Monday, August 20, 2007

musings: diagnosis, normality, and cure

After an internet friend saw some of my bf's answers to questions and thought he sounded normal for someone of his sort of temperament/personality, I've been wondering if my bf is even on the spectrum.

He doesn't seem to have much in the way of sensory integration issues anymore - or at least, I don't run into them in my interactions with him - but he still avoids things he found unpleasant as a child, like hair-washing, fingernail-clipping, and eating foods with textures he dislikes (e.g. any vegetables besides green beans, fresh or cooked spinach, romaine lettuce, and raw carrots), as much as he can.

He also doesn't seem to have much in the way of rules and rituals besides Jewish observances, though he reports having taken a shower and gone to bed at the exact same time everyday as a child, and having been afraid to put a car in reverse when he was learning to drive because the rule was that cars drive forwards.

He's definitely got some unusual cognitive quirks, especially his "binary mind" where social and emotional inputs and outputs are on an all-or-nothing scale, and from what he describes of his childhood he could have been diagnosed as AS or PDD/NOS back then if those categories existed yet. But as an adult, he functions as a normal eccentric, and failed to get diagnosed as on the spectrum when he went to a psychopharmacologist during a low point. (He got diagnosed as depressed.)

But I would expect a psychopharm to underdiagnose anything s/he can't prescribe SSRI's or other popular meds for, and overdiagnose anything s/he can prescribe them for. Because that's what their job is all about - determining if people need drugs.

On the other hand, a specialist might be inclined to overdiagnose, or oversuspect, autism-spectrum conditions or whatever s/he specializes in, because that's the nature of THAT job.

So what's the point of diagnosis at all? Legally securing services? Benefitting from the ADA?

It seems like these are not much help to a lot of people out there, anyway, because official help for anything is expensive and the people responsible for giving help want to make money just like anyone else. Hence the lousy state of health insurance and the thing I recently read about the Army not covering people discharged for hereditary health problems. (I'd link it, but I'm having trouble finding it now.)

Ultimately, I get the impression that "reforming normal" would lead to what a lot of the autism and disability advocates want: to be treated as equals, and accommodated where they need to be without being made to grovel or experience shame. Basically, to not be seen as these Others who are threatening and should be eliminated or assimilated. The "normal" category seems to be, in large part, the category of people that society accepts as they are, sees as fully human. Why must we write off disabled people?

You know what? There are a lot of human traits, likely inherited, that are debilitating and dangerous and should be eliminated to make the human race healthier. Like the tendency to be excessively paranoid about outsiders or "different" people and bully them into compliance, assimilation, or shame. It might have once served a useful evolutionary function, but in today's society, it just causes a lot of war and destruction. So maybe everyone who has ever bullied someone or denied services to a disabled person unless said person proved to be dependent or compliant should be sterilized and institutionalized so they and their genetically defective descendants can no longer harm our society, or be sent to ABA classes where they'll be rewarded with their favorite junk food every time they treat a disabled or nerdy person nicely and have said food withheld from them otherwise. Cure bigotry now! Prevent war and abuse!

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