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Autism Blog lbrb: Left Brain, Right Brain Maybe But Not an Ounce of Common Sense

Posted May 18 2009 10:11pm
I am not a fan of Kevin Leitch author of Left Brain, Right Brain, father of an autistic child and a devoted follower of Ari Ne'eman and other Neurodiversity ideologues. In a recent post Mr. Leitch posted his answers to what he described as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Neurodiversity. His answers left me scratching my head and wondering if Mr. Leitch knows what he is talking about or whether there is any consistent meaning or substance to the Neurodiversity ideology.

If there is one constant that has existed in ND ideology it is that expressed so dogmatically by ideologues from Jim Sinclair to Ari Ne'eman: "WE, meaning all persons with any kind of autism disorder, do not want to be cured of our "autism"." Yet Mr Leitch denies that the No Cure position is part of the Neurodiversity ideology although he does so in a disingenuous way that avoids the real issue.

Many parents of autistic children seek to cure their autistic children or to treat their autistic symptoms. In full scale issue avoidance Mr. Leitch claims that ND believers are not opposed to parents treating their own children. They simply oppose parents trying to cure their children's autism disorders. It is OK to treat what Mr. Leitch describes as co-morbid conditions but not their essential autism. Mr. Leitch is being dishonest when he says that ND advocates are not anti-cure. They ARE anti-cure in the context in question. They oppose attempts to cure autism disorders pure and simple. Here is Mr. Leitch's goofy argument in his own words:

"3) Neurodiversity proponents say we should not treat our kids.

False. This is one of the biggest points of contention. The issue is one of autism (the main point) versus comorbidities (side points). See theWikiPedia definition of comorbidity. What are some comorbidities? Gastric problems,ADHD, ADD, Depression, migrane. Why would you imagine we don’t want you to treat these things? These things are not autism. They are comorbidities of autism. They cannot be used to illustrate or define autism as they are not common to every autistic." Don’t take my word for it. Go ask the Doctor who diagnosed your child.We see your error as the failure to differentiate between the comorbidity and the autism. To us, one is treatable. The other is not. We do not fight for your child’s right to have gastric issues. You see our error as trying to prevent your child being treated. My own daughter receives PECS and Speech Therapy. I would not stand in any parents way who wanted to alleviate the suffering of their kids. Having terrible constipation is suffering. Having a different kind of thought process is not."

What the highlighted passages make clear is that ND ideologue Kevin Leitch does not oppose your child's right to be cured of a gastric illness but does oppose your child's right, exercised through his or her parents as per the 1959 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, to be cured of his or her autism disorder. This is exactly what Neurodiversity is accused of when it is said that they are anti-cure. They oppose cures for autism. Mr. Leitch's dissembling denial confirms that very point.

This excerpt also illustrates how little Mr. Leitch actually appears to know about autism disorders. Having a different kind of thought process is not the issue. Having serious cognitive and communication challenges,and serious life adaptive issues, are described as frequently associated with Autistic Disorder as set out in the ICD-10 the European equivalent of the DSM-IV:

"In addition to these specific diagnostic features, it is frequent for children with autism to show a range of other nonspecific problems such as fear/phobias, sleeping and eating disturbances, temper tantrums, and aggression. Self-injury (e.g. by wrist-biting) is fairly common, especially when there is associated severe mental retardation. Most individuals with autism lack spontaneity, initiative, and creativity in the organization of their leisure time and have difficulty applying conceptualizations in decision-making in work (even when the tasks themselves are well within their capacity). The specific manifestation of deficits characteristic of autism change as the children grow older, but the deficits continue into and through adult life with a broadly similar pattern of problems in socialization, communication, and interest patterns. Developmental abnormalities must have been present in the first 3 years for the diagnosis to be made, but the syndrome can be diagnosed in all age groups.

All levels of IQ can occur in association with autism, but there is significant mental retardation in some three-quarters of cases.

