Sunday, October 20, 2013

John Robison's take on neurodiversity

As I posted previously, John Robison has a new gig teaching a course on neurodiversity (along with some other people) at the historic institution William and Mary College. 

Apparently, inquiring minds wanted to know exactly what Mr. Robison's stance on neurodiversity is.  He wrote a post about his efforts at his attempt to oblige them.

On neurodiversity: 
I believe neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome. This represents a new and fundamentally different way of looking at conditions that were traditionally pathologized; it’s a viewpoint that is not universally accepted though it is increasingly supported by science.

Does this mean that Robison believes that mutations such as fragile X, Rett's syndrome, Angleman's syndrome, etc. are natural variations such as genes for eye and hair color and height are?  Though there are variations in height that probably follow a normal distribution, someone extremely short, such as a dwarf. may have a genetic mutation or disease.  Does Robison discount possible environmental influences on autism, such as thalidomide exposure, cocaine ingestion that appear to have some association with at least some spectrum disorders?  What about cancers, such as the BRCA mutation that is found in breast cancers.  Are cancers natural variations.  Then why don't we have oncodiversity or cellular diversity as a philosophy?  He makes a completely inconsistent statement in the next paragraph: 

We are realizing that autism, ADHD, and other conditions emerge through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental interaction; they are not exclusively the result of disease or injury.  Which is it, autism is a natural genetic variation or in some cases it is a disease or injury?  As my former psychoanalyst used to say, you can't have your cake and eat it too, Mr. Robison.

He makes a very offensive statement next: 
We are not sick. We are different.
Does Robison believe that a child who can't speak, soils themselves, engages in self-injury and wanders away so that their life is endangered is not sick?  If that is the case, why did he join the scientific advisory board of autism speaks and reviews grants for the government to study autism if it is just a difference? 
Faculty and staff are just as likely to have different brains, especially in the sciences.
He trivializes autism by comparing college professors to those that really suffer from this affliction. 
while working to remediate disability has as its goal the best possible life quality.
If someone is disabled then why aren't they sick? 
When a fellow has one leg, and he wants to get around on his own, we don’t say, “He needs a cure.” We say, “He needs help remediating his disability.”

Who says this?  I've never heard of limb diversity or mobility diversity.  Why doesn't someone need a cure to have a leg restored, even if one is not available given the current science?  Robison then goes on to compare the use of a cane or prosthesis to remediating autism, but gives no examples of how this can be done.  As far as I can tell, Robison has not suggested how autism could be remediated.  If it were completely remediated why wouldn't this constitute a cure?  Again, Mr. Robison, you can't have your cake and eat it too. 

No neurodiversity advocate in his right mind would oppose developing tools to remediate disability from autism.

It would appear then that most neurodiversity advocates are not in their right minds, since they consistently say that acceptance and accommodations are the solutions to autism and in at least some cases that autism would not even be a disability if this were done. Or some say the problem should be ignored altogether like Ari Ne'eman's statement that social pleasantry should be eliminated as a criteria in hiring and evaluating people's job performance. 

Robison then goes on with the offensive stereotypes of how autistic eccentricity is associated with high intelligence or giftedness. 

It is appalling that William and Mary would offer a course in this and would enlist someone who did not even finish the tenth grade to help teach this. 

Hopefully a cure for autism will be found someday and perhaps now we can add at least some amputees on the list of people that Robison manages to trivialize. 



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Make Me Normal: An autism documentary neurodiversity does not want you to see

Amidst the torrent of pro-neurodiversity film documentaries such as Loving Lamp posts, neurotypical, etc.I've found a figurative diamond in the rough.  A very interesting documentary about teens with autism and asperger's made in Britain called "Make Me Normal" 

In this documentary, the kids express how much they dislike their autism and express a desire not to be autistic.  What would Ari Ne'eman who constantly uses the royal we think of this?  What would Alex Plank who states that autism equals good and that most autistics don't want to be cured think of this? 

Glad to have found this one, was interesting.  Neurodiversity may have to improve their polling techniques. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Does new research disprove neurodiversity and Temple Grandin's assertions that Einstein was autistic

Albert Einstein has been routinely diagnosed as autistic by a variety of individuals, Temple Grandin being the most prominent of these. Einstein allegedly could not speak at the age of three. He also dressed in very casual clothes, wore slippers and had unkempt hair and these are largely the basis of these assertions.

As I stated in my essay on that topic, there is evidence that Einstein’s speech delay may have been apocryphal. Denis Brian in his book, Einstein A Life stated Einstein’s sister told a story that when she was born and 2-year-old Einstein was shown his sister he said, "where are the wheels" when he believed she was a toy.

One of the arguments that is routinely made by individuals in the neurodiversity movement is that because Einstein was autistic and his intelligence is considered an autistic gift is this is one reason autism should not be cured. Temple Grandin has implied that Einstein’s genius is a result of autism or at least autistic traits.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence supporting these assertions.

