Monday, February 15, 2010

Note to Angry Aspies : You already have autism

When I wrote about Michael John Carley's bigoted statements against lower functioning people with autism a few days ago, I assumed that his comments were out of the ordinary. Surely, the higher functioning people with autism (aka aspies) would not throw their lower functioning brethren under bus over the matter of a label.

Apparently, I was wrong.  There are many "aspies" speaking out against the Asperger's label being moved under the general category of autism.

These are the same people who claim to speak for all people with autism when denouncing "unethical" treatments like ABA and equating the search for a cure for autism to genocide. And yet, when you ask them to stand with the people who they are speaking for, the reaction is a bigoted "we don't want to be associated with them".


The ironic part about all of this is that the proposed change is really a minor one. Asperger's is already considered to be part of the "autism spectrum" as it is listed in the DSM IV under the "Pervasive developmental disorder" category. All the massive change in the proposed DSM V does is eliminate the individual labels (PDD-NOS, autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, asperger syndrome) and lump them all together into the "autism" category.  The only people who don't consider Asperger's to be autism are the very people who are the people who are complaining about it being put there.

 Did I mention that these are the same people who like to pretend that they speak for all people with autism?


Over in neurodiversity land, the revelation that some (cough, most, cough) of their congregation of aspies feel this way about the "low functioning" people with autism (aka the majority of people with a diagnosis of autism) has resulted in a "oh shit" moment. 

Kev over at Left Brain Right Brain put it nicely -
There really were, I realised to my dawning amazement, people with an Aspergers diagnosis who were upset at the possibility of the DSM (V) placing them inside an overall category of ‘autism’. And not for any particularly legitimate reason but mostly because they didn’t want to be associated with the people who I’ve heard them describe as ‘low functioning’.
You don't say, Kev.  Really?  You didn't know this about your own movement?

My opinion is that he is feigning surprise and knows very well that there are people (aka, the rank and file) who feel that their Asperger's makes them somehow special and are dismissive of the majority of people with autism. But who knows, perhaps he is that badly out of touch with the movement that he helped start.

Perhaps this moment will serve as an inflection point for the neurodiversity movement and they will realize how harmful their anti-treatment, anti-cure rhetoric is for adults and children who suffer from autism.  Perhaps they will also realize that their "not a disorder - just a difference" line has encouraged attitudes like Mr. Carley's to grow.

Perhaps pigs will start flying.

Regardless, it is now completely clear and beyond a a shadow of a doubt that these aspies like these don't speak for all people with autism.  After all, they don't want to be associated with them.


  1. You are right. People talk about equality for the individuals affected with autism, but when they are grouped with those people they don’t want anything to do with them. I personally feel that AS should be categorized under Autism itself. There is not much difference between individuals with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. I feel that AS should come under the same rug of Autism.

  2. I have Asperger's and the change does not bother me a bit. I have the same problems as people with Classic Autism and I really do not see the distinction. Hopefully though the change from Asperger's to Autism will scare off those, whose only problems are rudeness and bad behavior. Also any that do not fit under the new DSM criteria will fit into a new category called Social Communication Disorder.

  3. Hi Anonymous,

    The main difference between autistic disorder (Classic Autism) and Asperger's is functional communication. People who receive a diagnosis of Asperger's are not supposed to have any delay in the functional use of speech while most people with autistic disorder do have a delay.

    That may seem like a trivial distinction but, believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. The social and restrited/repetitive parts of autism are bad enough but it gets worse when the individual has problems with basic communication.