This article that appeared in The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and on the BBC was based upon research from the University of Connecticut, Queen’s University Canada, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Hartford Hospital and the Child Mind Institute. It was funded by the US National Institutes for Health and was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
It claims that a small group of children who were diagnosed early with ‘autism’ may later in life (late childhood and teens) no longer meet the the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. While that may at first sound like earth-shattering ‘good’ news for the individual and parents as this article points out, there are intrinsic challenges with the methodology and theory.
But I am not going to go over again their findings with the faults within the science of this article, because I want you to read it for yourself…and think! Instead what I want to focus upon are some of the glaring questions about the research that I personally found.
- The assumption of Optimal Outcome (OO) being ‘normal’, i.e. no longer meeting the criteria for an ASD diagnosis. There are MANY good things about the autistic brains. Differences in the thinking process that as the #Neurodivergent movement points out are evolutionary advantages. What of those? If these individuals with OO no longer exhibit the communication, language, face recognition, and social interaction challenges that initially qualified them for an ASD diagnosis, do they retain the positives of an autistic brain? But at the very heart, what bothers me the most is the potential for those #AutismParents (dirty word with this mother of a #HappilyAutistic and #ProudlyPDA little human) to pursue THEIR dream of ‘normality’ at the emotional expense of their little human.
- As this article points out, it is possible that some of these OO individuals were misdiagnosed to begin with. But they fail to expound upon that. The truth is two-fold. 1) An ASD diagnosis is by nature still a highly subjective process. Yes, some individuals are given the label falsely, but it is much more prevalent for others to slip through the cracks, i.e. not receive the diagnosis they need. This is especially true of females like PanKwake who exhibit higher social skills to begin with and do not have classically presumptive ‘autistic’ behaviors such as avoiding eye contact. 2) The diagnostic criteria itself changed in 2013 with the DSM-V. Since some of the OO participants of this study are as old as 22, an early diagnosis would have been with a completely different criterion. In fact, many individuals who met the diagnostic criterion previously have failed to do so with the new standard. In other words, comparing apples to oranges.
- Beyond even that though, what alarms me most is the cost to these OO individuals. This article points out that perhaps the truth is not that these participants no longer are ‘autistic’ but that because of their higher intelligence and early interventions perhaps they can simply MASK their autism more. What the #Neurodivergent advocates tell us though is that masking comes at a very high cost in terms of mental health….and at times physical as well. As the mom of a #HappilyAutistic child, my measure is never ‘normal’ but that happiness. This study does not even consider other measures of mental health such as anxiety or depression.
- Language, communication, social skills, and face recognition are not the ONLY criterion for autism. For PanKwake, three of those four are actual strengths. Sensory Processing/Overload is a much more significant impairment for her. Yet this study does not consider that at all. Why? Simple answer…because the sensory issues experienced by #neurodivergent do not cause problems for neurotypicals? Going back to that masking, researchers, parents, schools, employers, and society don’t give a damn about the actual pain caused by loud noises, bright lights, smells, and many other sensations…as long as the #ActuallyAutistic mask it and don’t infringe upon their ‘normality’.
No, this article that at first appears such ‘good news’ is actually more of the same old CURE bull. And of course the greatest danger with that is the lengths to which those monstrous #AutismParents will go to have a ‘normal’ child. Without any regard or respect to the mental or sometimes even the physical health of their #neurodivergent little human. The greatest danger lies in the very assumption that ‘normal’ or neurotypical is an ‘Optimal Outcome’. When in fact we already have the only therapy/treatment/cure that we need…
But no research is being done where the desired outcome is the HAPPINESS of the #neurodivergent individual. Not that I know of anyway.