Useful Notes High Functioning Autism Discussion

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11:30:19 PM Jul 2nd 2017
Autism isn't more common in Males, Thats a myth. Its just more difficult to diagnose in females
11:56:54 PM Aug 17th 2017
The contrary claim is the myth. That's not a scientific study written by a scientist, it's an opinion piece written by an activist. The writer has a very common name so I can't find any information on her beyond her own website, which lists precisely zero academic qualifications to make such a statement.

Like many activists, this person seems to take the narrow and reductive opinion that equality means equivalent numbers and advocates changing the facts to support the conclusion that she prefers.
12:02:16 PM Oct 11th 2017
That said, I would like to add that autism has always been thought to occur in males more than females. However, I have read on several sites that it may actually be harder to diagnose women with autism than it is men.
02:21:04 PM Dec 4th 2016
This page is really ableist. It uses functioning labels, which are uses to devalue an Autistic person, here is a link as to why it's bad:

The page also uses person-first language, which the majority of Autistics are against, identity-first is preferred, here is a link to why it's bad:

It also refers to autism as a disease in the end of the treatment part. Autism is not a disease, here is a link to what autism is:

Also, drugs are not used for autism, as it cannot and should not be treated, autism is a neurological variation, not a horrible thing that needs to go away.

Under causes, there is use of the word risk when referring to the likelihood of being Autistic, using risk promotes the idea that it is a bad thing to be Autistic.

It also says that you require an official diagnosis to be Autistic.This is also wrong. Self-diagnosis is considered okay by the Autistic community, as not everyone has access to a diagnosis. Here is a link to why self-diagnosing is okay:

Also, it's not self-harming. It's self-injurious stims. The fact that it's a stim a very important distinction to make.
09:45:48 PM Jan 1st 2017
Accurate diagnosis is not a value judgement.

Point two, this is meaningless semantics. People prefer different styles and there's no consensus.

Autism is a disease, listed on the DSM. You're wrong.

Did you even read the mention of drugs? You're only disagreeing with yourself.

If you think that parents aren't concerned about their children having autism, I have a few dozen people I could introduce you to.

Autism is a medical diagnosis and must be performed by a medical professional. I don't care what the opinion of non-professionals on the matter is.

Self injury is self injury. Treatment is individualized. Semantics again.
01:20:13 PM Jan 5th 2017
Functioning labels are not meaningless semantics. What you say influence people. You could say that the whole thing about the n-word is just meaningless semantics, but most people know that it's discriminatory and doesn't use it. Functioning labels are the same if not worse. And there is a consensus, among Autistics, in this discussion only Autistic people have a vote. You said further down you wanted this page to be clinical, guess what, the dsm-5 does not use high-functioning autism anymore. You also said you wanted it to be neutral, this page is not neutral. If it was neutral it would respect Autistic people. Stevie C also explained the badness with functioning labels in May 2015, here is what they said " Use of functioning labels is now looked upon as being almost as bad as use of the word "retarded". If you're "high-functioning autistic" then you get told, "it's not real autism, you're just being lazy." If you're "low-functioning autistic", then you get talked about but nobody ever talks to you because it's assumed you can't understand what anyone is talking about, so you're treated as "too dumb to know what's best for you". Either way, you're being condescended to. "

The DSM does not list diseases, it lists mental disorders. Intellectual disabilities are on there as well. Mental disorders are not diseases. Autism is not a disease.

Doesn't matter if the parents are concerned, it is still wrong to say risk instead chance. Risk is a negative word. You said yourself you wanted this page neutral, negative is not neutral.

You know what else is a medical diagnosis? Dyslexia. Just because you aren't diagnosed doesn't mean you don't have it. It doesn't magically pop up after the diagnosis. So to say Autistic people who can't get a diagnosis for different reasons (money, their family won't let them, no doctors close enough) is discriminatory, not only against disabled people but also against many others. The Autistic community is accepting of people who self-diagnose. You have to remember, self-diagnosis takes time and research, it isn't just reading a Wikipedia article.

I noticed a couple of other things in the article. It says "may persist for a person's entire life" there is no may here. It does persist through a person entire life.

Also I didn't want to comment on this before but I'm confused, when the page says "Ninety-five percent of autistic improve with intervention" what does improve mean in this context?
07:38:59 PM Jan 8th 2017
Idiots are idiots. Using different words doesn't prevent idiots from being idiots.

I've asked Septimus Heap multiple times to change the title of this page. If you can figure out the site bureaucracy well enough to find the right method of asking him, please do so. I would appreciate that.

You are correct that that autism is a disorder and not a disease, but not for the reasons you cited. The technical definition of "disease" in the DSM requires that there be a rigorously defined cause, which is not true for autism.

Dyslexia is NOT a medical diagnosis, it's an education diagnosis. Dyslexia is the condition of having difficulty with writing, and may have a number of causes which may or may not be medical in nature. I don't care about those sections of the autistic community with an anti-authority bent. Self-diagnosis is still not valid for autism or dyslexia.

Autistic tendencies may reduce with age, so a tendency in childhood may not be present in adulthood.

Improvement in this context means higher quantity and quality of social interaction or communication.
04:52:48 PM Jan 14th 2017
Functioning labels are a lie. Tumblr user nbnightwing said this about functioning labels:

Here is another post explaining that autism isn't a linear spectrum with one end high-functioning and the other low-functioning.

So no it isn't "just semantics". It is outright incorrect to use functioning labels.

Okay, dyslexia is a clinical diagnosis, sorry for the wrong words, English is not my first language.

