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I am perennially asked whether I do or do not "believe" in autism. I suspect that on most occasions, it's a test. Nonetheless, it's a fair question that usually takes this form: "I know you don't believe in ADHD; but do you believe in autism?"

To be clear, it would be absurd of me to deny that there are children — plenty of them, relatively speaking — who frequently exhibit behaviors associated with the bogus diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder). Those kids are problematic, for sure. But no one has ever proved that they "have" something. Childhood behavior disorders such as ADHD are constructs; they are not realities. Leukemia and nearsightedness are realities. The spurious claim that these kids "have" something — biochemical imbalances being the No. 1 "have" — is used to sell various therapies, including drugs that have yet to reliably outperform placebos and involve the very real possibility of dangerous side effects.

But ADHD and classical autism are horses of different colors. I have no way of proving it, but I am convinced that autism in its classical form is a very real, "have" thing, albeit researchers have yet to discover the nature of its reality. They are handicapped in doing so by the fact that autism is classified as a psychiatric/psychological disorder. What, pray tell, is psychological about a 2-month-old baby who doesn't want to be held, doesn't smile, and seems pained by eye contact? What unresolved issue is at work here? The answers to those questions are "nothing" and "none."

The symptoms of classical autism appear much too early and much too randomly to think of it as anything but a yet-undiscovered physiological malfunction of one sort or another. Taking it out of the realm of psychology/psychiatry — that is, removing it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — would be a boon to research as well as a boon to the kids in question and their anguished parents. The roadblock to that has much to do with the fact that autism is producing a significant income stream for lots of mental health professionals. And yes, I proudly admit to cynicism.

The further problem is that one can't talk in general terms about autism without consideration of the so-called "spectrum" that includes, most prominently, something called Asperger's Syndrome. I say "something" because this Asperger's something is about as ill-defined as something can be. The common denominator among kids who are hung with this label or are said to be "on the spectrum" seems to be "odd" and/or "quirky." Personally, I think children should have the right to be at least slightly odd and quirky.

Without exception of which I'm aware, once a mental health diagnosis begins to gain traction — that is, it begins to sell — the mental health professions begin expanding it — explicitly or implicitly — such that it captures more and more people (i.e., paying clients) over time; thus things have gone with "the spectrum" and Asperger's.

I don't deny that some kids who are said to have Asperger's may need help. Equally likely, their parents need help managing and disciplining them. The many anecdotes I've been told strongly suggest that most of the somewhat odd kids in question, however, grow out of it, whatever "it" is.

My longtime readers know that with some conservatively defined exceptions, I'm not in favor of allowing children into rooms with therapists (and I'm a licensed therapist). Labels, which therapists have a bad habit of dispensing, tend to stick. For me to believe in Asperger's (hypothetically) is one thing; for a child to believe he "has" it is quite another thing.

Write to family psychologist John Rosemond at The Leadership Parenting Institute, 420 Craven St., New Bern, N.C. 28560 or email questions@rosemond.com. Due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.

Style on 07/16/2019

Print Headline: Autism not necessarily proven by current research

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Comments

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.

    Ever think to article psych today?
    Or Journal of Urology Britain?
    Infants feel pain.
    Maybe any other """Research"" which means kings ransom btw.
    from anywhere else in the world....
    We are a child molesting state.
    surrounded by monsters.
    how did it happen.
    it must be the evil of man.
    baby-lon has fallen.
    baby-lon has fallen.
    baby-lon has fallen.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:31 p.m.

    royal dutch medial society?
    university of okinawa? st.petersburgh?
    adelaide? Lisbon?
    Do you even know where any of these places are?

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:32 p.m.

    What, pray tell, is psychological about a 2-month-old baby who doesn't want to be held, doesn't smile, and seems pained by eye contact? What unresolved issue is at work here? The answers to those questions are "nothing" and "none."
    < i dunno george did you cut half of his sex organs off for organ farming or cattle regulation?
    did you smile and laugh while he turned blue puked and bled?

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:33 p.m.

    are males born evil?
    the mutilation of our society has gone to prove that elevation brings digression.
    its not true.
    we have been debased.
    our temples.
    our fonts of spirit,
    desolate
    abominations

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:35 p.m.

    bris literally translates to "cut of the heart"
    and there are old testament curses on overcutting.
    but then you didnt religiously circ your sons.
    you let the goverment convince you of organ harvesting.
    you let the researchers have their sway.
    prevents aids,
    prevents bedwetting
    prevents masturbation.
    but.
    George Washington had a whole dk.
    George the III had a whole dk.
    only egyptian slaves had the mutilation.
    as a psychological block.
    those egyptians were smart folks.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:37 p.m.

    yeah lets not talk about wheher its a religios right for a christian to sell their childs sex organs
    or mutilate them
    lets not talk about
    even a secular society, that doesnt care about religion
    just thinks certain human can be dissected and drugged
    lets talk about what this says about all of u.s.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:44 p.m.

    Darcia F. Narvaez Ph.D.
    Moral Landscapes

    Follow me on Twitter Friend me on Faceook Connect with me on LinkedIn
    Circumcision’s Psychological Damage
    CDC wants all males to be cut--but it's harmful psychologically
    Posted Jan 11, 2015

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    *First author is Patrick O’Connor, Psy.D.

    As psychologists, we are deeply concerned by the recently announced CDC guidelines promoting circumcision for all males, and in particular children. The CDC guidelines are based on a sharply criticized 2012 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The 2012 statement was condemned by a large group of physicians, medical organizations, and ethicists from European, Scandinavian, and Commonwealth countries as “culturally biased” and “different from [the conclusions] reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world, including Europe, Canada and Australia” (Frisch et al., 2013).

    The new CDC guidelines highlight methodologically flawed studies from Africa that have no relevance to the United States. They chose to ignore studies that were conducted in the United States and show no link between circumcision and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (Thomas et al., 2004).

    Worse, the CDC has completely ignored the psychological effects of genital cutting on male children.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:46 p.m.

    ""What, pray tell, is psychological about a 2-month-old baby who doesn't want to be held, doesn't smile, and seems pained by eye contact? What unresolved issue is at work here? The answers to those questions are "nothing" and "none.""
    < i dunno george did you cut half of his sex organs off for organ farming or cattle regulation?
    did you smile and laugh while he turned blue puked and bled?

    WHAT FKN IDIOT.
    #DEBATEME
    ANYONE WHO HAS GROWN UP ON A FARM WHY ARE ANIMALS SEX ORGANS MUTILATED?
    TO MAKE THEM ACT A CERTAIN WAY!!!!!!!!!!
    #DEBATEME

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 6:47 p.m.

    #BEASTKKKRAFT

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    July 17, 2019 at 7:27 p.m.

    now watch as every one of my thought is deleted because of some offended child molester
    because fk males.
    yeah we live in such a sexist society hahaa

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