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My Life as an Autistic Wikipedian (guillaumepaumier.com)
190 points by edward on July 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments

> One way to illustrate this is to use a computer analogy: in a way, my CPU runs at a higher frequency, which has allowed me to emulate with software the hardware that I'm missing.

I'm convinced that there is something here.

One notable thing out of my childhood is dyslexia. It has taken some things away from me. Some of which I've figured out the 'emulator' for (handwriting, spelling). I'm still working on other things (messiness, forgetfulness).

However, for as much as it has taken away it has also given. I'm absurdly good at solving incredibly complex problems (both logical and sociological) and good at making fast high quality decisions. I think the reason is simple: most people naturally see "J" and "T" as different things, I struggle to do the same. That being said, while many people see two problems as different things, I can see the similarity: solving N problems with 1 solution. Another dyslexic once called it "intuitive reflection and rotation" - a name that I strongly agree with; the dyslexic mind automatically reflects and rotates both images AND concepts.

I strongly believe that many (likely not all) learning 'disabilities' are not actually disabilities. They are merely trade-offs. Children who have these 'conditions' should really learn how to capitalize on their unique abilities instead of being told that and treated like they are mentally disabled. So the kid can't spell, who cares?

I can't agree with you more on this. All these labelings do not reflect the true nature of how things are, and they are often generalizations. Different brains process information differently. So I much prefer the term "learning differences" instead of using words like "disabilities" or "disorders" since right now we still do not quite yet understand exactly how the brain works.

I have had a very similar experience with my learning 'disabilities.' They are only disabilities within the incredibly narrow system of teaching techniques that are commonly used during childhood education because they work 100% of the time for 60% of the students (think whole reading method). It turns out that outside childhood education there are a huge number of other ways to teach and learn and the brains that learn differently seem to have enormous advantages when it comes to finding underlying similarities between apparently different things.

You are lucky. There are plenty of people with learning disabilities and no such obvious upsides. I think your case is the exception, rather than the rule.

I always thought the terms disabled or disorder were only used in cases where the person is not able to function without problems in whatever environment or society they are in. You can have tons of differences from other people, but until it actually gets to the point where you can't function on a day to day basis without some help I wouldn't call it a disability or a disorder.

Really? Do you have some examples? What are these disabilities measured against other than the "norm"? Some of the most learning challenged I've known were incredible streetwise for an example.

I'm sitting here writing this from a conference about the genetic disease one of my children has. He's lucky... he's of above average intelligence even on a normal scale. Many of his fellow disease sufferers are confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak even in their teens, and literally the only motions they make on their own is some vague twitching motions.

Yes, there is a such thing as true, uncompensated disability, and you should thank your lucky stars that you live a life where you could even entertain the notion that there is no such thing as "disabilities". Tone note: I mean that straight, not angry or something... be thankful. It's a hard thing for all involved.

That needed to be said. Thank you, jerf, I couldn't have said it better. I am sick and tired of people romanticising disabilities, or even worse, denying their existence. I am not surprised that some people on Hackernews are secluded enough that they can delude themselves into thinking that disability is always a tradeoff and the disabled must be a genius in some way.

That may be a selection bias. You just don't hang out with people with severe disabilities as much. Maybe they just stay home, with a family member to look after them. Some of them are in institutions, cared by professionals.

A learning challenged person who was not streetwise would probably stay away from the streets.

>You just don't hang out with people with severe disabilities as much. Maybe they just stay home, with a family member to look after them. Some of them are in institutions, cared by professionals.

And some of them have already chosen to not be part of this world anymore. It is often called a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but some problems are just as permanent.

Survivorship bias is the worst kind of selection bias.

Interestingly, I feel the same way about my ADHD. I distinctly remember a Calculus test in which I learned what I was supposed to have learned through study and in class (neither of which I cared for or participated in) by looking at the context of several questions and answers and reverse engineering the process without having been taught it (or without having paid attention to the teaching). My grades weren't great, but my test scores kept me afloat.

And now that I program, I do so very differently than most people, but there are times when I'm in my stride (for example, pitching to investors or juggling the pieces of managing a team) where I feel at home. Like no one can touch me.

>And now that I program, I do so very differently than most people, but there are times when I'm in my stride (for example, pitching to investors or juggling the pieces of managing a team) where I feel at home. Like no one can touch me.

Be careful with that -- Adult ADHD is often accompanied with delusions of grandeur. I say this from personal experience: I'll have a great idea and think it's the most awesome thing in the world, and my friends are kind of "meh". A few days later, I look back on it and say "What was I thinking?" ADHD can give you a false sense of security / accomplishment in the moment, so always be sure to get someone else to check your work. You may come up with some elegant, awesome hack to fix something... only to find there was an API in a library you already use that does the exact same thing and you just missed it in the documentation because you were so "hyperfocused" (another hallmark of adult ADHD) on fixing the problem.

That said, it can also be a great asset: an ADHD person who is in one of these "zones" can be incredibly inspirational to a team. Irrational confidence isn't always a bad thing if you're staring down a tough deadline and need to motivate your team. Just be careful you're not making an idiot out of yourself too often :)

The grandeur is very real; I'm not sure what of that comes with ADHD and what just comes with the territory of running a startup.

One day you're taking over the world, one day you're totally fucked. I've actually been tracking my mood at the beginning, middle, and end of each day along with our metrics and any other thing that could sway my moods.

My conclusion is that my mood swings are completely, 100% irrational. I try to temper them on both sides. When I feel like we're taking over the world, it's a good time to talk to investors/do sales stuff. When I'm completely depressed, it's a good time to focus on all of the things that are broken with the product.

I don't know if that's ideal, but I think it's working? Who knows.

interesting, my dad has ADHD (AFAIK) and your grandeur part seems to match up seems to match up with your description.

You are thinking like a mathematician. When we are kids we are taught that math involves memorizing algorithms and formulas but when you get up to big-boy math you realize that no one can memorize all that shit, but if you are familiar with the territory of math you can figure out the parts you're missing; and only familiarity with the territory lets you generate new proofs, conjectures, and applications. Unfortunately educators confuse "memorizing facts and formulas" with "becoming familiar with the territory" because it seemed to work so well teaching grade schoolers how to use the four basic arithmetic operators.

Thats a feeling I'm familiar with, I could never remember the formulas, but I could remember the steps to derive the formulas from what was on the page and the basic equations-It's not too different from stream of consciousness vs planned writing.

Your description of dyslexia is fascinating. Thank you for sharing that. I can't say it enough; I absolutely love reading that kind of personal account of people whose minds function in a unique way.