Self-diagnosis is valid. I am currently trying to self-diagnose myself with ARFID since I live in Denmark and we don't use the DSM but the ICD where ARFID is not a thing. But just because it isn't in the ICD doesn't mean I don't have it. Americans are not the only ones with ARFID. Also let's use another example. Say, I fall down a tree and my arm visibly breaks I am self-diagnosing in that instant. People are constantly self-diagnosing, you don't go to the hospital because you have a cold, you diagnose yourself, and therefore you self-diagnose.

Just because an Autistic tendency is there in childhood doesn't make the person less Autistic. People grow and change, you don't see a grown adult behave like a child for the same reasons. It may also be because the Autistic person has grown so good at passing that they just don't show the tendency anymore.

I don't see how higher quantity and quality of social interaction or communication is improvement. Higher quantity would most likely tire the Autistic person, and small talk is often unnecessary. Also quality is entirely subjective. An Autistic person communicates just fine, they just communicate in a different way. I may find that quality communication is only saying the bare minimum, while others prefer a lot of talking.

Also, in the life section it says "see if development starts on its own." Development starts, it just starts differently than in neurotypicals.
11:15:51 PM Jan 22nd 2017
I still don't care about amateur opinions. People use different levels of specificity at different times. These people are committing a category error.

Having to change a behavior in order to function better in society is a common human experience, not unique to any condition or group.

Self-diagnosis is tentative at best. The fact that people do so does not make those diagnoses valid. If you want to think you have a condition, that's fine. However, don't expect other people to believe and validate your amateur efforts. In reference to autism, a qualified diagnosis is required to apply for aid and services.

The fact that you don't see the value of communication is in itself a part of the problem.

If you think that everyone will start to develop spontaneously, again, I have a few dozen people I could show you.
12:17:00 PM Jan 30th 2017
What makes your opinion less amateur than mine? Why is it that you get to decide what is professional enough to be "correct"? Do you have some sort of degree in professionalism or something? As I have said before the DSM does not use functioning labels, so are they not professional? Wouldn't you say the DSM is making the rules for what is professional?

There is a difference between changing something that actively hurt people and stopping Autistic people from doing harmless things like flapping their hands or rocking back and forth. Sometimes Autistics aren't even allowed to do things allistic people are allowed to do. Passing is not a good thing.

Aids and services is not the only reason to want to figure out if you are Autistic, it is also about understanding yourself and getting a community who understand you. Sometimes self-diagnosis is only the first step, for others, it is all they can get for various reasons. Also in regards to something you said in previously, it is not just sections of the autistic community that encourages self-diagnosing, it is by far most of the community. Also, it does not matter if you care about it, you are not the authority on autism and self-diagnosing any more than I am.

I do see the value of communication. But small talk is not communication, small talk is mindless conversation to fill a silence. Small talk is not higher quality communication. And why would higher quantity of conversation be an improvement, it is more likely to send the Autistic person into a burnout than help them in any way.

Please, show me the dozen people you know who hasn't developed since they were born, please do, in return, I'll show you the Autistic people I know (4 IRL, dozens online, all of whom have developed since birth, just not according to allistic standards. Besides, you can force development.
07:16:22 PM Jan 30th 2017
You're not understanding what I say clearly enough to continue this conversation.
09:08:19 AM Jan 31st 2017
Are you sure you're not understanding what I'm saying clearly enough? Maybe you just suck at communicating. My points still stand and you've done nothing to disprove them, you are clearly on the losing site of this argument, as seen that you haven't responded to what I said but instead claim that I don't understand what you are saying.
09:29:50 AM Jan 31st 2017
edited by Larkmarn
So, looking at this, Geertsen, you seem to be trying to use this page as a platform for advocating change in how autism is portrayed and viewed. That is not what a Useful Notes page is for. They're for informing viewers and creators about a subject so they can enjoy and write media better.

As it stands, much to my genuine surprise, this page actually seems to take a pretty even stance on the matter. It points out both sides of the argument (pro-neurodiversity vs. a more standard belief system) and honestly doesn't promote one over the other. At worst, it can be said that it gives more space to the more common conception, which is kind of what a UN page is supposed to do.

I'm only chiming in because your behavior is getting a bit unacceptable. I understand and appreciate that this is a tender subject for plenty of people. But "maybe you just suck at communicating" is not something that can be said in conversation (so it doesn't look like I'm taking sides, Artful, your "you aren't understanding" wasn't great either, but still leagues better." Especially a conversation that's already spiraling down the drain of pointlessness, devolving to "well, I know a bunch of people" and then citing tumblr of all things.

I'm not saying there aren't things that could be changed, but some of the changes you're promoting do seem more akin to trying to turn this into a one-sided soapbox. Which will not happen. And more tragically, you keep this behavior up then any change you propose would be completely ignored.
12:37:41 PM Jan 31st 2017
I am not trying to use this page to advocate change in how Autistic people are portrayed and viewed, I would use a page where people would actually see it and that is specified for something like that. A Useful Notes page is, as you say, not for that.

An even stance would respect Autistic people and not use harmful language. You don't see the UN page for political ideologies call feminists feminazis, you don't see the Japan page day Japs, the Germany page doesn't call Germans for Nazis. So I don't see why this page is allowed to, there is no way that functioning labels and the like isn't harmful language.

This is a UN page about autism, not about the pro-neurodiversity vs standard belief. That would need its own page, as it is not autism.

