The Neurodiversity Theory is predicated on the idea that autism is a "difference" rather than a disorder. This puts it in conflict with the view held by the mainstream medical/scientific establishment. Major organisations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the World Health Organisation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, and the Autism Science Foundation all consider autism a disorder (i.e., Autism Spectrum Disorder). As per standard diagnostic criteria, only individuals whose autistic characteristics/traits significantly impede important aspects of their day-to-day functioning (e.g., social interactions, employment) warrant a diagnosis of ASD (an individual whose (mild) autistic traits do not significantly interfer with their daily functioning does not warrant a diagnosis of ASD; they would be considered to have subclinical "broader autism phenotype").
Following on from the view that autism is a difference, the neurodiversity (or "neuroaffirmative") approach argues that people with ASD should not avail of interventions which aim to develop their social-communication abilities. In contrast, the mainstream view in medicine (psychiatry/paediatrics) and evidence-based psychology is that those with the disorder do in fact benefit from interventions to develop their social, communication, and adaptive functioning (i.e., daily living) skills. Contrary to the claims made by neurodiversity/neuroaffirmative proponents, clinicians who advocate for interventions to develop the social and communicative abilities of those with ASD are not trying to change the individual into someone they are not; rather they are aiming to help the individual better manage the social and practical demands of everyday life, ultimately helping to reduce their everyday stresses and challenges.
Autism: Propaganda vs Reality
Links to various articles critical of the "Neurodiversity" theory
- "Against neurodiversity" - Quote: "Firstly, neurodiversity advocates can romanticise autism...Worryingly, this trend of romanticising autism has extended to other conditions that can be severe, debilitating, and life-threatening. There are now groups of self-advocates who celebrate depression and schizophrenia. This could also be related to the growth of pro-anorexia websites, as well as the more recent emergence of ‘addiction pride’"
- "Neurodiversity: A dangerous extension of a discredited philosophy" - Quote: "What started as a well-intentioned movement within the autism community to expand the civil rights of autistic persons has quickly become a dangerous and misguided exercise in mental illness denial. The concept of “neurodiversity” is now readily applied not only to autism but to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and the range of psychiatric disorders—even disorders long-established as serious forms of psychopathology."
- "The creeping orthodoxy of the neurodiversity movement" - Quote: "It is no longer fashionable to talk about autism spectrum disorders among certain quarters of the ASD community without reference to “neurodiversity.”...I was once firmly planted in the neurodiversity camp. However, over time, my enthusiasm for the movement has waned, even though I still support what they are trying to accomplish in general terms."
- "Does the term 'neurodiversity' do more harm than good?" - Quote: "Attempts to normalize abnormal development could prevent individuals in need of help from seeking it..."
- "Neurodiversity is failing the most vulnerable" - Quote: "Treating autism as an identity has resulted in care being denied to those who need it most."
- "The dangerous myth of neurodiversity" - Quote: "Autism is a complex condition in need of medical research. [A neurodiversity proponent's] simplistic but highly influential advocacy of neurodiversity does not aid such research. Rather, it stands in its way."
- "What is autism? How the term became too broad to have meaning any more" - Quote: "The general shift in advocacy in the direction of the increasingly fashionable neurodiversity paradigm has led to what I and many others see as the trivialisation of autism...Many now self-identify as autistic as though autism were a fashion label rather than a debilitating disorder."
- "The danger of neurodiversity" - Quote: "The reality is that identity politics has become so deranged that there is a group of people (both here and in the UK) who seek to prevent autistic people getting help, on the nonsensical grounds that it’s insulting to suggest they need it. The movement is called the ‘neuro-diversity movement’..."
- "Beyond neurodiversity?" - Quote: A narrative of the neurodiversity movement is that "autism research should not be carried out without the involvement of autistic stakeholders, and that these stakeholders should determine the topics of study. Some went so far as to suggest that non-autistic researchers and certain scholarly interests...have no place in autism research."
- "Neurodiversity - Um, brains are biological organs" - Quote: "Like hearts and lungs, brains are biological organs. When a child has a hole in his heart, we cherish the child but hardly celebrate “cardio-diversity.” The scientific literature is now replete with findings of pathological neurobiological phenomena in autism, including impairments in neural connectivity, dendritic pruning, and synaptic functioning, among others."
