Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Comments by Daniel Au Valencia

Showing 32 of 32 comments.

  • Ableism, the idea that some people are inherently more or less deserving of autonomy because their bodies or brains are inherently better or worse, is the foundational oppressive framework upholding all the other oppressions. Psychiatry isn’t misogyny and misogyny isn’t psychiatry, but they’re both ableism. They both operate under the assumption that female minds need to be “fixed” because they are inferior to male minds. The targeted categories we focus on may not be the same, but they will always be linked by ableism. That is the kind of intersectionality we need to recognize and practice.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. I had planned to submit a newcomer’s perspective on the two conferences this past week, and now I doubt how necessary that is.

    Responding to your fundamental critique of conferences, I think a paradox befalls us, which is that the people who are analytical enough to recognize the problem are also the type to do a lot of talking and not so much mobilizing.

    When we do succeed in mobilization, as in the example of removing homosexuality disorder from government regulations, it often comes from a place of narrow self-interest without the intersectionality or solidarity you’ve described. The gay community got what they wanted, and dropped out of the fight. Even as their close relatives transgender and asexual remain as mental disorders in that same regulatory manual. I fear that is the direction the anti-psychiatry movement is headed. Actually, I see that as where we already are, and I fear that we will never grow out of it.

    Our movement should be structed like a cloud but instead it is more like a tree, with little communication between the branches. Autistic people are saying autism isn’t a disorder; voice hearers are saying schizophrenia isn’t a disorder; transgender and asexual people don’t even realize that they’re part of this; people with physical disabilities proclaim “but our minds are fine.” Not nearly enough people recognize that the fundamental problems are human rights violations, force and coercion, and that we’re all in this together.

  • Too much of anything can be harmful. And I do mean anything. A few months ago I staged a protest against a hate group selling hyperbaric oxygen chambers as a miracle for cure for various ailments and non-ailments, because it’s not only snake oil but dangerous snake oil. The procedure delivers, demonstrably, medically, too much oxygen.

    While I can technically concede the point that there is such a thing as too much screen use, I still have to retort with the question of why we are focused on screens? No parents are expressing concern over too much paper time, or too many books, or any other arbitrarily limited learning tool. And yet there is a much stronger body of evidence than there is on screen time, pointing to harmful effects of excessively prescribed homework.

    Children and consent together always make a nuanced issue, but we can at least ask if the intervention is being done for the benefit of the child, or the convenience of the parents. If the goal of the intervention is make a child not Autistic any more, or not display observable behavior that overlaps with autism, then it is certainly only for the convenience of the parents.

    I am aware that some of the writing styles I choose are provocative, however I don’t agree that the views themselves are. At least not in this context. The mission of Mad In America is (paraphrased) to challenge the dominant paradigm of psychiatric care. Attempting to “cure autism” because well, that’s the label you’ve been given and it’s a mental illness so we better get rid of it, does nothing of the sort. As one Facebook commenter pointed out, there is nothing scientific nor social justice in this article, and the part that is psychiatric is pro-psychiatry. All we’ve accomplished here is continuing to alienate Autistic people from the Mad community, keeping the world less safe for both Autistic people and Mad people.

  • This article isn’t even really *about* autism, the author is just using Autistic children as punching bags because that’s how casually the Mad community throws us under the bus. But the main point is that technology is scary and we should all be Amish. “Screens cause autism” is just this week’s variation of “screens are bad because the old man who yells at cloud is scared.” This is the same fearmongering bullshit people used to say about the radio, and before that, books with pictures in them, and before that, regular ass BOOKS. People like you have been wrong about the same thing for CENTURIES. New technologies cause change. GET OVER IT.

  • I’m not sure I’ll catch everything that’s wrong with this article, but I can try.