    Children who have these 'conditions' should really 
    learn how to capitalize on their unique abilities 
    instead of being told that and treated like they are 
    mentally disabled.
Sometimes I'm glad that ADHD wasn't a recognized thing when I was in school. If I'd been told that there was something wrong with me, would I have worked so hard to overcome those shortcomings and come up with alternate coping tools? In a way, it was good training for "real life" because real life sure doesn't care if you have a learning or behavioral disability.

On the other hand, god damn. I sure spent a lot of time thinking I was "lazy, stupid, or crazy." That... that was not fun.

I totally agree with you. We should recognize those differences in kids and focus on finding their other gifts, while helping them to find alternate strategies to do the necessary things in life that can't be avoided. Like, even if your kid has dyslexia he's going to have to file taxes and read warning labels someday.

> Sometimes I'm glad that ADHD wasn't a recognized thing when I was in school. If I'd been told that there was something wrong with me, would I have worked so hard to overcome those shortcomings and come up with alternate coping tools?

This is why I've never been formally tested for autism/Aspergers, despite being assured by various people that I would be on the spectrum. I did the same as the OP, manually making mental catalogs of facial expressions and closely watching people for cues to behavior. If I had been labelled I think my first instinct would have been to be lazy and say "Well, there's something wrong with me, can't do anything about it."

What are your coping tools for ADHD? I know friends who really struggle with it, unless they take medication.

The main coping tools are probably exactly the same as they are for anybody else, actually - just the stakes are higher for those with ADHD!

- Proper sleep. Probably the biggest single factor. I don't always excel at this. When I don't get enough sleep nearly everything else is moot.

- Proper environment. The exact definition of "proper" will be quite different for everybody, of course. Pay attention to what works, and don't be afraid to suggest alternate arrangements to your manager. You don't have to mention ADHD ever - just mention the facts ("I'm having a tough time focusing in the noisy part of the office") and provide a constructive suggestion ("Is it okay if I work alone in the unused meeting room when the noise at my desk is too distracting?")

- Proper diet. Another thing I'm not great at. But foods that cause sugar spikes and crashes make it hard to focus for anybody, especially me.

- Exercise. Really, really helps. (True for anybody, of course!)

- Lists. The key, as I learned from Getting Things Done, is that no task should be more than 10-15 minutes. If so it should be broken down into smaller tasks. Additionally, you must review/prune your list regularly so it doesn't turn into a big failure/guilt pile.

- Medication. It helps. For me it's only maybe 25% of the puzzle or so and can be rendered moot if I'm in a distracting environment or am running on no sleep.

Medication is one tool. (This includes other stimulants such as caffeine which some ADHD people self-medicate with.) No tool is sufficient in isolation, though - different people need different sets of tools. Here's a book I've found helpful in presenting a bunch of different tools: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0415815894

Social support, using todo lists, lots and lots of effort to establish habits, so you can stop spending so much daily effort (CPU) on things that most people can handle with GPU.

In addition to medication, like mkopinsky said, I've had great success keeping a Bullet Journal[0]. It keeps me on track day to day, but medication keeps me on track minute to minute. I definitely spent a lot of time in college (years before I was diagnosed) trying different productivity methods and tools, but nothing would stick past a week.

[0]: http://bulletjournal.com/

I'm on the autistic spectrum, and "emulation" is exactly how I'd describe my social interactions as well. It always feels like I'm trying to emulate floating-point arithmetic on a CPU without hard float support. It kinda works if you can do a lot of integer operations quickly. But unless the emulator is really good, you'll get all sorts of rounding errors.

In some ways, I've even gotten a little too good at emulating some types of interactions. I'm still lousy at realtime verbal communication, but when it comes to written communication, I can catch all sorts of nuances and unstated assumptions that ordinary people often miss. It's one of those cases when an emulator or hypervisor outperforms bare metal under some workloads. Since my emulator is so lousy at verbal communication, I've optimized the shit out of it for written communication.

At the end of the day, though, all this heavy emulation takes a toll. My brain burns a lot more cycles (calories?) running the emulator all day long and rapidly context-switching in and out of it. It makes me exhausted after a few hours. I wish our society was organized in such a way that I wouldn't need to spin up my emulator so often.

I can really relate. A lot of the time I'm seen as quiet during verbal conversations, and it's confusing to me because I feel like I'm just being polite and listening to what people are saying. I've gotten better at it, but I've had to put a lot of work into doing so. I used to be called "shy" a lot.

On the other hand, because I've spent so much time figuring out how to talk to people (it's an important life and business skill) I am very good at expressing things clearly. I can see miscommunication a lot faster, and with written word I can -really- pick up on the nuances. I think it's because I've spent so many years having to figure out how people think and how they came to say the words they're saying. I have to think through every step so I can empathize better. Constantly putting myself in their shoes.

But like you said it can be exhausting. Not only am I figuring out what I want to say, but I'm trying to emulate the reasons they are saying what they are saying.

Yeah, it annoys me when people say that those on the autistic spectrum "don't have a theory of mind". I have an excellent theory of mind, thank you very much. I'm just not very good at applying it in real time, because it's implemented in a rather slow language :p

>So the kid can't spell, who cares?

If we had a society that would tolerate it and help the kid capitalize on it, then no one should care. But we have a society that doesn't, so the kid will be hurt by it. For dyslexia, it might not take a major change. Use fonts that work better. Not care as much about spelling and focus on their own talents. Allow them access to a spell checker. Stop using the same metric to measure their performance.

But if you take someone on the autism spectrum, the level of change needed so they won't be hurt by it seems like it would require a miracle somewhere on the scale between bringing back Elvis and world peace.

We can help them cope, we can help them leverage their advantages. But give our current society, there are some differences that are going to cause a lot of hurt and pain, both while growing and once they are adults. In those cases, anyone who cares about the kid should care.

I think you slightly misunderstood the GPs point: we should care about the dangers, but we should teach them to autistic children in concepts and ways they understand, and focus on teaching them how to emulate those behaviors, rather than saying that they're broken because they're missing it at the hardware level.

Why shouldn't the spellchecker be to dyslexic kids what canes are to people who have trouble walking -- an accepted solution to the problem, rather than shouting they should walk better. Well duh! They already want to walk better.

I don't disagree with GP on making life better. I'm suggesting that in some cases they are broken to an extent that even with emulation they will not reach normal functioning. A person may gain more mobility while using a cane, but we still put elevator requirements into building codes because we realize that not everyone is going to be able to use the stairs. But for some people, even with the 'canes' and 'elevators' we have available, there will be areas they can't get to, some which may be really critical.

