Autism genes = genius

6 Oct

Fascinating report in the Sunday Times yesterday about how the same genes that confer autism also confer the skills necessary for genius:

…a study of autism among 378 Cambridge University students..[]..found the condition was up to seven times more common among mathematicians than students in other disciplines. It was also five times more common in the siblings of mathematicians.

And this from Patricia Howlin:

Patricia Howlin, professor of clinical child psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, studied 137 people with autism; 39 of them (29%) possessed an exceptional mental skill. The most common was outstanding memory.

She said: “It had been thought that only about 5%-10% of people with autism had such skills, but nobody had measured it properly, and it seems the number is far higher. If we could foster these skills, many more people with autism could live independently and even become high achievers.”

This, to me, is simply confirmation of two things that I believe in – firstly that autistic people have much more ability than people think and that respectful and appropriate education will help and secondly, the scientific method will always reveal the truth sooner or later. It cannot be hurried to be accurate. There is a saying amongst Web Developers when clients ask for the impossible – cheap, fast, good. Pick two. The same thing applies in science I think. You can have it cheap and fast and it won’t be good. Etc, etc.

This is yet more evidence that the continual doom and gloom about autism perpetuated from certain quarters simply isn’t reality. There are, in fact, key skills that our civillisation needs that it seems autistic people have in abundance (try and imagine a world without maths).

Respect, self-confidence, appropriate education. Pick three, please.

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67 Responses to “Autism genes = genius”

  1. mayfly October 8, 2008 at 04:32 #

    Mrs Clark. While I remain dubious that your original wish was for me to live a long life, your explanation has brought a smile to my face, and I cannot muster anything but joy over it.

  2. pumma October 8, 2008 at 05:01 #

    Kev, stop acting like a hotshot lawyer with your demands for links of evidenece. Lots of you neurodiversity people have been implying that terms like low functioning and retarded don’t apply. Those terms have been put in quotation marks numerous times. Very few of you admit there are functioning differences. Why don’t you grow a spine and talk about and defend the views your friends on here hold instead of pretending they likely were never said?

    “I’m fed up to the back teeth of hearing people like you, Harold Doherty and Jonathon saying how ‘the neurodiverse’ hate all low functioning autistics and want to deny they exist blah blah blah.” I can’t see much of anything to refute their claims. I hardly ever see you neurodiversity people talk about stories of severe autistics. Who was the one who titled this post “Autism genes = genius” How does such a saying not undermine the perception among the uninformed that many autistics are intellectually impaired? How is that statement not out of proportion with reality?

    “Prove it, with links, or move on to a website where your lies are acceptable. Because what you and your ilk are doing right now is disparaging my autistic child.” Look at the blogs listed as links on your own website. If you want to know what I’m alleging, think about what neurodiversity is about. How dare you accuse me of disparaging your child. How is what you are doing here in her interests, when you bolster the propaganda of those who don’t want to see improvement for low functioning autistics, unless it comes through non- interventional means?

    I for one am suffering from gruesome mental disabilities and am worn out as a result of it, and I don’t like the way some of you talk about disability. I’m sick of being portrayed as a monster by you.

  3. Ms. Clark October 8, 2008 at 08:54 #

    Pumma, if you can’t find an example of the kind of reasoning you are saying exists among bloggers Kev links to, then maybe no one is saying what you are saying they are saying.

    If you look at the original Kanner autistics, they were not retarded like plain retarded kids, if they were, they wouldn’t have needed a new label. So it’s possible to be seriously disabled, autistic, and not retarded. It’s possible to be non-verbal and/or to need loads of help with day to day living and be a genius. It’s also possible to be autistic, need loads of help and have a low IQ.

    Kev’s ASD kid may need loads of support to get through life, Kev’s kid might end up like mine where going to a University is way out of the question, or Kev’s kid might end up going to a university with or without a bunch of help. Some kids go through a big leap developmentally in their teens, and it’s possible to lose skills at any point (or to be put in an overly stressful situation that makes it much harder for the person to function.

