Category Archives: Philosophy

Restructuring the Autism Spectrum Disorder Narrative around the Core Symptomatology of Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism

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[Rev.] Romulus Campan FDScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd, QTS,
PgCert Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health
PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,
PgCert Autism & Asperger’s

“The theoretical understanding of the world, which is the aim of philosophy, is not a matter of great practical importance to animals, or to savages, or even to most civilised men”.
Bertrand Russell

Keeping in mind my Theoretical Philosophy positional disclaimer, I have arrived at the point of my scientific inquiries, where, theories of intersecting dimensional planes aside, I must allow a superfluity eradicating convergence of objectivity in the Autism narrative, which should dethrone impostor monsters, born as painted by Goya, from the minds asleep of scientists, and subsequent masses of dilettantes.
However, in all its simplicity, the Autism narrative’s only problem, is the underlying conflict fuelled by what has become known as Learning ≠ Intellectual Disability (e.g. Dawn, Fragile X syndrome, etc.), formerly Mental Retardation. I have deliberately used the non-equal sign, as a form of silent, dignified and resigned protest, against the frustratingly careless use of Learning Disabilities (rebranded now as Learning Difficulties) which shouldn’t encompass more than reading disabilities, written language disabilities, and mathematical disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, also Dyspraxia which has a profound impact on perception, therefore all afore enumerated.
I do respectfully understand and acknowledge why it may be emotionally less intrusive to use Learning Disabilities instead of the Mental Retardation reminiscent Intellectual Disabilities, however, subjective rebranding in the name of political correctness does never change objective inherence. And obviously, this isn’t influenced at all by the fact that Intellectual Disabilities could co-occur with Learning Disabilities, with the former having at the core a genetic or traumatic incapacitation of the brain to process/convey information, while the later are the brain’s non-typical modalities of processing/conveying information, caused by its structural and functional differences.
The Autism narrative therefore, must once and for all, separately consider Intellectual Disabilities, regardless of common identifiables, present at the time being, in what is reluctantly acknowledged as Low Functioning Autism, or more recently, “courtesy” of DSM 5, as Severity Levels 3/2 of ASD.
Now as a tangent thought, I must mention my genuine concern that this ‘reluctance’ has morphed unfortunately in the contemporaneous trend called “Neurodiversity” which has long left its Neurodivergence gathering meaning, home for ASD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette’s etc., having mutated from initially a High Functioning, Asperger’s Autism forum, into a “HF/Asperger’s Autism plus…” stage, for an alarmingly increasing number of “self-ID(Dx) autistic”, more probably narcissistic individuals, unhappy of their probable Personality Disorder traits. These share the stage with the “thinking for myself may hurt + OMG, OMG, you’re so wrong…” vigilante crowd, the “stuck in-there, too proud to admit this is wrong” rather silent minority, and the “more-or-less personal, but good business” opportunists.
Returning briefly to DSM-5, I certainly appreciate the following clarification/condition:
“E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level” (emphasis mine). However, the statement’s last sentence, seems in my opinion to rather seriously muddle the already dark waters of practically understanding what the expected level of general development would be, in case of Intellectual Disability.
On a further thought, comparing symptoms of ID/IDD with symptoms of ASD, the similarities are beyond a reasonable horizon of reassurance that the two conditions wouldn’t be misdiagnosed for each other. Because if anyone is naïve enough to look for repetitive behaviours and/or communication deficits as some sort of failproof sign of ASD, let them be reminded that stereotyped, repetitive behaviours are also typical for passive traumatic experiences such as external stimuli deprivation, just to mention one…
Without even attempting to explain beyond theoretical philosophy the reasons for my suggestion, I propose as a valid and beneficial alternative to the present epistemo-semantic chaos, that the Autism Spectrum should selectively integrate what has been previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism, hoping that Autism research would resume the vital dialogue of identifying specialised diagnostic patterns for the core aspects of both.
Unfortunately, otherwise, the very real and oftentimes devastating, Intellectual Disability or Intellectual-Disability-identical criteria, will continue to overshadow and therefore ignore the maybe less visible but drastically life shortening symptoms of Autism.

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Theoretical Philosophy, a Disclaimer…

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Standing alone at the midnight crossroads of thought may be frightening.

No one knows who’s coming, bargaining belonging for one’s liberty of mind.

Alone however, doesn’t mean lonely, until there’s a clarity of purpose, bitter rooted in an effort to achieve through learning, forward looking onto a more palatable reward of understanding.

Theoretical philosophy irreverently surpasses other means of cognitive inquiry, through its sworn allegiance unto nothing but its fountainhead. Iconoclastic, crude, unfaithful, are only glimpses into its free mind.

