Thursday, April 16, 2009

More mythology from neurodiversity

I see that the neurodiversity movement has come out with a new public service announcement film:

The film shows four members of the neurodiversity movement with their pollyannish statements about how autism is not a tragedy, they are not empty shells and that it is okay to be autistic. The film features four different individuals who state that they are autistic. I will give my take on these four individuals not in the order of their appearance. The first person in the film whom I will comment on is an apparently nonverbal autistic who only communicates using a communication computer. His name is Jacob Pratt. I am giving my take on Jacob first because I agree with his statement that he is autistic secondarily and a person first and that he should be treated with respect. However, what is truly ironic about this statement is that it contradicts one of the tenets of the ND movement that autism is who they are. Their brain is hardwired from birth and if a cure were ever found for autism, it would kill them in the sense it would completely change their entire brain and turn them into another person. Research on the etiology of autism has probably not yet advanced to the point that it completely disproves this allegation; however, as is typical, the neurodiversitites have no proof for this completely speculative idea. It certainly contradicts my experience as having my ability to read intact, yet I have perceptual motor deficits that impair my ability to handwrite and put puzzles together. There is a 40 point discrepancy between my scores on the verbal IQ test and the performance IQ test. This suggests that part of my brain is intact and part of it is impaired, so I can give that take from my own personal experience if no one else's.

The second person in the video is a young man named Ben Liske who can't possibly be older than 12 years old. He states that at this young age he is a mathematician, musician and scholar and that with the right supports he can do anything anyone else can but not in the same way. Given the fact he is not yet an adult and has not even attempted to make a living, this is certainly a premature statement. If neurodiversity has a different way that anyone with autism can do things as well as anyone else, I am sure that Harold Doherty, JB Handley and other parents who long for a cure for their children would embrace these with open arms. Naturally they give no solutions other than Ari Nee'man's automaton "being anti-cure is not being anti-progress". More about Neeman later.

The third person they have on this video is Deena Gassner, a person with alleged autism who is so high functioning that she was able to get married, have a child and become a licensed clinical social worker. I have first hand experience with Deena as I have met her in person at a couple of different national ASA conferences. She does not seem to be autistic to me and what impairments she has or what would lead any physician or clinical psychologist to diagnose her as autistic is beyond me.

Last, but certainly not least is ASAN president Ari Nee'man who uses the "royal we" that Harold Doherty has written about in his blog: "our lives are not tragedies" "The national conversation about autism is happening without us". Nee'man is someone who was born in approximately 1987 and was not diagnosed with Asperger's (not classic autism with a speech delay) until he was 12 years old. Apparently, before that time, he was thought of as having ADHD. He certainly has nothing in common with people with severe autism such as Dov Shestack, Connor Doherty, and John Belmonte. John Belmonte, the brother of brain researcher Matthew Belmonte, cannot speak and barring a miracle will have to live in a group home under 24/7 supervision for the rest of his life. Nee'man's empty platitudes offer no solutions to someone like this. He has no solution to the fact that I have to be unemployed and celibate, that I can't wrap presents at Christmas time or have handwriting that is only semi-legible that is a strain to get out. He has no solutions to the fact that I cannot interact with people, have few friends and cannot help making funny movements in public and drawing attention to myself or the multitude of other problems that make my life hard. All he wants to do is speak for everyone on the autistic spectrum, including those of us like myself who had a speech delay at age 3 and are high functioning autistic rather than asperger's.

I would also like to comment on Nee'man's completely fallacious statement that the national conversation about autism is happening without him and others of his ilk. In 2006 when congress was debating the combating autism act Nee'man and his friends literally protested with placards. Yet when this law was passed he and the rest of the neurodiversity hypocrites embraced this law and immediately went to the IACC with all sorts of suggestions. The IACC had no problem apparently listening to their agenda. In spite of the fact the only purpose of the CAA and the IACC's creation was to cure and prevent autism. Therefore, I believe Nee'man and the other neurodiversitites are being given a free pass to which they are not entitled.

If neurodiversitites have a solution to the problems of autistic people, then they should state them on their web pages instead of wasting time, making such superficial vacuous videos. They have provided no evidence that their quick fix solutions to the problems of autism are anything other than myths. I must agree with Nee'man's statement at the end of the video that it is time to leave old stereotypes behind. It is a shame that Ari cannot practice what he preaches.


John Best said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jonathan said...

I have no idea about Liske's mental capacity, different autistics look different. I have corresponded with Ari Nee'man via various emails and I have met Deena Gassner in person as I mentioned to you in the comments section of your blog and I have no idea how any physician or psychologist could diagnose her as autistic. I don't know about Jacob or Ben as I have no personal experience with either of them.

