Sunday, May 17, 2009

Neurodiversity : Stop the Insanity

Over at Newsweek there is an article by Claudia Kalb on Ari Ne'eman and neurodiversity.   It is a one sided slanted view of the world of autism according to how Ari Ne'eman sees it.  

According to Mr. Ne'eman, autism is not a "medical mystery that needs solving" but is "a different way of being" and should be "accepted by society".  He is pushing for accommodations in the classroom and supports to help adults live independently.  He is strongly opposed to a "cure" for autism.   He believes that "we're having a national conversation about autism without the voices of people who should be at the center of that conversation". 

Apparently he hasn't gotten the memo that a large number of people, possibly a silent majority, are unable to talk.  Yet here we have a person who says that they are on the spectrum and are  speaking for all people with autism - including those who can't communicate with the outside world.   Maybe he is telepathic and that is how he knows what all of the other people with autism want.

To be fair I should mention that Mr Ne'eman has a diagnosis of Asperger's rather than autism. As pointed out by Harold Doherty in a recent post these two conditions are different.   Aspergers does not have a disruption in communication skills and tends to be less severe than other forms of autism.

I don't think the difference is really that important.  Mr. Ne'eman is full of it.  I am not sure whether he truly has a form of autism, the description of him from the Newsweek article makes me wonder  - 
It's spring in Washington, and Ari Ne'e-man, with his navy suit and leather brief-case on wheels, is in between his usual flurry of meetings. Ne'eman is a master networker, a guy you'd think was born in a campaign office and bred in the halls of the Capitol. He's fluent in policy-speak and interacts seamlessly with high-level officials (...) and inquisitive reporters alike. He's formal but sociable and has a well-timed sense of humor.
This doesn't sound like many cases of  autism I have run across.  But in reality his exact malfunction is irrelevant, the important part is that he is not representative of what children with autism are dealing with and the problems that they face.  The author of the piece makes a big deal about how Mr Ne'eman has a problem with velvet - 
His father used to drive a car that had fuzzy velvet-like cushioning, and it made Ne'eman crazy to sit in it. "I'd wince because I'd think about how it would feel to get that under your fingernails," he says. I think I see him shudder at the 't .
If that is the worst sensory issue that he has then cry me a river.  I would take that any day of the week over what my daughters are having to deal with.

The only reason that this sort of story is printed is because it casts a favorable light on what is increasing becoming a crisis.  People don't want to read about the problems with autism, they want to think that people with autism are just a little quirky and are all secretly little Einsteins who will solve all of the worlds problems.  

There are other adults on the spectrum who have a different view of what autism is yet their story is never told.  Take for example Jonathan Mitchell's post in which he publishes his letter to the editors of Newsweek asking for a chance to tell a different side of the story.  Anyone think that Newsweek will publish an article giving his perspective?

Autism is a profound disorder that causes massive life long difficulties for its victims.  It is not something that should that should be ignored, "accepted", or left untreated.  Yet if the advocates of neurodiversity get their way that is exactly what will happen.

Publications like Newsweek should not be giving coverage to crazy talk about something as serious as autism. 

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