The person shouting to walk better is an idiot only making their lives worse; we can all agree to that. But what of the people who think a cane is good enough and elevators aren't needed? Or those who think that elevators and canes are enough? When someone can't walk well, we should still care. Because even with all the canes and all the elevators, even with leveraging all the benefits their condition may give them, there are still things they don't have access to, and sometimes those can be quite critical parts of life cut off from them. So we should still care.

> I strongly believe that many (likely not all) learning 'disabilities' are not actually disabilities

Thanks... this is actually really hard to explain to people and I am very glad that some people actually get it.

I've been trying to explain several times that even the term disease (often used along with disability) is not appropiated to describe autism, but I have had little luck with that.

> So the kid can't spell, who cares? Exactly!

> Another dyslexic once called it "intuitive reflection and rotation" - a name that I strongly agree with; the dyslexic mind automatically reflects and rotates both images AND concepts.

This is really fascinating, I never though about dyslexia being generalized to behavior outside of spelling/reading/writing. It's interesting to think about other disabilities or cognitive behaviors that are made apparent in one specific way, and generalizing them outward to other situations.

The brain (the tissue) is not the "hardware", with it's "contents" being the software. I'd say that the analogy makes no sense. Whatever you can "emulate", you're emulating because you've got the "hardware" to do it.

To illustrate my point: we can't emulate perceiving time at a much slower pace or viewing a wider spectrum of light. Okay, that's a wrong example since we're limited by our eyes - the peripherals/sensing devices. Perhaps try emulating interpreting visible light as a color blind person would.

The separation between hardware (brain) and software (soul?) is practically non-existent. It's closer to a state-machine.

That's sort of a nitpick on the analogy I think. There might not be much of a hardware/software distinction in the brain but there is a distinction between processes that are not conscious, that seemingly take place automatically and effortlessly, and processes that are conscious, that seem to be effortful, deliberate, that require focus. I think that's the distinction that the analogy is going for -- the emulation going on is patching up some failures to do automatic effortless work by doing deliberate, focused, effortful work.

Yes, precisely. As an example, much of human communication is non-verbal and automatic. You're picking up on various queues, body language, there's a flow to it and all of it is subconscious.

If the machinery that does all of that is missing, broken, or functions poorly, you end up with an individual who has difficulty communicating well. He can speak, is intelligent, but seems absolutely daft when it comes to social interactions.

The general response of such individuals is to use the parts that work well to reach a reasonable outcome. For example, that persons' memory might be excellent. So that person memorizes hundreds of social interactions, recalls the specific one he happens to be in, and presses the play button on the recording.

The result isn't perfect. It's sluggish. Kind of like emulating software on hardware it was never meant to run on (hence, the analogy). But it works and certainly works better than nothing.


I think there can still be "emulation". For instance, when I was in elementary school I thought it was hard to remember the full multiplication table. Instead of remembering 7×9 I would think 7×10-7 = 63. That's IMHO a type of algorithm (software) of breaking down the multiplication so it requires less rote memorization (emulation).

I can give you another example. When I first had to learn what was my left and right hand, I instead visualized that I sat on a particular chair in a particular room. Then the window would be to the left, so the hand closest to the window would be the left hand. IMHO, also an emulation.

(Edit - In the second example, I visualized myself in a 3rd party perspective, so it also involved rotating the room in my head. My problem was that I couldn't apply left and right to myself at that age, only relative to other things)

I'm not dyslexic, but I still have a hellish time with left and right. I finally had to "logic out" that when I look in the rear-view mirror, left is left and right is right (when seeing the turn signals of the person behind me). Still can't solve 3-D puzzles ("which of these diagrams is the same as this one") worth a damn.

Hardware: Closer to autonomous functions. Require no thought, you just do it. Example: Saying "Thank you" reflexively when someone does something kind.

Software: Have to mentally process the situation. Did this person do something kind? Is there a response I should give? Oh! "Thank you!"

Interesting. This reminds me of the System 1 vs. System 2 thinking described in Thinking, Fast and Slow: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast...

Still a false dichotomy. Everything we do runs the gamut from autonomous to executive. For instance, a relatively illiterate person will have to focus purposefully in order to read a street sign, whereas your average literate person will look at a street sign while holding 7 other things in his mind at the same time.

Sounds like a good dichotomy to me. You are agreeing that autonomous <-> executive are two extremes of a spectrum, no?

I think a better analogy are those processor flags found in /proc/cpuinfo in Linux systems.

If your processor doesn't have the vmx or the svm flags, for example, you can't use hardware virtualization but can still use software virtualization in its place, with a performance cost.

I see how the mind and body could be seen as a state machine, since there's a strong connection that flows both ways, but there's really only so much that the mind can do to change the body. Try thinking yourself strong enough to lift a horse... So I think the analogy works in the rough, but can actually be taken further. We have parts of our mind/body "stack" that are able to operate and change on all time scales and levels of persistence.

You can change your body (to a degree) through surgery or slow habit - (hardware / firmware); you can change your prevailing mood, knowledge, and skills through slow habit (again, only to a degree) - firmware; there seems to be a level of chemical mood or emotion that changes on the time scale of minutes or hours - disk persistence; you can change what you're thinking about and your current state of mind in a minute or so - memory; and you can react to your immediate objects of focus very quickly - cache.

I agree that calling it a disability is not right. It's a difference, it might make certain things more challenging, but a disability carries tones of uselessness.

The thing is I also don't think it can be thought of as a trade-off. There's no great balancing factor. I see people who expect every autistic person to be some kind of savant like the Rain Man. You don't automatically get some bonus somewhere else to cancel out the issues you have.

What you do get is a different perspective. You have to learn to cope, and in learning to cope, you learn to do things differently than anyone else might have had to. It's not because nature has somehow compensated you for what it took away, but because you simply had a different experience which forced you to learn differently.

I've got a different issue than dyslexia. I've got an attention deficit issue. There's nothing really 'good' about it, but there's a few things about it. One is that in learning to cope with it I've become very aware of my emotional state, about my motivation and stress, and how they impact my ability to focus. I've kind of come to an understanding that's hard to describe of 'why' this happens to me (in short, I run through my ability to focus very quickly, and it recovers relatively slowly, so I can focus very intensely for long while, but doing so might make me useless for a week. I'm normally living in a deficit because day to day it's hard for me to avoid spending more focus than I recover).

In that I've learned a little about how I function, how and why other people act certain ways, how to have a ton of patience and why it's really important to have downtime (for everyone, but especially for me), how to offload decision-making tasks.

And despite all of that, I still have the same challenges. I mean, I don't have full control over how much stress I'll encounter or how much I'll end up focusing and making decisions in a day. I can try to do things to limit them, but that still happens regardless.