Isn't a UN page supposed to be written by people who know a lot about the subject or experience it personally? At least that is what I am imagining when I read a facts page. Otherwise it would not stand up to a scrutinizing eye. The average person is not an expert on autism, so the common conception is not necessarily true. Unless every word on this page was written by an expert on autism or a community enveloped person, it would not necessarily give the full facts. Of course the community enveloped non-educated Autistic person shouldn't write in the causes part, but they surely have something important to say about terminology and community parts of the page.

Yeah, I know it was probably wrong to say, but I was lacking synonyms, and I am not always the best at articulating myself. Sorry about that.

Now, may I enquire what a one-sided soapbox is? I am not a native English speaker, it's only my second language so some things still confuse me.
02:48:30 PM Mar 9th 2017
Soapbox is a metaphor. It refers to someone standing on on box and using a loudspeaker to shout out their opinions in public.

I am an expert. I have a degree and multiple years of experience. I'm also autistic; that's not a qualification, but it matters to some activists. I wrote most of the content of the page.
04:38:35 PM Nov 4th 2016
Why is this called High Functioning Autism when the article is about Autism in general?
11:32:46 PM Jul 2nd 2017
Who knows
01:44:33 PM Oct 7th 2016
Can anyone make a Life, Animated page?
05:55:18 AM Feb 4th 2015
'Autism tends to run in families and affects males more often than females, so there is certainly a genetic factor'

Actually, this is technically incorrect. More males are DIAGNOSED- not affected- than females, as symptoms are more obvious in the former than the latter. This is why the 'autistic people are male' stereotype is so common. As an autistic girl myself, I think that it should be edited to explain this.
07:25:15 AM Feb 4th 2015
Not until science agrees with that. And from what I know, that's not quite the case so far.
04:42:56 PM Feb 6th 2015
Taking a five minute look, there doesn't seem to be a basis for this. People who argue this tend to say this is only true if you loosen diagnostic criteria for females. This seems to be an attempt to artificially impose balance. PM me with stronger evidence if you have any, I'd like to see it.
04:24:17 PM Dec 9th 2014
  • "There is no cure, but there are several effective treatments."
  • "There is no medicinal intervention for Autism, although drugs may be used to regulate symptoms in some cases."
  • "However, autistic people as a group have a lower measured average IQ than the whole population."

Not cool, dude.
12:19:27 AM Dec 10th 2014
Not seeing the issue. What is it?
02:00:46 PM Dec 18th 2014
It kinda looks like they're saying, "hey, autistic people have bad symptoms and need to be fixed with drugs!" I dunno, I feel like this was written by people who think "curing autism" is a good idea. It's so clinical and creepy.
02:06:25 PM Dec 18th 2014
About that last one: don't people with high functioning autism tend to have normal measured to high measured IQ? I thought that it was people with low functioning autism who tended to have lower I Qs?
04:28:24 PM Dec 18th 2014
This is probably one of the more controversial useful notes pages on TV tropes, especially for me, seeing as I actually have high-functioning autism. I pretty much automatically dislike anything that makes us look like this page does. Unfortunately, I don't quite have the vocabulary to explain why.
12:42:15 PM Dec 20th 2014
Nope, it's people with autism generally that have lower-then-average measured I Qs. The fact that you don't like it doesn't make it untrue. If you can find a source that says different you can petition to get it changed.

Autistic people *do* have negative symptoms. If they didn't have negative symptoms, they wouldn't be diagnosed as autistic. Autism diagnosis is dependent on the presentation of negative symptoms.

If you're curious, this article was written by me, a person who has autism and who works with people with autism to help ameliorate their negative symptoms. I am enemies with people who peddle fake cures and with people who oppose effective treatment based on sanctimony. The clinical tone was intentional, since I know this issue is emotionally charged and I wanted the article to be as neutral as possible.

This reminds me, I should re-write the "causes" section based on the latest science. Sept, if you see this, could you please tell me who to bug to edit it in? Thanks.
01:09:26 PM Dec 20th 2014
I'd like to see what the "latest science" in question is. Also, I would not add "hot off the press" science unless it's been replicated and confirmed.
06:48:09 PM Dec 20th 2014
I do have a degree, I know how science works. The true source is the journals I have access to. You can read about the brain structure stuff in Temple Gradin's new book: Here's a video citing some of the sources I read:

"The underlying mechanism of the observed symptoms of autism is currently thought to be significant differences in the structure and function of the brain. These differences vary significantly among persons with autism, meaning each individual can present in very different ways. Brain development is possibly the most complicated part of human development, so a multi-hit hypothesis is most likely. That is, autism is due to the cumulative effect of several factors on an individual rather then a single controlling cause.

Several factors are known to increase risk of autism. Older age and obesity in either parent increases risk. A family history of autism increases risk. Being male increases risk. Exposure to substances and situations that are known to cause other developmental differences also increase the risk of autism. Auto-immune responses in mother and child increase risk.

