testimonio is in the Journal of Literary Disability from 2008. It is by Irene Rose and published by Liverpool University Press.
And there is another about Latin American perspectives of prosthesis and disability in 2009 at the State University of New York, Albany:
Haz clic para acceder a 63308.pdf
[I wondered if La Teleton was in Argentina when you were growing up? From the dates – it seems not – it began in 1979].
When I was younger I would not speculate on anyone famous or fictional or who had died – if it were not given first.
[even though that Hundred Years of Solitude and Asperger Syndrome is tempting; all too tempting!]
And I made a list like your 1, 2, 3 as well.
The sense of invisibility and invalidity/invalidism.
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Also most clinicians like to make a distinction between high functioning autism,and Asperger’s.I do wonder if those with HFA,rather than Asperger’s are those more likely to have comorbid mental illness.
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Robison was indeed a victim of child abuse from his mother and psychiatrists. As was his brother Augusten Burrows.
And, yes, abuse does cover over autism sometimes for some people.
And I read someone on Quora asking about parents and resentment.
The answerer talked about «relearning how to parent».
I also liked your points about «upward uniqueness» or «peak unique».
The alienation hypothesis is a good one.
«Milder cousin» theories were counter-intuitive for me as I saw «asperger people» suffer as much or more. Oppression Olympics – I hope not.
I also saw schizotypal/schizoid/multiple-complex developmental disorder. And Asperger declared «his syndrome» to be a personality condition.
Localised processing style = cognitive style. Very strategic and adaptive.
It would be good to talk more about personal spaces and boundaries – thinking of the five-year-old who asks a stranger to use their phone. Agnostic as to neurotype / neurotribe.
Symptomatology as loss?
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Claudia, it seems the definition of autism for you, is what you make it. You were diagnosed, your autism is real, and mine and many other people’s is not.
Your argument is similar to that of parents who suggest my autism is «something else’, because their child is more severely impacted, and that is real autism, so my condition must be something else.
Then there are those people you’ve engaged online. They too are self deluded about their autism.
Do you see the inherent arrogance of that position? Do you believe that your personal insight has more weight than the ADOS evaluators and neurologists who called me autistic at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital, at the University of Pittsburgh’s autism clinic, at Carnegie Mellon University and even Sapienza University of Rome?
All those evaluations and more have appeared in my stories over the years, as have stories of my participation in various autism biomarkers studies, and amazingly enough, they too put me in the autistic group.
I don’t know about any of those other fake autistic people online, but apparently you do, as you dismiss whatever claims they may make.
You cite the cover of my book as evidence that I am abused, not autistic. You don’t seem to consider a person may be both. Part of your judgement was the photo on the book’s cover, which is not me.
I wish you the best in your journey. You may get farther looking at yourself, where you have more of the facts, as opposed to speculating on me and others online, about whom you know nothing.
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Thank you John.
It is indeed easy to become misled by covers. They would not put you on for ethical reasons.
And the parent comparison is a big one. Look at Escher and the Matrix for instance.
As well as the golf book and the windows book, CM wrote an autobiography/memoir.
«I write from the experience of a person who has survived classic autism with the limitations and effects of the disorder still present in myself. When you have classic autism, sensation, reflection, feeling and intuition are different activities separated from one another. Things being what they are, perhaps it would be better if both parties – those who survived classic autism and Aspies – did not dispute on whether (or not) supporting a cure, ABA, mercury causation theory, or disability-model. Both parties should not misjudge or underappreciate the other. We have separate – not mutual – problem to be solved. That we are under the same category in the DSM is a mélange which excites ridicule and gives disgust.»
This is the bit which got me thinking – certainly about how «sensation, reflection, feeling and intuition are different activities separated from one another».
And there is a lot of misjudgement and underappreciation between different neurotribes.
Lydia X. Z. Brown wrote a great post about extremities and how they get in the way of understanding one another. And Mel Baggs looks at this a lot – she is probably the most accused current autistic of being fake or faking/inducing her symptoms.