    1. The increasing trend of Autistic people being identified as such is in no way “explosive” this is fearmongering.
    2. There is no reason to say Autism Spectrum Disorder, just “autism” will suffice.
    3. There are zero autism diagnoses. You cannot “diagnose” something that is not a medical condition.
    4. ASD is just the medicalized name for autism there is no need to present autism and ASD as two separate options.
    5. Autistic people generally benefit from BEING exposed to screens. You are advocating against accommodations at best and for active child abuse at worst.
    6. How much screen time is “too much”? You can ask 100 parents and get 100 different answers. Clarifications, people, they are important.
    7. You have used the word “symptoms” without specifying what disease they are a symptom of. If we haven’t verified that there even is a disease, we cannot confidently call them symptoms.
    8. While I don’t have access to the abstract, considering the title “How TV, Video, and Toys Cause ASD” I don’t find your first reference to be a credible source.
    9. If a child stops being Autistic after a few months of technology deprivation, then they weren’t Autistic in the first place.
    10. “autism induced by electronic screens”? That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
    11. At first, when reading the title, I thought “virtual autism” meant “non-autism things that look superficially similar to autism and get misdiagnosed”. Now that you have clarified it to mean “autism induced by electronic screens”, I must say you are using the term incorrectly. If that is also what Dr Marius Zamfir meant by “virtual autism”, then he too was using his own term incorrectly.
    12. “Romania witnessed an astonishing rise in autism” Citation needed. Ironically that paragraph actually has a citation, but it doesn’t justify the section I’ve quoted.
    13. “Children presenting with autism were spending four or more hours a day watching some kind of screen.” The correct conclusion, if we even believe that this evidence is really conclusive, is to say that autism causes screen time.
    14. “Today in Romania, treatment of autism by screen withdrawal is considered routine and has public support.” That is horrifying. That is child abuse. That’s not something wrong with the article, but the fact that the article fails to point out the abusiveness is.
    15. “startling” more fearmongering.
    16. Autism statistics have gone up with the same amount of time delay after each new DSM release. If mental health professionals are still “puzzled”, those professionals are incompetent.
    17. Center*S* for Disease Control. That’s a nitpick, but I am going for “everything.”
    18. “stark” more fearmongering.
    19. Diagnoses aren’t the problem, it’s the “behavioral interventions” that come after.
    20. Citing the rising CDC estimate is not only fearmongering, it’s also (21) a cliché.
    22. Okay, 1 in 45 children have a cat named Autism that they are living with, but how many children are Autistic?
    23. “What is behind the exponential rise in the diagnosis of autism?” Answer: New releases of the DSM. I’ve solved the mystery. No need to write these articles.
    24. Non-medical things don’t have “risk factors.”
    25. Non-medical things don’t have “symptoms.”
    26. Citing psychiatrists as experts on autism is a logical fallacy.
    27. “rising tide” fearmongering
    28. “Solutions” is literally the word that Nazis used to describe prevention of the Jewish problem.
    29. No operational definition provided for the word “benefited”
    30. No follow-up period needed one month will suffice. Much peer review. Very science. Wow.
    31. No operational definition provided for the word “hindered”
    32. No operational definition provided for the word “normal”
    33. All language development including that of non-Autistic children has a period where words and their meanings have not yet been connected. For some words this persists into adulthood, as demonstrated by this author’s misuse of the word autism.
    34. The second example of echolalia doesn’t support the point made by the first example. This is simply bad writing technique.
    35. No operational definition provided for the word “healthy”
    36. Considering the amount of media attention bogus autism causes get, I have serious doubts about the study in reference 3 having found the real one.
    37. Needing to take a break is not the same thing as addiction.
    38. Computers are used more often to create human interactions than to prevent them.
    39. If screen time is painful why would children keep doing it?
    40. Violent and aggressive behavior is not autism.
    41. There’s that “explosion” word again.
    42. There’s that “disorder word again.
    43. Correlation is not causation.
    44. Video game players are not screens they are humans.
    45. There is an exponential rise in the author’s use of the word “exploding”
    45. Countries that do not have as many screens also do not have as much psychiatric diagnosing this is called a coincidence.
    46. Normal normal normal I still have no idea what this word means.
    47. Non-medical things don’t have “symptoms.”
    48. The word “treated” is correctly put in scare quotes but diagnosis and symptom aren’t please try to be more consistent.
    49. There is no such thing as severely Autistic any more than there is severely female.
    50. “Intensive play” is an oxymoron.
    51. Recovered from what? You can’t recover from autism because it’s not a disease.
    52. Old man yells at cloud.

  • Autism and Asperger syndrome are just two terms that mean the same thing. So people who have been (correctly) labeled with Asperger’s are Autistic. There’s no such thing as high- or low-functioning it’s all just autism. Meeting traditionally recognized milestones of success, such as having a family and a high-paying job, are entirely compatible with being Autistic. That doesn’t mean those people are “less Autistic” than others, and in fact saying it does is quite insulting to both the people who do and don’t meet those milestones.

    Medical injuries such as mercury poisoning, which happen to superficially look similar enough to autism to get misdiagnosed, are just that, superficially similar in appearance, while being 100% unequivocally “not autism.”

  • Note that the monetary bottom line isn’t necessarily a one to one correlation with “bigness”. Autism Speaks has political and cultural influence for sure, but in a lot of other ways Autism Society is more of a direct comparison to NAMI rather than Autism Speaks. NAMI has local chapters where parents get together in “support” groups to complain about how tragic and burdensome their children are. Autism Society does the same thing. Autism Speaks just swoops in to take your money and is then conspicuouly absent for the other 364 days.

