A Lost Generation
Every now and again, I see another website or printed publication that calls itself an experts' guide for parents of children with Asperger's syndrome. These things keep popping up all over, like a bad case of zits, and they follow a suspiciously predictable pattern. First they trot out a long list of stereotyped impairments, fabricated gloomy statistics, and anecdotes about brave parents struggling to cope with their child's affliction. Then they follow that up by cheerily saying something along the lines of, "Because this is the first generation that has had the benefit of proper diagnosis and treatment, we can hope for a brighter future for them!"
Yeah. Right. That's such a pile of bullshit, it could keep every golf course in the world thick and green for years. Just like the bank accounts of the con artists who happily lick their chops every time a kid gets diagnosed and on the (very expensive) quack-treatment-go-round. Needless to say, it's the same con artists who are the ones writing these so-called experts' guides.
One point is true: the Asperger's diagnosis has only been around since the 1990s. But to say that it may make children's lives brighter is like saying that a beer drinker may be happier with a big frothy glass of horse piss. Before the diagnosis existed, many autism spectrum kids were placed in gifted classes, and their parents were told that they should be proud of their smart young future scientists. The world once was tolerant enough of harmless eccentricity so that autistic geniuses such as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Isaac Newton could flourish, without any self-appointed experts proclaiming that their passion for knowledge was a tragic symptom of a mental disorder.
Let's look at some of the "benefits" that a child can get from the Asperger's diagnosis:
Special-Needs Classes: Rather than having the opportunity to enroll in gifted and talented programs where they could study their subjects of interest at an advanced level, many autistic children are now placed in segregated classes for the mentally impaired or the emotionally disturbed. Although the psychologically damaging nature of school segregation has long been recognized in the context of racial discrimination, many educators don't seem at all concerned about the equally harmful effects of neurological discrimination.
Dangerous Medications: Although Ritalin (an amphetamine) has been passed out like candy for many years without adequate long-term safety studies, it is by no means the most dangerous of the behavioral control medications commonly used on autistic children to keep them docile and quiet. That dubious distinction belongs to Risperdal, a toxic neuroleptic drug that can cause seizures and permanent brain damage; it is often used on autistic children in the United States, despite the denial of government approval for such use. If you're interested in reading more of the sordid details of the abusive use of medications on autistics, I recommend the Autistic People against Neuroleptic Abuse website.
Other Assorted Quackery: The dog-training methods used by behaviorists on many young autistic children have gotten a lot of well-deserved condemnation on sites such as CIBRA and No Autistics Allowed, but many other fraudulent therapies are also harmful to the physical and mental health of autistic kids. These include extreme and unscientific diet/supplement regimens, as well as the mercury chelation nonsense that has been thoroughly debunked on sites such as Autism Watch, Autism Diva, and Neurodiversity Weblog.
Exclusion from Public Facilities: The diagnosis can cause a child to be discriminated against in, or completely excluded from, a variety of activities. Kathleen Seidel's article The Autistic Distinction was written in response to an incident where a boy was banned from a town's playground after his diagnosis. No doubt there have been many such incidents that didn't make the news because the parents were too intimidated, or too poor, to go to court to defend their child's civil rights.
Negative Spiral/Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: All children, whether autistic or otherwise, have a strong tendency to live up or down to their parents' and teachers' expectations. If a child gets the message that he is a healthy, capable person and that he can look forward to a productive and successful life, he is likely to do well. If, on the other hand, a child constantly hears that he is mentally defective, that he is afflicted with a disorder that is an epidemic and a horrifying calamity, and that the world would be much better off without people like him in it… well, that leads directly to the next "benefit" of the diagnosis…
Depression and Anxiety: Some autistic children become so severely depressed that they attempt suicide or become unable to function. Others develop such extreme anxiety that they self-injure or are terrified to leave the house. Psychiatrists blame the autism for all of these problems and blithely prescribe more meds, never considering the obvious fact that the incidence of depression and anxiety is likely to be significantly higher in any minority group that is systematically abused, excluded, and stigmatized.
Suffice it to say that this is not a generation that can look forward to a brighter future. This is a lost generation, and what is being done to these children is a crime against humanity.