Emily Willingham discusses the recent study that headlines told us showed that girls are "protected from autism." She explains the methodology behind the study, and then asks if the researchers were asking the right questions:
Is the issue that boys outpace girls when it comes to autism rates or that a girl or woman with autism can look a lot different from a boy or man with autism? There is a known diagnostic sex bias: Girls who meet diagnostic criteria for autism are less likely than boys to be diagnosed with it unless their symptoms are quite intense. The authors address the question of differences in how autism looks between girls and boys but focus on the idea that girls might have to show greater severity compared to boys for a diagnosis. But what if instead, they just show a different set of traits?
The girls’ ‘protection’ might not come from protection against autism. Instead, it might come from being autistic in a different way from boys, a way that clinicians have yet to recognize, a way that leads researchers unknowingly to exclude autistic females from studies. It might not be that girls are better at “hiding” behaviors, as some suggest. Instead, their behaviors differ from those of autistic boys in ways that researchers are just beginning to understand.
A big bucket of yes.
Autism News: Prevention Debunked, Friendly Shows, Braxton and Son, Jobs for Breakast, and the Power of FunSubmitted by Landon Bryce on Thu, 02/07/2013 - 13:54
More theaters are planning autism-friendly performances. The Theater Development Fund is planning one for the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The Fox Theater in Detroit will present Sesame Street Live.
Toni Braxton's autistic son Deizel will appear with her in a new Lifetime movie called Twist of Fate.
After his 19-year-old son Joe killed himself, Macolm Shaw is calling for more support for adults who have Asperger's syndrome.
Kids with autism are five times more likely than other children to experience food-related problems ranging from mealtime tantrums to extreme pickiness, issues with potentially long-term health consequences, researchers say.
Tracey Hyde is struggling to find an appropriate placement for her eight-year-old autistic son Mickey.
The National Autistic Society Undiscovered Workforce campaign includes a breakfast event to bring employers and autistic adults together.
Remembering Dave Rabb, who helped autistic kids and their parents with "the power of fun."
There's been a lot of excitement in the press about a new study that tells us something we already knew: some autistic people stop being noticeably disabled if they got the right education and support.
It’s not a huge surprise that autistic people with average or above-average cognitive abilities might be able to intellectualize social rules and algorithms and put them convincingly into practice. Does that ability mean that they aren’t really autistic? The real crux to answering that is this: Do we view autism only as a clinical diagnosis based solely on behavior and outward function, or do we talk about it as a neurobiological construct and identification, with an understanding of the context of the hidden disability and the hard work that those outward behaviors require?
Many conditions that we measure either directly with lab tests or behaviorally can lie under a mask of apparent normalcy or typicality. A woman with diabetes who maintains her blood sugar at a healthy level through diet and medication still has diabetes. A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder who fights successfully every second of every day against caving to obsession or compulsion still has the disorder. Anyone who has ever put on a public face when all they wanted to do was stay in bed should understand something about doing the internal hard work of compensating for a disability without showing outward manifestations of it.
Psychologists say we learn adaptive strategies, and some of them work very well indeed for those of us with the cognitive resources to make full use of them. I’ve certainly seen how they helped in my own life. I was disabled as a child, but no one would call me disabled today. I’m independent and function, as are many autistic people.
But that’s the thing . . . I’m still autistic.
Last Saturday, the American Psychiatric Association approved many changes to the ways that autism amd other conditions will be diagnosed. Yesterday, radio station KQED hosted a discussion of how the new diagnostic manual may affect autistic people and our families. The guests were:
- Emily Willingham, freelance science writer and editor, parent of an autistic son who was diagnosed with Asperger's
- Michael John Carley, executive director, The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP)
- Sally Rogers, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UC Davis MIND Institute
- Steven Kapp, PhD student in developmental psychology at UCLA and a member of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network
The panel is intelligent and well-informed, with a broad rage of opinions about the DSM-5. Very highly recommended.
Warning: Strong language in both this video and this post.
As Emily Willingham points out, there is good reason to believe that the primary forces behind the congressional hearing on autism taking place next week are people who wish to pump new life into the discredited idea that vaccines cause autism:
As an editor at The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, I became aware of this meeting before it officially made the calendar of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and our editorial team had immediate concerns. The initial conduit for this information was a website that primarily promotes the idea that mercury or vaccines or both cause autism and that children with autism are vaccine injured. As a commenter notes on The Hill brief, “This hearing was planned by those who believe autism is caused by environmental agents and nothing is being done about it.” I can’t objectively confirm the assertion that a Congressional committee meeting was somehow planned by an outside group with that belief, but I can confirm that two groups with agendas focused on the mercury-vaccine-autism causation chain have taken a very high profile in promoting this meeting and urging their followers to attend.
I hate getting into this issue because it makes people so angry, but I think it's important for all of us to know the truth about vaccines and autism. This episode of the Penn & Teller series Bullshit! about the anti-vaccine movement has a lot of swearing but even good information.
One of the anti-vaccine activists in the video says:
"You can't poison yourself into health."
I think this is one of the primary reasons for the widespread suspicion of vaccines: they are counter-intuitive. It seems wrong to give your body a small amount of a disease in order to protect yourself from it later. It violates both logic and our sense of the sacredness of our bodies.