Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kevin Leitch and Simon Baron-Cohen endorse neurodiversity: BFD!

In the better late than never and the old news is good news department. I see that neurodiversity blogger, Kevin Leitch has given Simon Baron-Cohen's recent endorsement of ND a shout out. Most familiar with the issues of ND already know that Simon Baron-Cohen, though acknowledging some forms of autism can be problematic, has neurodiverse leanings. Kevin Leitch has also stated that those of us who write anti-neurodiversity posts on blogs are misrepresenting what it means, but neglects to go into any specifics. My gut reaction on reading this is Big Fucking Deal! But I suppose I should elaborate more than just my gut and try to use my brain (such as it is particularly from the point of view of my numerous detractors). We should also elaborate on how much credibility an endorsement from either of these parties has.

Kevin Leitch, is a web designer, who designed and owned the autism hub, a collection of pro neurodiversity blogs whose original motto was, "We don't need no stinkin' cure". Being opposed to a cure for autism was basically the gist of this collection of blogs in the beginning. Leitch himself elaborated on this in an interview a few years back on episode 43 of for those who are interested, they can find it on the web and listen to what Mr. Leitch had to say. He is also the father of a daughter with autism who at least at the time of the interview was virtually nonverbal. Leitch went on to say that not needing a cure was different than not wanting a cure and that if his daughter indicated that she desired a cure and there was one he would give it to her. It does not take rocket science to ponder how much common sense Mr. Leitch has, considering he would expect a nonverbal child to state that she desires a cure. Just as Laurent Mottron and Michelle Dawson have accepted a nearly half million dollar grant from autism speaks. SBC has accepted donations from the now defunct cure autism now and his one time postdoctoral fellow, Matthew Belmonte operated in part on a grant provided by CAN. Also, Mr. Leitch has an assistant blogger on his blog, some character that goes by the moniker, "Sullivan". Sullivan has written on the blog how Ari Ne'eman has never said that autism was not a disability. Gadfly has debunked that notion in the past and Mr. Sullivan made rather pathetic attempts at damage control, going on to say that neurodiversity has always acknowledged that autism is a disability.

Leitch's shoutout of Baron-Cohen's recent blurb is particularly ironic in this regard as Baron-Cohen has written an essay questioning whether or not certain forms of autism should be regarded as disabilities. Cohen goes on to compare autism with left-handedness, trivializing this condition. A left-handed person is not impaired in their abilities to accomplish things and get things done. Cohen also compares the inability of spouses to get along and neighbors inability to get along with the social impairments of autism. Of course, bad marriages can be ended and people can move their residences, but someone can't remove their autism so the analogy fails. Baron-Cohen shows his lack of understanding of genetic principles by suggesting that though autistics don't often have children, autism has still remained in the populace so must have some sort of genetic advantage. Of course the most likely reason for this is De Novo mutations rather than evolutionary advantage.

The article goes on with analogies such as autistics might be considered disabled because they spend more time with math than with people and analogies are given that Michael Jordan is fine motor impaired because he does not do needle work and other absurd analogies. It does not touch upon the problems that those with high functioning autism have in finding social relationships, impaired ability to acquire skills and behaviors that make them employable, etc.

Without going into the rest of the rather pedantically written essay, which the interested reader can go to the link and read themselves, I will sum it up to say, that if Baron-Cohen had autism at a severity level of mine, he would not have been able attend graduate school, to become a professor, write and publish his books, marry and have his three children. If such were the case I think it likely he would consider high functioning autism a disability. I believe I would be considered high functioning by most standards.

We also must look at the august list of persons who SBC acknowledges in having contributed to the essay. We can certainly judge SBC by the company he keeps or has kept in the past. Liane Wiley and David Andrews especially are conducive to a rolling of the intraocular muscles. One individual has suggested that autism is something to be celebrated. The other is one of the most cruel and vicious hatemongers in the ND movement. Who engages in a diatribe of profanity with anyone who dares disagree with him. Has a bigoted, condescending and ableist attitude towards your humble blogger, whom he has mocked for being too impaired to have the same academic performance that he himself had. He also has never been in a special education school in his life by his own admission and added the comment that because I was in special ed, that made him glad that he was never in it. In regards to David Andrews, Clay Adams, Phil Gluyas, Kim Wombles and Dave Seidel and probably other individuals in the ND movement who have spent time mocking me and ridiculing me, one of Baron-Cohen's statements regarding ND is particularly ironic:

Stigmatizing anyone, whether they have autism or any other characteristic, is wrong, since the point about these labels is not to pick out the person in order to make their lives worse, but to help others understand their special needs and qualities.

So, yeah, Kev, if you happen to read this, your credibility is zero and I say big fucking deal to your endorsement and Baron-Cohen's endorsement of neurodiversity. I can only hope that if a cure is found in your and your daughter's lifetime you won't listen to Alex Plank's dictum that most autistics don't want to be cured and then come to that conclusion when you ask your daughter if she wants a cure and she does not answer you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is neurodiversity's suggestion for Adam Koumoutseas?

I see from reading a very interesting article that the 23-year-old profoundly autistic Adam Koumoutseas has been criminally charged with assault and battery for pounding his mother's head on a pavement. Ari Ne'eman, lead neurodiversity spokesman has stated that curing persons such as Adam is morally reprehensible and has crusaded against finding a cure for an individual such as this. Adam's father has stated that his son is incapable of understanding his actions and is hoping that his son will not have to stand trial. Adam is currently being assessed as to whether or not he is competent to stand trial. If it is decided that Adam is to be prosecuted it is likely his family will present a diminished capacity defense. Ne'eman has stated in his previous writings that there should be no diminished capacity defense of persons on the spectrum in criminal matters if autistics are to be equal with NT's and have to shoulder equal responsibility and if we are to assert that autism is not in fact a disorder but a legitimate way of being. In spite of this, Ne'eman and his organization, ASAN, have not really been consistent in their thinking and actions given that one of their crusades was to have the criminal charges dropped against Zach Price who was charged with assaulting one of his teachers.

His mother was taken to the hospital with life threatening injuries but was reported to be in stable condition. A police sergeant on the scene tried to question Mr. Koumoutseas but only heard unintelligible sounds from the man. A court appointed psychologist who evaluated the man stated that it was almost impossible for him to express himself in words.

I am curious as to what ASAN's solution is to this individual's situation. Will they just claim if the man's autism had been accommodated properly the assault on his mother would have never taken place? How could this individual's autism be accommodated for in such a manner? Is the solution (which would be inconsistent with acceptance and accommodation) be to throw the book at this individual, prosecute him and if convicted sentence him to years of incarceration? This would seem to be the solution that Ne'eman suggests in his Equality Demands Responsibility essay. Or would the third alternative be to forget about what was written in this essay and have ASAN take on the crusade of freeing this young man and saying the charges should be dropped? Ari Ne'eman has been appointed to a disabilities council by the Obama administration on which he serves at taxpayer expense. He also has a seat on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee where as far as I can tell he has not offered any constructive solutions for any of the problems that befall persons on the spectrum, but has rather spent his time there making rude comments to one individual because he took umbrage to his cost analyses showing how expensive autism is to society.

It is also possible that ND, and ASAN will make no comment at all about this case as it might show some flaws in their theories, philosophies and what they try to say. However, one can't help wondering about a person who is given money at taxpayer expense and by extension the organizations such as ASAN and others that he represent can remain silent and have a do nothing attitude about an issue like this.