But I gained a perspective that other people don't have, and I care about things that other people prefer to just joke about. I just happen to see things in a different way than the majority and it's important, but it's not a tradeoff, it's a consequence of this difficulty, and the fact that I'm not willing to just say "Hey, I'm disabled, I'm not responsible for myself." It's more like, "Yeah, I have this challenge, I've done this to overcome it. I still have problems doing these things, so I try to avoid having to do those things."

Other people could totally learn the same things that I have, but they just haven't been put in the position to be required to do self-reflection to get through the day.

Similarly, the things you learned because you were dyslexic might be things that other people could totally learn to do, the difference is you've ended up having to do them to get by.

It's like two kids growing up, one kid is forced to carry 30 lb weights as he walks to school. The other kid can get to school however he wants. The result of the kid who carries weights is that he will get stronger. But it's hardly a tradeoff, he's in a situation where he's forced to carry those weights whether he wants to or not, he's not getting anything in return, except the consequences of carrying those weights.

The kid who can ride the bus to school could carry weights instead, however, it's highly unlikely anyone would choose to put themselves through that much difficulty when they could avoid it. So you'd probably end up being stronger than him, but on the other hand, he could go to the gym and train and rest properly, while you're forced to carry those weights whether you want to or not.

I'm just saying there isn't some balance. But we're just forced to cope with things that other people don't have to. This gives us a unique perspective, but not necessarily an exclusive or even balancing factor.

Dyslexia on it's own doesn't give you the ability to do those things. However, it pressures you to learn those things in order to cope with the fact that you can't do it the easy way. There's no unique ability about Dyslexia itself that you could really capitalize on in that respect, but there are things you have definitely learned to do that you can capitalize on because of Dyslexia.

I don't think we should worry about trade offs. I think we should learn about what people can and can't do and why that's important. I agree, if the kid can't spell, it shouldn't be a problem if they can make themselves understood.

However, our pedagogical system is such that we want to offer one curriculum for many people. Writing happens to be a big part of that, and it's hard to measure aptitude when you're struggling to write. We also really love testing, and spelling errors are a really easy thing to grade. It doesn't really matter what we should have, certain issues are going to continue to stand out until we fundamentally change how we teach. And I don't mean relax our standards, I mean each child would have to be taught to their own capacity individually, and that's currently unreasonable.

I often see people ridiculing diversity recognition among human beings as "this political correctness is going too far". But i think is kind of ridiculous assuming that 7 billion are essentially the same.

I know now that I am a neurotypical heterossexual cis white male (and I hope to learn more ways in which my characteristics differ between humans). And it is important for me to recognize this in me and others.

Recognize is the keyword here. I am not sayingn what is right ir wrong in actions after this recognition (like affirmative policy and etc). This is to be debated as a society. Also, not all these characteristics are the same. Some of these, like gender and race, should affect our interactions less than they currently do. Others, like sexual orientation and identification and mental model , should affect our interactions more than they currently do (imo of course).

But, as individuals, we should all recognize our diversity. And spend some time reflecting about this should or should not affect our interpersonal relations.

Very well-written. It's funny... I've never thought I might be anything other than neurotypical, but reading the article makes me realise how many of those traits I have. I've always defaulted to taking people literally, to the point that friends joke about it. As a child, I got bullied a bit for speaking in a "weird voice" (monotone), and to this day people sometimes say my voice sounds weird to them. My motor coordination is dreadful, and I've always been fascinated by categorisation and ontologies. My family have remarked that I seem unemotional, which I know is untrue, but a lot of it seems to be their alienation by what I consider to be logical behaviour.

I suspect this is just hypochondria, or something like it, but I guess it illustrates how subtle the idea of a spectrum can be.

If you enjoyed this you might find the 'neurotypical syndrome site' (http://isnt.autistics.org/) another refreshing take on the relationship between autism and 'normality'.

I think it's fair to say the most important/relevant/defining trait is quite severe difficulties in social functioning, usually characterised by a lack of friends. This is also the one that I nearly always see left out by people who "think they might have it".

And importantly it's not because people with autism do not want friends. They are often desperately lonely.

Are there usable self-tests that have reasonable error rates?

Probably most relevant is the work of Simon Baron Cohen, a respected researcher into ASD. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Baron-Cohen

There's a test for "Empathy Quotient", and there are probably self test versions around. (I found a few using Google, but I didn't try them so I don't know if they're harvesting email addresses or need payment) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy_Quotient

He also developed an Empathizing Quotient / Sympathizing Quotient test, and there are probably self-test versions available. http://personality-testing.info/tests/EQSQ.php

See also this (heavily caveated) test http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/autism.htm

These tests are probably better than reading DSM / ICD diagnostic criteria, but still a proper diagnosis should be done by a proper doctor with some experience in the topic.

That does have a couple of problems. 1) It can be hard to find a doctor prepared to give you an assessment and diagnosis. 2) It leads some people to think there's an industry of doctors diagnosis bogus conditions in order to prescribe medication. (See for example how dismissive some people are of ADD / ADHD).

I scored a 44, I understand that it could mean nothing, but I have honestly been thinking about getting checked out for Autism for some time; especially after reading some of the recent HN stories about it and feeling a lot of the same things.

How would I go about being tested for this? What kind of doctor do I need to see?

In England: It's tricky. You see your gp and say, clearly and persistently, that you want an assessment to see if you have ASD.

Mental health teams are underfunded and over worked, and so if it's not causing you difficulties you might need to push a bit harder. So, if it is causing you difficulty highlight those.

If you have the money you can find a private doctor. I'm not sure of the process to find reliable doctors!

Here's what a UK charity says about diagnosis for children and also for adults: http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/all-about-diagnosis.as...

Anyone know about getting tested in the US?

It varies a lot by city and state what the available resources are. google and ask around for local autism experts. There are often autism specialist centers of various kinds, for example at universities, and there are also psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize. It works a bit differently in every city.

I've heard that its recommended to try and be transferred to a neurologist that specializes in ASD cases. Psychologists may misinterpret behaviour and perception.

Would not consider myself an autist but this seems like a very good explanation:

  By autistic standards, the normal human brain is easily 
  distractible, obsessively social, and suffers from a 
  deficit of attention to detail.

So all of us are a bit autist :-)

>Most of those issues arise because you don't have a way of knowing that the person in front of you is different. At least Spock had his pointed ears to signal that he wasn't human. His acceptance by the crew of the Enterprise was in large part due to the relationships he was able to develop with his shipmates. Those relationships would arguably not have been possible if they had not known how he was different.

That can be a problem since telling people you have a mental illness is usually a career limiting move at most companies.

