Why a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome is a Poisoned Apple.

In category Gifted & Aspergers

One thing that has always troubled me is the selling of the Aspergers diagnosis as a positive thing.

Parents are encouraged to accept the diagnosis for their children as a way of getting accommodation for their children’s needs, funding for services, and as an explanation to their children of why they feel so different.

Some adult and self-diagnosed “Aspies” love the diagnosis.  It seems like someone finally understands what life is like for them; why communication and relationships are so complicated; and perhaps offers an excuse to stop trying to be “normal”. Here, at last, is a way a sense of belonging.

But I have always seen it as a poisoned apple.

When you look, even superficially, at the literature, you find the diagnosis also includes terms like “mind-blind; lacking empathy; too much of this  (intensity, rigidity, etc); too little of that (flexibility).  All these things are mechanisms for invalidating the point of view of the one diagnosed.

What’s more, everything that person does is seen through the lens of the diagnosis.  So, children are bullied because of their disability – not because the bullies are arseholes; they don’t join in the in-groups conversation because of their disability – not because the conversation is so inane; they have trouble with the schoolwork because of their disability, not because it is inappropriate.  When a “normal” child has problems, people look at the situation and ask what could be causing these problems; when an “autistic” child has problems, people look at their disability and why it causes the problems.

The fact that the professionals selling the diagnosis are either oblivious to this or dismiss it out of hand makes me doubt their wisdom and motives.

While I have mainly been concerned for children and social situations, this discrimination is also a problem for adults. The mothers of Aspergic children often turn their eye to the father and see much the same attributes. Not romantic enough, too interested in other things, etc.  Naturally, the professionals back them up with this, reinforcing the view that the men are somehow deficient. The diagnosis provides a simple answer when perhaps the debate is better held in the more complex frameworks of negotiated partnerships, gender politics or even the marketisation of romance.

Today, I see a story – a very sad story.
Asperger’s father loses almost all access to his children
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/aspergers-father-loses-almost-all-access-to-his-children-20130711-2pscb.html

There is no way that outsiders could know the intricacies of individual cases based on a news story. But this story, and its reporting, raises questions including…

Would the behaviour reported be interpreted differently without the diagnosis?

Why are the claims of a clinical psychologist who specialises in a disputed theory being treated as fact in a court of law?

Why is pulling children out of scripture classes so significant?  What does it suggest about the real disputes between the parents?

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