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Asperger Syndrome is not a disability, just ask Lenny Schafer

Posted Aug 06 2009 10:24pm 1 Comment

Lenny Schafer wrote one of the most insulting comments I have seen on the Age of Autism blog in a long time. This is actually old news—the comment was made on Luly 13th. I missed the comment, but how did I miss that it was, no kidding, picked as an award winning “comment of the week” by the “editors” of the Age of Autism blog.

If you didn’t see it, here is Mr. Shafers, award winning comment from the Age of Autism blog:

“Disability” is not a literary term open to subjective interpretation. It is a forensic, legal term defined in documents like the DSM -IV for the parsing of government entitlements and insurance compensations. Asperger Syndrome is not defined as a disability. Those with Aspergers do not get Social Security Disability benefits. They are not entitled to most state entitlement disability programs and are not qualified to park in disabled parking zones. Those with Aspergers ARE disadvantaged and deserve support and our advocacy for them, but not at the same levels for the disabled. Let us stop interchanging the term “disability” with “disadvantage”.

Also, the term “high functioning autism” is a street jargon misnomer and has no clinical definition, despite it widening use. It is a term that also trivializes autism. It is oxymoronic. Autism is defined by disability, lack of function. Is there such a thing as high-sighted blindness? Or high-hearing deafness? Perhaps “HighER Function Autism” might make more sense because it is not self-contradictory. (We then wouldn’t need the redundant “Low Functioning Autism” label either.)

The whole autism spectrum labeling is a mistake, in any event, for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. However, we are stuck with it. Let’s get clear on related word meanings. Lack of good communication skills is a definite disadvantage, but not necessarily a disability.

And let us hope that the upcoming DSM -V gets clearer about defining autism only as a disability—and kicks the high functioning ND autism squatters onto the personality disorder spectrum where they belong.

There is so much that can be said, point by point, in response to Mr. Schafer’s comment. But my guess is that most readers of this blog need no commentary to realize what a grossly insulting statement Mr. Schafer made.

What boggles the mind even further is that this was a comment to Mr. Jake Crosby’s piece, “ Autism, Asperger’s: Who is Truly Disabled? “, a piece all about how Asperger syndrome truly is a disability. Mr. Crosby’s concluding statement in that piece was:

Unfortunately, that is what’s happening, but as a person with Asperger’s I can tell you that I am truly disabled, albeit much more mildly than others with autism.

While we have disagreed on some points, Mr. Crosby and I have been having a good discussion in the comments of this blog. I believe we both agree that Asperger Syndrome is a genuine disability. I couldn’t see him agreeing with Mr. Shafer’s comments, so I went digging to see what comments Mr. Crosby made.

Here are two comments by Mr. Crosby in response as posted to AoA:

I’m a contributing editor to this site, but played no role in Lenny Schafer winning the “comment of the week.” His comment isn’t just grossly offensive to parents of those on the higher end of the spectrum, but also to those of us ON the higher end of the spectrum.

and

Schafer’s post is wrong on so many levels. It is the comment of the week alright, the worst comment of the week.

I almost didn’t post Mr. Crosby’s comments. I didn’t want to go for the easy, “look there’s dissension in the ranks at AoA” message. As I said above, Mr. Crosby and I don’t see eye-to-eye on all subjects. But I can still recognize and respect the courage it took to speak out like that. Mostly, it is worth noting that Mr. Crosby doesn’t share Mr. Shafer’s opinion.

The Age of Autism has officially closed comments to Mr. Crosby’s piece and to the “commenter of the week” post.

I’d love to see the comments they deleted.

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The doctor who just recently diagnosed my son with Asperger's says that it is High functioning autism. And that the terms are all going to be changed to High, medium and low functioning autism. There will no longer be different names for everything. Just different degrees.

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