An Aspie View Of: Politics

OK, this is as much a personal view on politics as an Aspie view, but as I have Aspergers Syndrome and this is my blog, who is going to argue?

All to often, the things I find complicated and rather irritating, I also find boring, which is convenient – it usually means I have to pay little or no interest in them. However, inevitably, politics is something that affects all our lives and sooner or later, you have to sit up and pay attention – so it was for me in my mid twenties.

I am a natural liberal and I have read a about the proclivity of Aspies to be woolly minded liberals like myself, but that isn’t strictly true. I don’t think you can pigeon hole anyone in such a way; I think Aspies are affected by their backgrounds and upbringing as much as anyone. For me, I grew up in a very working class environment in a heavily left wing environment and over the years I have observed the obvious flaws in an entirely leftist standpoint.

As an Aspie, the world around you is completely alien. That being the case,  two truths tent to emerge. Firstly, you tend to spend a lot of time thinking about your own problems, it is perfectly natural – I believe a lot of neurotypical people do the same. Secondly, you embrace others who are struggling too – you soon become aware that life is an uphill struggle. You see other people and wonder why they put obstacles in each others way, such as sexism, racism or religious differences. After all, we all have to cope with pretty much the same thing and ultimately we want similar things out of life. I will go into this in more depth in a future post, but for now, suffice to say, for me, liberalism comes closest to addressing those truths. Others are more practical thinkers, focusing on the mechanics of society, its nuts & bolts if you will; yet still share similar views on the way people treat each other.

In the past ten years or so I have come to find politics and different forms of governance fascinating. On the other hand I find all politicians without exception, incredibly infuriating.

I think it is fair to say (hopefully most of you reading this will agree), that nobody has gotten it right so far. From party politics, to different types of government, in one way or another there are inherent flaws in these systems and those flaws tend to be the human element. One of my favourite authors, Douglas Adams, once said:

“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

I think Douglas had a very good point. From my point of view politicians make promises with very little information on the practicalities of delivering on that promise, and then some years later, when asked about that promise, they string words together which individually are easily understood and sound right, but which collectively completely fail to answer the question. It is quite an art form really and must take years to perfect.

Perhaps what really confuses me most about the issue of politics is just how blindly people follow the agenda of the media. Newspapers first priority is to sell newspapers; TV Stations need viewers to see their advertisements and product placements. It would seem obvious to be that controversy and pushing a specific political or social agenda is the ideal way of achieving those goals.

As an Aspie, it is in my nature to think about things I am exposed to. I subconsciously look for patterns in everything and I follow what I see to their natural logical conclusions – in short I tend to question things I read and see. I try to apply, what I like to call the “Common Sense” filter to the things I exposed to. Unfortunately for me, this often leads me to some very unfashionable and unpopular views, some of which admittedly are complete nonsense.

When I hear people talking about the evils of immigration or how all unemployed people are lazy time wasting layabouts or when I hear subtle racism, casual sexism or religious intolerance, I quietly seethe inside. I am ashamed to admit that all too often I keep my moth shut. That part of myself, who finds it difficult enough to fit in to this alien world around me already, screams at me to keep quiet. It reminds me of exhausting arguments in my past where I have failed to change intolerant views. Whereas the rational part of me quietly whispers in my ear, telling me what a coward I am and at times rages about the injustice of it all. It is a shameful internal struggle, but one I feel I must admit to.

I would like to point out here, that I am equally aware that my own views are flawed. I view the world in very logical terms, and tend to ignore the human element myself. Perhaps people need controversy and society may well rely on political juxtapositions. It could well be that those very things keep the political world turning and help make the best of a bad situation. All I know is that as an Aspie, I struggle to come to terms with politics that treat one set of people differently from another based on age, sex, race, disability, socio-economics or religion. Fundamentally I believe we are all of equal value. Is that part of Autism? Perhaps, but I hope it isn’t an exclusive trait.

I would be fascinated to hear from fellow Aspies and what views they have on the world of politics.


ZenEmu X

Helping Autistic Children

Autism: DSM-5 Excluding those who need help.

Diagnosti and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders One of the most influential publications in Mental Health comes from the United States. It is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). First published in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM is a guide on classifying mental disorders. It is used by Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners in order to help them decide on the diagnosis a patient should receive. The DSM was needed in order to try to standardise the diagnostic process, making sure specific terms (anxiety for example) mean the same thing to different practitioners.

For numerous reasons, Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD’s) are difficult to diagnose accurately. In the UK and the US approximately 1 in 115 people are diagnosed with some form of ASD, but recent research suggests that the number of people who actually fall under the ASD umbrella is much higher. I won’t quote exact figures here because sources vary so much, but it is easy to imagine that if 1 in 115 are diagnosed, a considerable number of people also fall through the cracks in the system.

Children with ASD’s can be helped to a certain extent. There are therapies, which are helpful and can make be quite beneficial. I must emphasise that these therapies are by no means a cure, but young minds are incredibly adaptive and it is easy to see how the right interventions could help improve behaviours and symptoms in children. Providing this kind of treatment takes a lot of time and resources. In adults, who are simply less adaptive, there are no really effective treatments.

In the ever practical medical profession, there is always an argument about cost effective treatment – Outcome vs Resources. Getting a diagnosis as a child can be a very long winded affair and all too often, the first diagnosis, isn’t the last diagnosis. Trying to get a diagnosis as a teenager or adult can often take upwards of a year, in some cases several years, due to the limited resources available.

ASD’s have many symptoms, and all of them tend to share some symptoms in common, most notably, some impairment in social interaction. However the symptoms between different areas of the spectrum can be quite distinct, such as delays in language development in High Functioning Autism (HFA), something which doesn’t occur in Aspergers Syndrome; a small thing, which in the long term can produce extremely different experiences and symptoms in later life. In ADHD, once taught, social skills tend to be understood, not so with Aspergers or HFA.

In 2013 the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is due to be published. A proposal for DSM-5, is that rather than diagnosing Aspergers Syndrome and High Functioning Autism as individual conditions, they grouped together with Persuasive Developmental Disorder into one Autistic Spectrum Disorder group. Under the proposal, there are also some exclusionary criteria, which are vague and involve not taking into account possible additional learning disabilities. Essentially this means if a child has a learning disability which also affects their ability to socially interact, the ASD diagnosis becomes irrelevant.

The agenda here seems not to be to address the lack of resources available to treat and diagnose Autism, but to change the criteria, reducing the number of people (especially children) who qualify for therapy. This seems to be a very political move, which pushes the agenda for high functioning people who require little from the medical profession, while at the same time excluding those who absolutely do require help.

DSM-5 will not be finalised until early 2013, so the exact wording hasn’t been agreed upon yet, so the exact impact is still unclear. However this proposal is extremely worrying. These are guidelines which rather than increasing much needed resources, will simply exclude people from eligible to seek those resources.