I ran across this article that I think is interesting. It suggests that type 2 diabetes and the increase in autism may have a common link



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Sorry, what does this have to do with rationality and/or philosophy? Please don't just post links, there are many sites that are better suited for that, e.g. Digg and Reddit.

However, do you think that Lesswrong should have a journal club section (perhaps for social science papers)? I think that would be pretty cool actually. Especially considering the number of scientists reading LW. :)

I disagree:

  1. Autism has come up several times as a possibly-relevant topic for this site.
  2. We like interesting science journal articles
  3. There is a lot in the popular consciousness lately linking Autism/geekiness/rationality, so it is effectively on-topic.

I have a little bit of mental frustration over "This thing is Linked to Autism" articles, for several reasons:

-Autism is controversial. It has a disproportionate amount of pop science's attention for totally invalid reasons (e.g. "Mercury in vaccines Linked to Autism! Chelation Cures Autism! ABA Cures Autism!)

-From what I understand, the most likely cause in the increase of autism diagnoses is an increase in autism diagnoses. A person may remember that less than ten years ago, the male/female ratio of autism diagnoses was 10 to 1. Now it's 4 to 1. That gap closes because more diagnosticians are perceiving female people with autism spectrum traits, probably not because Mercury Toxins are Targeting Our Girls.

-As an autistic person I have this (possibly false) mental connotation between "This thing is possibly, we think, linked to autism?" and "Now that we can cure this thing, we can Cure Autism!" Curing autism is my Killer Gandhi Pill. I don't want to be cured.

On the last point, let me clarify, I totally don't think that play_therapist (who I infer has a professional interest in autism) is trying to suggest that at all. I think the former two points still stand, though.

I actually hope to write a discussion article on the problem with diagnosing certain ID/DDs (Intellectual Disorders and Developmental Disabilities,) in a scientific climate which has no objective means of diagnosis - and what an objective means would mean, given that eugenic attitudes towards disability are definitely not dead. This ties in.

EDIT: Having re-read the article, I'm not so willing to say that it isn't leading into "How we can use this data to Cure Autism?" I will do talk, if I write a diagnosis article, about how the struggles involved with parenting autistics and being autistic are real, and I accept them, but also that I still cannot validate Curing something which is an intrinsic part of a person. A babyeater is a babyeater, not a human-typical entity hidden underneath the mean, bad babyeating instinct.

-As an autistic person I have this (possibly false) mental connotation between "This thing is possibly, we think, linked to autism?" and "Now that we can cure this thing, we can Cure Autism!" Curing autism is my Killer Gandhi Pill. I don't want to be cured.

I haven't really looked into the subject in detail, but I rather suspect that the camp in favor of finding a "cure" for autism is primarily thinking about low-functioning severe autism cases, whereas the "keep your neurotypical hands off" camp is disproportionately composed of high-functioning Asperger's syndrome cases. The desire of high-functioning Asperger's cases not to be "cured" is understandable, but I wonder whether extremely low-functioning autistic individuals (i.e. those not capable of independent living) would share that sentiment if they were capable of expressing their views.

ETA: I'm not autistic, but I am left-handed and sensitive to desires to "correct" atypical behavior.


Abstract: It's a catch-22 to say that only people with autism who can communicate a desire to not be cured want not to be cured, and that people who cannot communicate must want to be cured. Also: None of this is related to the article, any more.

It seems a bit... errant, for one thing, to argue that it's right to change something because it's very different. I mean, a friend of mine is a girl who can't live independently, has banged her head against walls to the point of needing glasses because of brain damage, often cannot use spoken words to talk to people. I can describe those traits and say that they Need To Be Cured without mentioning that she's my best friend, we talk about politics and fandom and remind each other that we're people. I can talk about her friend, who used to eat out of garbage, doesn't talk, had everyone convinced he couldn't read for a very long time. He speed reads; he uses vivid metaphor in writing.

It's because of that that I feel frightened when people say that only the "low functioning" autistics need to be cured, that it would be a mercy. It's possible that in the days before keyboard technology, my friend could not be perceived as anyone's friend. I'm sure people would say, then, that were she capable of communication she'd want to be fixed, made right. (She doesn't.) Lack of communication really, really does not unequivocally imply lack of higher cognitive function, and actually receptive language skills are often a lot higher than spoken language skills in autistic people.

I know that if my friend could choose to not be afraid of people to the point of self-harm, she would. She says the reason for her fear is having been taught to have quiet hands, and I have no reason to doubt that. I am not yet willing to accept that it is intrinsically a bad feeling to be autistic, to any degree of functionality. Analogous events suggest heavily that the problem is that the modern world is not advanced enough to understand autistic thought, to any degree of functionality, whether that understanding requires peering through blunt syntax or a neurally implanted Augmented/Alternative Communications device.

My diagnosis, as an aside, is not high-functioning Asperger syndrome. It was PDD-NOS complicated by hyperlexia, and while I am not absolutely positive if the former diagnosis is still valid (I was six, and I think perhaps that the behaviors they were using to diagnose PDD-NOS had to do with me being extraordinarily literal and having auditory processing trouble,) I am sure that the latter is. ("Autistic" is a lot easier than all of that, I apologize for the imprecision.)