I agree it does make Dan Marino look bad, but I am not sure how he perceives the situation. He may unfortunately be yet another parent who has embraced neurodiversity out of desperation of having a severely handicapped child.

John Best said...

If Marino was that stupid when he was playing, he wouldn't have completed many passes.

Marius Filip said...

I've just found your blog from the one of Harold L. Doherty.

I admire the courage you have to talk about your own experiences and hardships produced by autism.

Hopefully people like you, who speak from inside the world of autism and offer a different perspective than the ND nonsense will grow in number.

Autism needs a cure. And autistic people need respect. The fights for the two goals do not exclude each other.

Anonymous said...

The 'not really autistic' canard is your response? Really?

Funny thing, that canard has been used by autistics who are married, with children, who have jobs and an education, to claim that other autistics are not really autistic.

I'm sure it would be pretty easy for someone to say 'Jonathan Mitchell is not really autistic for such and such reasons.'

jonathan said...

Hi Joseph, I did not say definitively that Deena Gassner was not autistic, only that I am very skeptical and don't know how she could be diagnosed as such. I have been diagnosed by my pediatrician retrospectively who knew me before I was 3 years old in 1958 when I had no speech. I was also diagnosed in adolescent by one psychiatrist. Diagnosed by another psychiatrist at UCLA. Also diagnosed by Alan Lincoln who was a clinical psychologist who worked with Eric Courchesne.

I was a special education student for 8 years, never went to a mainstream school until I was 14 years old except for one half semester at age 12 when I was expelled from a regular private school for behavioral problems.

This is what I would say to people who want to allege that I am not autistic. Of course, the problem with autism diagnoses, including my own is that they are somewhat arbitrary as there are not yet any biologic markers that can prove autism as is the case with diseases such as diabetes or melanoma.

I am curious whether or not Deena Gassner spent one moment of her life in special ed and if any clinician has diagnosed her as autistic and on what basis. She is certainly welcome to comment here and explain that to me.

In the meantime, I don't believe there is any comparison to me and the neurodiversity proponents whose autism I am skeptical about.

Jake Crosby said...

If Ari wants to "embrace" the autism and all the problems it causes, then that's okay. What's not okay is presenting that desire publicly as if it is universal among autistic people, which it's not.

John Best said...

Autism is not the same as Asperger's. I don't have to explain that to propaganda wizards like you though, do I Joseph?

Larry Arnold PhD FRSA said...

First of all Ari Neeman does not represent neurodiversity, because there is no such a monolithic organisation. Neurodiversity is an alternate non medical way of describing a range of neurological differences not all of them autism, it is not an organisation any more than Antidisestablishmentarianism is.

Yes there are a number of organisations with Neurodiversity in the title, most of them in the UK that I know of, that does not mean they are part of some illuminati or that they hold the same set of views, that is the nature of diversity, it is diverse.

jonathan said...

Hi Larry, thanks for stopping by. I have taken this up with "Alyric" now I will again repeat the same thing I said to her.

The only reason there is not one monolithic organization either in the USA or UK that deals with ND is that the movement is too small to acquire the capital for such things in the manner that Autism Speaks and similar organizations can, otherwise there would likely be one monolithic organization presenting a similar philosophy that most believe in.

I am not familiar with the organizations in the UK. However in the states we have ANI, GRASP, and ASAN of which Neeman is the president. These organizations all have a similar philosophical viewpoint that autism is not a disorder or a medically disabling condition but, like yourself, believe that autism is a societal disability and that the autistic can do just fine without societal constraints. This is essentially the jist of the message of this video and the message on the web page

John Best said...

Who told you to deny that Neuroinsanity is part of the Illuminati? Did that order come from Obama?

Stephanie said...

I still don't understand how someone with an ASD severe enough to receive a diagnosis can run a complex organization as severe as ASAN. ND and all of the organizations involved are quite socially complex. And how are autistic people able to have such great marketing and people skills to manipulate others?

Every "leader" in the ND movement has a questionable ASD diagnosis: they either have sub-clinical Asperger's and doctor-shopped until they could get a diagnosis, a personality disorder or both, which is how these "autistic" people are able to run such complex organizations because they do not have autism.

Larry Arnold PhD FRSA said...

There are as usual several problems with your statements.

Firstly that you consider to compound a number of organisations who have significant differences between them and with each other into one simple straw man.

