Monday, August 29, 2011

Catching Up on My Reading

I just got back from a week's vacation during which I had limited Internet access (a surprisingly refreshing experience, by the way). Catching up on my reading, I came upon two informative and contrasting views of autism.

The first is from Noah Egler, thirteen years old and diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome:

“Two signs that you have Asperger's. You can't find your planner and when you do, it has Boolean logic written on it.”

I've seen many attempts to capture the essence of autism, but I'm not sure any can top that.

But for an entirely different perspective, we can turn to David Amaral's Report on Progress within the scientific community to understand autism as a disorder. Here are a couple summarizing sentences:

“The bottom line from the current genetics of autism is that it is very complex.”

“… the neuropathology underlying the disorder is subtle.”

Not quite as delightful as Noah Egler's observation, and certainly not as accurate. “Complex” and “subtle” are what are known in the rhetorical world as weasel words. They are a not-so-honest way of not quite admitting that after spending hundreds of millions of dollars and decades worth of research into assessing autism as a disorder, scientists today still don't have the first clue as to what is going on. But then again, why would they? Not when nearly the entirety of their effort is going into discovering what is wrong with Noah Egler.

And that pretty much sums up the current state of autism knowledge. One thirteen-year-old autistic boy understands his condition far better than the entire autism research community. I wouldn't expect those circumstances to change very soon. I wouldn't expect them to change until the research community begins listening to Noah Egler, instead of trying to fix him.

By the way, I came across both these articles—as I do many others—by perusing Michelle Dawson's Twitter feed. If you don't follow it, I encourage you to do so. Ms. Dawson has a keen eye.

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