Lack of communication really, really does not unequivocally imply lack of higher cognitive function,

Just to be clear, I was definitely not saying this. But given how central social ties are to human happiness, correcting the lack of ability to communicate, irrespective of other cognitive function, is presumably the primary focus of the "cure."

To what extent should the word "neurotypical" be inserted after "to" and before "human"?

Also, "irrespective" is perhaps an infelicitous choice of words. Or maybe all too appropriate, depending.

That is perhaps better answered by someone who actually has autism, but I would be highly surprised if "neurotypical" were not excessively narrow.

I suppose the sentence could be rewritten as "other cognitive abilities notwithstanding" or something to that effect, but that would hardly make the sentence read better. Given that the sentence is descriptive, not normative (I've never actually participated in any discussion of the issue prior to this one -- I'm trying to narrow the inferential distance between the two camps in this debate), I don't see why it would be taken as disrespectful.

Probably it would be better asked by someone who has autism, too - I might well be barking up the wrong argument tree.

On the other issue... I'm confused now. I'm not sure if this is a case of the connotation overwhelming the denotation, or what, but I initially took "correcting the lack of ability to communicate, irrespective of other cognitive function" to mean something like "installing an ability to communicate, no matter what that would do to other cognitive function". I still don't see what else it could mean, but your confusion as to why that would be taken as disrespectful seems to indicate there is something...?

No, I had something totally different in mind -- that enhancing the ability to communicate would be a good thing regardless of how strong the treated individual's other cognitive abilities might be. I was not suggesting that there should or must be any effect at all on those other abilities.

Ah, ok. I guess what caused the confusion is my expectation that the "other cognitive abilities" are bound up with the inability to communicate in a rather more Gordian fashion than is implied by this idea. But I'm far from certain, of course, and your point seems plausible regardless.

Not very relevant, but hi. I recognized the people you mention. (If you want to obscure it, remove the bit on how he proved he could read.) If you have a blog I probably read it. Hi!

Hi, also! I thought it was all right because the information had all been provided elsewhere, and I am not doing names in the first place. However, it comes to my attention that I should've asked Friend to review this stuff and see if it was too recognizable and... argh, I've made the exact same mistake as my high school's Journalistic Writing Class, this is embarassing. (The learning-to-read part is so relevant to me because, you know, talk about evidence for the word-shape model of word recognition!)

I do not have a blog because I'm learning how to do recreational writing again, starting here.

Read up, all of these have standard answers. The best answer to this argument is probably the Oak manifesto.

Low-functioning people do not seem to want cures more, inasmuch as functioning labels make sense at all and aren't missing more important aspects.

The idea of a cure has problems.

"extremely low-functioning autistic individuals" lumps a lot of things together; many people can and do express political views while unable to live independently - that is, to depend on other people to grow, prepare and transport their food, but not to feed it to them.

And I realize that seriously gruesome things have been done to left-handed people in some times and places, and that many people suffer because of attempts to train them to be right-handed, but compared to things like being beaten for fidgeting when you can't possibly stop fidgeting without having a metdown, it comes off a bit like "I have a tan so I understand black people".

Having now gotten two different responses that both missed the point I thought I was making, I'm just going to acknowledge that I must have done a bad job expressing it and start over.

I would hope (perhaps this is mind projection -- given that I would never be inclined to beat someone for fidgeting either) that the driving sentiment behind the desire to "cure" autism is not about eliminating alternative perceptual paradigms, unusually strong predispositions to literalism and consequentialism, and the like, but rather about enabling the ability to communicate effectively with other humans.

Obviously, if I am wrong about that, then that would just be horrifying. But I'd like to give the average parent of an autistic child a little more credit.

I agree, that would be a lovely thing. Actually, this interchange alerts me to the possibility that NT parents of autistic children might often be taking this stance, which is muddled sometimes by certain factors such as Autism Speaks being the largest autism-related not for profit in the US; them having huge frustration over parenthood which is hard in the first place; technology like AAC being a Scary Outside Thing and teaching your child how to be nice and say I Love You being well-approved parenting tactics, as well as heartwarming.

Sometimes, the world is so frightening that my inductive reasoning is obscured. I'm sorry for not giving you more credit, and I'll mull over what I've learned here. I really should have seen it before. The fact that often, parents of autistic children who are nonverbal or not typically emotive say things like "I just want to hear my son say he loves me" or "I just want to hug him" makes it hard to see that those words do profess a desire to communicate, just in nonstandard-to-me ways.

Okay, what happened is that your position sounds a lot like another position that's really common so we misinterpreted it.

I don't think most cure proponents are evil bigots out to abuse minorities or anything. I do think that their concept of "ability to communicate effectively with other humans" is built in such a way as to overly favour "teach autistic people to conform to the norms we use" over "teach people in general to communicate with people in general even when norms break down" or over "give 'em fancy tech".

But I'd like to give the average parent of an autistic child a little more credit.

I'd give many non-parents more credit than parents. Nephews and nieces might deserve the most. Random people might deserve about as much as parents, it would depend.

I'm glad someone else has taken up the cause of telling people to take it easy.