As has been written previously on autism's gadfly, this humble blogger has been interested in an answer to the question of why autism speaks would give Dr. Laurent Mottron a 3 year research grant amounting to nearly half a million dollars when he says that the ultimate goal of the organization that has given him this grant is nonsensical. and says that autism is not a brain disorder or a damaged brain but merely a difference. The grant was awarded in June 2008 and will expire in less than a year from now. Who wants to take bets that Monsieur Mottron will be asking for at least another half a million in June of 2011?
One would think that being able to receive such a sizable grant from an organization whose stated goals and beliefs in autism are so different from the good doctor's own would be enough for him. However, this does not appear to be the case. If what Alan Griswold wrote on his blog and prints a letter he allegedly received from Mottron is truly from Mottron as he claims, then it would seem this paragon of virtue from the point of view of the neurodiversity movement wants much more than to renew his triannual 500K grant.
Mottron allegedly writes:
I see three alternative ways to change a damaging system/ideology: fight it directly, build something else which is more convincing, or lastly, become the head of this system, then change it. I would call the last one the gorbachevian position. Whereas I used the first two ways at various levels (specially in our clinical organization, and in various influences we have as policy makers in Quebec), I chose the third way for science.
It would seem that Laurent Mottron would like to do something equivalent of a military coup of a third world nation and become its dictator. In fact, he may not mean autism speaks but the whole scientific establishment and its funding worldwide.
I am curious as to what parents think, whose children risk death from elopement, can't speak, and bang their heads and self-injure themselves who went on walks and fundraisers for autism speaks would think if this man whose research subjects as a general rule have nothing in common with their children were to be in charge of the whole organization of autism speaks.
How realistic is Dr. Mottron's ambition? What chance does he have of being able to take over autism speaks and/or influence scientific policy so every single scientist has a neurodiversity perspective? Given the fact our government has passed the combating autism act, stating that cure and prevention of autism are the law of the land and the Canadian government likely has a similar policy and most persons with an interest in autism regard the ND movement as nothing more than a fringe group with no more credibility than the flat earth society, it would seem Dr. Mottron does not have much chance of accomplishing this goal.
Perhaps there is a reason for this. I am reminded of the word
"megalomania". Though this is not a medical diagnosis of any sort, there are persons for whom this layterm is attributed to who have grandoise delusions. Is there evidence that Dr. Mottron could possibly have a state of mind that would lead him to believe that he had a chance of taking over autism speaks or in fact be in charge of all scientific research everywhere in the world? We have only to look at a wired magazine article that was written about Dr. Mottron, Michelle Dawson, a woman with autism who works in his research group, and Amanda Baggs. The article states:
One of the leading researchers here is Laurent Mottron, 55, a psychiatrist specializing in autism. Mottron, who grew up in postwar France, had a tough childhood. His family had a history of schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome, and he probably has what today would be diagnosed as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
So we see there is a history of mental illness in Mottron's family which could possibly lead to a genetic predisposition to grandoise delusions. He also states that he possibly himself has attention deficit disorder.
For those who are claiming that I am making a libelous statement about Dr. Mottron or even that I am engaging in an ad hominem attack against the doctor, I will clarify. This is not to say that Dr. Mottron necessarily has a mental condition that has caused him to believe that autism is not a defect of the brain but merely a difference and even that autism is a harmless condition. However, as a person who has an autism spectrum disorder, who can't work, has very limited social relations, let alone being able to marry, can't concentrate, can't get things done during the day and longs for an answer using science as to what caused this condition as well as the best available treatments, including a cure, I believe I have a right to answer some pertinent questions. Would a rational thinking person go to medical school and then graduate school obtain a ph.d., specialize in a certain disease and then say this condition is only a difference? I don't believe this is the case. Would someone capable of rational thought believe that they could become the head of an entire organization and then just change the organization's way of thinking? I believe I have the right to question the soundness of mind of a person who is receiving money in a process in which I am a stakeholder.
Dr. Mottron's factotum, Michelle Dawson, has given me a simple explanation for why the group should accept funding from autism speaks and autism speaks should award them lucrative grants. "Science isn't politics". I must disagree with Ms. Dawson. Research scientists whether they work in autism, cancer research or other endeavors involving medical conditions do so because persons want to cure diseases. They are not funded so they can pay their mortgages and amuse themselves. The federal government is already involved with autism issues with just the creation and the passage of the CAA and the creation of the IACC alone. This in itself makes science a political issue. Therefore, as a stakeholder I have a right to question a researcher's political statements.
In the same vein, I believe that I have a right to question a doctor's fitness to practice medicine and/or receive funding for scientific research based on a possible mental condition and/or state of mind which might influence the direction of their research when I am a stakeholder. It is in this spirit that this blog post is written, not to diagnosis him with any sort of mental disorder or soundness of mind which would cause him to have such irrational beliefs and statements, particularly from a medical doctor whose job is usually to alleviate suffering and provide remedies for conditions such as autism.
In the meantime, as a psychiatrist, perhaps Dr. Mottron could look at himself objectively and think about the old saw, 'physician heal thyself'.