    I don’t know anyone who is saying that there are no autistic people who need lots of day to day support. I don’t know anyone who is saying that all the attention should go to the “high functioning”. There may be some “high functioning” who say, “a cure is bad for us high functioning but the low functioning need to be cured.” That’s kind of the opposite of what you seem to be accusing people of saying, Pumma. The regular posters here and the bloggers on autism-hub.co.uk do not promote the idea that there are the “good autistics” and the “bad autistics” or the “desirable autistics” and the “undesirable autistics.”

    One way you can know that is that several of the bloggers who are “high functioning” have “low functioning” or “middle functioning kids. They have kids who need lots of special ed and lots of day to day support.

    If there was someone advocating that the “low functioning” autistics be treated badly, why would Kev link to them, when his kid is one of those same “low functioning” ones? Why wouldn’t I be yelling about it when I have a “middle functioning” kid?

    The reason we put “low functioning” and “middle functioning” in scare quotes is not that we believe that there are no differences between autistics, it’s that for any given ASD person on one day they can go from “high functioning” to “low functioning” depending on the situation and how stressfull or demanding it is. “Low functioning” means “low intelligence” to some people, but that’s misleading. I’m in awe of the way my disabled kid can do some things I can’t. And some typical people are in awe of a few of my odd capabilities. Functioning labels are just not very helpful, but we use them to give a flavor, sometimes of what the person is like and what they can do.

    In the movie “Rain Man” a doctor says, “Well, he’s VERY high functioning…” about Raymond Babbit… why? I’m not sure, but I guess it’s because Raymond can read. Most people today would say Raymond Babbit was “low functioning” because he can’t pass for normal and because he’s very dependent on others, like he needs his brother to fix his lunch and he doesn’t have a job.

    The whole point of the genes=genius thing is that relatives of autistic people are likely to be smart in a particular way, and some autistics are very smart in that same particular way. If tomorrow there was no need for maths, then no one would be impressed that some autistics could do even algebra. Everyone would think trigonometry was a stupid waste of time.

    If tomorrow, calendar calculating became extremely valuable, I can think of one very disabled autistic man, who needs a lot of help to live independently, who is unemployed, who would become employable tomorrow because he can do calendar calculating.

    If remembering names and faces was something that paid really well, maybe my kid could have a job. If my life depended on my remembering names and faces, I’d be up a creek. If my life depended on my learning trigonometry, likewise, I’d be in trouble. If my life depended on my learning a new foreign language, I might be OK, though I don’t have a savant ability to pick up languages.

    My point is that “genius” is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think anyone is going to say that a man who has memorized every washing machine model ever made is a “genius”… they’d probably just think he was weird. But if he had a dictionary or atlas memorized, they might say he was a genius, mostly because people value and reward some kinds of abilities more than others.

    We want all autistics to be valued and supported. Period. (or Full Stop, if you prefer).

  4. Ms. Clark October 8, 2008 at 09:17 #

    Mayfly,

    RE: Amanda Blake: If you are going to drag Miss Kitty into this, then I am going to counter with Marshall Matt Dillon!!!!

    😀

    And you have some other facts about Amanda incorrect. She has the fact of her life laid out in a fair amount of detail on her blog. She has met several well known autism experts, and besides them, she’s met Oliver Sacks and spoken with him (using her keyboard). Amanda doesn’t usually need FC, she types independently (and rapidly) most of the time, so I don’t see how she can really be a spokesperson for FC, maybe you are thinking of Sue Rubin, though maybe Sue Rubin is typing independently now, I have no idea.

  5. pumma October 8, 2008 at 10:28 #

    Ms. Clark, just because people aren’t saying or denying something, doesn’t mean they’re not trivializing it. There isn’t much talk about how many autistics need a lot of day to day support. Even if they acknowledge it, some don’t want it described as a problem.

    Of course nobody is saying they want all the attention to go to the high functioning, but those who deny functioning labels don’t want to address the disproportionate attention the high functioning receive. I think the problem with that disproportionate attention is that the high functioning ones I complain about, are claiming therapy isn’t wanted by them or necessary, and it seems to me that they are implying that just about anyone with autism holds such opinions.