Other factors have been decisively ruled out as increasing risk. These include vaccination, parenting style, and parent personality. Exposure to heavy metals may increase risk, but this is considered a minor factor by scientists."
01:49:15 AM Dec 21st 2014
Post that here.
09:09:55 PM Dec 23rd 2014
Lower "measured" IQ. That's true of even the smarter and/or higher functioning ASD individuals. IQ tests are rather biased against those who don't think the same as other people.
11:38:20 PM Dec 25th 2014
That's precisely why I used the word "measured" - the intelligence of autistic individuals can be different then most humans. It was also as a step against the stupid "Rain Man" compensatory model.
01:53:51 AM Dec 27th 2014
This discussion page is not a general autism discussion forum. Please?
10:36:07 AM Dec 27th 2014
I was responding to Artfuls request for a source that says that autistics have similar measured I Qs compared to the general population. Most IQ tests depend upon verbal communication skills, and are deeply flawed when dealing with the autistic population. More purely nonverbal tests such as Ravens find that autistics as a group have the same measured IQ as the general population.
02:14:19 PM Jan 14th 2015
edited by SeptimusHeap

[No personal attacks, Stevie. And again, this is not an autism forum - Septimus]
06:17:57 PM Jan 17th 2015
Is there a problem with the proposed edit, Sept?
01:58:32 AM Jan 18th 2015
I think we need to wait a bit more.
04:26:28 PM Jan 19th 2016
It's been a year, the edit good to go? The information is still good.
01:03:58 AM Jan 20th 2016
Please ask for edits here.
06:22:05 PM Nov 25th 2014
Correct me if I'm wrong, but there does not appear to be a "Low Functioning Autism" page. Maybe we should edit this page to describe autism more generally, so there's information about people across the spectrum.
11:32:29 PM Nov 25th 2014
Because "low functioning autism" is seldom used as its own concept.
01:44:42 PM Dec 29th 2014
I think that would just be "Autism". Which is kind of covered by the Hollywood Autism page.
04:33:27 PM May 25th 2015
Use of functioning labels is now looked upon as being almost as bad as use of the word "retarded".

If you're "high-functioning autistic" then you get told, "it's not real autism, you're just being lazy."

If you're "low-functioning autistic", then you get talked about but nobody ever talks to you because it's assumed you can't understand what anyone is talking about, so you're treated as "too dumb to know what's best for you".

Either way, you're being condescended to.
03:51:47 PM Jun 8th 2014
Given the heavy influence it's had on the media coverage of autism, I wonder if we need to include an explanation of the Biomedical movement? I'm not completely sure how to describe it, since it's a mess of mis-matched claims, with the only consistencies seeming to be "Vaccines cause autism" (though no consistency in claims of how) and the claims that untested and often dangerous interventions will "recover" your "real" child from autism.
02:59:49 AM Jun 10th 2014
I did mention that vaccines have been ruled out as a cause, but expanding a bit on the pseudoscience nuttery wouldn't be a bad thing.
03:53:07 PM Jun 12th 2014
Here's a possible starting point:

While it is not accepted by the scientific community, it is important to make note of the Biomedical movement, which has a very strong media presence. The movement is unified in its belief that autism is not a condition a person is born with, but rather a condition triggered by something in their environment, most often childhood vaccinations. Different theories of causation have included heavy metal poisoning due to mercury compounds used as a preservative in multi-dose vials, measles infection of the intestinal tract from the MMR vaccine, a nebulous mix of unnamed "toxins" in vaccines and immune dysfunction triggered by vaccines given in combination at a young age. In children who have not received vaccinations, parents have been known to blame the vaccines given to the mother, even if they occurred years prior to pregnancy.

Based on their belief that autism is caused by an outside source, parents within the movement attempt a variety of methods to "recover" their child from autism, turning to an unregulated industry of fringe treatments. It may range from something as simple as vitamin supplements to more complex special diets to extreme medical interventions such as chemical castration. These "treatments" may be used alone or in conjunction with traditional therapeutic interventions.
11:25:47 PM Jun 19th 2014
You're missing the thesis statements:

These claims have been investigated and disproven.


These treatments are at best ineffective and may in fact be harmful.
12:07:00 AM Jun 20th 2014
That doesn't render them addition-unworthy. This is not a medical manual.
08:48:31 AM Jul 14th 2014
edited by
As for the issue of biomedical, it's pseudoscientific and it costs lives. People are getting measles again in the United States thanks to anti-vaxxers' claims about autism, and at least one autistic child has been murdered by a parent who claimed to feel guilt that she had doomed said child to a fate worse than death (the mother's words, not mine) by 'giving' the child autism with the MMR vaccine. The fact that the 'biomedical' advocates' thesis has provably been the direct cause of at least one death does render it addition-unworthy.
08:35:22 AM May 5th 2014
Considering the fact that the DSM V has now combined Autism and Asperger's into one category: autism spectrum disorder, I think we should combine the two articles as well. Also the phrase "high functioning" is vehemently disagreed with by actual Autistic people, who (rightly) feel that it is ableist, plus it's not helpful to lump people into one of two categories based almost entirely on whether they can communicate in spoken word or not.
09:03:50 AM May 5th 2014
Well, the "high functioning" is still frequently used in the world and in works, so it will probably stay around.

As for "Autism" and "Asperger", I think we should wait until the rest of the world (and works) have followed suit. Our naming conventions reflect usage in the wild more than specific medical meanings.
02:58:53 AM Jun 10th 2014
Huh? It's incredibly helpful to know whether someone can verbally communicate - it determines the entire structure of interaction and needed supports. It's inaccurate in that the term collapses a spectrum into a binary, but it's useful enough.

Also, "ableist" doesn't apply here since we're talking about an actual, as opposed to perceived, difference that affects interaction and treatment.
08:53:55 AM Jul 14th 2014
Artful's remarks in the discussion threads on this article have a conspicuously condescending tone to them, I've noticed. I wonder if he's familiar with the credo, "Nothing About Us Without Us"?
01:02:58 PM Jul 26th 2014
As I've already told you, I do have ASD. I entered the field properly, by getting the education and training. I'm not going to bow to whiners and SJ Ws who prove their own bias and ignorance through their own words.
09:13:46 PM Dec 23rd 2014, that is condescending. Being on the spectrum and working in the field does not make you Captain Autism, Defender of the Voiceless.
02:25:17 AM Dec 24th 2014
Don't turn this discussion personal, folks. And dial the tone down a notch, Artful. That kind of attitude does not belong in a discussion.