Secondly you are arguing apples against pears, in that the word disability as used by you, is impairment, and the word disability used by me is the societal consequences of that impairment (put simply)

And thirdly you have missed something else, that I actually agree that the PSA is overly Pollyannaish (if that is how you spell it)

For me it has failed to address the myths in an objective fashion choosing binary opposition instead. All it has done is replace one set of stereotypes with another, using the same slick tools of media persuasion that I do not know nothing about having studying them for 3 years.

Unfortunately Ari has played into your hands, because I would rather see a rational deconstruction of the mythos of autism than media soundbytes. One cannot argue from extremes one needs a middle ground.

jonathan said...

Well Larry, why don't you make your own public service announcement or attempt to, which tells how you see things. Of course capital needs to be acquired for such enterprise and that might be harder to obtain in the more socialistic UK than it is here in the U.S.A. Of course Dan Marino's foundation has money. Why they would finance such an enterprise and what Marino was thinking I don't know.

You could always make your own video and put it on youtube and post it on your blog with an explanatory post. No one is stopping you from doing that.

Once again, I believe you are suffering from the same petty jealousy that you have shown towards Stephen Shore and Temple Grandin in the past.

Perhaps taking my suggestion and making your own video, posting it on youtube and linking to it on your blog is more constructive than being disruptive at conferences and trying to bring your own agenda to the forefront, while someone is trying to give a lecture in peace.

Larry Arnold PhD FRSA said...

Jonathon, you really fail to appreciate an argument don't you. It is the Jonathon Mitchell show all the way. So only Jonathon Mitchell and his cronies have a right to criticise the video then?

I am trying to demonstrate that my thought is independent of this fictive construction of 'neurodiversity' that you have made for myself. I do not automatically jump onto any bandwagon because I do not fear to have a different opinion from the crowd.

Marius Filip said...

For Laurentius Rex: there is no middle ground between idiocy and common sense. And you don't look for such middle ground - you simply choose common sense over idiocy. And, in most cases, common sense requires no further explanation.

The video is an idiocy if you take into account only that kid whom they made say he is "a scholar". A scholar? At 12 years of age? And what will he be at 32 years of age? God in person?

I found Jonathan's argument very good. Regarding his statements about those people's autism, I am not to judge that; I guess he knows this illness quite well.

Nevertheless, those folks seems very functional, pride themselves to be functional and "embracing autism" and - as a natural consequence - they are obscenely ignoring the lower side of the spectrum, the one containing people who cannot afford to "embrace autism" because they are struggling with different matters, such as feeding themselves or wiping their butt.

Neurodiversity not being an entity? Maintaining "it does not exist" fools no one, sir. A ND person is, for example, one who uses the term "difference" for a severe illness as autism - it doesn't matter to what organization he is affiliated to.

Just make a simple comparison with the communists; it's enough to hear from one's mouth about "class strugle" and "exploitation of the workers" and you know whom you are talking about.

It doesn't matter whether the guy is stalinist, maoist, trotskyist, luxermburgist or whatever kind of communist he might be. Despite the differences between various communist movements, you know that they all uphold, in essence, the same ideological crap.

The same with Neurodiversity.

Anonymous said...

On Ari- Unlike yourself, we know autism does not take a soul away, leave an empty shell, or give anyone no hope or future. You're missing the point! You don't need to waste every waking minute trying to disprove the myths society created to protect people like us from being aware of our rational limitations we have to face daily. You're the one that's blowing your disability out of proportion, but I assume it's hard to control this obsession of yours.

Jon, I've talked to Dena briefly a couple times at the ASA Nashville and Orlando conferences and have corresponded with her through email a couple times, and from what I know, she has some sensory issues and a bit of a processing problem when it comes to hearing certain figures of speech used in a group setting (like in the Townhall Meeting at the Orlando conference she asked what was meant by a certain comment someone had made about the parents who were in the room). Once she decided to ask about what someone had meant by that remark, she laughed outloud and said, "Ohhh...." along with a cluster of words she repeated back that came from that particular remark to let the group know what she had been confused about and that she understood what was meant all along. Dena did not intend to do this to poke fun of herself, but rather as a way to let herself and others know we're not alone out there on the spectrum, and that it's ok to make mistakes like this, learn from it, and move on like she's been working so hard to do since discovering she's been living for years and years without knowing she's autistic. She only found out after her son was diagnosed with full-blown autism, so Dena's lived her life as an underdog without her true problems ever being noticed and learning coping strategies for dealing with them.

Like yourself, she's held many jobs which she's been fired from, only she's learned to turn her life around and hold a career in something she's interested in and quite good at. Perhaps you could learn from this and spend the next several years working for a good cause you find interesting, and age should not matter.

