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On The Imaginary 1000% Increase In Autism

by Patricia E. Clark

In 1964 Bernard Rimland published the book "Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implication for a Neural Theory of Behavior." This began to change the field of psychiatry from its claim that autism is an emotional illness, caused by destructive mothers, to its current recognition that autism is a biological disorder. (The above is quoted almost verbatim from Bernard Rimland's web page.)

There are still people who believe autism is "misbehavior," or is "psychiatric" and can be treated by drugs lots of expensive drugs. During the years since 1965 mothers have become more amenable to being labeled parents of autistics, since it is no longer thought to be "all their fault" by most people. Tolerance of individual differences in schools and at work has decreased, due to the nature of our society, the drastically decreased need for laborers and entry-level clerks, and other changes.

During that time, diagnosis of autism has increased. In 1985 the IDEA laws regarding education of non-standard citizens became effective, and they are more and more in use as time goes on. This is the trend we are seeing. There was no IDEA and no education of "autistic" individuals 50 years ago. There was little 20 to 25 years ago. People like me, diagnosed autistic in early childhood, were either hidden away in institutions or smuggled into the general school population, frustrating teachers with our "bad attitudes" and "refusal to work to our obvious potential."

The educational system got a real clobbering with the closing of the major state institutions for the "feeble minded" and the "insane." All those children who were actually not schooled while in institutions, and never released into the general population during their lifetimes, suddenly were taking up classroom seats and frustrating teachers raised on educational theories that all children learn in specific ways.

I didn't show up under IDEA because I graduated from high school in 1961.

People who don't like the deal life has dealt them will do ANYTHING to see some kind of plot behind the situation and find someone to blame. There is no kind of proof that autism itself has "exploded." I perceive an explosion of hysterical blame-throwing in the attempt to keep people's minds busy so they don't have to think about what they need to do for their children's futures.

This hysteria keeps people busy and prevents them from working on decent educational options for highly intelligent people who cannot speak, and support services that provide dignified lives for them as adults. The activity focuses on blame and on forcing therapies to make the children "look normal" instead of learning to work around their handicaps. These therapies stress the children unnecessarily and cause huge behavioral problems that their parents address with drugs and more drugs.

The problem with autism is that it is not perceived or dealt with realistically and positively.

2 October 2004