Also, this discussion page is about what to put on the High-Functioning Autism article. General discussion does not belong here - the ASD thread is thisaway.
08:49:04 AM Feb 18th 2014
edited by
Thinking that it may be safe to unlock this page, given that the prevailing consensus has quite firmly coalesced against Autism Speaks, ever since they officially endorsed the Judge Rotenberg Center less than 9 months after said Center's treatment methods were unanimously agreed to constitute torture in a panel held by the UN's special rapporteur on torture. Link showing that Autism Speaks endorsed the JRC Link to a Forbes Magazine article on the report from the UN ruling that the methods used at the JRC constitute torture and would be war-crimes if used on prisoners of war Given the rather damning evidence mentioned above, it is probably safe to say that the article's once-controversial portrayal of Autism Speaks as a poster-child for Condescending Compassion is demonstrably not biased, rendering the alleged reason for locking the page (as described on the administrivia list of locked pages) no-longer-applicable.
10:20:37 AM Feb 24th 2014
edited by
Based on the evidence presented I would concur.

edit: Oh wait, it's you. Ok, I concur to Autism Speaks being problematic. I do NOT agree that you should be permitted to add in your soapboxing comments again, and given that you're the one asking for the article to be unlocked I suspect you'll add them again if given the chance. If you were to do so I would edit it out as irrelevant, and then we'd be back to an edit war.
08:46:04 AM Jul 14th 2014
How are my remarks 'soapboxing'? All I have done is provide evidence that confirms and demonstrates the veracity of my claims. Nothing more. Or does the mere presentation of such evidence itself constitute soapboxing now?
01:06:05 PM Jul 26th 2014
You've suddenly forgotten your previous "contributions"? Given your immediately defensive attitude I doubt you've changed you stances and have failed to learn from your ban. If the article is unlocked (doubtful) I am still watching and will curate it in accordance with the current knowledge and practice in the field.
02:47:51 AM Jul 27th 2014
Let's not start complaining about each other's contributions. If someone's edits are inappropriate, report them on Ask The Tropers.
03:08:30 PM Sep 24th 2013
Is there any reason why the examples are all male? Could we possibly change one or two of them to female?
05:40:18 PM Sep 29th 2013
Because the examples were all real children, and all of those children were male.
10:12:36 AM Sep 30th 2013
I'm not sure I'm comfortable having examples that include real kids when it's completely unneeded. This isn't a medical journal. We don't need case studies, just hypothetical examples.
09:08:43 PM Oct 2nd 2013
Doesn't really matter, that was just my reason. Real examples are best since they accurately reflect real practice, and those aren't the real initials. Here's some female examples:

Ex: MJ asks for hugs and kisses from strangers. She is taught to respect personal space and to encouraged to request High-5s instead.

Ex: SW speaks for an extended period on a preferred subject and does not give pauses for others to respond. She is given a check sheet to record each time during a practice conversation she allows others a turn to speak, and is given instruction on how to ask people questions about their interests.
11:53:00 AM Oct 4th 2013
Could we include one or both of them so that we're not accidentally reenforcing the "All autistic people are male" stereotype?
11:38:10 PM Jul 2nd 2017
The article also claims its more likely to appear in males, which has been proven as a myth
05:29:12 AM Feb 16th 2013
Former article sucked balls, replaced. Quoted here for posterity:

Autism is a strange disorder, primarily because there is no consensus on what qualifies someone as an "Autistic" person.

To be more specific, Autism is based on something called the Autism Spectrum Conditions, which is a sliding bar of social disorders. If you hit certain points on the spectrum, then you may have one of the following things:

  1. Autism (social inability, speech delay, highly unusual speech, or absence of speech; can include cognitive disability)
  2. Asperger Syndrome (noticeable social inability, but no obvious speech delay or cognitive disability)
  3. Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (a catch-all category for anything that doesn't fit into the top two; covers about 65% of the autism spectrum because the current diagnostic categories are only marginally useful)
  4. Rett Syndrome (an X-linked neurological disorder with autism as a primary symptom. Very rare)
  5. Childhood Dis-Integrative Disorder or Heller Syndrome (which involves loss of skills and speech rather than simply not gaining them to begin with; extremely rare)

For a while, this worked out really well and helped determine who was and who wasn't autistic. However, autism is such a broad spectrum that it covers everything from the eccentric engineer who spoke in full sentences by age four, to the fellow who can't use symbolic communication at all and needs an aide 24/7. Awareness campaigns emphasized the small minority of autistics with the most obvious, severe cases, and implied that autistics could not learn or have meaningful lives; often, in an effort to gather more donations, autism "charities" would make autism sound like a fate worse than death (one Autism Speaks spokesperson claimed to have considered killing herself and her child, but to have been prevented by the fact that she had another, normal child).

With autism having such an unrealistically frightening reputation, doctors became afraid that a child's mother would hit them with her purse (or, more realistically, either refuse to believe the diagnosis or else give up on the child) if they were told that the child was "autistic"; so they began using the term "high-functioning" to mean "this person does not fit my stereotype of a low-functioning autistic," i.e., shows ability to learn, has some language or shows signs of using symbolic communication, has a normal or higher IQ, etc.

"High-functioning" is a term that has no official medical definition; it is mostly determined by the perception of the person using the term. If someone says "high-functioning autistic," they may be implying something like, "I know you're autistic, but I don't want to 'lump' you with Those People who can't talk or use the toilet," a statement which of course has serious Unfortunate Implications.