As for what Jacob stated in the film, I agree with him, but when someone from Neurodiversity gets offended just because I didn't refer to someone as "autistic", it's as if they want to be called that because I'm accusing that person of having a 'seperate' condition while they'd rather see themselves as a whole person when they don't even realize becoming angry at someone for wanting to be refered to as "autistic" is like asking that person to call them 'handicapped'.

As for Ben, there's nothing wrong with the statement he made in the video about his brain working differently, but what he doesn't realize (especially since he's quite young) is that his thinking is a bit irrational (though he could at least join a school band and major in music if he ever makes it to college)since he hasn't reached high school yet and has never held a job. It's sort of like me claiming I could step onto the golf course alongside Tiger Woods when I've never once played golf. Even I have a more realistic chance of playing football.

Finally if you look at the video within one minute of running time, the way Ben walks like a chicken and skips out of the room reminds me of why I should never star in a video, yet alone play football....only it's legal to behave that way after scoring touchdowns, and with my vertical size appearing to have barely increased further (I'm taller than my materal grandpa now that he's shrunk a bit and since I believe I grew a bit more- after all, I've heard men can grow until age 25- we stood back-to-back when they came over for Passover last Thursday), I have a more realistic chance of being able to play a position like fullback on the offense (I'm not elusive enough to play at tailback/halfback like Barry Sanders at 5'8" was since I'm not coordinated enough and I'm not an African American unless if I lined up at that position and played like a fullback, the position where the player sets himself into a three-point stance in front of the tailback/halfback and blocks for him the majority of running plays while occasionally catching a pass and running the ball depending on the type of offensive scheme run by the coach) and strong safety (more of a run-stopper safety than a pass-denfender safety known as the free safety, but it depends on the defensive scheme used by the coach) on the defense (like Bob Sanders at 5'8" on the Indianapolis Colts and Jim Leonhard at 5'8", now on the New York Jets). Although I know I'm not NFL material, I don't see why I couldn't play for a minor league, maybe even in Canada as a fullback since the Canadian Football League and other minor leagues tend to take several players who would be considered 'undersized' in the NFL.

As for Dan Marino, his son, Mike, is high functioning. The last time I heard about him, he was playing for his high school football team as a backup quarterback. Ever since, I haven't heard anything about Mike other than the fact he's completed high school with a regular diploma and he's into deejaying. Perhaps Dan Marino, who lives about 45 mins. away from me and who has connections with a mother of a friend of mine (sort of) with Asperger's (I can hear ND folks screaming at me, "WITH ASPERGER'S?!?") I made in college, I could find a way to contact Marino, tell him about my history with autism and my co-morbid problems I have as a result, and then he could give me advice on how to work my way into the minor leagues without any high school or college football experience. It may seem unrealistic, but at least I'm not begging to walk out onto a training camp field NFL teams use during the season and a few months during the off-season.

K said...


I'm curious as to what you think of this video:

Is this another example of neurodiversity?

jonathan said...

hi K, yes I suppose it could be construed as a form of neurodiversity as they are trying to change attitudes towards i suppose CP, whether that would ever happen in practice rather than theory I don't know.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the debate over IQ. In the past there were small towns in the south where the average IQ was around 60, the mayor was retarded the chief of police was retarded, etc. Except somehow these developmentally disabled people were raising families, running businesses, serving on juries, electing mayors and city councils etc. All with no outside help.

The rational explanation was that these people, despite low IQs, were just as intelligent as people anywhere but lack of education and isolation led to poor performance on IQ tests. People who are mentally retarded, cannot live independently let alone run a business or hold a high level job like mayor. The screamingly obvious answer as I said earlier is that these people are not retarded, or disabled in any clinical way.

Similarly just because someone was once diagnosed with autism doesn't make them autistic. The real problem lies with idiot psychiatrists who don't really understand what it means to be disabled. Unfortunately a lot of psychiatrists are morons, and to this day label entire cultures, races, and civilizations as borderline retarded, or even severely retarded.

Anonymous said...

I can appreciate the rage you feel about this, and yet, I also understand the neurodiversity people. When my son was diagnosed, there was no question in my mind that autism was genetic, and that he had inherited it from me. I have never been diagnosed autistic, and I'm not autistic, I don't think, and yet... Every single recess twice a day for 6 years of elementary school I swang on the swing, back and forth, so I wouldn't have to interact with anyone, and because I liked to swing. And I have an MIT PhD and mental tendencies which I wouldn't have without this... It's a mysterious thing and not so simple. I don't detect any autism in your writing. If you doubt this woman's claim to autism, is it fair for me to doubt yours?