Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Asperger Positive?

Originally posted September 2005

I had a major WTF moment this morning while I was wading through the noxious morass generally known as discussion of autism on the Internet. I came across a forum thread entitled, "Asperger Positive? Check in here!" It's a good thing I wasn't drinking any coffee, or I would have spluttered it all over my computer screen. And believe me, I'm not easy to shock, after all the garbage I've read online and elsewhere, but about all I could do for several seconds was just sit there shaking my head.

That thread was not referring to positive traits, or to positive attitudes, or anything along those lines. Rather, it was using the word "positive" in the clinical and diagnostic sense of the word, in the same way that a test for the presence of cancerous cells shows a positive result if it detects cancer, or a person who contracts AIDS is described as HIV-positive. And whoever posted it apparently thought it was a perfectly acceptable way of describing Aspies.

Now, I don't intend any disrespect toward HIV-positive individuals, who certainly deserve better treatment and more tolerance than our society has given them, but holy crap, something is seriously wrong when the same terminology is used for those who have an unpopular personality type as for those diagnosed with a deadly infectious disease.

There is, of course, no such thing as a scientific medical test that can yield an "Asperger positive" result. Indeed,
an article written by a professor of psychiatry describes the appalling lack of anything remotely resembling the scientific method as follows: "Autism is a vast wastebasket of syndromic disease classification, and Asperger's addition has done little to improve the science."

We are talking about a completely unscientific label that is based entirely on subjective judgments about personality and behavior. (For a thorough deconstruction of the illogical nature of the Asperger's diagnostic category, I recommend
this essay by a Swedish autism rights activist.)

The widespread use of disease terminology to describe the natural characteristics of a genetic minority group is both wrong and extremely dangerous. If we don't fight it now, while we still can, and in every way we reasonably can, the world's last use of the word "positive" in relation to autism and Asperger's is going to be the results of prenatal tests designed to exterminate us. Those tests are only a few years away,
and the clock is ticking.

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