    “The regular posters here and the bloggers on autism-hub.co.uk do not promote the idea that there are the “good autistics” and the “bad autistics” or the “desirable autistics” and the “undesirable autistics.”’ I don’t see anyone promoting that idea.

    “If there was someone advocating that the “low functioning” autistics be treated badly, why would Kev link to them” I don’t think anyone is advocating intentionally treating them badly. I think many such people linked to him advocate doing almost nothing for autistics to improve their functioning. Not intentionally mistreating them isn’t enough to me.

    I don’t think there are many autistics who actually alternate between high and low functioning within small periods of time. I hear about many of these exceptions with special skills coming alongside deficits, but in general, there still are those out there who are definitely geniuses and those who are definitely intellectually impaired. Even though the retardation in autism isn’t the same as and possibly isn’t as severe as retardation in non-autistics, I think it should be recognized for how disabling it is.

    I don’t like how many of you are putting the issue as if some people are calling some autistics good or bad or valuing them or devaluing them. I think it’s about whether the conditions autistics have to endure are good or bad, whether or not they have access to enough ability, because I don’t think it’s fair for some to have to go without basic abilities, while some others have lots of abilities, especially as this isn’t determined by their efforts but by things out of their control.

    I want all autistics to have sufficient ability. How do the ones on the spectrum who lack so much ability feel about not having enough? I don’t know who would be content with that.

  6. Ms. Clark October 8, 2008 at 10:41 #

    Well, I keep mentioning Sue Rubin, and the last time I checked, she wants to be cured. She needs loads of help. Others who need just as much help don’t want to be cured, but they want help. Many, maybe most of the high functioning autistics want help and need help. If they qualify for a diagnosis, they DO have significant impairments, they aren’t merely quirky, but they might be in a position where their needs are being met (by a friend, parent or spouse, or are in a very good situation where unfair demands are not made on them).

    The fact is that the majority of the ones called “autistic” or “autism spectrum today” are more like me and my kid. They are not the really obviously impaired, non-verbal autistics. Those are the minority.

    But when I go to “Autism Speaks” who are featured in all their promotional material? Asperger’s kids? PDD,nos kids? No, they are kids who can’t talk or who have extreme behaviors, for whatever reason.

    A lot of people, when they think “autism” think of a non-verbal, retarded kid who sits in a corner rocking and biting himself.

    Some might think of a mostly retarded savant. The majority of people out there don’t know what “Asperger syndrome” is.

    The majority now, if they’ve heard about autism, think it’s a huge national tragedy that can only be stopped with massive expensive therapies, or with “cutting edge” quack stuff like chelation. The majority are not thinking that the “autism epidemic” is a “genius epidemic”. So I don’t think you have anything to worry about as far as what the public believes. I think **I** have plenty to worry about.

  7. Joseph October 8, 2008 at 14:44 #

    Lots of you neurodiversity people have been implying that terms like low functioning and retarded don’t apply. Those terms have been put in quotation marks numerous times. Very few of you admit there are functioning differences.

    I’m one of those who doesn’t like those classifications. I’ve explained my reasoning and it’s not what you think.

  8. Kev October 8, 2008 at 19:31 #

    Why don’t you grow a spine and talk about and defend the views your friends on here hold instead of pretending they likely were never said?

    Why don’t you grow some balls and provide some evidence for your claim. People like you constantly cry about how the evil neurodiverse devalue low functioning autistic people. Back it up sonny.

    I hardly ever see you neurodiversity people talk about stories of severe autistics.

    Know why? Maybe those who _aren’t_ low functioning don’t want to talk about something they aren’t. Ever occur to you jackass? As for me, I don’t talk about my child much anymore because of scumbags who mistreat her.

    Look at the blogs listed as links on your own website. If you want to know what I’m alleging, think about what neurodiversity is about.

    You silly boy. You are going around and around in a vicious circle. “Neurodiversity is evil because I think it is although I have no evidence for my claims. The reason I think so is because neurodiversity is evil.” Truly your ‘logic’ is impeccable.

    How dare you accuse me of disparaging your child. How is what you are doing here in her interests, when you bolster the propaganda of those who don’t want to see improvement for low functioning autistics, unless it comes through non- interventional means?