When "high-functioning autistic" is used in a neutral sense, it may be used with the assumption that some criterion that the writer is using is the universal criterion for "high-functioning". For example, a writer may assume that "high-functioning" means being able to speak out loud, or that it means being able to live independently, or that it means not needing help with basic activities of daily living, or that it means someone who has an IQ above some arbitrary level (like mild mental retardation or higher, normal or higher, or bright or higher). There is only one actual assessment of "functioning", the GAF scale (global assessment of functioning), which is a 100-point scale on which most people will score from 70 to 90 and many autistics will score from 20 to 60; but most people who use the term "high-functioning" are not referring to GAF.

"High-functioning" can be used to claim that a person does not deserve assistance or should be capable of doing something which he may not in fact be able to do. It is also used by people trying to discredit autistic self-advocates, to state that "you are high-functioning; therefore you cannot know what it is like to be low-functioning; therefore you are not allowed to demand equal rights for all autistics." This is essentially a way of shutting up autistics: If you can talk, then you're too high-functioning to know what it's "really like"; if you can't, then others must speak for you; therefore, no autistic can ever speak for himself.

For now the term is "High Functioning Autistic", or HFA. When referenced in fiction, it is the justification for the Idiot Savant and the TV Genius as HFA's can be intelligent but also socially bizarre. Can lead to Intelligence Equals Isolation, especially if the HFA develops a preoccupation with science or the arts.

See also The Rain Man.

05:40:23 AM Feb 16th 2013
Can someone change the links so that Autism is the page title and High Functioning Autism is the alt title? Thanks.
10:55:00 AM Jul 18th 2013
The article as it stands now is very biased towards non-autistic perspectives, and is highly dismissive of attempts by autistic people from ALL parts of the autistic spectrum to advocate for themselves. For that reason, I have twice attempted to revise the article to address such concerns. BOTH times my revisions have been removed, in a manner that frankly comes across as trying to silence self-advocating autistics. This is offensive to autistic people, and should not recur. How does it hurt anyone to caution about the traumatic effect some types of therapy have when used without the patient's informed consent?
11:27:50 AM Jul 18th 2013
Your attempted inclusion was inaccurate. Sensory processing difficulties and sensitivities are well known to interventionists. The goal is to help the person with autism overcome these difficulties through positive reinforcement, and only when they interfere with social functioning. The kid who would only play with green pieces was a real child that I worked with, and this restricted interest was interfering with their ability to play with other children. I've already included a caution that interventions must be designed in consultation with a professional.
11:28:07 AM Jul 18th 2013
edited by
At least part of the problem were that your edits were bad. Your semantics edits were fine but most of the other edits Artful pulled came across as very whiny, editorializing, or were poorly written. And chock full of pointless Bold Inflation.

I know you're trying to get your point across, and that's fine, except that TV Tropes isn't your personal soapbox. If you want to add a section, then it can be discussed on this page. I think it would be okay to mention controversies, but your edits were taking sides on them, which is a nono.
11:58:31 AM Jul 18th 2013
What about adding something like:

Many autistic adults and self-advocacy groups have challenged the current status-quo of treatment for individuals with autism, on the grounds that treatment is too often based on making things easier for those who are not autistic, rather than helping autistic individuals maximize their potential. This is closely tied to the neurodiversity movement, which takes the stance that rather than being a medical disease that needs to be "fixed," autism is best understood as a combination of differences in understanding and perception, some disabilities, and social barriers to achievement and acceptance.
12:14:27 PM Jul 18th 2013
Autism is a disease. The medical definition of "disease" is expansive and includes things that interfere with usual life functions, as autism interferes with communication.

It seems to have eluded some that making things easier for others also makes things easier for oneself. Being able to make a request independently or hold a conversation on a subject that not one of your limited interests is very much in line with maximizing potential.
12:54:57 PM Jul 18th 2013
Artful, it's not about your individual view of the issue, any more than it's about Stevie C's individual view of the issue. I don't care if you agree with it. I care if it is an accurate description of those who hold this view. Here's the previous paragraph, with some of your feedback incorporated.

Many autistic adults and self-advocacy groups have challenged the current status-quo of treatment for individuals with autism, on the grounds that treatment is too often based on making things easier for those who are not autistic, rather than helping autistic individuals maximize their potential. Examples include trying to eliminate "stimming" behavior and pushing verbal speech as a measure of success.

This is closely tied to the neurodiversity movement, which takes the stance that rather than being a solely medical disease that needs to be "eliminated," autism is best understood as a combination of some differences in understanding and perception, some disabilities, and some social barriers to achievement and acceptance.

01:10:10 PM Jul 18th 2013
I think your proposed edit looks good, Terrie.
01:16:24 PM Jul 18th 2013
I'm simply trying to preserve accuracy. Just because someone has an opinion, that doesn't make it valid.

We do try to eliminate stimming (in public at least) since it interferes with communication. You can't talk or listen when you're concentrating on dangling a bit of string. Verbal speech is pushed as a measure of success since that's what most people (including most people with autism!) use. You're characterizing it as an extreme, which is not what is considered good practice; less noticeable stims are encouraged as long as they're functional and alternate communication is used where it maximizes communication potential. I don't think it serves the article to get wrapped up in a bunch of "This is done, except when it's not" sentiments.

