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27 May 2016 @ 06:41 am
A Spectrum Is Haunting Europe  
I have spent years wondering if I am autistic, even though I have a Theory of Mind and can pass for neurotypical in many social situations. For one thing, I have a number of other issues that are often labeled autistic, such as attention deficiency, dyspraxia, hypersensitivity, and an approach based on living in my mind and dealing with the world, rather that living directly in the world. Rebecca Burgess shows us that a spectrum is not more-or-less, the way the autistic one is usually described.

Thanx to Metafilter


Almost forgot: This post on Status 451 seems to cover some of the same questions. (Technical math terminology warning. And I am perversely amused by a measure of autism based on the mathematics of Paul Dirac.)
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Marissa Lingenmrissa on May 27th, 2016 12:15 pm (UTC)
A great many autistic adults have a Theory of Mind. If someone told you "autistic people don't have a Theory of Mind," that's just not true, to the point where I found the "even though" there a bit offensive. When and how it develops, what data feeds into it, how it works: it may not be wired the same way as neurotypical people. But autism = no Theory of Mind is an utterly false equivalency.

(I am not myself autistic but have in my family multiple people who have been officially diagnosed by real live medical personnel. So a lot of the "autistic people have no empathy," "autistic people have no Theory of Mind," etc. stuff really gets at me.)
El Coyote Gordo: neurosupergee on May 27th, 2016 02:35 pm (UTC)
Many people have told me, "autistic people don't have a Theory of Mind," and I apologize for passing along the offense. I have something that resembles autism in some but not all aspects, and I am trying to get a more precise grip on what it is.
Kalimac: puzzlekalimac on May 27th, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
Many people have told me, "autistic people don't have a Theory of Mind,"

And it's BS. People on the autistic spectrum are perfectly fine with a Theory of Mind; what they often don't have is a Practice of Mind; that is, knowing when and how in the immediate press of practical situations to apply the Theory. Or when they do, they know it through logic and experience, rather than through innate empathy.

It's a lot of people who aren't autistic who lack a Theory of Mind. You see this all the time in politics when people assume that other people think like them, and then scratch their heads in bewilderment as to what makes those other people come to different conclusions. "Why do they hate America?" was a classic example. Right now, everyone from the Governor of North Carolina down to the cretin who writes "Mallard Fillmore" are demonstrating their lack of a Theory of Mind by refusing to believe in transsexuality.
El Coyote Gordo: coy1supergee on May 27th, 2016 04:16 pm (UTC)
The standards for Theory of Mind can be very low. In some circles believing that white people have minds suffices.
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on May 28th, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
And suppose one's Theory of Mind says "These people are all batshit crazy"....?

When I was nine, I formed the hypothesis that adults were lying all the time, except for those (like my truthful Aspie mother) who weren't lying, only repeating the lies they had been told, and had believed.

Fifty years later, that black-and-white view has shaded into a million grey variables, but the essential hypothesis has not been disproven. We are silly monkeys, first cousins to the Bandar-log; how should we presume to think we'd know Truth if it bit us on our foolish noses?

My Theory of Mind these days is that there is no 'neurotypical'; that every brain is unfathomably unique, and that 'batshit crazy' is more-or-less 'human-normal', so life will never be Boring.


Edited at 2016-05-28 07:21 pm (UTC)
El Coyote Gordo: recliningsupergee on May 28th, 2016 08:27 pm (UTC)
That makes a lot of sense to me.
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on May 28th, 2016 03:23 am (UTC)
"what they often don't have is a Practice of Mind; that is, knowing when and how in the immediate press of practical situations to apply the Theory. Or when they do, they know it through logic and experience, rather than through innate empathy."

That's aptly put. Just because one both senses and cares about another person's emotional state doesn't mean one necessarily knows what to do about it - especially if one doesn't really grok the reasons for their feelings because one doesn't share them.
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on May 27th, 2016 04:37 pm (UTC)
That whole "autistics lack Theory of Mind" thing is based on the results of testing small children with a test that does not measure what they thought it measured. Both that, and "autistics lack empathy", have been refuted over and over for decades now.