    Once more Pumma – where is this written?. Your next comment is your last chance on this blog. Provide me with something to back up your claim or you will be banned. Then you can go somewhere else and whine about how I prevented you from ‘telling it like it is’.

    I for one am suffering from gruesome mental disabilities and am worn out as a result of it, and I don’t like the way some of you talk about disability. I’m sick of being portrayed as a monster by you.

    So let me get this straight. You describe your ‘mental disabilities’ as gruesome. I – who parent a child with ‘mental disabilities’ and who has ‘mental illness’ myself thinks they’re far from gruesome and you upbraid me as portraying you as a monster?

    You’re a drama queen son.

    Oh and don’t forget. Your next comment to this blog will be evidence of the neurodiverse spitting on people who are low functioning or describing them in ways that makes it clear they don’t matter or don’t exist. Or you’ll be banned.

  9. mayfly October 8, 2008 at 22:52 #

    Ms Clark, I thought Amanda Blake was someone who had moved from FC to independent typing. I certainly could be wrong. I don’t think I’m wrong about when the severity of her condition became manifest, but if I’ll accept correction.

  10. Ms. Clark October 8, 2008 at 23:17 #

    Amanda Blake isn’t/wasn’t autistic, in fact, I think she might be dead. The Amanda you are thinking of has a different last name.

    Amanda went from speaking but with a lot of scripting (if I understand her correctly) to finding that she could communicate her thoughts more accurately by typing. I’m not sure if she ever used FC, exactly… though at one point people said it was her mother who was writing for her, and I have accused her cat of doing the actual writing attributed to Amanda, since Amanda admits that the cat “facilitates” for her sometimes… seriously, go ask her for the details or check out her blog. You might even find out what her last name is. 🙂

  11. mayfly October 8, 2008 at 23:26 #

    Kev, Catherine Maurice’s book about how helpful ABA was to her children sold a lot of copies. If outcomes were different, and she wrote a book stating it was of little help, then who besides her relatives would have read it.

    Karen Seroussi wrote a book where every single biomedical intervention was said to have helped her child significantly. It sold well. A book which reported no change in a child given the same treatments would be a dud.

    So yes talking about those who have not made great strides does not make for pleasant reading. It doesn’t matter if your autistic or not. It doesn’t matter if one is the is the parent of an LFA, HFA, Aspergers or NT child.

    This is why parents of low-functioning children have a fear those children will be forgotten.

    It is wrong to dismiss that fear. Parents of HFA children are anxious about things parents of low-functioning children would wish for. That does not mean the parents anxiety is misplaced or not real.

  12. Dedj October 8, 2008 at 23:38 #

    I think the issue of Amanda’s supposed regression is a classic example of the view that speech is always more advanced than typing.

    Scripted speech (as opposed to echolalia) is certainly a very major feature for more than a good few people with autism, and many people with autism report processing the language component to be much easier if it’s written – so it would make perfect sense for the occasional person with autism to elect to use AC.

    This doesn’t neccesarily represent a worsening of their autism, any more than using insulin and diet control would represent a worsening of a persons diabetes.

  13. pumma October 9, 2008 at 01:25 #

    “Know why? Maybe those who aren’t low functioning don’t want to talk about something they aren’t. Ever occur to you jackass?” I think they should talk about something they aren’t, when they attempt to speak for all autistics. I’m sick of their selfishness where they make their concerns top priority.

    First I accuse you with implying that low intelligence in autism isn’t real, by your titling of this post “Autism genes = genius”

    “Autism isn’t devastating to the people who ARE AUTISTIC”
    http://rettdevil.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html
    Look at this quote. How can this not be construed as someone speaking for all autistics?

    “For the love of all that is good and holy, if you are going to talk about autism, DON’T TALK TO PARENTS. Parents are more often than not in pity-party mode for years on end. Talk to an autistic person.

    You owe us ALL an apology. We don’t want a cure, we want acceptance”
    http://rettdevil.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html

    Of course, not all of you guys say that every autistic doesn’t want to be cured. Here’s what one neurodiversity person thinks about those who do.