As many people know, pathologist Thomas Harvey stole Einstein’s brain after performing an autopsy on the deceased physicist. He kept many pieces for himself and gave others to a variety of neurologic researchers who found differences in Einstein’s brain as compared to typical age-matched controls. One of the most interesting discoveries that while Einstein’s brain may have had a normal number of neurons, he had far more glial cells than than a typical brain. This evidence suggests that it was glial cells rather than neurons that were a factor in contributing to Einstein’s aptitudes and intellect. At one time glial cells were believed just to hold neurons together and provide maintenance support for them. Now, there is increasing evidence that glial cells provide more than just support for neurons and may be a more important part of the central nervous system than was originally thought. However, this is another topic.

Is there scientific evidence that parts of Einstein’s brain were qualitatively different than postmortem brains of those diagnosed with autism? a recent study suggests that this may be the case. The researchers found that Einstein’s corpus callosum had more extensive connections than comparison control brains. Unfortunately, this study has recently been published and is behind a $35.00 pay wall and I have not been able to read it yet. There are various ways I might be able to read the study without paying, but I have not exercised these options yet.

In comparison, a variety of studies on the corpus callosum of post-mortem autistic brains shows exactly the opposite, i.e. autistic corpus callosums have weak connections between the left and right hemispheres and, in some cases, autistics have a smaller corpus callosum or none at all. There have been apparently some studies showing that individuals missing a corpus callosum demonstrate symptoms of autism.

It would appear that Einstein’s brain, at least in this area, may be qualitatively different than in individuals with autism. Perhaps people can stop trivializing this disability by claiming that Einstein had it or had traits of it.

John Robison to teach course on neurodiversity

I came across this article stating that well-known Asperger's author John Elder Robison is going to not only teach a course on neurodiversity but is going to be a scholar in residence at William and Mary College in spite of the fact that he never completed high school. 

Aside from the obvious inanity of a high school dropout being a college professor, the article lists Robison's definition of neurodiversity: 

Neurodiversity is the idea that humanity is by nature neurologically diverse – we have different ways of thinking that are founded in structural brain differences – and that diversity is essential to our success as a species

This is a different definition than Michelle Dawson gave me which states the neurodiversity is the idea that neurologically divergent people have basic human rights.  It also differs from the Wikipedia definition:

Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability which suggests that diverse neurological conditions appear as a result of normal variations in the human genome.[citation needed] This term was coined in the late 1990s as a challenge to prevailing views of neurological diversity as inherently pathological, and it asserts that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category on a par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability status.

Neurodiversity is also an international online disability rights movement which has been promoted primarily by the autistic self-advocate community (though other disability rights groups have joined the neurodiversity movement). This movement frames neurodiversity as a natural human variation rather than a disease, and its advocates reject the idea that neurological differences need to be (or can be) cured, as they believe them to be authentic forms of human diversity, self-expression, and being.

So, it would appear the gist of ND as we know it is that certain individuals should live their lives as cripples and be handicapped. 

So, essentially what Robison says is that if certain individuals were not disabled(he has stated he no longer has any disability whatsoever) we'd have some sort of failure of the homo sapien species.  I'm curious what Robison believes would happen to our species if autism and other neurologic conditions were cured.  I'm also curious as to what scientific evidence he can provide that this would be the case. 

Robison, who serves in an advisory capacity to autism speaks as well as the federal government, has stated his beliefs on whether or not autism is a disease and whether or not a cure should be found:

All of the science to date says autism is founded in structural differences in the brain. Differences are stable things. They are not diseases in need of a cure. Taking away the difference is – to me – tantamount to changing to another person. In any case, the idea of such brain configuration is in the realm of science fiction today.

Robison, who is not disabled (by his own say so) seems to have a flippant attitude toward those of us who are disabled and who would want a cure for our conditions.  So, I have to wonder if this course Robison will be teaching will state that kids who pound their heads into walls, can't speak, wander off and die in accidental drownings and are hit by cars are not diseased.

This Curriculum and Robison's involvement in it is insulting to me as an individual who is disabled and has to live a less satisfying life than someone who is not neurodivergent. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

One good thing about the government shutdown.

Though Age of Autism has a lot of things to say I don't agree with, they've reported some interesting news Though i'm not happy about the government shutdown, it looks like some good will come out of it.  It looks like the government shutdown will cancel the next meeting of the IACC.  That's about the best news for autistic people i've heard in a long time.  Unfortunately, Matt Carey and John Robison will continue blogging and being representatives for autistic people.  Scott Robertson will still spend time with ASAN claiming that I and others should be crippled and sick.  Maybe Noah Britton can come up with a more interesting t-shirt design than his 'my body my choice' schtick and provide some sort of comedic act or behave in some outrageous way to bring some levity to the situation.