Autistic Songs

Alan Griswold


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The Many Autisms

A growing trend within the autism research community is to characterize autism not as a single condition but instead as a constellation of many different conditions, each with a distinct etiology (albeit an unknown etiology). But the actual source of this so-called theory of the many autisms is not scientific insight. The actual source of this theory is embarrassment.

These days the autism research community produces a near constant flood of announcements—a new set almost every day—each loudly proclaiming the latest breakthrough in such areas as genetics, pharmacology, neuroimaging and treatments. An occasional such announcement would of course be greeted with enthusiasm and interest, but the steady flood of such announcements, many of them mutually exclusive, soon begins to sound downright humiliating. How significant can any of these breakthroughs be when each is just one more being added to a swelling crowd.

Unwilling to admit that this flood of breakthrough announcements is the most compelling evidence yet for their lack of understanding, autism scientists conceal their embarrassment by trotting out the theory of the many autisms. Each announcement remains significant, they insist, because each announcement introduces yet another unique and newly minted type of autism, one more autism in the pantheon of the many autisms. Voilą!

And so rather than gathering knowledge about autism, scientists instead pile up the many autisms and hope no one will notice the difference. But like the child who gets caught in a lie, and attempts to avoid the consequences by weaving still more lies, these researchers who resort to the theory of the many autisms will one day discover they have merely compounded their embarrassment.

Copyright © 2011 by Alan Griswold
All rights reserved.