Self-delusion is pervasive – I myself cannot think of a person who has not self-deluded about at least one thing important to them or even unimportant things. This is probably the «reflection» aspect.
[Self delusion – I speak as if it were a drug or a habit!]
As for «excit[ing] ridicule and giv[ing] disgust» – that I have noticed is a common reaction or response.
I do remember reading about at least one of your evaluations, JER, because I had read SWITCHED ON last year or the year before. The preponderance of the evidence is there.
And if there is any faking, it is because people tend to fake well much more than they fake sick. And then there’s the whole Lie scale about faking good/faking bad.
Again – delusion seems different than lying – of the white sort or the gain sort.
And there is a thing – fakery tends to attract fakery or it is sought out consciously or unconsciously.
And there is thin thinking and thick thinking.
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To Adelaide Dupont
I have a friend, David, who lives in London. He told me about a man, Albert, he met in Saint Andrews, Scotland, twenty one years ago. Albert is in his sixties now. He is a natural systematizer, local caddie, and music historian, who collect antique golf equipment and trophies. He does not have a cell-phone but know how to use a computer. He knows everyone in his small village in Northeast Scotland, but has no close friends. He lives alone with the company of his two dogs. He never married, never had a girlfriend. When David found him at the pub one Saturday night this past summer, he asked him if he might take a short psychology test called the Autism Spectrum Quotient. Albert simply declined. «I would never consider that,» he said.
So let’s offer this big question. Why do some men and women accept a diagnosis and so many others – with exactly the same “symptoms” or characteristics – never even consider the question when they are told they may be in the Spectrum?
What is it that compel them to accept a diagnoses in an ASP (when it happens in adulthood) that drives people to embrace it without scientific proof that the disorder actually exists?
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I am glad you commented and I hope you will bear with me for replying to a question I’ve always wanted to ask you. Have you ever been asked «What is the difference between yourself and someone without autism»?
When I’ve read in your first two books about the experiences in your life that compelled you to believe you are autistic, there was no experience in there that did not happen to someone else who does not have a diagnosis in the Spectrum. For example, you’ve written, «Because I’m autistic, I have always been oblivious to unspoken cues from other people.» One, when in childhood you are able to develop a cognitive system that would allow you to, say, attend school (learn how to read and write), and focus attention in favorite toys or subjects of your interest, obliviousness to unspoken clues from other people, is simply a matter of choice. It is actually possible to induce that state in yourself. Note: in the initial description of ‘infantile autismʼ, which went on to become a classic in the field, Kanner also included «being oblivious» but you must be oblivious to everything around you. (Like I was at age 2) Not only to the expressions on people’s faces that would give you visual cues about their feelings. Two, no one is really concerned with surroundings unless they develop a special interest, which is also an ability that should be consciously developed.
The kind of autism which I read about in the social media, may be what Joseph Dumit has called “an illnesses you have to fight to get.” You fought to have a diagnosis (which was Asperger Syndrome, not autism) because, say, you felt he did not belong at school. Well, NOBODY BELONGS. There are countless testimonies of this feeling of alienation everywhere.
As human beings, we are not born with the intuitive ability to pretend, empathize with other people or read unspoken cues. These faculties don’t came with us as part of our nature, they emerge in the environment in which we grow up, they are being nurtured with all the particulars of the civilization of the country, the city, and the religion of our parents. Our nature must be socialized and formed by our family, the school you attend, the friends you made.
You are unique, in the sense every person is unique, but you are not an «autistic person as such» (there is no «autistic person as such.») I am primarily concerned with the fact that today the diagnosis in ASP has become a circus. The smallest minutia of your personality that looks weird to the outsider could be turned into a characteristic of autism.
P.S. My definition of autism is described in Leo Kanner’s 1943 paper on this neurological disorder.
