Gene Marks

Pediatrician Claims to Speak for Autistic Children About Diagnostic Changes

One of the problems with being a member of a minority group is that people who know nothing about you feel free to make ridiculous claims about your group in order to make a point they think is important.  This happened recently when white, middle-aged columnist Gene Marks wrote a blog post about what he would do, and how he would feel, if he were a "poor black kid":

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently.   I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city.  Even the worst have their best.  And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities.  Getting good grades is the key to having more options.  With good grades you can choose different, better paths.  If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

And I would use the technology available to me as a student.  I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays.  That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home than on the streets.  And libraries and schools have computers available too.  Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet.  Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all.

Marks didn't really bother to learn anything about what it would be like to be someone different from himself, or he would at least know that over a third of households in the United States do not have broadband internet access, and that the people who don't are largely (guess what) either poor or members of minority groups.

And the entire concept of the piece is puzzling-- why would anyone care what this guy would do if he was someone he is not? Wouldn't it be more interesting to find out what someone actually in that situation thinks?

Something similar happens in a blog post from Dr. Claudia Gold that purports to give "A Child's View" of the controversy surrounding the proposed changes to the diagnosis of autism in DSM-5:

Child's voice. " I am very smart and tuned in to everything happening around me. I get overwhelmed when there are a lot of people. I love music, but I hear every sound so intensely that I need to cover my ears. Sometimes I run around in circles to help myself calm down. When grown-ups make me go somewhere that is too loud or confusing, I lie down on the floor and scream. When people get too close I cant' stand it. Sometimes I hit the other kids when this happens and now I can't go to preschool. My parents fight all the time about what to do about my difficult behavior. My little sister is very quiet because she knows to get out of the way when I am having trouble"

Adult's voice. "He has Autism"

Cue the chipmunk:


Dr. Gold is not basing this on the perspective of any actual autistic person.  She is a pediatrician who has written a book called Keeping Your Child in Mind: Overcoming Defiance, Tantrums, and Other Everyday Behavior Problems by Seeing the World through Your Child's Eyes. 

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