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January 3, 2008

It depends on the time frame. Until 1980, with the publication of the DSM-III, there was no autism category. Here is the description of schizophrenia reaction, childhood type from the DSM-I:

“Here will be classified those schizophrenic reactions occurring before puberty. The clinical picture may differ from schizophrenic reactions occurring in other age periods because of the immaturity and plasticity of the patient at the time of onset of the reaction. Psychotic reactions in children, manifesting primarily autism, will be classified here. Special symptomatology may be added to the diagnosis as manifestations.”

That is the precise diagnosis I received in 1963, when I was 7 years old. Autism was also listed under two other categories in the DSM-I (both personality disorders). However, almost all children with (what we now call) Asperger’s syndrome were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The DSM-II (1968) made only minor changes:

“295.8* Schizophrenia, childhood type*
This category is for cases in which schizophrenic symptoms appear before puberty. The condition may be manifested by autistic, atypical, and withdrawn behavior; failure to develop identity separate from the mother’s; and general unevenness, gross immaturity and inadequacy in development. These developmental defects may result in mental retardation, which should also be diagnosed. (This category is for use in the United States and does not appear in ICD-8. It is equivalent to “Schizophrenic reaction, childhood type” in DSM-I.)”

The APA first acknowledged that schizophrenia and autism were distinct in the DSM-III (1980):

“Some believe that Infantile Autism is the earliest form of Schizophrenia, whereas others believe that they are two distinct conditions. However, there is apparently no increased incidence of Schizophrenia in the families of children with Infantile Autism, which supports the hypothesis that the two disorders are unrelated.”

Pardon this brief excursion into academese. One should not reify and essentialize autism, i.e., treat it as if it were a thing. The autisms are human categories in a human language game. As we have come up with better descriptions, not only have our understandings changed, but we have constructed new social entities, like Wrong Planet, to develop community and culture. However, no matter how much neuroscientists discover about the spectrum, the autisms will remain social and linguistic constructions.

I have often felt selfish, but mostly because my mother always accused me of it. I suppose if demons are taken as a metaphor for selfishness, I might have my own. Nonetheless, no matter how I feel, or however much I may have, at one time, believed my mother’s accusations, I am still human, and I don’t mind looking at myself in the mirror.

As an academic myself, I would ask, Where are those wealthy scientists? Most academics make between $80,000U.S. and $120,000 per annum. The salaries in private industry are sometimes a bit higher, but not by much.

Even when I was a very low-functioning aspie, as a child, was on neuroleptics and received electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatments), I still doubt I could relate to what he said. I always, for the most part, liked myself. My anger was directed at others for how they treated me, not at myself. My Asperger’s autism drove me into a coerced seclusion – one in which I was free to pursue my preoccupations by myself.

I just dislike the usage of demonic imagery to describe a category of neurodiversity. Whatever struggles I may have gone through, and which the members of my family confronted from two Asperger’s autistics (myself and my father), we are not evil. We are simply different.

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