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You are right with respect to written descriptions. I could say “I rocked back and forth in an autistic” way and anyone could say they do the same thing. You could say, what is an autistic way, and I guess it’s in the eyes of the beholder; the writer and reader. They may imagine it the same or they may not.
There is no behavior in my book that anyone else could not have had or expperienced, whether they are autistic or not, or schizophrenic, depressed or anything else at all.
The same is true for any written description. It’s all interpretation and opinion.
That is why psychiatrists don’t render diagnoses from essays.
I don’t think I’m autistic based on how I act. I was first told of my autism by one therapist and then over the years the diagnosis was confirmed by a succession of others. I accept what they say, which is quite different from your characterization of concluding I’m autistic based on self observation of behavior.
Another error in your writing is that I never “fought to get a diagnosis.” The Asperger diagnosis came to me out of the blue at age 40. I wasn’t seeking anything in terms of diagnosis in school. You render a lot of wrong judgments from inaccurate assumptions about my life history.
That said, it’s your life and you can assume or conclude what you want. As can I.
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You have a point there. I made a mistake for the sake of brevity. Without the aid of a book, I am not actually able to enter into long sentences which would carry me to the right conclusion without entertaining several turns of phrase and modes of expression. Sometimes, seeking for conciseness, I express ideas in the wrong way.
Perhaps you can clean up something for me, what do you mean by “diagnoses from essays”?
With regards to Asperger’s (or autism’s diagnosis in children and adults who manifest the signs after suffering ordeals at school, the workplace and their personal lives) I am among the many who believe that the whole diagnosis criteria must be pronounced invalid by the APA for it is patently absurd, pejorative and counterproductive.
In neurological language no mental illness is described by Asperger’s Syndrome. Failure to make friendships? Literal interpretation? There is not a subtype of autism that affects in exclusivity communication and socialization skills, or it is characterized by failure to develop friendships, the inability to empathize, narrowed interests, repetitive or restrictive patterns of behaviors. I do not debate the existence, in many cases, of a mental health disorder or a psychiatric condition, but it is always traceable to a triad of basic elements that could explain both.
A diagnosis of this Autism’s subtype is today nothing more than a label to get services or a scholarship to attend a university. There is nothing wrong with that. Suppose a child of ten years old, who finds impossible to concentrate at school, does not speak his feelings and is uncomfortable in family reunions, is labeled “autistic” because his parents are desperate to get government help to pay for a tutor. His parents must bear in mind their child is not different. And the child must know when he becomes a man and, say, the tutor gets him through college that he should not describe himself as having a disorder because the diagnosis in the Spectrum was just one of those things you need to do sometimes to get advantage of the system.
It is easy to lack social skills if you are actively hostile to other people, show apathy and disinterest in social events, and feel yourself at odds with life and the world. Like the people who would prefer having a mental disorder over being a jerk, or the geek who wants to inherit the earth from the neurotypical. The potential for faking the signs of Asperger’s exists and will persist. According to Gary Greenberg, one math minded psychiatrist calculated that there were 1,256 combinations of symptoms that would meet the DSM-5’s Autistic Disorder criteria.
Because it is a fact that a large group of people has identified themselves with the diagnosis of Asperger’s in the last twenty years, that they now believe to be “neurodivergents,” I wish I could ask them to justify their claims in terms unrelated to science, neurology, and the clinical diagnosis of autism. They have become sincere, fervent believers in a diagnosis which was neither built upon scientific evidence nor upon meaningfully knowledge of the mind and – most importantly – the man (pediatrician Dr. Hans Asperger) after whom the disorder was named. Usually, this belief is harmless. But in many cases is also responsible for a range of emotional suffering, personality disorders, depression, and self-destruction.
I hope that people can abandon the diagnosis and reverse its dreadful effects by forming strong attachments to new ideas, people and causes. This is not something one can do readily, in part because it is extremely hard and in part because we don’t know in advance what kinds of commitments will come to be our salvation.
That was the main purpose of this essay.