Therefore, if the reader henceforth seeks referential justifications for my own thoughts, let them engage themselves alone into such endeavours, as I reserve myself the right to provide or not references, being under neither Harvardian nor any other arbitrarily imposed academic structural policing rules.

Because I believe that in essence, freedom at an age of consent is never taken away, but ultimately given; and I refuse to yield…

“It is right that we ask [people] to accept each of the things which are said in the same way: for it is the mark of an educated person to search for the same kind of clarity in each topic to the extent that the nature of the matter accepts it.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1 1094a24-1095a

The Cognitive-Behavioural Interpretative Isolationism of Intellectually Proficient Kanner’s & Asperger’s Autism (IPKAA)© Part 3 – The Myth of “Weak Central Coherence”

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Part 3 – The Myth of “Weak Central Coherence”

(Rev.) Romulus Campan
FdScMH, LTh (Hons), CertEd, QTS,
PgCert Special Psychopedagogy, PgCert Autism & Asperger’s

‘Frith (1989) attempted to sketch out the preliminary theory that one deep underlying cognitive deficit in autism has to do with a lack of coherence. In other words, autistic people lack the drive to pull information together into overall meaning.’ Hill (2004)

Hill seems to continue Frith’s rather hidden mentioning of the fact that while she proposes her theory as a ‘deep underlying deficit’, a door has been left open to a ‘lack of drive’ which implies a selective-volitional aspect, with what she proposes as an ‘information processing style, rather than a deficit’.
The coherence theory postulates that incoming information is usually processed in its context. Now, while acknowledging that oftentimes communicated information is meant to be processed in some context, I don’t believe that noticing ‘needles in the haystack’ while paying no interest whatsoever to the haystack’s any aspect, should be considered a deficit, but rather a valuable control asset, through which the flow of information can be monitored for systemic accuracy. And the fact that autistics may decide to ignore the context in order to gain through focus, a deeper understanding of the detail which flagged their attention, does not substantiate that contextual coherence is the required norm, but as Hill suggests, a ‘cognitive style’, which no autistic should be expected to justify, an even less to change.
I am also a theologian. This means that I was trained, and apparently excelled in interpreting textual and contextual details way beyond the newspaper reading level. And since theology should be first of all philosophy, I was given the chance to observe and contemplate, also judge and analyse thoughts hidden away, sometimes even to their writers.
Now if I would take Hill’s above quoted text, and gaze upon it just superficially, but with a rather merciless analytical rigor, I should note the following about “autism”:
-Autistic people suffer from a deep underlying (basic/fundamental) cognitive deficiency, which is lack of coherence, leaving them without the “drive” (ability/willingness/capacity?) to see/understand meaning in scattered fragments of information.
Unfortunately, “thanks” to the unmandated vigilantism of a way too noisy herd of dilettantes, whom mostly out of genuine, however misplaced concern have come to oftentimes falsely represent the entire intellectually proficient Kanner’s and Asperger’s autism (IPKAA) community, autistics without cognitively impairing intellectual deficiencies/disabilities have been left stranded at the mercies of a mercilessly mercantile “healthcare industry”, for whom the daily torture of having ALL our senses tortured, our personal space assaulted, our meticulousness abused, our silence raped and our solitude violated, means nothing because we have degrees and jobs…
So, here we are, probably the most vulnerable and exposed of us, trying to convince an already biased world that there’s no such “thing” as “simply autism”, that the Autistic Spectrum has two, fundamental categories, the Intellectually Proficient and the Intellectually Deficient, fact which shouldn’t be tampered with by semantic militias resembling more and more to editors of 1984’s Newspeak. Proficiency and Deficiency are existential opposites present everywhere from our vitamin D synthesising capabilities to our intellectual capabilities and shouldn’t be subject to any thoughtless political correctness. As most of the well-meaning, dedicated and yes, oftentimes heroic carers of intellectually deficient autistic individuals expect that those they love and care for will be given assistance as required by their specific needs, we, intellectually proficient autistic individuals expect to be listened to and assisted as required by our specific needs.
I hope to be mistaken when I speculate that the reason why the profiteering “healthcare” industry has successfully manoeuvred the not so neutral DSM and ICD into practically grinding to a halt decades of extremely promising research into High-Functioning and Asperger’s Autism by obnoxiously dropping Asperger’s as a subcategory, is the fear of having to listen to the scientifically and experientially valid opinion of a new generation of extremely capable autistic academics, diametrically opposed to the reductionist and generalising, clinically flawed stereotypes by which it’s cheaper to provide helmets to intellectually deficient, self-harming autistics, than answers to intellectually proficient, self-harming autistics.