The second paragraph seems like edit bait for more users along the lines of Stevie C, but I don't have a problem with it as it is.
01:32:19 PM Jul 18th 2013
Artful, the problem is that you seem to be limiting "accuracy" to your view. These criticisms exist! The fact that you don't think they're fair doesn't make them not exist. Plus, you seem to be taking them as an attack on your work with autistic children. Remember that this is a Useful Note on Autism in general, not on a particular mode of therapeutic intervention. Even within the portion of the community that rejects ND viewpoints, there's not 100% agreement on what sort of intervention is the ideal. That why there are both applied behavioral models and relationship-based models of therapy.
01:36:44 PM Jul 18th 2013
As I said, I'm a professional. I'm aware of these criticisms and my professional stance is that they are not valid. All I can do is exercise my judgement based on my considerable knowledge of the field. If you want to add alternate treatments, I have no problem with that, as long as they have proper scientific support.
01:47:28 PM Jul 18th 2013
Atful, I find it very concerning that you seem to want to set yourself up as the expert and declare what is and is not valid information, especially since this is an area where there is disagreement even among the professionals about the efficacy of different interventions. The point of this page should be to provide an overview of the current social views of autism, so that people can better understand how it plays out in media. That needs to include the different, common views, not just your professional opinion.
02:46:24 PM Jul 18th 2013
Eh... this is part of a modern trend of anti-intellectualism that I find concerning. I am an expert, with years of training and experience. I do know better then most members of the public. I am in a position to say what is and is not valid; we follow the behavioral research journals. Things that appear controversial to people outside a profession are usually less so within the profession; we have a big list of possible treatments in our office and most relationship-based treatments are firmly in the "not yet proven" category. Useful notes should, I think, include the most accurate information possible.
02:54:16 PM Jul 18th 2013
Wow, that's kind of rude. You are AN expert, yes. But you're setting yourself up as THE expert. There's a very important difference there.
06:40:43 PM Jul 18th 2013
The controversies exist. I think that's important to note, considering that this page is for informing people who want to use/refer to the topic in their writing about the reality of said topic. This page is not for establishing any given point of view—it's for presenting information about the world as it is, and those controversies are part of the world as it is.
07:34:03 PM Jul 18th 2013
edited by
Artful, how would you describe the neurodiversity movement and its basis in the sociological model of disability? I'm not interested on describing different treatments. Those are only minimally related to the topic of media tropes. You've talked a lot about what interventions are and are not, but almost nothing about how society conceptualizes autism.
09:37:01 PM Jul 18th 2013
It would probably be better if it didn't exist. Any second hand information that trickles its way out the the public from a social movement is almost certainly going to be wrong; social movements are not exactly known for rigorous evidence-based approaches. I've found that most of my clients require little more then basic compassion and patience to interact with; after suitable behavior intervention, of course. Having no information is better then having bad information.
04:02:48 AM Jul 19th 2013
That wasn't the question. I asked how you would describe the concept, not if you thought it was valid. At this point, I'm not even sure you know what neurodiversity is, or how it relates to the broader rethinking of how disability is viewed.
04:34:42 AM Jul 19th 2013
The neurodiversity movement is most certainly valid. And as someone who is familiar with the surrounding science, the controversy is real. I would just make a short summary of it.
06:12:49 AM Jul 19th 2013
Yes, we should be neutral, but it would be remiss to not mention existing controversies. We just need to not take sides.
06:51:41 AM Jul 19th 2013
Okay, I expanded my description of neurodiversity to give it a bit more context. If anyone feels that I have not described it properly, I'm certainly open to changing it.
10:18:29 AM Jul 19th 2013
The concept of neurodiversity is that of fear built upon misunderstanding; people have an unreasonable fear about the disease that is autism, and have an unreasonably strong formation-reaction to their own misguided fear. It relies on outmoded and discredited criticisms; modern interventions address the need for autonomy. It overstretches basic truths; taking the basic truth that people should be compassionate and understanding with each other, and stretches it to say people should blithely accept any differences without hesitation. It is egotistical; it relies on people in privileged positions with few difficulties equating themselves with people in troubled positions with many difficulties. It misunderstands the basic social contract by saying it must only flow one way by increasing accommodation; people have to adjust themselves to society, just as society must adjust itself to accommodate people. It fuels the "I can act however I want and no-one can criticize me" attitude that has lead to the slang term "sperg" as an internet insult.

I suppose in many ways this movement is unavoidable. Expecting rational behavior from humans is probably asking too much, and implementation of treatments will always lag behind the science in many places. In so far as the movement advocates for compassion, understanding, and removal of outmoded treatment methods it is correct. However, there is little benefit of replacing one form of irrationality with another in the long run.
10:46:15 AM Jul 19th 2013
edited by
Peachy. I basically agree with you. Doesn't mean the page should have such a slant. We should state the two sides, maybe their arguments, and leave it at that. If people are looking for an in-depth analysis or debate they have to go elsewhere.
10:49:10 AM Jul 19th 2013
^^That paragraph is barely understandable. So I am going to say to leave it off the page.
11:08:10 AM Jul 19th 2013
I disagree. This is part of the modern view of anti-intellectualism that balance is found by allowing both sides of a controversy to speak and leaving it up to the individual to sort things out. It's the same kind of logic that creationists try to use to get their nonsense taught in schools. Not all controversies are created equal, and even if there is a controversy that doesn't mean both sides have equally strong positions. Writings should have a "slant" towards truth and accuracy.
11:59:32 AM Jul 19th 2013
That's not actually a good description of neurodiversity. It is a great description of what neurodiversity's critics think it is, though. So if you want a slant towards truth and accuracy, your description should probably not go on the page.
12:05:30 PM Jul 19th 2013
edited by
Gonna have to agree with Terrie. I have never heard of that, and frankly, it sounds way speculative.
12:21:26 PM Jul 19th 2013
Can you provide a better resource? My impression was gained from reading random supporters' articles.
12:27:20 PM Jul 19th 2013
I honestly don't know. From the articles I've read, it's pretty much a toss-up now.

