I have been reading stuff by Enrico Gnaulati. He speaks uncomfortable truths about ADHD, Bipolar, and autism spectrum disorders being over diagnosed. It’s true that school systems have changed, education has changed, work places have changed and so has getting a job. Even back in the days it seemed like more people who were mentally handicapped were employed and now today they are on social security and living in group homes or at home unemployed and less of them have jobs but yet more of them are employed than people are with autism spectrum disorders.
Enrico writes how autism diagnoses have increased over the years. In 1991, it was 1 in 500 and by 2002 it was 1 in 150 and now today it’s 1 in 68 and he has written several times already how it’s 1 in 42 boys who have autism. But he has also written that toddlers who met the criteria at two no longer fit it at age four and so on. He also wrote about how kids who are in early intervention are more likely to be mislabeled by Kindergarten. Also he has written how slow to mature kids are more likely to be diagnosed. Also he has written how kids can mimic symptoms of Bipolar or autism or ADHD when in fact the kid is going through stress factors, the kid has learned they have to act up to get attention because their parents don’t pay them any attention so if acting up is the only way to get it, they will do it, and also to have ADHD, symptoms have to happen in school and at home, not in school only. If a kid is fine at home but is having symptoms at school, then it’s the classroom that is the problem. Kids are expected to sit still for longer periods of time, recess is less given to kids, recess is taken away, some kids are more active than others, some kids have a different learning style, some are just gifted, some are just introverted.
Enrico also wrote a book called Back to Normal and it’s about when ordinary kids get diagnosed with ADHD, Bipolar, and autism spectrum disorder. You can peek inside the book and read some of it and it goes into detail about how this happens. He is not denying that these conditions exist, some kids do truly have ADHD or autism.
He also wrote somewhere that autism is more diagnosed in the states than it is in the UK because eccentric is more accepted there while in the states, people are placed into square pegs and if you are not in that box, they pathologize your personality.
I had been thinking about what if people are disabled because of society. There are people out there who have true disabilities so no matter what changes, their disability will always be there but for people like me, we are only disabled because of the way the system is. Teachers teach subjects a certain way and you are forced to do them a certain way but if you have a different learning style and it’s not taught in your style, you have a learning disability. Back in my parents’ childhood days, people with poor social skills were just weird and eccentric. Now today they are considered disabled because you now need good social skills for employment. It is no longer acceptable to be different. It used to be so easy to just get a job then but people have gotten less trusting and now you need work experience, cover letters, recommendations and that creates roadblocks for people like me so that makes me disabled. Plus they now have personality tests to screen out people and I think that is a loophole to not hire people who have social disabilities so you would have to lie and you better be good at “faking it.”
Also Enrico wrote about kids who are slow to mature, what if their slow to mature caused them an impairment in school and with their peers? Also what if your differences caused you to be singled out and bullied in school? What if your slow to mature caused you to be misunderstood by your parents so you were in trouble more? Then you graduate and then all of a sudden all your social problems disappear because you are able to find people who accept you and are not intolerant of differences and plus adults are too busy with their lives to even bother harassing someone who is a little different just because they do not conform to social norms like fashion, interests, socializing.
But I wonder something, can one be autistic in the states but not be autistic in the UK because of different standards? What about people who move to foreign countries but do not speak their language as their primary language? It will not come natural to them so they will always need to translate and I am sure they will find social situations exhausting when talking to people and listening and they might always need an interpreter but yet that wouldn’t be an impairment or a disability? If they took away their accommodations, they would be disabled in that country until they go back to their fluent speaking country where their language is primary.
Imagine if we took away all the ramps and elevators, then people in wheelchairs and who have problems with going up and down the stairs and who use crutches would be even more disabled. That is how I feel about people who are a bit different. In one country they might have a disability but go to another culture, they don’t have one because of their standards and their social rules that fit with their condition.
I do believe they have stretched autism. It could be because times have changed so now people who were just quirky, eccentric are now struggling so they get labeled as being autistic.
I talked to my husband yesterday saying what if our son is just normal and it’s just the school that is the problem and it doesn’t fit with his personality and what if it’s just us parents with the problem and our standards are just too high. My husband reassured me he does have ADHD and he has been with lots of kids and they don’t act that way and he knows his nephew and he acted the same as our son does. He also told me his symptoms are still there when he is still around him but he is just controlling them better but they are still there so he is trying. I can imagine how much energy he must be using to sit still, not act up, not get into trouble more than an average child who doesn’t have it. But he just controls it less around me because I shut down because I get overwhelmed so I leave.