-Frith, U. (1989). Autism: explaining the enigma. Oxford: Blackwell
-Hill, E. L. (2004). Executive dysfunction in autism. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.8 No.1, January 2004, 26 http://www.ucd.ie/artspgs/langimp/autismexecdysf.pdf

(to be continued…)

The Cognitive-Behavioural Interpretative Isolationism of Intellectually Proficient Kanner’s & Asperger’s Autism (IPKAA)©- Part 1: What the “Theory of Mind” doesn’t understand about the Autistic Mind…

 

Part 1- What the “Theory of Mind” doesn’t understand about the Autistic Mind

Rom Feldmann© FDScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd,

PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,

PgCert Autism & Asperger’s, QTS

 

On the back cover of the seminal “Neurotribes” (Silberman, 2015) the inquisitive eye should spot a hidden gem of apocalyptic proportions, basically stating that “the future of our society depends on our understanding” of what autism is. The statement is so powerful and frightening or maybe totally insane, that when I first blogged it, it attracted virtually no likes or comments. I will attempt to better understand why.

Surprisingly for a pathologized, general view of autism, Attwood (2002) mentioned research by Hans Asperger (1906-1980) in identifying “a consistent pattern of abilities and behaviour”.

The battleground becoming contention is therefore seeing and accepting the autism spectrum as a pattern of abilities or disabilities, branching itself further into seemingly endless explanatory theories and terminology wars, which I will attempt to deconstruct and re-construct from a personalised academic and philosophical perspective.

1.The Theory of Mind (ToM):

‘[…] ToM is the ability to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, to imagine their thoughts and feelings, so as to be able to make sense of and predict their behaviour. It is sometimes called mind-reading or mentalising.‘ (Baron-Cohen, 2008, 57)

Expanding further on his own statement, Baron-Cohen summarises on the same page, that ToM can be thought of as a theory which explains that a neurotypical (NT) person is normally/usually able to explain and predict other people’s behaviour, thus leaving autistics unable to use the ToM to interpret or anticipate the actions and/or intentions of individuals whom they have contact with, and therefore mind-blindly disadvantaged.

In my opinion, -and leaving aside a random personal thought about the fairly entertainment industry resembling concept of ‘mind-reading’-, Baron-Cohen and other scientists considering this theory, have attempted through ToM to understand why autistics seem unable to mentalise/mind-read, having observed NT and autistic children/adults, comparing their reactions mainly from an observable, neurotypical-behaviour perspective, without focusing on the much more important, individually specific, selectively volitional, pre-behavioural aspect. Because regardless of age, autistic individuals may possess a more functional capacity to individually and gradually select -or not-, a momentary focus of attention, leaving a NT observant genuinely mind-blind to the fact that autistic pre-decisional mental analytics are de facto behind what could be perceived as obnoxiousness or an inability of perception. However, especially at early stages of individual development, autistics are less aware of the reasons why mentally they may decide to fixate on some encountered aspects while actively ignoring any others, even if someone tries to divert their fixated attention, oftentimes provoking as a result, unexpected reactions commonly called shut- or meltdowns. Depending on an autistic individual’s level of what I propose to be identified as a Neurobiological Socio-Interconnectivity Predisposition (NSIP), unfortunately mistaken sometimes for other, valid learning disabilities (LD) such as ‘congenital abnormalities of the frontal lobes’ (Attwood, 2002), adult autistics may decide to learn (or not), to mentally re-negotiate maintaining, or shifting the focus of their fixation, identified by Murray et al (2005) as monotropism.

Because each individual is entitled to have someone else’s undivided attention, as much as the individual(s) from whom they expect such attention, decide for reasons they should not be expected or forced to disclose, to grant it or not. Autistics have the inalienable right to ignore at least as much as we are oftentimes ignored, without any obligation whatsoever to provide a reason for our choice to socially interact or prefer to remain asocial.

(to be continued…)

 

-Attwood, T., (2002). Asperger’s Syndrome – A Guide for Parents and Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

-Baron-Cohen, S., (2008). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. London: OUP

-Murray, Dinah; Lesser, M.; Lawson, W (1 May 2005). “Attention, monotropism and the diagnostic criteria for autism”  Autism. 9 (2): 139–56.

-Silberman, S., (2015). Neurotribes. London: Allen & Unwin

 

 

 

 

Per aspera ad astra…

Yes, I reverted my Twitter handle back to @Aspergreatness

I was diagnosed with ASD/Asperger’s Syndrome according to DSM5/ICD-10.

What Hans Asperger shouldn’t have done in history’s darkest hours, I can’t change.

