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Clumsy definitions of disability

Posted Mar 03 2009 2:31pm
It occurred to me whilst shaving with one of those multi blade disposable razors whether that was ethical at all, given how few shaves one gets out of them, and the amount of steel and plastic they must use up. Granted they use less steel than the contraptions my father used, but still was there an acceptable alternative. (my annoyance was in part, how easily these razors become clogged with bristles as well if one has skipped shaving the day before)

The alternative is of course the aptly named 'cut throat' razor and I cannot imagine how our forefathers managed to 'hack it' with such a dangerous appliance. Now as you might have guessed, I am clumsy, there is no way I could use one of those things safely.

Following my train of thought, I considered. What if steel and plastic were so scarce that the government banned disposable razors (as indeed incandescent light bulbs are being increasingly banned) Someone like myself would probably need a medical exemption to continue using one, and these devices would become rarer, more expensive and available at the chemists by prescription only.

I could then see and epidemic of dyspraxia diagnoses, as every post pubescent boy struggling with a cut throat razor, was taken by his parents for the magic “label” that would allow him to be spared the rigours of continual sticking plaster around his gills.

Safety razors would become as hot a property as an illicit shot of Ritalin.

Now that is not to say that my clumsiness is not of an order that is well below the usual two standard deviations from the norm, that tends to be a rule of thumb dividing line between a disorder and natural variance. Someone always has to come at the far end of any bell curve else it would not be a 'natural distribution' if it had vertical sides.

However we can also look at natural variance in eyesight. One can well argue that ones visual acuity is as much a medical issue, as ones physical co-ordination, indeed sometimes the two are linked. However one does not need the services of a Dr or a formal diagnosis for one, in order to go to an optometrist to get the accommodations one needs. True there are fewer options available once one exceeds a particular dioptre strength (as I found when trying to get prescription swimming goggles, they mostly cater for a range of about one standard deviation from the norm) but nonetheless one does not usually go to the hospital to be fitted with high strength lenses. Glasses are considered a social norm, a fashion item even, and nobody thinks about an underlying epidemic in the increasing numbers of people who wear them, or contact lenses. No instead one looks to changing social patterns as an explanation given the higher literacy rates, and greater demands upon vision that a technological society makes.

Where is all this leading. Well Neuro diversity is something that encompasses “dyspraxia” as well as autism and adhd. It also encompasses dyslexia, that other emergent product of the demand for higher literacy.

Now I was not diagnosed as dyspraxic or dyslexic by a GP or a hospital consultant anymore than I was prescribed glasses by one, I was diagnosed by a dyslexic specialist, outside of the health service.

When it comes to anything on the autistic spectrum, be that PDDNos, Aspergers or Autistic “Disorder” (to use the DSM categories) one requires to go through the medical route, but why?

Psychiatrists are often ill experienced and ill trained to diagnose anything other than a particular set of mood disorders, psychoses and personality 'disorders' and in the strong evidence of something secondary presenting more strongly than the autism they won’t see it.

On the other hand paediatricians are seeing more autism, but again why?

Is it because Autism confers a perceived social advantage in a highly competitive educational arena that parents and paediatricians are getting hip to the autism jive? More so than the psychiatrists amongst whom there is not this pressure to learn about autism as they do not expect to see it much amongst there adult patients?
Is this an example of the rule that can be derived from my razor example?

To put it simply, autism does exist, as a set of neurological differences, as real as those that underlie dyslexia and dyspraxia (which are equally complex conditions when one unravels them) however it exists as a natural distribution and the way it is diagnosed and the numbers are socially defined and shifting over time. Autism has it’s own bell curve and the pressure is now there diagnose those two standard deviations on the far side of the bell curve as well as those on its 'severe'end whilst the majority falls within the middle.

I can hear those parents whose children fall at one end of the bell curve protesting, the epidemic as if all the diagnoses are coming from that end. Well they are not, it is a bell curve and not skewed at the bottom, that diagnostic prevalence toward a low IQ construction of autism is falling away because of those social diagnostic shifts.

I asked a rhetorical question in an earlier blog as to whether I am autistic. Well it seems most people in the know would comfortably diagnose me in there. However that does not make me necessarily less autistic than these straw men arguments put up to justify continuing denial of rights to so called lower functioning autistics. It does mean that so far as my IQ goes I am on the far side of the bell curve (OK I admit it) but that is yet another bell curve, a natural distribution that will cut across practically any 'disability' you care to mention, and the consequences are always going to be more difficult if you have less intellectual capacity to spare, to problem solve for yourself, be that if you have arthritis, or are Deaf. Deafness is the great example again, at one time Deaf people were considered automatically “retarded” because of the importance that psychology put upon language for the formation of concepts and ideas, in those dark days.

Who would deny that an intelligent Deaf person had the right to speak as an advocate for the rights of Deaf People, across the now notorious bell curve? Well you might if you were a hearing parent of a Deaf child, full of the standard societal notions of how important oralism is, and what an imposture sign language is. You see there is nothing unique about Autism so far as it fits within the social constructions and appreciations of Disability at all.

Please note that comments are only open for sensible debate. Fanatics who have no intention of ever changing there position on this, people who denigrate each other in the argument by calling there opponents had better keep fighting your Troll wars somewhere else as I don’t want to insult the readership of this blog by exposing them to the scatological level to which debate has descended elsewhere. So keep it polite please.
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