For Spock, he's supposed to be different, he's an alien. So it's ok. If Spock had a tentacle, it's fine, he's an alien.

When humans are different, you're doing being human wrong. If a human has a tentacle, something's definitely off.

At least that's most people's view of psychology as of current. I think the field is changing and embracing difference a little more though. But! Big pharma wants everyone to think they're broken so they can sell more pills, so that is counteracting the progression towards accepting diversity.

To say nothing of the people who want to limit one's rights based on mental health. (While it sounds like a good idea in theory, in practice it will lead to people hiding any issues.)

Maybe stuff like "inability to focus" is not the fault of the person but of the task. What if there are truly boring tasks that one would be better discarding than forcing themselves to focus on?

Maybe there really are people with whom you can't have a well-adjust relationship. Maybe it's not your fault you can't empathize with what that person is feeling. Maybe it's their fault for getting bent out of shape over stupid stuff.

What if it's okay to get angry in bad situations and is not an anti-social disorder of some kind? What if, when someone screws you over, it's completely legitimate to yell at them and not trust them again?

Who got to decide that not wanting to work on boring work, not wanting to socialize with vapid people, not wanting to be nice to awful people, equaled mental disorders?

Especially when it comes to work, our culture sees it as "more normal" to bottle up your emotions at work and act them out in self-destructive ways at home. Yes, we criticize such people--as Mitch Hedberg pointed out, alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only disease that you can get yelled at for having--but we don't criticize them anywhere near as much as we criticize the people who quit their toxic jobs to become artists or to travel the world.

Maybe it's the world that is sick. Maybe it's the world that belongs in a mental institution.

Reading the article, I find some analogy as the writer, but I think I am not the only one. The writer said that he discovers to be an Autist, but he didn't say what kinds of exams or diagnosis he performed. Google result about ASD: "There is currently no medical test that can confirm a diagnosis of autism. A diagnosis of autism is based on observed behavior." Because (I think) the following reasons are not sufficient to say that you have a sort of autism: having social disease, linking Star Trek novels, feel always alone, high IQ level, bad childhood, love pc, no sense of fashion.

The author answered to you but for some reason his comment is marked as dead.

Here it is for those who have no idea how to enable dead comments:

"gpaumier 5 hours ago [dead]

(I'm the author.) You're right that there isn't (yet) a medical test like a blood test or an MRI to detect autism. In France, the official "diagnosis" is established by a psychiatrist based on interviews and questionnaires with the person, and some of their family members if possible. That's how it happened for me, and at the end of the evaluation process, they said I met "the criteria (CIM 10 and DSM IV) for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and in particular for Asperger syndrome (CIM 10: Axis I, F84.5)". I haven't looked into what those numbers refer to exactly, and I don't like all the medical connotations, but that's how it's done in France. There's a screenshot of the report in an post I published earlier this year (in the "self-discovery" section: https://guillaumepaumier.com/2015/02/22/2014-in-review/ )."

Professional diagnosis would involve a standardized set of questions, like ADI-R http://www.wpspublish.com/store/p/2645/autism-diagnostic-int... or ADOS module 4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_Diagnostic_Observation_... Often the clinician would also want to interview parents, spouses, friends to get a third-party perspective on a person's behavior or ask about their behavior as a child.

It is a relatively objective process - it does screen out 99% of people, and clinicians usually (80%-ish of the time IIRC) get the same yes-or-no answer for the same person.

There's no medical test because (like most of the DSM) autism is a description, rather than an underlying cause. That is, if you diagnose flu using a set of symptoms, you're using the symptoms to predict that the virus exists. If you diagnose autism using the checklist in the DSM, you're simply saying that you saw the stuff on the list - there's nothing said about cause. See also here: http://intellectualizing.net/2015/03/31/not-explaining-autis...

This is a fundamental difference between DSM diagnosis (which is putting people in descriptive categories, without explaining "why") and medical diagnosis of many conditions with a known cause (which means identifying an explanation such as a virus).


Your response to this guy is [dead] so you might be shadow-banned, or some funny business about your account being too new. Nobody can read your comments unless they have enabled their account to read [dead] comments.

Nice article and welcome to HN!

Stop opressing trans-autistics.

(I'm the author.) You're right that there isn't (yet) a medical test like a blood test or an MRI to detect autism. In France, the official "diagnosis" is established by a psychiatrist based on interviews and questionnaires with the person, and some of their family members if possible.

That's how it happened for me, and at the end of the evaluation process, they said I met "the criteria (CIM 10 and DSM IV) for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and in particular for Asperger syndrome (CIM 10: Axis I, F84.5)". I haven't looked into what those numbers refer to exactly, and I don't like all the medical connotations, but that's how it's done in France.

There's a screenshot of the report in an post I published earlier this year (in the "self-discovery" section: https://guillaumepaumier.com/2015/02/22/2014-in-review/ ).

So I think that you are not alone :-) I don't really know how, but we should take the better side of this situation. Your story was really interesting. PS: have you just learn piano?

http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html no idea on it's accuracy but interesting nonetheless (For the record I scored 37 and I'm not (afaik) autistic).

> (For the record I scored 37 and I'm not (afaik) autistic).

The "AFAIK" is key here. These days there is an "increase" of ASD cases mostly because the diagnostic was extended to cover Highly Functional cases. The thing is that individuals with High Functioning Autism can live normal lives and go undetected (Just as the author) which begs the question... Should it be detected at all?

I received a 35 and I'm actually on the schizophrenia spectrum with a disorder that actually requires ruling out ASD.

I wouldn't give this or any other online test anything more than extreme skepticism.

> I wouldn't give this or any other online test anything more than extreme skepticism.

Completely agreed.

I did 37 too. I'm not officially autistic, but I think I have some of the traits, or maybe it's just that I'm a big introvert.

Everytime I read such articles I am reminded of my stay in Germany. In those 5 years I behaved exactly the way the author behaves, and shared same thoughts as the author.

And then I came back to India and I am so totally different man now, I wonder if the whole autism spectrum has society as an influential input too. Being in India I just have so many friends with whom I can discuss very intimate doubts or facts about life that you can arrive at a peaceful state of mind very easily and function as a normal member of society without ever having a doubt about yourself, while in west in general the focus on individualism means most people don't talk to each other and are always expected to behave a certain way otherwise they will get 'what is wrong with him' look all the time.

A very interesting read.

One question comes to my mind: If autism is a spectrum, and Rain Man is in one side, what is there in the other?

It's an n-dimensional spectrum, but just the concept of 'spectrum' as already too difficult for many people to grasp, hence a generic use of 'spectrum'.

Thank you! I've never seen/heard this expressed so well and so succinctly before.