The legacy of his research into understanding my neurobiology, saved my life.

I became an Asper 😡♿✡

Proudly 🐉

Asper Latin DefPer_aspera_ad_astra,_1894

The #autistic lives of pines…

Solitary autistic pine

I was born in Northern Transylvania’s Maramures, at the feet of majestic mountains, covered by ancient, noble forests, with their trees as brothers to us, and sisters. Strong beeches, venerable oaks, solitary pines, imbued with the crystalline waters of pure streams …

It’s the pines which fascinated my people for millennia, giving us our cradles, our tables, out beds, the pillars of our gold mines, and the coffins of our passing away.

Now, anyone seeing lots of pine trees may think it’s a forest, but they’re not…

Pine trees are solitary. Pines are #autistic

Always alone but never lonely, with one purpose, to reach ever higher, leaving behind as time passes by, as the crown moves upwards, dry, broken branches, like thorns awaiting for the careless passer by…

You see, the life of pines is in their roots and in their evergreen tops, the painful reason why you can’t embrace a pine tree except maybe when it’s young, a child. As it grows older, the crown moves upwards, leaving the naked, dried broken branches around, hurting anyone coming too close…

There’s a secret though…

If one is clever enough, they might find looking upwards to the green crown, a path in the dry broken branches like a ladder, leading the brave to the top. There, there are no sharp branches, just velvety fresh green fragranced new branches, allowing to be embraced and loved… Pines love only those daring to come close enough and climb to find who they truly are. And in exchange, they give something only pines can give, because they always return the careful touch and the embrace. They bleed the most beautifully perfumed resin, coloured of amber, smelling of frankincense, and the stronger the touch, the longer the embrace of the brave who wants to love them, pines bleed more resin, binding them as lovers to themselves, forever…

And when our time has come, we remain standing, calling out in stormy nights the final touch of heavens, the kiss of one last lightning, burning like torches, illuminating the paths of wandering lovers…

The Asperger Individualism

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Throughout my life and modest literary endeavours, I firmly acknowledged the supreme primacy of detail before the whole, for reasons too obvious to state…

Nevertheless, since discovering that I live with Asperger’s on the neuro-divergent side of existence, I realised that the term autism was coined from the Greek autos which means self, as an essentially correct identification of Autism’s core individualism.

Even though I believe that Autism and Asperger’s share common traits (the Autistic Spectrum), I share the position of the ICD-10 as being different conditions, regardless of DSM-5’s arbitrary otherwise statements, which will be discussed in a future post, finding myself somewhere along Uta Frith’s lines which state that “The terms autism and Asperger’s syndrome are therefore not treated as mutually exclusive. We propose that the Asperger individual suffers from a particular form of autism”1 and also in line with Simon Baron-Cohen’s position of the “six major subgroups on the autistic spectrum”2.

Considering therefore what has been said, I would dare to venture onto a hopefully interesting proposal, namely the valuation of Asperger Syndrome as a neuro-biological orientation towards an individual’s self, from the individualistic perspective of reason and objectivism, which all represent core life values for individuals with Asperger’s.

As seen, I have used a valuable quote from philosopher Ayn Rand, about the ultimate value of the individual, without which’s understanding, any attempt to generalize or even categorize, will have lost its whole meaning, because contrary to popular (mis)understanding, the value ascribed to a category is given by the value of its components.

Therefore, the attempt of DSM-5 to “sacrificially” de-identify the Asperger Syndrome on the “umbrella-spectrum” altar, without maintaining its well-established DSM-4-TR and ICD-10 uniqueness, has thrown everything, from individual identities to research enthusiasm, into a futureless fog. Why? Because research is particular, a narrowing down of scientific interest, from penetrating layer after layer of external data, aiming to the core of anything’s functionality. It is a quest from major onto minor, from the majority of what’s obvious, to the minority of what’s hidden. Who are we, after all? Only “another brick in the wall” of someone else’s understanding of who we really are, or like Michelangelo’s unique sculptures waiting to be freed from their marble confinements, intrinsic values to be discovered with respectful touches?

Yes, I absolutely agree, that an individual is the “smallest minority on earth”, with us, individuals on the Autistic Spectrum as an even smaller and even more self-oriented minority, deserving therefore an inalienable right to be listened and maybe understood.

Because unlike Michelangelo’s marble wonders, we have each of us a heart, and a speaking mind attached to it, and if the majority wants to be whole, let it be reminded that it is made of coexisting minorities…

 

  1. Frith, Uta (ed), 1991, Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Cambridge University Press
  2. Baron-Cohen, Simon, 2008, Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Oxford University Press

­(to be continued…)