Links to various articles about parents being bullied/harassed online by neurodiversity "activists" for simply wanting to get interventions for their ASD children
- "I no longer have patience for toxic autism ideologies" - Quote: "When you walk this journey please don't let anybody tell you what's best for your children. Especially don't let some random person on the internet who claims they know your child because they claim they share a diagnosis. Sometimes I have tried to just stay out of the fights or ignore it. But the other day I saw just how toxic the rhetoric has become..."
- "Online bullying of autism parents" - Quote: "Imagine days of working so tirelessly for your loved one with autism, only to log into social media to be bullied and gaslighted by strangers calling you an abuser and a failure, and claiming to be able to do a better job than you...Then there is the neurodiversity proponents’ obsession with fine details, for example, minor points of terminology, or the blue color, or the puzzle logo. Their incessant harping and carping over the most trivial matters is yet another attempt to diminish and undermine parents and their lived experience of autism."
- "The cognitive distortions that feed neurodiversity radicalism" - Quote: "A year ago I was en route to becoming the type of "neurodiversity activist" who cyberbullies autism parents in the name of tolerance. I had every hallmark of such an activist: a recent ASD diagnosis, a desire to partake in the social justice that surrounded me, irrational self-confidence, ignorance of the more severe end of the autism spectrum, and a Tumblr account. Clearly, if I’m writing this blog post, a lot has changed since then..."
- "The dangerous world of marginalizing autism parents" - Quote: "In addition, there is the noxiousness of a group of strangers online claiming to have better insight into your child than you do. The baseless idea that people can self-diagnose. The idea that autism research is only valid if the researcher is autistic. The ludicrous idea that autism is some quirky difference...And of course the Queen of All Repulsive Ideas: that there is no spectrum and that all autistic people can use online social media platforms and that communication is hindered only because the parent has failed to explore communication tools or that autism is a result of childhood trauma".
- "Autism parents, don't let the bullies silence you" - Quote: "Through a sustained effort, [neurodiversity] activists intent on reshaping the discussion around autism have effectively usurped parents and even mainstream organisations as the de facto authority on all things autism. To me and to many other advocates, autistic and non-autistic alike, this is a deeply disturbing trend, not least because of the fanaticism of those espousing such a counter-intuitive and counter-factual philosophy".
Reflections of a Former Neurodiversity Warrior
Diagnostic Assessments for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Science vs Pseudoscience
Diagnostic assessments for ASD should follow international best practice guidelines and involve a thorough evaluation of an individual's autistic symptomatology, their cognitive ability and adaptive functioning, as well as an examination of any comorbid (co-occurring) conditions. Any diagnosis should be made in accordance with internationally accepted diagnostic criteria (e.g., DSM-5 or ICD-11), and correct terminology (i.e., Autism Spectrum Disorder) should be used in psychological reports. Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual, but are incompatible with the scientific method. According to McDonald and DiGennaro Reed (2018)1, "Purposeful misrepresentation of the state of evidence for a particular assessment or inappropriate use of a validated assessment may represent a pseudoscientific approach...We urge professionals and parents to exercise caution when considering an assessment practice, particularly when treatment decisions stem from its results." (pp. 423-424).
Warning signs for pseudoscientific diagnostic assessment practices for ASD include:
- Inappropriate use of scientific terminology, (and use of) jargon, or made-up words to describe the assessment.
- A lack of reliability and validity studies on the assessment method.
- Over-reliance on testimonials and anecdotal evidence to support the assessment's effectiveness and usefulness.
1 McDonald, M. E., & DiGennaro Reed, F. D. (2018). Distinguishing science and pseudoscience in the assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorder. In S. Goldstein & S. Ozonoff (Eds.), Assessment of autism spectrum disorder (pp. 415–441). Guilford Press.
Autism and gender dysphoria
There has been a significant surge in requests for psychiatric services for children and teenagers who are questioning their gender. Much of this surge has been caused by a marked increase in the number of individuals with autism presenting. Five years ago, approximately 20% of the cases involved people with autism, while now it is approaching 90%.
"Facilitating a Social Transition" - video by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO)
Quote: "My pupil Ray asked, 'So boys can change into girls?...and girls can change into boys?" "Yes, I said", replies the teacher.
