Friday, November 16, 2007

Contradictions and Strawmen

In another fascinating glimpse at his relentless attempts to attack and degrade anyone who identifies with the concept of Neurodiversity, Harold Doherty has recently expounded upon the evils to be found at the National Autistic Society. In their own words, "The National Autistic Society provides a wide range of services across the four nations for people with autism, their parents, carers and the professionals who work with them."

So why is the NAS under attack by a prominent autism advocate in Canada? Because of this article in the Independent. In it, a parent of an autistic child - one who aligns herself with Treating Autism, a "rival organization" according to the Independent article - casts disdain upon the NAS for their attempts to promote public awareness of autism via the recent "Think Differently About Autism" Campaign. Please read the full article for details on what the journalist feels lie at the heart of the debate.

So, in classic form, Harold Doherty saw an opportunity to use this article as a means to attack "Neurodiversity". From his post on the topic:
" In the United Kingdom parents fighting to help their autistic children overcome the deficits of their autism disorders, fighting to help their children as all parents do, face opposition from a National Autistic Society ..."
"...saying that society should change how it views autism will not help those autistic children who need help for the more serious symptoms of autism, a neurological disorder."
"Neurodiversity ideologues are not human rights advocates. They are in fact suppressing the human rights of autistic children..."

Fascinating stuff.

Here's the thing - Harold once again is walking away from his own stated beliefs - that people who have Autism Disorder should be supported by Evidence-based treatments/interventions - because of the expediency of being able to use this platform (the Independent article) to launch another attack on Neurodiversity. Perhaps someday Harold could clarify exactly who "Neurodiversity" is, as the group seems to grow all the time by his definition (The NAS involves over 100,000 people). Harold, by supporting this particular pair of people and the group they represent - praising them as "Autism Heroines" - is supporting a group that endorses numerous biomedical treatments that are backed by no evidence. This group also fails to endorse any behavioral treatments, including ABA which Harold claims is the Gold Standard in Evidence-based autism treatments. This link shows the list of treatments endorsed by Treating Autism, the organization that includes "Autism Heroines" Lara Hawkings and Sally Eva. Does this look like an Evidence-Based Approach to you? This page includes such gems as Chelation, "Gut Bug Treatments", and a link to Lupron Protocol (look under "New and Promising!").
To make matters even worse, Harold does a follow-up post that features a quote from one of the "heroines" mentioned in the first post. One line from that quote is: "The NAS employs people with autism so it is over-influenced by those at the mildly affected, employable end of the spectrum. " Maybe its just me, but I think this person is clearly indicating that the NAS employing autistic people is a bad thing. Can she be serious? Maybe I am jumping to conclusions, though. Maybe what she is really saying is that its ok for the NAS to employ autistic people, as long as they shut up. Amazing.

So let's review how many strawman arguments and self-contradictions Harold Doherty can perform in the brief span of two short posts:

"In the United Kingdom parents fighting to help their autistic children overcome the deficits of their autism disorders, fighting to help their children as all parents do, face opposition from a National Autistic Society which has drunk deep from the kool aid of the neurodiversity 'movement'." Here, Harold offers the strawman that 'Promoting Autism Acceptance' = 'Opposition to Helping Children'.

"In the UK the National Autistic Society has adopted the "autism is beautiful" ideology and frowns upon parents like Lara Hawkings and Sally Eva who fight to help their own children overcome and recover from the sometimes debilitating deficits of their neurological disorder." Strawman: That not supporting unproven biomedical treatments for autism equates to 'frowning upon' parents who pursue these treatments for their kids.

"Neurodiversity ideologues are not human rights advocates. They are in fact suppressing the human rights of autistic children; their right to be treated for their neurological disorders. And they are suppressing the rights of parents to help their own children." The fallacy here is that biomedical interventions are a legitimate treatment for neurological disorders. Also found here is a contradiction to Harold's stated beliefs that only Evidence-based treatments should be considered. His profile on his blog states: "Evidence based treatment, education and residential care by properly trained service providers are required to help the 1 in 150 persons who have an autism spectrum disorder." Nothing there about Low-dose Naltrexone or Urecholine.

"...NAS should be ashamed of itself for imbibing this topsy turvy ideology and for helping suppress the human rights ... of autistic children in the UK." Ok, I don't even know how to classify this ludicrous statement. The NAS is helping to suppress the human rights of autistic children in the UK. How? By asking people to take some time to improve their understanding of autistic people?

(From the comments section) "Anecdotal evidence is evidence, it is just not as strong as other forms of evidence. An evidence based approach looks at the various types of evidence in support of an intervention and ranks them according to the quality of the evidence with anecdotal ranking very low." This is where Harold begins to realize that the position he has taken over the years - that Evidence-based treatments are the only way to go - creates a trap for him. How can he attack Neurodiverse-associated scientists who oppose bogus biomedical treatments due to their lack of evidence since he also opposes such treatments? The statement I just quoted answers that question. So this one falls under self-contradiction.