Fascinating. Thank you.

The implications of this part, if true, caught my attention:

"In one experiment, a group of children with Williams syndrome showed no signs of racial bias, unlike children without the syndrome. They did show gender bias, however, suggesting separate mechanisms for these biases"

In the middle are, by definition I think, neurotypical people.

In other directions/dimensions you find extroverts, ad(h)d-ers etc.

I generally agree.

Additionally, there's a lot of overlap between autism and the various subtypes of ADHD. Whether they share a common cause or if they're two unrelated things that just sometimes happen to the same people, I don't know.

A lot of the more impulsive ADHD'ers have trouble reading social cues in many of the same ways as autists.

A lot of the more inattentive-type ADHD'ers (hello, this is me) can read social cues well but share other traits with those with autism - being overwhelmed by social situations, hyperfocusing, being overly literal at times, etc. Every time I read an article written by a high-functioning autist I find that I strongly relate to some of the traits but not others.

You are.

Why the down votes? On the opposite of autism spectre from the Rain Man is the Non Visually Autistic Person, i. e. most of you.

I hoped the HN crowd is smart enough to grasp that. That turned out to be not the case :(

You'll probably need to flesh out your reponse a bit, else it'll be perceived as sniping.

snow man?

Funny, I clearly have some troubles, and every times I read a description of a head condition, I wonder if I don't have that.

What are you describing is 'confirmation bias', a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.

Let's say it's a confirmation bias from someones who has 2 shrinks (and no clear diagnostic appart from depression), some medicines and not been employed for 3 years.

Guillaume, I do not think you are autistic, I think you are probably an ISTP. Rodney Mullen, also an ISTP, thinks he is autistic. No - that's just normal human variability. There's no use in unnecessarily psychopathologizing yourself.

Reading the article I was also wondering if most traits weren't simply due to the author's personality rather than to a form of autism.

The thing is, this is not a self diagnostic. See: https://guillaumepaumier.com/2015/02/22/2014-in-review/#atta...

I am not autistic, but for me, maintaining eye contact is like trying to stare at the Sun.

This makes a lot of sense, because Wikipedia editors have a lot of problems with flexibility.

They don't like newer sources even when they are clearly better and more accurate than older sources.

They don't like people who are experts to contribute to articles because it infringes on their territory and they don't like to admit they know less than the professional.

The wikipedia editing system is Byzantine and there are a lot of layers you have to go through. This eats up a lot of time and prevents a lot of experts from contributing because they don't have the time to deal with it.

Wikipedia is good for basic definitions, but it needs more flexibility.

While I agree with your criticisms of Wikipedia, I do not think it is appropriate to make the connection, which your post seems to strongly imply, between Wikipedia editors with these traits in general and Autism.

I don't think there's such thing as neurotypical.

"Neurotypical" means "person who haven't got enough attention to be examined nor a name for their specific neural features". Because everyone got some.

Neurotypical seems to mean a mixture of "Near the centre of the bell curve, for all attributes" and "Is able to mentally cope with the world without unusually large quantities of external support".

It strikes me - anecdotally - that often those who are most well-adjusted have the most support [friendship groups, family] already and those that are least well-adjusted lack these things.

I'm sure there's a feedback loop (or two) and that causality is bi-directional.

Not many people are neat the centre of the bell curve for ALL attributes (statistically, since attributes are aplenty) and those who are become a small and interesting subset on their own.

Or, in short, somebody who doesn't have Asperger's.

Or Schizophrenia. Or ADHD. Or any one of a massive host of things that can affect the brain and make it harder to cope.

I thought this was a discussion about Asperger's, not every single mental disorder under the sun.

Is that really what it means or did you just decide that's what it means?

What's the official diagnosis? Cant' find it in the article. Unfortunately, we have a lot of freaks calling themselves "autists" (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bram_Cohen "Cohen claims he has Asperger syndrome[3] based on a self diagnosis.[4]") just because that's trendy amongst infantile social media consumers.

I think things like autism and other mental things are hard to diagnose externally; the self-diagnoses are probably "Yes, I feel the same way" - not so much "I have autism" but "I am similar in some ways". Like identifying as intro- or extroverted - there's self-tests for that (Myers-Briggs or something). But the personality traits in that one are spectrums too - you can be a bit or a lot of all of them.

TL;DR it doesn't really matter much IMO what someone says they are, but it does help if they understand themselves better and know that they're not the only ones with those traits or difficulties in life (if they perceive them as difficulties).

You seem to be familiar with Wikipedia so I'll draw your attention to the article on there dedicated to the subject.

The question remains the same: are we talking about "self-diagnosis" or a real problem.

I'm not sure I understand your question, or rather it seems to be more than one question. Yes, Asperger's is a real problem. Yes, some people self-diagnose themselves. Yes, some of these people would not be diagnosed with Asperger's were they to undergo diagnosis by an expert.

"It took a bit longer (and a few tests) to get a confirmation from experts" and "the current prevailing hypothesis to explain this, based on an IQ test taken as part of the evaluation process". So not a self-diagnosis.

Yes, because it's most certainly required to upload and "prove" all claims about oneself on the internet.

Oh wait, it's not. It was a claim about his self.

You don't like it? Quit reading.

He posted that he was official diagnosed by a doctor.

> the English How are you? or the German Wie geht's?

As a cultural aside, I would like to point out that the German "wie geht's?" is used to actually prompt a superficial answer about one's state. It's perfectly acceptable to reply with information like "meh, I'm having some trouble". The same goes for almost every other country.

But the (US) American "how are you?" does not afford this. Like the article describes, anything but "fine, thanks, and you?" is not considered a valid response. This still trips me up when talking with Americans...

I don't claim to be the most socially clued-in person in the world, but as an American I hear people say things other than "fine, thanks" in response to "how are you?" all the time and think it's pretty normal.

Although it's true that any answer other than "fine" tends to invite a response -- like if I say "yeah, it's been a long day" the other person would probably say something like "well, at least it's nearly over" or something to acknowledge my state before moving on. But still, you can answer the question a number of ways in normal conversation, as long as it's a fairly superficial answer as you say.

What trips me up is that in the UK (where I'm living currently) it seems like it's pretty common to ask "Are you alright?", which in the US means something like "You look terrible, is anything the matter?" but in the UK seems to be more or less equivalent to "How are you?"

That's not exactly true.

It's completely proper to say "Fine, thanks", "Great, fantastic", "meh, not bad", "uggh having the worst day" or anything in between to "How Are you" in the US or Canada.

Sure, you wouldn't say that to a perfect stranger but if a friend or family member leads with "how are you", there is nothing weird about giving an actual response.

