Category Archives: Philosophy

The Cognitive-Behavioural Interpretative Isolationism of Autism and Asperger Syndrome – 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

By Romuald 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

 

 

 

 

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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

quote-Ayn-Rand-the-smallest-minority-on-earth-is-the-88961

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…)

To my autistic diary…

Autismawareness

When its motion stopped,
I realised that my circle of life
became an insignificant spot,
desperate, frightened, alone,
like a tired fire juggler
abandoned by an audience
too dull to notice
the beauty of the single detail
constructing their illusion…

“How odd” he said,
“In vitro, every now and then
becomes a schism
embedded deep between
what’s left, and yet to be…”

Streets become discontinued cobbles,
trees become ungerminated seeds,
all birds remain abandoned egg shells,
and every life’s a single heart’s
unfinished tapestry of beats…

Agnosis…

Greek_atheos

It’s not important to remember days, and wonder
why has our time become so slow;
it doesn’t matter anymore if there’s no thunder,
after the rain, before the bow…

It matters not why in our backyard’s desert,
there are no camels and the Bedouins have left;
what truly matters is a sense of water,
illusion wildly clenching to my chest…

Tired, alone and ravaged by disasters,
battled by winds having no taste of sea,
sold by myself to unforgiving masters,
too thin to die, too obvious to see…

In no-man’s land they’re selling cheap allotments,
graveyards to be, or not to be;
some weird biochemical arrangements,
for my abandoned christmas tree…

In nomine patris…

massada

An angel once told me,
that castles of sand never die;
each grain’s being washed ashore
other isles,
carrying whispers of hands
having caressed breasts of lovers
long gone…
You king’s lusting lips cannot
condemn you Esther…
His tongue’s still tasting
sweet nectars, drops of gold,
diamonds of your passion’s
unforbidden fruit…
One day, when hidden monsters
shall arise of bottomless horizons,
and northern lights
shall cover eyes of fallen saints,
kings of old and others,
will have forgotten every pain,
each scream of maiden mothers
refused by never fathered christs…

The leaving angel left behind himself,
the sandless  abys,
and passed the key to starving,
restless human minds…