Dufresne

Test your Autism Spectrum Quotient

60 posts in this topic

Thomas Sowell wrote a recent two-part article in which he warns against the current trend toward the over-diagnosis of autism and the harm that it does to both parents and children. In it he takes issue with the whole notion of an "autism spectrum disorder."

Thomas Sowell makes good points, and I certainly agree that screening kids twice before the age of two is both unnecessary and impossible given the actual numbers of trained clinicians. And I agree that it opens a door for misdiagnosis and "treatment" that ends up causing problems.

The issue is definitely a result of the confluence of politics with an underdeveloped science. Without going into too much detail, I have reason to believe it is precisely because psychology, and mental health more generally, is not yet a clearly defined or developed field that political opportunism is rampant. In short, there's money to be made (by which I mean stolen) in mental illness.

This being said, I am not against the notion of an "autism spectrum." One reason is that virtually all psychological disorders have different levels of seriousness. Depression, for example, can be mild, moderate, or severe. Another reason is that a trait (which I admit is a poorly defined concept) also exists to different extents across people. Introverted and extroverted are good examples. There are also diagnostic reasons to identify a particular set of symptoms along various continua, so as to distinguish one type of disorder from another.

While I agree with Sowell's point that unscrupulous clinicians can use the idea of a spectrum to cover for or support a wrong diagnosis, I do not believe that this was the intent of identifying such a spectrum. It was created primarily for differential diagnosis, not diagnostic invention. That being said, it is greatly unfortunate that it will be used in such a way, and for a political crusade.

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The columns are here and here.

I was a late talker, so I wonder what might have happened to me if I had been born in the 90s? I think I was lucky in a different way, because I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, but it was probably before they were handing out medication like candy. I really shudder to think how my childhood could have been different if I was seeing a Pediatrician who consulted a politicized checklist to make diagnoses.

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The issue is definitely a result of the confluence of politics with an underdeveloped science. Without going into too much detail, I have reason to believe it is precisely because psychology, and mental health more generally, is not yet a clearly defined or developed field that political opportunism is rampant. In short, there's money to be made (by which I mean stolen) in mental illness.

This being said, I am not against the notion of an "autism spectrum." One reason is that virtually all psychological disorders have different levels of seriousness. Depression, for example, can be mild, moderate, or severe. Another reason is that a trait (which I admit is a poorly defined concept) also exists to different extents across people. Introverted and extroverted are good examples. There are also diagnostic reasons to identify a particular set of symptoms along various continua, so as to distinguish one type of disorder from another.

While I agree with Sowell's point that unscrupulous clinicians can use the idea of a spectrum to cover for or support a wrong diagnosis, I do not believe that this was the intent of identifying such a spectrum. It was created primarily for differential diagnosis, not diagnostic invention. That being said, it is greatly unfortunate that it will be used in such a way, and for a political crusade.

Yes, and it is that politicising of "autism", "atypical autism" and "depression" that has contributed to excessive and incorrect prescribing among GPs. I am glad the AAP was identified in the first article in Betsy's links. AAP membership is optional; a physician does not have to hold an active membership to remain or become Board eligible/Board certified. I have nothing positive to say about the AAP.

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From what I am seeing, this is just another case of over-diagnosing Americans. I mean, this just shows how wimpy our society has become. Have we really gotten to the point where if someone is sad, we drug them up to no end, instead of telling them to get over it? Or if someone is hyper, we diagnose them with A.D.D. instead of telling them to just calm down. Mind you, I do agree there are psychological disorders, such as Autism and A.D.D., but not in the amount people claim. If we are all so psychologically messed up, (sorry, I could not come up with a better word) how did we function as a society before hand?

I think South Park did the best job of illustrating my point. Here is a clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWzveULRnAw

(Do not worry, this clip is vulgarity free :))

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In regard to today's willingness to embrace to mental illness diagnosis, I remember a LP (decades ago) with a popular well known Psychologist, who was entertaining to listen to. (sorry, it was too long ago to remember his name and much about him). He said something that stuck with me: 'There is no such thing as mental illness.'

He went on to explain that there were indeed brain disorders, and also thinking disorders, but since there was no such thing as a "mental", it could not be ill.

For example, he spoke of alcoholism being called a mental illness being inappropriate.

I suppose what struck me, was that his attitude was geared to a person being responsible for their thinking (assuming no physical / chemical anomalies). That people had volition, and the ability to think, and too many who failed to apply their minds, just pulled their excuses from the 'mental illness' bin.

I must say that I have had trouble in regarding, say, anorexics, as being helpless victims of an illness rather than the choices they made that led to their condition. What is one to think when a living skeleton looking at her reflection denies she has a problem? When objective measurements are there to prove she has?

I know this is a bit off topic, but has anyone noticed that a paedophile is not given the same excuse of mental illness for uncontrolled behaviour? There seems not to be a clear meaning to the word.

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I must say that I have had trouble in regarding, say, anorexics, as being helpless victims of an illness rather than the choices they made that led to their condition. What is one to think when a living skeleton looking at her reflection denies she has a problem? When objective measurements are there to prove she has?

I don’t believe that calling a condition an illness denies the role of personal responsibility. Also I think the mistake people sometimes make is to reduce the mind to the functions of the body. Some mental illnesses – such as depression – may be invisible to physical inspection, they may even exist despite a perfectly healthy body. That does not mean that they are not real conditions and the person should just be able to “shake it off”. Even if an illness is the result of personal choices, those choices can do real and serious damage that is difficult to repair.

This isn't to say that people today don't sometimes use "mental illness" as an excuse for their behavior, but I think you have to be careful to acknowledge that although the illnesses may not be excuses, they do exist.

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I scored 16

38.

Twenty five years ago I would have been in the mid 40s.

As I grew older I find my behavior has become more "neurotypical" (i.e. normal). I do a pretty good job of passing for human. I think the main difference between Aspies and Auties is that Aspies adapt to new situations more easily.

ruveyn

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Unfortunately, I know more about autism than anybody would ever wish to know.

I see very little (if any) "mental illness" in autism. Sure, decades of not being able to communicate could lead to mental illness. But, it's not like these kids are born mentally ill. They aren't even born with autism, now that I think about it. It is a developmental disorder. It does show up across a broad range of behaviors that is called a "spectrum".

If you are just late in learning how to talk, that is not autism. It would not be diagnosed as autism under the current diagnostic procedures, either. Most don't realize that there is a huge push in the medical field to NOT diagnose kids with autism. The premise that medical professionals want to diagnose kids with it so that they can make money on them is invalid. Acutally, medical insurance companies are reluctant to acknowledge the existence of autism and try their best to ignore it. I'm not sure why; because when a child does get a diagnosis the insurance companies refuse to pay for any treatment for it. I can't tell you how many kids I've seen who were clearly autistic yet were denied testing at a young age when their parents had requested it. These children end up 6 years old, still in a diaper, non-verbal and flapping their hands or spinning in circles. Seeing this over and over can bring on a sadness that's hard to describe.

This could be the least understood disorder in the world, yet many discuss it as though they are experts. Learning about autism has taught me more about the psychology of "normal" peolple more than anything else has. It has made me more reluctant to speak about things I don't know enough about.

At the time my son was diagnosed I happened to be working with a staff of very capable environmental scientists. This, combined with my own training, background and access to EPA toxics data gave me great insights into the disorder. I have addressed the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on this and worked with the UC Davis Mind Institute. I have been in the belly of the beast. If there's money being made...it's in failing to idenfiy the cause.

In Atlas Shrugged: "In times like these, when their fat little comforts are threatened, you may be sure that science is the first thing men will sacrifice."

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