    I wonder how respectful the term, “House Autistic” can be considered to call an autistic who favors cure, when it implies that they are being very obsequious to neurotypicals.

    Look at how this person tries to degrade the opinions of an autistic who is against neurodiversity.
    http://autisticcats.blogspot.com/2008/09/colluders-internalized-prejudice.html

  14. Ms. Clark October 9, 2008 at 04:09 #

    Does it matter at all if Marty Murphy didn’t write what she claimed to have written (the I am autism poem)? To me, Marty Murphy doesn’t look like she’s on the spectrum. She makes money (or she has in the past) off of being an autistic who will go to parent focused conferences and stand up and say she wishes she was cured.

    Interestingly, it’s the “garlic and vinegar IV” mom who turned Omri Finan/Marty Murphy’s poem into a video and sold it. https://leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk/?p=529

    http://www.isn.net/~jypsy/AuSpin/ournames.htm

    Our Names Are Autism, Too September 11th, 2004
    In her essay “My Name is Autism,” Marty Murphy, a 41 year-old (by self-description) “high functioning” autistic woman describes what autism means to her. In a “Dear Sir/Madam” letter, which frequently was circulated in conjunction with the “My Name is Autism” essay, Ms. Murphy, posing as a 25 year-old male, claimed to be speaking for all autistics (using such phrases as “those of us with autism would like an answer” and “we are all waiting for our answer”).
    We, the undersigned, neither agree with Ms. Murphy’s conception of autism nor appreciate Ms. Murphy’s claim to be speaking for “those of us.”
    We do not believe that we are akin to “calves born in Texas with defects,” that we are “victims” of autism, and that our families were “taken hostage” by autism.
    We do not believe that autism “taketh away and gives nothing but bewilderment and loathing in return;” that autism “takes away common sense” and “all but physical life;” that autism “looks for new children to consume and new lives to destroy.”
    We do not believe that being autistic “is almost worse than death.”
    We find these statements to be dangerous, sensationalist and false. We believe these statements demean and devalue the lives of all autistics. These statements resonate with similar historical efforts to incite fear and hatred against identifiable groups of people, with the goal of restricting then eliminating the existence of these people.
    Finally, we do not “dread the day” that autism “will be looked upon with understanding,” and we do not believe that will be the day that autism will “die.” Rather, we wholeheartedly welcome the day that we, as proud autistics, are understood and fully accepted for who we are.
    Peruse our websites, read our books, listen to our words. Appreciate our voices.

    Marty’s poem or whatever she calls it closely resembles an essay written in 1978 by a mother, Anne Watson, called “I am Autism”. It appears that Marty plagiarized it. I have some old URL’s for “I am autism” as written by Anne Watson, but they don’t work any more.

    Being called a “House Autistic” ought to be the least of Marty Murphy’s concerns. And no one, as far as I know calls an autistic person a “house autistic” just because they want a cure (did anyone call Sue Rubin that??).

  15. pumma October 9, 2008 at 05:30 #

    Ms. Clark, Marty Murphy isn’t really the issue to me, but I am skeptical about claims that she doesn’t look like she’s on the spectrum. If someone refers to her as a “house autistic” for favoring cure, what would that person call other autistics who favors a cure? If you don’t know of anyone who would call an autistic that, look at this:
    http://autisminnb.blogspot.com/2008/01/house-autistic-or-more-neurodiversity.html

  16. Kev October 9, 2008 at 07:12 #

    Pumma you’re full of it and have failed to produce any evidence at all. So you’re banned. Go and troll someone elses blog.

  17. Joseph October 9, 2008 at 16:38 #

    I think they should talk about something they aren’t, when they attempt to speak for all autistics.

    I hear this accusation all the time, but I don’t recall anyone, ever, saying this: “I speak for all autistics when I say this…”

    It’s applied with a double-standard in mind. Think about it. Should we assume Jon Mitchell is speaking for all autistics when he says he’d like autism to be cured? Should we assume Harold Doherty speaks for the entire autism community when he advocates ABA should be mandated?

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