I would like to expand this a bit.

Acceptable responses to "How are you?":

"Fine, thanks." - Tells the asker that you may not be up for conversation.

"Doing well, and you?" - Tells the asker you may be up for some conversation.

"Well, you see, last week..." - Tells the asker you've had little social opportunities in a long while and he's staying around for a bit.

Isn't this the key point, though? The answer to that question depends entirely on the context of your relationship with the person asking it.

If a client calls me up and asks how my day is going, the socially acceptable answer is "It's going great, thanks!" with the addition of some remark about the weather, that one is looking forward to the weekend (if it's a Thursday or Friday), etc. My client doesn't really care about my day, they're just asking because it's a social nicety. (They probably do care to the extent that if I break down and start sobbing, or there's just a choked gurgling sound at the other end of the phone, then they may well not get their money's worth that day...)

On the other hand, if my wife asks me how my day has been, I can reply honestly and candidly - though, again, if she's busy or she's had a bad day herself or she's asking this question whilst spooning food into my son's mouth, maybe I will temper my response accordingly.

An understanding of these sorts of social niceties based around context is something that the socially-aware take for granted and, clearly, the author of this article and people like him find very difficult.

It's not easy but it's not cultural. I was responding to the commenter who claimed that other countries other than the US expect or allow for a real response to the question.

And I think that's simply false. A stranger in the middle of the street in Berlin is just as uninterested in your day than one in Boston. And a friend is just as interested.

In the US, the sincerity of the asker can vary quite a bit; when I ask I usually want to actually know how someone is doing. The type and depth of the relationship between the asker and the askee can also determine if "How are you?" is sincere, cursory, or even rhetorical after a fashion.

Now that I think about it, that's possibly even more confusing/frustrating to non-US speaker than what you describe! Sorry :)

I think familiarity (or lack thereof) is a big part of the puzzle there. Assuming I'm in the US, and I'm asked "how are you?" by a random sales person, my first thought is "you have no business asking me that". But if, say, I'm greeted at the hotel, I somewhat enjoy the display of fake interest and answer with an automated "fine, thanks". I get the different contexts, but it still leaves me with a lot of ambiguous situations.

Familiarity is a good clue, but the difference is really just informality, which you can also have with strangers especially if there is any sense of solidarity.

If you meet someone who is very low-key and egalitarian like an old hippie or punk or the like, you may actually alienate them with "fake" responses because it is fake and not open, and might imply that you perceive a status difference.

But even with a status difference, someone working as a valet could say to a somewhat uptight and wealthy customer "hot day", or similar, and if the customer is not totally mean and uncool he will respond pleasantly to this and the formality level will be a bit reduced. But someone who thinks he is high-status probably doesn't want to hear a long paragraph about the valet's life, because that guy is an asshole. It is true that a man shouldn't complain to people that his wife is on her period without extreme caution at best.

In the same way, I cannot go around using "du" or "tu" with everyone I meet either and "too much information" is a thing almost anywhere.

Body language and attitude right after the question is often a good indicator whether the asker expects a response or not. A good strategy if detecting this proves problematic, is to do or fake a breath before starting your response, that's plenty of time for that body language to kick in and gauge the asker's interest.

Here's a trick: if asked "how are you?" by an American, and you're not fine and/or don't want to pretend to be fine, shrug your shoulders and say:

"Same old, same old."

(As in, it's another day full of the same old problems as yesterday.)

This will prompt the American to make a generalized expression of sympathy over the countless petty indignities of life, without feeling a need to inquire as to exactly what specific problems you're dealing with.

It's pretty similar in the UK to your description of USA [I assume you mean USA when you say Americans and not any of the other 41 American countries? Bugbear, sorry].

In the UK in many areas we say "[Are you] Alright?" and the response is "[Yes,] [Are you] Alright?". You are not supposed to say whether you are "alright", just answer "Good" or an equivalent. It's analogous to the traditional [middle/upper class] "How do you do?" to which the response expected was "How do you do?". The follow up is usually what the weather is like or something about traffic ...

[I assume you mean USA when you say Americans and not any of the other 41 American countries? Bugbear, sorry].

Which of those other 41 countries have "America" in the name? Let me know and I'll be sure to consider them when using the word "Americans".

Do you ever use the word "European" or the word "Asian"? If the founders of the USA were programmers they'd probably avoid that unnecessary namespace collision.

I think a more accurate analogy is between "Eurasian" and "American." How often do you use the term Eurasian?

In practice, most references to the people on the American continents are to North Americans, Central Americans, or South Americans. Referring to the collective as 'Americans' is rare and virtually meaningless, given the total lack of shared culture, language, or ethnicity between say, Canadians and Brazilians, comparable to comparing Britons and Chinese.

And in that rare case, context should make clear whether you mean 'people of the Americas' or 'inhabitant of the United States of America.'

It really isn't an issue and I've always been baffled as to why anyone should have problems with the demonym American as it is popularly, and correctly, used.

Agree completely. My wife is Brazilian and she dislikes that term, but what else can you say? United States-ers? Technically Mexico is the United Mexican States, so that won't work either!

The silly thing is that it's viewed as a form of linguistic imperialism, where in reality it's just where the chips fell. And it's not limited to just that term. In our attempts at political correctness we often make a bigger mess of things. The term "Oriental" had fallen out of favor, and now we say "Asian" which to me is horribly imprecise. In Brazil, my nationality is "norteamericana" (North American), which of course is unfair to the Canadians and the Mexicans.

At some point you just have to accept it as the convention and move on.

>Most references to the people on the American continents are to North Americans, Central Americans, or South Americans. Referring to the collective as 'Americans' is rare and virtually meaningless

The terms Latin/Anglo-Saxon America are just as used used exactly to highlight this aspect of the continent.

>given the total lack of shared culture, language, or ethnicity between say, Canadians and Brazilians, comparable to comparing Britons and Chinese.

This is not true. Apart from Canada and the US the rest of the Americas are actually quite close culturally.

I have lived in the US my whole life and I do not find that to be the case.

It is true that "how are you?" has the double meaning of "<generic greeting>" and "really, how are you doing?" but the fact that it can mean the first does not mean that it cannot mean the second. You learn from context which meaning is intended. It is also not unusual to ask the question in mode 1 but not be flustered when someone responds in mode 2, especially if they are a friend.

This may seem confusing, but there are lots of phrases in lots of languages that have shades of meaning depending on context, so it is not unique.

As an American, I prefer the extremely unsettling response of just taking a few moments to stare into their eyes, attempting to catch a glimpse of their soul and trying to determine if the asker is sincere in their enquiry or not... then saying "Fine, thanks, and you?".