I still second just documenting the controversy in a short summary. That way, we don't need to stress ourselves. Our articles can endure some factual inaccuracy or two.
06:17:41 AM Jul 20th 2013
Artful, you can't understand neurodiversity without understanding it's roots in the disability and psychiatric rights movements. ASAN's policy statements ( are a pretty good place to get an overview of the ND movement's goals, but if people are unfamiliar with the princicples of the earlier movements, you can miss some important things. So just a couple notes based on your previous description:

1) "Accommodation needs to go both way." Accommodation does need to go both ways, but people with disabilities will point out that up until very recently it all went one way — the disabled person had to adapt to society, 100%. There is a very ingrained assumption in our culture that the burden is on the non-typical person. Any challenge to this tends to sound extreme, because it's a change from an absolute.

2) Different levels of impairment. Disability rights states that patients/consumers (I'm fine with the first term, but you'll often hear the second) should be active participants and directors of their care *to the maximum extent possible.* I'm emphasizing the last bit, because it gets left out a lot by critics. Very few disabled people are 100% incapable across the board. Just because person A is not able to participate at the same level as person B, that doesn't mean person A can't participate at all.

3) "I can act however I want." That's not ND. That's being an asshole. The fact that some people use it as an excuse to be one does not make ND any more or less valid.

4) While you didn't mention it specifically, I want to mention the one I've seen a lot, which is the idea that accepting differences means not doing anything. That's no more true than accepting a "normal" child means letting them run wild. It's about not using "normal" as the most important measuring stick. For instance, using verbal speech as a measure of success, instead of meaningful two-way communication, would fall under this. Is a person using text-to-speech software somehow less successful than a person who communicates verbally? It's about thinking critically about what's a real impairment vs. what is simply something that is different from the way "normal" people do things.

Artful, I know you've said "But we do that already!" That's great! The problem is that even if you do it, not everyone does. Your own edits admit that some people still use aversives and restraints. Nor has society made the leap to inclusiveness.
12:01:51 PM Jul 20th 2013
edited by
Eh, there's a lot I agree with and a lot of red flags. For example, attempts to legislate increased acceptance for disabilities in the workplace have backfired. ( )

I also disagree with one of the core concepts - that of the Fallacy of Experiential Knowledge. This is the claim that one cannot properly understand something unless one has experienced it directly. It seems this group is aiming for unearned representation based on a claim of special knowledge. If they want to influence the system, they should get the education and training and go into it instead of trying to force their way in with whining. That's what I did.

Language acquisition tends to be pretty even across the board; generally the coherence of expressed thoughts is about the same across communication methods. Generally speaking, unless there's a physical impairment, vocal communication is going to be just as effective as any other method. There are exceptions, of course. Vocal communication is the most common and widely understood method, so that's what we emphasize.
02:32:52 PM Jul 20th 2013
edited by
Deleting this comment, because it was rude. Suffice to say, I don't think the data says what you claim about the ADA. We've got something on the page that neutrally describes the existence of the disagreement and that we can all live with. Time for me to step out of the conversation.
10:19:58 AM Jul 21st 2013
edited by
The previous edit was fine, although I would add:

"These processing difficulties can often be reduced in intensity, or even eliminated entirely, through treatment and positive reinforcement."
10:23:50 AM Dec 7th 2011
This page seems to be taking a side in the feud between autism activist groups. Namely, the side of the high-functioning autistics who can speak for themselves.

I'm not sure if it is really Unfortunate Implications to claim that some autistics cannot speak for themselves. (Like, the ones who never develop language skills.)

I can reverse the Catch-22 at the end of the article. "It is akin to racism for neurotypicals to claim to speak for autists. We can speak for ourselves." " kid is neurologically incapable of learning to speak at all." "Shut up, neurotypical. You have no right to speak for them. So we do things my way. If your kid has any complaints, they're the only ones with the right to speak."

For instance, a lot of activism against searching for a "cure" to autism, often comparing the idea to Nazi genocide. Frankly, if someone is so neuroatypical they literally cannot learn to speak or be toilet trained as adults, maybe a medical treatment would serve them better than increased tolerance for their diversity. (Especially if you're not the one changing their diapers.)

In short—low-functioning autistics do not have the same needs as high-functioning, and are ill-served by treating them as one diagnoses. And even worse served by treating them as one political issue.

TL;DR version: Maybe the name should be changed to "Take That—Autism Speaks and Related Groups".
09:59:27 AM Mar 18th 2012
edited by eedwardgrey3
Suggestion to cut this part or at least reword into something a little more neutral.:

"Awareness campaigns emphasized the small minority of autistics with the most obvious, severe cases, and implied that autistics could not learn or have meaningful lives; often, in an effort to gather more donations, autism "charities" would make autism sound like a fate worse than death (one Autism Speaks spokesperson claimed to have considered killing herself and her child, but to have been prevented by the fact that she had another, normal child).

With autism having such an unrealistically frightening reputation, doctors became afraid that a child's mother would hit them with her purse (or, more realistically, either refuse to believe the diagnosis or else give up on the child."

02:26:53 PM Nov 19th 2011
What does Rett syndrome do on a page about High Functioning Autism? It's almost the reverse of the latter.
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