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Autism and Unusual Facial Asymmetry Controversy

Posted Sep 12 2008 3:23am

Is there any discussion of autism related topics that does NOT generate controversy?

Even recent reports of a program developed by Professor Hammond in which facial scans were reported to be of use in predicting autism and other genetic disorders has degenerated into heated controversy with Professor Hammond angry about the media coverage of his program. The controversy revolves primarily around whether the program was properly reported as being capable of diagnosing autism. The Professor himself says that statement is incorrect, his program does not detect autism. In fact, at least one report, in the Independent, made it clear that Professor Hammond was not making a diagnosis claim:

Indeed, the Independent reported him as saying at last week's press conference, "This is not diagnosis. The diagnosis is done by a clinician and a molecular geneticist doing the genetic testing."

Another paper had reported on the program somewhat differently claiming that the program could detect autism and would revolutionize autism diagnosis. Professor Hammond was very upset and canceled a scheduled BBC interview. In addition to the diagnosis dispute he was reported as having made some politically incorrect comments to a Yorkshire Post reporter that "you can spot a kid with Down's syndrome a mile away". Professor Hammond denied making such a remark which he described as insensitive. The reporter is not backing away from his report of Professor Hammond's remark.

At the end of the day a program that might be of some value in assisting in diagnosis of autism and other disorders begins its public life wrapped in controversy; an apparently unavoidable element of any public discussion of autism disorders.

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