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In asperger syndrome, aloof personality, lack of empathy, restricted and repetitive behaviors, or even comorbidities (ocd, sleep disorders, etc) are external manifestations of something much more profound (hemispherical dysfunctions, HPA axis disorders, etc)
Psychological features are only a way to discover it.
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P.S. Why should we be surprised if giving 1,256 options people drew false conclusions about their mental states? Abusing the manual of mental disorders is not new. Psychologist Ty Tashiro, the author of Awkward: the science of why we’re socially awkward and why that’s awesome is an expert versed in relationship who – just for the fun of it – has diagnosed in himself four mental disorders by following the criteria of the DSM 5.
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John I have not read any of your books,but I have seen your comments on Claudia’s recent blog post.over at Manuel Casanova’s blog.I am wondering what kind of criteria you were diagnosed under.Was it strictly social deficits?I do believe those who are diagnosed as very high functioning,make a lot of people,myself included,maybe not doubt,but at least question,their diagnosis.I also never got how people can «hide» their autism.I know people who were diagnosed with autism in their 30s,40s,and 50s.These are people who it it is clear have had autism,or something else,going on all along.They talk,but cannot talk or articulate well verbally.They stim.They have meltdowns.They may engage in mildly self abusive or pica related behavior.They may have poorly hidden mental health issues.You don’t seem to have any of this stuff.So I’m just curious how it came about that you were diagnosed.Have you ever written a column or blog post about your actual diagnosis?I think a lot of people would be interested in reading this,
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I look at this from the perspective of 1) a parent of a child who did show symptoms of ASD, and then got better, but still has severe apraxia, 2) an adult who is undiagnosed but somewhere on the spectrum, and 3) someone with experience communicating with self-described «adult autistics». From my perspective as a parent, I know that my child’s symptoms of autism go along with physiological symptoms as well: constipation, trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep, walking on tiptoes, walking with head to one side, inability or unwillingness to look people in the eye, rubbing fingers to the side of the eyes or in front of the eyes, nystagmus, seizure-like activity, livedo reticularis, candida… the list goes on… these are clusters of easily observable, almost tangible medical issues that go along with the more subtle neurological symptoms of autism. So we are talking about more than just a «quirky personality». For one, the parents of children with ASD, who are trying to address their children’s many obvious physical health issues, as well as their more subtle neurological issues, do not view this cluster of symptoms as a «gift». I do not view the fact that my daughter’s eyes get stuck in an upwards position for 15 seconds after some kind of exposure as a gift, for example. But this goes along with her cluster of symptoms. Many adults with ASD, however, view their ASD as a gift. So, this is one rift between these two different communities. As an adult on the spectrum, I see it’s pretty obvious that the issues facing children are increasing and much more serious than the self-described adult autistics want to notice. So, there is another rift between the two communities. Having quite a bit of communication between adult autistics, I would say that they are much more likely to believe that autism is purely genetic, and that autism does not involve environmental contributors, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They tend to believe that biomed is a form of torture – this includes a simple probiotic. They also tend to be extremely rigid in their beliefs.
Adult autistics also seem to believe to know they know absolutely everything about what it is like to have autism, when actually, they are only experiencing one type of autism – their type. Ultimately, these self-proclaimed experts on autism do not understand the new emerging forms of autism at all. They can’t seem to see outside of themselves. Ironically, perhaps this is proof they do have autism.
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To Apraxia Mama,
A person diagnosed in the Spectrum got a diagnosis of Asperger’s or following the criteria of what used to be called Asperger’s. There is a school of thought in psychiatry that dozen of disorders don’t exist, including Asperger’s, and I agree. Asperger’s is not a disorder. It is a belief. For those who have decided to embrace it, it is part of their identity. I have no doubt their feelings are real. They are burn with conviction – when the cause is themselves. Every version of autism is just another narrative, where self-delusion can be excused as “an alternative way of thinking» or “an opinion” because “it’s all relative” and everyone has their own version of a disorder that should be defined only neurological terms, which means objectively.
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