Showing posts with label Girls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Girls. Show all posts

Sunday 30 October 2016

Just What is Autism?

We have learnt that autism is just a description of symptoms, it is not a biological diagnosis.  A biological diagnosis is what you actually need.

I continue to be amazed how loosely this autism description is now applied, to the point that it can become rather trivial.

We have a new assistant working with my son, Monty, at school after lunch.  She has been doing a degree in looking after people with autism, for the last four years, and has done plenty of work experience in special schools. So I suppose she should know what autism means in 2016.  She was really surprised how much Monty can do for himself, how good his handwriting is and what he can do academically at school; she had expected less.  So for her “autism” generally means more severe than my son.

What counts as autism very much depends on where you live, and when.  The more developed the country, the milder the symptoms need to be to warrant an autism diagnosis and in recent times there has been a tendency to diagnose any variance from "normal" as something.  I am not convinced that this is helpful. 

The other day I was reading about the only government-run residential school for girls with autism in the UK.  I was imagining what it must look like.  Girls diagnosed with autism are more rare than boys, but usually have quite severe autism, because for various genetic and other reasons they seem to have a degree of protection, meaning that they need more “hits” in a multiple hit process.  The only girl with autism I have met was non-verbal and had lots of issues.  I met one girl with what was diagnosed in the UK as being Asperger’s, who is highly intelligent but very shy.  She goes to regular school and does just fine; in a rough school no doubt she would be bullied, but nobody would consider her "disabled".

So I was expecting the only government-run residential school for girls with autism to be full of girls with severe autism.  Not at all.  It is seems to full of very highly functional girls and with a Head Teacher who thinks that just as many girls have autism as boys; they are just better at hiding it.

Maybe you can hide some Asperger's, but nobody can hide autism.


These girls are convinced they have autism, but have almost nothing in common with the autism exhibited in the special school where we live. Strange.

The way the word autism is now being applied has made it rather meaningless.

All the girls in the video have Asperger’s and so they have all those issues, like being bullied in mainstream school.  I wonder if they ever meet people with what used to be called autism?

Some people with Asperger’s have serious issues, but a lot do not.  The ones with issues can choose to have them treated and some do just that.  A vocal group are adamant that they are just fine the way they are and that the world should adapt to them.

From a therapeutic perspective, the issues faced by people with Asperger's are often very similar, like anxiety, shyness etc. But these issues are different to those faced by people with Autism, so much better to retain the name Asperger's. 

I would go back to the term PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) and then use Autism, Asperger's, ADHD etc as subcategories. Then there would be  a term for adult onset mental disorders (AOMD) like Schizophrenia and Bipolar.  The molecular basis of PDDs and AOMDs are all intertwined and it is the specific molecular basis in each person that matters.

Asperger's means no speech delay, no MR/ID and a very much lower incidence of epilepsy.  As we have seen, Baclofen therapy works very well with most people having Asperger's, but not those with Autism. So Baclofen for the girls at Limpsfield Grange, but not my local special school.

Constantly publicising highly verbal people with “autism”, makes autism appear as a minor quirky issue that you will likely grow out of, rather than a serious medical condition that in many cases can be treated.

You do wonder why there is no government-run residential school for girls with severe autism in the UK?  What are their parents supposed to do?  Is it that people don't want to talk about that kind of autism? and it wouldn't make good TV viewing.