Category Archives: Science

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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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…)

​Space invaders? Metal ball containing bio matter could be alien ‘seed,’ say British scientists

Should we be concerned?

http://rt.com/uk/233507-metal-ball-alien-seed/

image

Mysterious metal ball. Credit: University of Buckingham

«A newly discovered microscopic ball could have been sent to earth by an alien civilization in an attempt to start new life, a British scientist has claimed.

The mysterious metal sphere has been photographed spewing out a biological substance, which scientists believe could be genetic material.

It was discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology.

While several theories on the tiny ball’s origins have been volunteered, the most intriguing sound like pure science fiction.

They include the idea it was sent here by aliens with the intention of propagating life on earth, a scientific theory known as “directed panspermia.”

Notable scientists to advocate this idea include astrophysicist Carl Sagan and Nobel laureate Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of DNA.

Professor Milton Wainwright, who led the team, described the orb as “a ball about the width of a human hair, which has filamentous life on the outside and a gooey biological material oozing from its center.”

Speaking to the Daily Express, Wainwright said: “We were stunned when X-ray analysis showed that the sphere is made up mainly of titanium, with a trace of vanadium.”

“One theory is it was sent to earth by some unknown civilization in order to continue seeding the planet with life.”

“Unless of course we can find details of the civilization that is supposed to have sent it in this respect it is probably an unprovable theory,” he added.»