That's why I always respond with "Terrible!" or "Awful!" or, a personal favorite, "Worst day of my life!" combined with a big smile. Really throws people off and is an easy segue into more meaningful conversation. But it's mostly just to disrupt the monotony of "fine, thanks, and you?" Oddly enough, if I really am having a bad day, then I'll answer with the normal "fine, thanks, how are you?"

It really depends on what type of relationship you have to the person asking it in the US in my experience. A stranger or a person you know in a professional manner and yes social doctrine seems to dictate you should reply with a positive remark. But while it is still intended as a greeting in more friendly situations, it is quite common for me to give and for people to give me vague but non-positive answers. For instance 'shitty', 'uhg don't even want to talk about it', or just staring with dead eyes and shaking your head no (while I don't actually know that this last one is acceptable, I use it a lot and love it, and no one seems to give me shit about it).

What seems to be unacceptable and would probably be in German also is just completely unloading with all the problems of your day in detail. Basically keep it to under like 10 words and it is an acceptable answer among friends, at least in my experience.

It doesn't have to be fine, but it has to be optimistic. "Long week, but the weekend's almost here, amirite?" Perfectly OK.

That's often repeated but not universally true. When the cashier at the grocery store asks me how I'm doing I might say "been better" or something, as you describe for wie geht's, and similarly when I ask them how it is for them they sometimes say something like "ready for the shift to be over." It is very common. But maybe this is demographic or regional - I would not expect older people from the South in the upper class to like this kind of informal response.

edit: I would appreciate it if whoever decided to follow me around downvoting all my posts for no apparent reason would provide feedback on what is wrong about my advice regarding idiomatic use of the English language.

I've jokingly referred to Wikipedia moderators as autistic for, for example, diligently reversing changes to articles even when done by experts in that field. I guess I'll try to come up with something else...

If you spent some time editing Wikipedia in a serious way, you would notice how a high % of the regular editors/admins are more than obviously affected by a wide spectrum of mental problems. Although I guess this topic is a taboo because of how the society has been trying lately to “normalise” mental illnesses.

It's a little bit frustrating that you describe behaviour you don't like as either mental illness or neuro-diversity.

Sometimes an asshole is just an asshole.

I agree with you, but after the whole retard business yesterday, calling people assholes doesn't seem right. It's kind of like saying "sometimes people are just retarded".

"Neuro-diversity" just means "mental illness". And I don't believe there are many assholes around. Most people that act like assholes regularly are just affected by some illness, even if it's only a depression. Nobody wants to be an asshole, believe me.

Hang on: Autism is not a mental illness!

> And I don't believe there are many assholes around.

okay, I don't have any research so I'll accept this for a moment.

> Most people that act like assholes regularly are just affected by some illness, even if it's only a depression.

Neither of us have any research, so I wonder how strongly you feel that?

And maybe if you swap "depression" for "stress" I guess I'll agree.

> Nobody wants to be an asshole, believe me

Wait what? Plenty of people who don't have anything like a diagnosable mental illness enjoy being assholes just because. I guess we're disagreeing about definitions of asshole and mental illness here though.

> Hang on: Autism is not a mental illness!

"A serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact." Would you not call that an illness?

> Neither of us have any research, so I wonder how strongly you feel that?

I feel it very strongly, as someone who has been affected by it.

> And maybe if you swap "depression" for "stress" I guess I'll agree.

I agree on that too.

> Wait what? Plenty of people who don't have anything like a diagnosable mental illness enjoy being assholes just because. I guess we're disagreeing about definitions of asshole and mental illness here though.

I don't believe in that. Someone who is a chronical asshole is probably depressed, stressed, an autist, a psychopath, etc.

>"A serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact." Would you not call that an illness?

First that is not an appropiated definition that would cover the whole spectrum. It is not "serious" for people with High Functional Autism (Umbrella term that covers deprecated labels as Aspergers, PDDNOS, etc).

Second, "Illness" is not the preferred term in this case: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disease#Concepts

"(Medical condition) As it is more value-neutral than terms like disease, the term medical condition is sometimes preferred by people with health issues that they do not consider deleterious. On the other hand, by emphasizing the medical nature of the condition, this term is sometimes rejected, such as by proponents of the autism rights movement."

I'd call it an illness, but it's not a mental illness. It's a developmental disorder.

> Hang on: Autism is not a mental illness!

Serious question: what do you mean?

Autism gets lumped in with mental illness because brains.

So you tend to see the group of people who treat mental illness also treat autism, and learning disabilities, and dementia, and etc. This is probably a result of our previous lack of knowledge and slow-changing institutional cultures.


> Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. On its own, autism is not a learning disability or a mental health problem. But some people with autism have an accompanying learning disability, learning difficulty or mental health problem.

This site provides a nice counter - that people wanting to get distance from "mental health problem" are possibly using stigmatising views of mental illness. "This isn't in his head. It's real!"


The difference with autism and mental illness is that you are born with autism. That's probably not the case for eg schizophrenia or bi-polar, although there's probably genetic factors pre-disposing people to these illnesses for many cases.

>The difference with autism and mental illness is that you are born with autism. That's probably not the case for eg schizophrenia or bi-polar, although there's probably genetic factors pre-disposing people to these illnesses for many cases.

This seems a very odd way to differentiate what is and isn't a mental illness. Consider that the brain is a growing organism that is undergoing massive changes from soon after conception til near one enters middle age (28) with some minor changes after then, to define the point at birth as some baseline seems arbitrary. Take schizophrenia, while not present at birth there are some theories about how it works that would indicate it is there at birth but doesn't activate til late teen/early adult years (it has been a few years since I last read heavily into it). Or consider sexual orientations. Are you born with it? Well you aren't likely born attracted to one gender. You probably don't even have a concept of gender. But you may be born with an underlying structure that would give a really high predictability as to which you orientation you will even up having. (Note: I'm not saying any orientation is a mental illness; I'm only using it to give an example of something which you may or may not be born with depending upon how you view being born with something.)

"Illness" usually meant to be interpreted as deviation from norm. However, while definition of norm in some subjects can be relatively easy - e.g. it is a norm for people to have two eyes, two hands with five fingers on each, one head, one nose, etc. - for things as complex and varied as mental processes I'm not sure how you define what the norm is. Even specialists' views on the matter - like those who compile the DSM - seem to be changing with time, and you are obviously pretty unhappy with that change. So what is your definition which you consider to be better?

Disease, illness, and disorder are not completely interchangeable concepts.

It is the same in many other contribution run online communities. It can be a fantastic content & quality fuel to have people obsessed with a topic. I hope that does not sound exploitative though.

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