Quote: "We're very lucky to know a person like that (a young transgender child) and they're even in our class", says the teacher. "The person we've been calling 'Lucy' is really a boy" and his new name is Liam. "And we will all call him 'Liam', won't we?" asks the teacher. "The whole class agreed, Yes, teacher!"
Quote: The teacher continues, "A few weeks later, I introduced the pupils to non-binary identity - where people don't identify with being either a boy or a girl".
Links to various articles critical of the (unquestioning) gender-affirmative approach to gender dysphoria
- Quote: "Doctors flagged concern as 234 children — 32 aged 10 or younger — were sent to Tavistock in England."
- Quote: "Senior doctors in the National Gender Service (NGS) warned the HSE in 2019 that it would face a wave of patients who would regret medical gender reassignments due to the poor level of care given to Irish children by the Tavistock clinic."
- Quote: "A consultant psychiatrist at the NGS which treats over-16s in Loughlinstown, and his colleagues set out their concerns over Tavistock’s “unsafe” Irish children’s gender clinic in writing and at a number of meetings since 2019."
- Quote: Puberty blockers "are not consequence-free interventions. The vast majority of children who take these drugs go on to be prescribed cross-sex hormones, while the majority of children who don't take them eventually choose to stay in their own gender."
- Quote: "The dangers of placing children on puberty blockers and other hormonal treatment are becoming increasingly clear. Sweden has outlawed their use completely for under-18s, citing a 'lack of quality evidence'. They believe the risks of the treatment outweigh the benefits at present."
- Quote: "School counsellors and mental health service providers are bowing to pressures from ‘highly politicised’ transgender groups to affirm children’s beliefs that they were born the wrong sex, a leading expert has warned."
- Quote: "Counsellors and other mental health providers fear being labelled transphobic."
- Quote: “I believe the trans political agenda has encroached on the clinical environment surrounding and within the Gender Identity Development Service...Young people need an independent clinical service that has the long-term interests of the patient at heart. To some extent, this requires a capacity to stand up to pressure coming from various sources: from the young person, their family, peer groups, online and social networking pressures and from highly politicised pro-trans groups.”
- Quote: "A group of parents whose children were treated at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in London wrote to the trust’s board. In their letter they express deep concern that children with no long history of gender dysphoria, who were on the autism spectrum or suffered from social anxiety adjustment disorders were, with very insufficient investigation, diagnosed as transgender. They believed that the GIDS adopted a superficial approach that was in danger of colluding with the child’s belief that all their problems will be solved if only they could change gender."
- Quote: "The extraordinary grip of powerful trans lobbies is having the effect of silencing clinicians who fear them. Television producers and journalists continually report that, although clinicians at GIDS are willing to speak in confidence to them about their reservations of treatment in these areas, they shy away from being named for fear of the consequences – being branded a transphobic bigot."
- Quote: "A psychotherapist with considerable experience of working with transgender patients, has described his sudden realisation of the increasing number of patients who regretted the sexual reassignment they had undertaken. In 2019, he wrote that he had been contacted by more than 50 patients in the preceding 2 years. However, his proposal to carry out a formal research project to investigate this phenomenon was rejected by his university department for fear of a backlash."
- Quote: "An increasing number of ‘regretters’ or ‘detransitioners’ are speaking out on social media and at conferences to argue they have been let down by mental health services that have failed to assess their psychological problems before prescribing medical treatments such as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, or surgery as treatment for their gender dysphoria."
Links to articles about transgender "activists" bullying and harassing people
- Don’t give in to the bullying trans activists - Quote: "They'll come for you at the slightest perceived transgression. But you're not a bigot. Be calm. Stand firm."
- Are children being bullied into being trans? - Quote: "We have gathered testimony from parents who are struggling with children who are determined to go down a pathway that ends in mutilation, sterilisation, loss of sexual function and life-long regret. They reveal how children are being encouraged to embrace a transgender identity by other pupils, with the connivance of teachers and often, deliberately, without the knowledge of their parents"..."Autistic children are especially vulnerable to transgender ideology"...Our son "told us that an outside organisation came in to do a talk in assembly about pronouns and about the hundreds of different sexualities, and how each one had a flag. In my opinion this is encouraging vulnerable children, especially if they are autistic or have other difficulties."