Many parents of severely affected children with Autistic Disorder do not need to read a diagnostic manual to know that autistic disorder can result in serious self injury, threat to a child's life and a life of dependence on the care of others. I have a son who has bitten his hands and wrists many times and I have posted pictures on this blog site of such injuries. I advocated with other parents to keep a tertiary care pediatric team dedicated to autistic children in existence at the Stan Cassidy Rehabilitation Centre here in Fredericton. I know they deal with serious life threatening behaviours in autistic children including head banging, self starvation and other serious threats. I have visited psychiatric facilities in New Brunswick and seen autistic adults living there who were too severely affected by autism to live in community based group homes. Mr. Leitch can cling to his faith in ND and his belief that autism is just a different way of thinking. I have too much common sense and have seen too much to take such a dangerously naive approach to autism disorders.

Mr. Leitch is not done with his non-reality based defense of Neurodiversity. He goes on to trivialize the point made by many parents who, as I do, claim that Neurodiversity is led by persons with Aspergers Disorder or have high functioning autism distinguishable from Aspergers largely by an initial period of limited speech:

4) Neurodiversity proponents who are autistic are different than my child.

"True. They are mostly adults. Your kids are kids. However I don’t think thats your point. You believe that all autistic Neurodiversity proponents are ‘high functioning’. This is untrue, both now and historically. The facts are that for a lot of the autistic adults in the Neurodiversity movement their diagnosis was ‘low functioning’ when they were kids. But people grow and progress. Autism doesn’t stop progress, it just sets a different timetable for it. These adults are living breathing proof."

Mr. Leitch's argument expressly assumes that all autistic children will eventually progress. His statement that the ND adults are living proof is absolute nonsense. Pure nonsense. Every human being progresses on their own time table to the extent that they make any progress. The problem that Mr. Leitch skips over is that many children with autistic disorder do not progress to attend Simon's Rock College for gifted youths, attend university, have girl friends, boy friends and spouses or grant endless media interviews to the New Yorker, the CBC, Newseek etc. There are many autistic adults living dependent on the care of others in varying degrees of group home and institutional existence. Mr. Leitch simply ignores these autism realities. His argument on this point is too ridiculous to be entertained with a straight face.

7) So why do neurodiversity proponents say they speak for my child?

"The way I see it is like this – I and my wife know our daughter better than anyone else alive. Whilst she is a child, we speak for her in all matters. But the fact is that she is autistic. It therefore is simple common sense that other autistics have thought processes closer to those of my daughter than any NT does. They think in similar ways. Its not a case of speaking for, its more like having a shared reality. If one or more of my kids were gay than I would still speak for them in all matters whilst they were children but not being gay I could not share that reality in the same way as other gay people could. By virtue of their shared reality of autism our kids and autistic adults share an area of being that NT parents can never share. Like it or not, that does give them a commonality and communal existence. With that community sometimes comes a voice. Can you really say, as NT parents, that you are closer in thought process to your kids than autistic adults? When it comes to what makes autistics tick can you really say that you as NT’s know better than other autistics?"

Mr. Leitch is free to let people who have never met his child speak on her behalf. I am one parent who would never surrender that right, responsibility or privilege to anyone let alone a stranger whose only connection is a similar diagnosis. The DSM and ICD-10 both recognize a multiplicity of pervasive developmental (autism spectrum) disorders. The differences between Ari Ne'eman's Asperger's Disorder diagnosis and my son's Autistic Disorder diagnosis are very substantial. Aspergers precludes clinically significant cognitive and communication delay which can be present with Autistic Disorder. These are incredibly important aspects of what makes my child tick as Mr. Leitch says. Even within each diagnostic label it is recognized that there significant differences in the extent to which people are affected for example by Autistic Disorder.

In the real world I know as the parent of a 13 year old child with Autistic Disorder and profound developmental delays, who requires 24 hour supervision, who operates at a functional level far below his chronological peers, that my son has little in common with Amanda Baggs who attended Simon Rock college for gifted youths or the media trotting, university student Ari Ne'eman. Nor does he have anything in common with Alex Plank or his now ASD diagnosed girl friend who appears in videos giving public presentations worthy of any good corporate executive.

You may not know what makes your child tick as well as these many strangers do Mr. Leitch but this father who spends each day with my son certainly knows better than they what makes my son tick. It's not even close.

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