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Autism vs Symptoms of Autism Part II

Posted May 25 2011 11:32am

If this is the case it is rather hard to see what we are arguing about. With all the semantic ingenuity in the world children on the autistic spectrum are surely autistic and so are children who have autistic behaviour.

So states John Stone on Age of Autism.

Its meant to point out to us the linguistic convolutions some people go to in order to seperate people who have autism and people who display autistic symptoms. We’re meant to roll our eyes on this stupidity.

But I can’t. Because its not stupid. Because there is a difference between having enough of the symptoms to qualify for a diagnosis of autism and not having enough of the symptoms of autism to qualify for a diagnosis of autism. In one scenario a person has autism as medically defined. In the other scenario, they don’t.

Far from John Stones ‘semantic ingenuity’, what we are in fact talking about is ‘semantic precision’. Lots of people display some of the symptoms of autism yet simply don’t have enough to get a diagnosis. This phenomenom has even got a name: Broader Autism Phenotype . In a paper from as long ago as 1997, the authors states:

Studies of families ascertained through a single autistic proband suggest that the genetic liability for autism may be expressed in nonautistic relatives in a phenotype that is milder but qualitatively similar to the defining features of autism.

Note the use of the word qualitatively there. In that, people with enough symptoms have autism share qualities with those who don’t.

Autism has a long and painful history of being sculpted into a set of beliefs that reflect the position of the believer rather than the objective truth of the matter. The thing is, we have an objective (if medical) truth on the matter, its set down in the DSM or the ICD, pick your poison. John Stone is merely the latest in a long line of people who want autistic people to be ambiguous enough to reflect their beliefs. However, by its very definition, you cannot be autistic (again medically speaking) if you don’t meet the criteria, or even enough of the criteria.

I see nothing of semantic igenuity in this. Stone is, of course, attempting to whip up support for the latest terrible study – this one legal – that claims to have found 83 people compensated for autism via vaccine injury. When you apply John Stone et al’s loose, ambiguous definition of what autism medically is then they’re quite right. Thing is, I suspect I, John Stone and various others could all show some symptoms of autism. Much trickier is to display enough symptoms of autism to be diagnosed as autistic. Something I think about 1% of these 83 were. In other words, no different in amount than the rest of any other population.

  1. Stuart Duncan: Some of the disorders listed fall under the spectrum umbrella, so can argue whether or not it's "actually autism" or just a disorder in the spectrum... either way, the point is that there are many disorders that don't fall under the spectrum umbrella but do share some "autism-like symptoms" yet are not autism.
  2. brian:
    (1) The great majority of the children identified in the study “that claims to have found 83 people compensated for autism via vaccine injury” suffered an alleged vaccine reaction following vaccination against pertussis. (2) Such “injuries” have been shown to actually be due to mutations that cause seizures and the development of “autistic traits” after a prolonged period of apparently normal development. (3) Strangely, the authors argued that, contrary to the evidence, the development of “autistic traits” is due to the vaccine, and Stone apparently argues that the well-studied genetic syndrome is actually autism. Weird.
  3. Liz Ditz:
    ToddW's take on "semantic ingenuity" Now, there are some who might argue that there is a distinction, medically speaking, between polio and polio-like symptoms, but they are clearly held in the grip of Big PharmaTM. Don't let them fool you. I know I have polio because I have polio-like symptoms. And since there is no meaningful distinction between the terms "polio" and "polio-like symptoms," then the only possible answer is that the cause of my distress is nothing else but polio. I'm sure the folks at Age of Autism will back me up on this one.
  4. sharon:
    I have in my household one child with Autism, and three other members, myself included, with ASD like aspects to our personalities, but would not qualify for a diagnosis. My husband and I score highly when we undertake the Broad Autism Phenotype test, yet neither are disabled by our traits (experience difficulties yes). I dont have any problem conceptualising the difference between Autism and ASD like behaviours.

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