Most adult Aspies can pass for NT in some social situations. Some can pass in all. The key point is that people who are neurotypical don't have to learn to pass for it, any more than heterosexuals have to learn to pass for straight.

Revised alternative autism criteria: most useful I have seen so far.

Understanding Neurotypicality (if you relate to this, you may well be autistic.)

Edited at 2016-05-27 04:38 pm (UTC)
El Coyote Gordo: Joshuasupergee on May 27th, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks. This is extremely useful. I seem to be somewhere near the boundaries for the checklist. I love the stuff on the ISNT website. Is the second one from it?
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on May 27th, 2016 08:01 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! I tried to link in ISNT, but couldn't do it on this (obsolete) computer - the second link has been around a long time, on a lot of different sites; not sure where it originated.

Here's another link: Debunking the Theory of Mind, that explains some of what's wrong with the Sally-Anne test. As a rule of thumb, one can pretty much assume that anything Simon Baron-Cohen says about autism is bullshit. What a piece of work is that man!

There have been a lot of other really stupid tests done on autistic children. One of them concluded that autistic children don't distinguish between inanimate objects and living creatures because the children in the experiment didn't seem to treat toy animals as if they thought they were alive. Hello; paging the Logic Police!

There will never be any narrowing-down of what is or isn't autism until there are some actual medical tests to determine who is or is not autistic. Right now, there are none; autism is 'diagnosed' purely subjectively, on the basis of how closely observed/reported behaviors match a catch-all set of somewhat-vague arbitrary criteria for toddlers.

Basically, if you are an adult and not in need of an official medical diagnosis for some reason, you can decide for yourself whether you are or are not autistic. If you decide you are, you can then decide what (if anything) you want to do about it. Attentional and executive deficits can be improved; social and self-care skills can be learned; hypersensitivities and anxiety-triggers can be decreased and/or worked around. None of which will make anybody 'less autistic' - just 'more effective autistic'.

Particularly-effective autistics are known as 'geniuses'. Maybe you're one of those. ;~D

El Coyote Gordo: bssupergee on May 27th, 2016 08:28 pm (UTC)
I have been assuming for years that anything Simon Baron Cohen said about gender was bullshit, so I guess he's consistent.

I'm definitely going to do a follow-up post.

Edited at 2016-05-27 08:30 pm (UTC)
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on May 28th, 2016 01:35 am (UTC)
Here's another site I think you'll like:

Autism and Empathy
Arlie Stephensertla on May 28th, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
Those revised alternative autism criteria certainly work for me, as far as giving me a non-ambiguous label. Usually I "fail" at being autistic according to official criteria, or wind up somewhere on the border. Probably because I've got many decades experience in coping with the allist world.




Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on May 28th, 2016 06:32 pm (UTC)
It's the only set of criteria I've seen that was made by an actual autistic adult and member of the adult autistic community. Do you know the Autistic Self Advocacy Network? There's a ton of good information on their site.

You might like to check out the intense world theory, to which a lot of autistic adults subscribe. And here's a fascinating article, Autism genes are in all of us, new research reveals.

Being both autistic and intelligent, one soon observes that pink monkeys get beaten and bitten to death by the other monkeys. All of us Aspies 'of a certain age' have carefully cultivated our passing-skills for decades, because the social penalties for not-passing are so dire. It's absurd to attempt to 'diagnose' us on the basis of criteria designed by neurotypical doctors to evaluate young children, viz. the DSM criteria.

Note that this is a highly political issue, since the DSM is the 'Big Golden Book of Billable Disorders', and if the DSM's criteria for autism are heavily oriented to male toddlers, obviously most autistic adults and many autistic girls will be excluded from that diagnosis, thus not eligible for services.

My view is that one does not need a 'diagnosis' to know whether one is autistic, any more than one needs a doctor to decide whether one is gay. But the way the system is set up, if one needs services, one has to have a diagnosis to get them.

The tragic thing is the truth of the aphorism "If you're autistic enough to need services, you're too autistic to get them", because obtaining a diagnosis is only the first step, and then comes the nightmare. So unless one really can't do without those services, there isn't much point in paying for a diagnosis. It generally won't make other people cut one any more slack.

Edited at 2016-05-28 06:37 pm (UTC)