  • The way I measure success in the fight against Autism Speaks is by the primary activity for which the company exists: Fundraising. in 2014, the first year I came to protest and started tracking the data, their Los Angeles yearly fundraiser swindled over 2 million dollars. Then in 2015 it was a little under 2 million. Then in 2016 they scaled the goal back to 2 million and only stole 1.5. This past April 1.5 million became the goal and they couldn’t even steal that much. These are still HUGE amounts of money that actually Autistic people could be doing actual advocacy with, but that’s just because the fight started with the corporate empire at a huge advantage. The trend is clearly downward.

    Last year a guy who looked like a discount Ted Nugent came to our table to yell at us, and took some of our literature to show the event organizers so they can strategize. He then got on the stage and proclaimed “don’t believe everything you read” (including the Autism Speaks website, right?) You know something fishy is going on when a multi-million-dollar corporation PANICS at the sight of a small group of disabled people with flyers.

  • Regarding normal people, it seems to me there are double standards within double standards. for a neurotypical person, “normal” means be yourself. For an Autistic person, “normal” means a list of a hundred unwritten rules to follow, and if you slip up, there will be consequences. not that there aren’t consquences for deviant neurotypicals too (for example, gay people are mostly considered neurotypical, yet still breaking a rule), but it’s a lot easier to follow the rules when your biology isn’t demanding you do things in ways that fall outside the “normal” range. Autistic people being dog-trained into “normality” isn’t any less oppressive than people with other so-called mental illnesses being medicated into it.

  • So glad to see Mad In America recognizing the natural allies in the Autistic rights movement and the neurodiversity movement! Autism is still considered a “mental illness” in society just as much as people who hear voices or who have extreme states, and these sorts of proclamations are the same result. I’m excited to see our communities collaborating more in the future.

  • At first I thought this was going in the direction of intersectionality, criticizing people who say things like “I’m Autistic and mentally ill”, applying critical thinking to autism and nothing else, and as a result throwing the Mad community under the bus. That’s exactly the sort of presentation we need to bring into Autistic spaces, such as at the Association for Autistic Community conference, but that’s not this article.

    What quickly tipped me off that this was going in the wrong direction was the phrase “more autistic”. I was really hoping the title was ironic. To use such a phrase indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what autism is. In this case it’s not the “autism=toxins” line of thought but rather looking at someone who’s having fewer meltdowns because their gluten-free diet no longer triggers their celiac disease and describing that as “less autistic”. The problem isn’t that cutting gluten wasn’t beneficial, in fact it WAS- the problem is perpetuating the notion of a linear sliding scale of autisticness, and implying that sliding the scale in one direction is automatically preferable.

    The author claims, in a sort of repeated disclaimer-y way, the belief that autism is not inherently bad, yet by conflating disease and injury states with being “more autistic”, asserts the opposite. If “more autism” is intrinsically worse than less autism, then you’re saying autism is intrinsically bad.

    I also noticed that the anti-DSM rhetoric is immediately followed by an assumption that meeting more DSM criteria is the same as being “more autistic”. As with the previous observation, this is a clear case of cognitive dissonance. In fact additional marks on the DSM checklist indicate that you are perceived as more broken or more “severely” disabled, not more autistic. If you define “psychotic” as someone who either hears voices or commits murder, then of course serial killers are going to meet the criteria for psychosis, but only because you wrote the definition that way! If the DSM criteria for autism were accurate, then having unrelated microbial issues would have no effect on how psychiatrically autistic you are.

  • There IS a word, ableism, and it’s been around for decades.

    The simplistic definition you give to someone who asks “what does that word mean?” is that it’s like racism or sexism, but instead of race or gender it’s applied to disability. Except “disability” is socially constructed just as much- nay, more so than race, sex, or gender; so if you truly seek a deeper understanding then it inevitably gets more complex.

    The foundation of ableism is the belief that some bodies and minds are better than others, and therefore are deserving of more rights. If you think about it, that is also the foundation underlying all the other “isms” too. Racism assumes that white bodies and white minds are better than the rest. Sexism assumes that male bodies are better than female or intersex bodies, that male minds are better than female or nonbinary minds.

    I’ve also encountered the terms sanism (from labeling people sane or insane) and neurobigotry (from the people who brought you the words neurotypical, neurominority, etc.) to specify that mental things are the target of discrimination. While that’s a useful distinction, especially around under-the-bus-throwing “our minds are fine” disability advocates, ultimately it still boils down to ableism. The assumption that “sane” and “mentally healthy” are legitimate factual categories, distinct from “insane” and “mentally ill”, is really the same as the assumption that neurotypical minds are better than neurodivergent minds.