14/09/2010

Wondering about the Autism spectrum

The radio 5 phone today on special needs children reminded about some thinking I had been doing on  autism and the way it is always described as being a "spectrum", with diagnosed children somewhere on it. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that some children are autistic, but I wonder if this idea of a spectrum isn't being used by parents, teachers and professionals t?o obtain a quite life or justify their rent seeking?

If there is a spectrum it means that there must be a reference child somewhere who is "normal", yes? All other children must then be compared to that reference child and if they don't measure up then they must be somewhere on the autistic spectrum? And if they are on the autistic spectrum doesn't that mean that they can make special claims on the state?

But we know that all children are different, behave in different ways in different situations, especially in school. Not all children are going to be at ease talking to adults, but that doesn't mean they are autistic. Not all children will be at ease painting, or answering questions. So most of them won't measure up to our reference child.

And doesn't this prey on the sensitivities of parents? My child doesn't seem to be normal therefore there must be something wrong? My child is misbehaving, it must be a medical problem, it can't be me? And as they hear a lot about autism then this is an easy place to look.

And when I look at this website I do get suspicious about some of the reasons for wanting an autism diagnosis:
Over 40% of children with autism have been bullied at school
  Bullying is a real problem, but Bullying UK had a survey and they reckon that 69% of children claim to have been bullied. Again, this isn't to belittle autism or bullying, but charities playing victim poker is a dangerous game when so many are at it.

Over 50% of children with autism are not in the kind of school their parents believe would best support them7
Hmm, could there be some cause and effect here? I can't get my child in the school I want, my child is suffering and isn't happy (parents transmitting their anxiety to their children?), my child must be on the autism spectrum, push for diagnosis, get on spectrum, get in preferred school!

If this is going on then is those with serious autism who will suffer as resources are diverted.

Again I stress that autism is a real disease, my problem is the way it has become something for parents to use whenever there own children aren't seen as perfect of they want to game the system

No doub't this subject will come up again and I'll do a bit more research, until then I'll keep wondering.

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