Yesterday, we were introduced to two new culprits of the greatest fallacy of a generation, Dr. Paul Steinburg and Benjamin Nugent. What is this great fallacy? That Asperger’s Syndrome is nothing more than a social disability that any quirky nerd can fit into. Afterall, every quirky nerd has difficulties in social interaction and usually a preoccupation in particular subject areas.
The fallacies continue to include that nonverbal Autistics are mentally retarded. That “Aspies” when put with “real Autistic” students have lowered self-esteem. That “real Autistics” fail to gain receptive and expressive speech. That no Autistic can have positive outcomes in life, be a police officer, learn to cope with their surroundings.
I wrote a letter to the editor and encourage you to do the same. I’m going to wait to post my letter until I’m certain that they are not going to post it, or after they post it. But I want to take a minute to dissect the Asperger’s fallacies. I think the others are pretty easily recognized as just evil, but the Asperger’s fallacies are what contributes to most of the problems in the new DSM 5 criteria and the general bias many feel to say Asperger’s isn’t really Autism.
- A social disability is not a communication issue. In the Steinburg piece, he talks about communication issues like they are only expressive and receptive speech. I wonder if he’s aware that there are pragmatic and semantic language issues as well. Often, this is where we seem to lack. Even children who had no speech, but gained it and reproduce is ‘accurately’ tend to have pragmatic and semantic language issues. This is not something that’s an “Aspie only” trait.
- A social disability is accurate enough for many “Aspies.” I’ve met many Autistics, especially women, who were diagnosed with a social disability. It’s commonly known as either Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder. But to say that this diagnosis is encompassing of an Autistics difficulties, most of us will tell you is yet another fallacy.
- “Aspies” don’t have any other traits in common with “real Autistics.” We apparently don’t have sensory issues (finally acknowledged in DSM-5), or motor deficits, or executive functioning issues (both lost in current diagnostic criteria). We apparently don’t stim like real Autistics. We apparently all have appropriate self help skills as well. We apparently have no problems with adaptive living skills.
- Deficits in youth that don’t make it to adulthood means that I’m not really Autistic. In the Nugent piece, he talks about the fact that he used to speak oddly. But as he got into adulthood, he recognized the issues socially around this and stopped. One of my favorite sayings seems to fit well here. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Everyone learns from their mistakes. Everyone. To think that just because you learn to cope or learn traits or learn to not do something means that a diagnosis is inaccurate. That’s basically saying we should stop all interventions on Autistic children because they’ll never learn to cope or learn the right way to do something. Just because you self-taught rather than having a professional teach you how to do something doesn’t mean those symptoms never existed.
I can think of more, but think this is plenty for now. Feel free to continue the discussion about the other fallacies in either piece.. I’m not going to talk about the repercussions of these pieces as I believe it goes without saying that they are both damaging.