That Shouldn't Happen: The Just World Fallacy and Autism

Everyday, we hear about tragedies, some that hit too close to home for comfort, and our reactions...

Heaviness: Euthanasia For Expediency

It's all over the internet now, the story of the twin brothers in Belgium who were deaf and going...

What's the Harm: When Reality and Wishful Thinking Clash

I'm digging around for posts people have written on what to say/what not to say to autistic people...

Facilitated Communication: Same As It Ever Was (Same As It Ever Was)

In the past couple years, I’ve written over a dozen articles examining facilitated communication...

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Kim WomblesRSS Feed of this column.

Instructor of English and psychology and mother to three on the autism spectrum.

Writer of the site (where most of these articles will have first appeared) and co-administrator

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I feel stuck, stuck in the continued reflection of what DSM labels mean to individuals and how they conceive their identities. Perhaps this is because so much of what I read on the internet in our online community is about identity and labels. It seems many of us are focused on what it means to be autistic and who controls the right to label and define.

It's no surprise that when I get interested in a topic I opt for full immersion. Come on, people--you've seen the zebra print! You've seen the wigs!

What's my latest? Apparently, a deep immersion into Peter Singer, whose chapter "Taking Life: Humans" I've assigned to my students in Comp 1, along with Harriet McBryde Johnson's "Unspeakable Conversations."
One of the interesting things in the online autism world is how the use of labels and definitions created by mental health professionals are being taken over by the community. Autism is redefined away from a mental disorder to a neurological difference, and labels are adopted by individuals and reworked into personality traits and features that are innate to the person and not a signifier of defects  or deficits.

I've been reflecting on autism and what makes a disability and what makes a personality, as I wait for the APA to get its shit together and release the new DSM. Will the change in criteria mean my children are suddenly no longer autistic? (No, it won't). Psychological disorders diagnosed by behaviors are subjective at best--from both the client's side and the psychologist's side. Biases and knowledge bases make sure that there is a lack of consistency across the board in who gets a diagnosis and what diagnosis it is. The codes for the DSM are used to get insurance reimbursement--a label is needed--a number code is required--the medical model requires labeling and coding everything if people are going to get services and have insurance reimburse or cover the cost.

For every "treatment" or remediation in autism-land, there are both fervent believers and detractors. For every person helped, there's another harmed. Perhaps, just perhaps, in some cases, it's not the therapy itself, but the person conducting the therapy that makes it a problem.

There are bad apples in every field, people who misapply therapies, others who use their position to abuse, and others who are so incompetent as to be dangerous. Nowhere is this more evident and problematic than in the disciplines that are involved in helping people--be it in academia, in psychology or in service-related fields.

According to WHO, "Although it is a vaccine-preventable disease, rabies still poses a significant public health problem in many countries in Asia and Africa where 95% of human deaths occur even though safe, effective vaccines for both human and veterinary use exist."