Maybe we’re all autistic (redux)

While writing my most recent post, I found myself back 2 1/2 years to something I wrote on the subject of the genetic nature of autism. The following quote from the article I was discussing is quite likely the source of my opinion, expressed in The genetic basis of … everything (Or: Maybe we are all autistic), that the “autism spectrum” isn’t restricted to those with an autism diagnosis (emphasis is mine):

Autism is not a “you have it or you don’t” disorder, Todd said. Instead, it is a highly inheritable continuum of traits, much like height or high blood pressure. The cutoff for being tall or short or having high or low blood pressure is somewhat arbitrary, he said. So is the diagnosis of autism. The measure of autism is usually the inability to cope in the real world, said NYU’s Hollander.

People can be different without having a pathology,” Hollander said. “It’s only a disorder if it causes stress or interferes with function.”

Reminiscent of a comment from Laurentius Rex on a recent post.

Something to consider.

5 thoughts on “Maybe we’re all autistic (redux)

  1. “People can be different without having a pathology,”

    I love that! I definately feel like we all have traits. My son’s issues just happen to affect him more severely than the rest of us.


  2. “It’s only a disorder if it causes stress or interferes with function.”
    The issue I have with this is the definition of “function”–is interfering with the person’s actual functioning defined by their own measures or the expectations of their functioning defined by other people? I about spit in my sons’ doctor’s face when I was giggling about something that my youngest does and I mentioned how he’s got so much of his momma in him. He looked at me funny and said “But you’re functioning.” I was mad on so many levels, but one that really damages me is that to everyone else “I function” but they don’t see me when I’m not. I know what part of me to show and what part of me not to show, what people need to or want to see. They don’t see me when I crash and burn. I just “disappear.” Recently at my oldest’s IEP meeting they went on about how great it is that he can hold it together at school but too bad he crashes and burns when he gets home, not their issue. I wasn’t too kind when I told them that *that* isn’t “functioning” that’s just survival, and no one, especially a child, should be forced to “function” that way. It took a lot of arguing and explaination to get him the modifications he needed to lower that threshold. Anyhow , sorry for the tangent.


  3. By the way, I have no idea *what I have.* Never been diagnosed with (or sought diagnoses for) anything other than various forms of anxiety. But it irks me that my opinions about autism don’t matter as much if I am a parent vs a person with autism (sorry Joe). If I am diagnosed with something tomorrow, then does all of a sudden my opinions have more validity? I guess my opinions are more about specifics, not a global “autism” or to cure or not to cure anyhow, but still if the label is ambiguous and the constructs always varying then why do you have to meet the criteria to have a higher-valued opinion? I have no doubt that I am wired differently, but I shouldn’t have to prove that to make my opinion matter more because I happen to be a parent of children who have an autism diagnosis (again, they’re definitely wired differently, but people will argue if they “meet the criteria.”) Not sure if this makes sense, but it’s been buiding over the past year when I read the parent vs self-advocate debates.


  4. “It’s only a disorder if it causes stress or interferes with function.”

    Right. And in children, it is only a disorder if it causes stress to people in power, such as teachers or parents or interferes with a function that these same people want to see performed.


  5. I am pretty sure the whole line between ‘interfering with function’ and ‘not interfering with function’ as a means of identifying ‘disorder’ is illusory and heavily biased by what ‘functions’ are valued.

    In the real world, everyone wishes they could do things they can’t ever, in a whole lifetime, do.

    In the real world, many advantages in the body are paid for by disadvantages. A very tall person may have a better chance of being good at at basketball (all other things considered), but they’re really bad at fitting under things or getting out of sight quickly.

    A “normal” brain gains certain abilities at the expense of others, some of which autistic brains retain at the expense of some “normal” abilities.

    Who on earth decides that when a “normal” brain interferes with potentially important functioning, well that’s just “normal” (even if that potentially important functioning could save their or others’ lives at some point), but when having an autistic brain interferes with doing things the way “normal” people do them, that’s “disordered”?

    This isn’t just semantics to me. I want to know why I’m stuck by most people in the second-class tier (those considered by others “very disordered”) of an already second-class group of citizens (“autistic people”), and I want to know why the damn hierarchy has to be built in the first place.


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