Only time our son is ever still is when he is playing video games or watching youtube. Of course because it’s a stimulant. That is what I read online about ADHD. They may be fidgety and always on the move but yet they are able to sit still when playing a computer game or when doing something they enjoy because it’s a stimulant for them. But make them sit still during a lecture or when you are talking or during a movie or a game, too hard for them to sit still. But even as a parent I have no idea what behavior is normal for a five year old and what behavior is ADHD. All I can do is compare him to other five year olds but I don’t know any others all the time I can see to know what is normal and what isn’t. But I do know for certain his behavior isn’t normal in school or else other kids there would be having the same trouble as him and I was already having troubles with him at home and in public so I was sure he would be having trouble in school and I was right but with support in place, he has been doing much better. Take it away, he will be back to having behavior issues again and acting worse because he would be having anxiety because he is always in trouble and he would hate school and resent it.
I was even worried what if my behavior was just pathologized when I was a kid and what if my impairments were just bigoted kids and lack of tolerance and there really was nothing wrong with me? What if I was just picked on by school staff? I also had problems at home too but what if I was just slow to develop and mature as Enrico said? What if the only thing I have “wrong” with me is I am just different than having a true impairment? Sure I had a language delay. What if my slow maturity is what gave me problems because of lack of understanding and I am sure all kids get from time to time “How old are you?” “Start acting your age” Quit being a baby” but I heard it a lot as a child so that was a normal thing for me to hear and I never knew how to act my age. I wouldn’t even know I was being immature but I did notice there were rules for how to act and react and each age group had their own rules and it seemed like kids automatically knew those rules and I didn’t. Just imagine being new to a university but no one bothers to hand you their handbook about their campus and that has their policies in it and none of the teachers don’t bother telling you the rules in their classroom like about late work assignments, redoing them, making up for them you missed, and if you are tardy or miss a class, etc. Wouldn’t you be anxious? Wouldn’t you always have to be learning things the hard way and you would probably be asking a bunch of questions because you want to understand and know the rules. When you are a child, you will react differently. You will test your limits and see what you can and can’t do, you will keep on making mistakes and learning that isn’t allowed. You will keep on getting into trouble and it will seem like to the adult you never learn and don’t follow the rules. You can’t expect a child to ask a bunch of questions to learn the rules.
My mother has told me she always knew I had something and she knew I had more going on than just a language delay but then she turns around and says to me a month ago that I am very normal and the only thing I had was a language delay. What? Whatever happened to she knew I had something and what about all these diagnoses I have had before Asperger’s? Was I a victim of labels as Enrico described? Am I just disabled by society because of the way life is set up, the education, work, school? Is this what my mother meant by I am normal, it’s just society that is the problem? Sure I can do anything but the thing is people have to let me do it if they will just hire me instead of requiring experience and cover letters and so on. But my husband has a true disability because he will always have a disability no matter what changes in life. He has severe dyslexia, brain damage so it keeps him from memorizing numbers and letters so it makes him mess up in math so he would be a terrible cashier, he also can’t write due to dyslexia and he would write too slow, he had bad birth defects in his ankles so that also limits him.
I can understand now why so called people who have autism say they are not disabled an they don’t see autism as a disability. I tend to think these ones are on the high end of the spectrum and just quirky and eccentric and I bet they wouldn’t have anything wrong with them if they lived in my parents childhood days, they would just be very smart and eccentric and absent minded. Now today it’s a disability. Their impairment would be society because of their standards they have at work and for education.
I can understand why my mother would say I am not broken, there is nothing wrong with me and big fucking deal if I have Asperger’s and anxiety. There are people with it who are truly disabled by it and more limited because autism is a disabling condition. It is not a quirk or a personality. It’s a shame that people have to get a label thrown at them just so they can get the help they need and so they can function but yet people who are slow learners are fucked because they slip through the cracks. That I don’t understand. It also impairs them too unless they also have a true disability or some other “impairment” that impairs them, then they are not fucked.
But what would Enrico suggest to parents of kids who have different learning styles, are not accepted by their peers due to difference and who are slower to develop but it’s causing them a significant impairment in occupational settings? Not all parents can home school or find a private school to suit their needs. There are people out there who do grow up different and then they become adults and they grow out of their social issues and problems because they learn how to manage them and they can also pick their environment that suits them. Kids don’t get this choice so they have behavior issues in school and get labeled and get special education. Then they become normal when they leave high school, go figure. But then there are people out there who never stop being different. I used to think I would grow out of my learning problems and being different but that never happened. But I did grow out of being treated different and that still happens occasionally. I also grew out of being bullied and harassed. Some people never leave that so is it society that is the problem? Are those people living in the wrong area where everyone is closed minded? Then professionals have to put a label on them and declare them disabled and they end up on Social Security. Then I see people online complain about “moochers” and people “abusing” the system. My argument is if they will start hiring people who are different and stop discriminating based on body language and what clothes they wear and how they live their lives, and get rid of the road blocks, less people would be on Social Security.
So my mom is right, I am not disabled, I am only disabled by society.