(From Comments)"The real issue with NAS v parents, and it is a general issue between neurodiversity generally and many parents, is whether treatment and cure should be sought for autistic children at all." Okay, this is the ultimate strawman. In this one, Harold claims that ND advocates believe that no treatment, intervention, or support is appropriate for autistic people. I can't believe people still hold on to this one. Please, will someone show me somewhere, anywhere, that anyone having anything to do with Neurodiversity has made this statement? Even if you were to find one instance, which I doubt, I could offer hundreds of instances where people have said the opposite. This is one argument that has worn awfully thin.

(From comments)"ABA is an effective intervention based on the quantity and quality of the research although it is not a cure." Another contradiction, in that Harold has held up as "heroines" two people who support an organization that has nothing to do with ABA promotion or discussion. It is strictly a biomedical group. The NAS, on the other hand, has information about ABA right there on their website. So how does Harold justify supporting Treating Autism over the NAS?

(From comments)" Neurodiversity advocates, including NAS, oppose attempts to treat or cure autistic children." Whoops! There's that silly argument again.

And, finally, Harold says of this quote that it "...summarizes nicely one of the most intense points of discussion in world autism debates:"
"The NAS employs people with autism so it is over-influenced by those at the mildly affected, employable end of the spectrum." As I stated above, this is a deplorable statement. Harold, as an autism advocate, is being highly self-contradictory for supporting it.

Wow. Normally I am a pretty soft-spoken blogger who does not get too deeply involved in blog wars. But when I read this nonsense from Mr. Doherty, well, some things you just can't take sittin' down, as they say.


Anonymous said...

steve please take a look at the thinking differently website. i would love to know if you think it is a worthy use of this charities money. I find it offensive and I think you should too.

Steve D said...

Anon -
I will look at the website, which I have not previously done.
I want to make sure it is clear that I am not defending or promoting the NAS.
What I am doing is pointing out that Mr. Doherty is again using flawed logic in an effort to discredit Neurodiversity, and that attacking Neurodiversity overrides even adhering to his own principles in some cases (namely this one).

Michelle Dawson said...

Hi Steve,

If you're interested, I wrote something similar very early this morning. It's here.

Steve D said...

Hi Michelle -
I guess I am not the only person who spotted some of the 'inconsistencies' in Mr. Doherty's thinking.

Another Voice said...


I am not pro NAS nor am I in the neurodiversity camp; but I do align with acceptance and equality. The fact that some self proclaimed advocates use any excuse to become upset and vent about anyone with an opposing view is nothing new. In this case it appears that the desire to rant and bash neurodiversity and acceptance has caused a reversal of previously stated beliefs and the abandonment of logic. I guess that sometimes tearing down a concept can become such a fixation in a persons mind that nothing else matters.

I was glad to hear that NAS has employed autistic people. I am happy for those who are working, hopefully a meaningful trend will start. The company I work at hires people with disabilities and it works very well. However, we and most other companies still much to do in the area of employment.

Steve D said...

AV -
As always, thank you for your well-considered comment. I always appreciate the perspective you bring, and you are a welcome reader here.

jypsy said...

I am not pro NAS nor am I in the neurodiversity camp; but I do align with acceptance and equality.

Well, the thing is, by aligning with "acceptance and equality" you are automatically branded as being a member of the neurodiversity camp and every lie spread about what "ND's" do, say and believe now apply to *you*.

Another Voice said...


Let them brand away, I would ask that they use just the "ND" instead of spelling out the whole word. I am running out of hide.

jypsy said...

Today Mr. Doherty, on his blog, points people to this post. I had comments there that have since been removed from the owner (who has also added extra words & sections to the original post). She had claimed that Neurodiversity advocates claim that autism is not a disability and when I pointed out that she was spreading misinformation (myths, lies and simple untruths) she challenged me (still there in her comments): "If the allegation that “neuro-diversity autism advocates do not really believe it is a disability” is not true, then give me some sources that clearly indicates a different position."

I commented but, although my comments were initially approved, (and later ones held in moderation), all my comments have since been removed. As well Mr. Doherty has 3 comments there now. Here is the proof that was burried on her site:

From :
"Every now and again, someone misrepresents the neurodiversity movement by claiming that its adherents believe autism is not a disability, but a wonderful gift and the next stage in human evolution. Without fail, several pro-neurodiversity bloggers respond that they don't believe any such thing­that yes, autism is a disability, but that it is OK to be disabled, and that neurodiversity is all about making the world a more accepting place for the cognitively disabled."
(See the comments as well)

"Most of our potential disabilities (of which there are many)"
(See the comments as well - like "If autism is not a disability, I would not be disabled by it, and all of the tasks he performs for me related to autism (waking me up on time because I cannot hear the clock, getting me out of overstimulating situations, refocusing me when I 'tune out' in the middle of doing something, etc) become parlor tricks- and I lose my right to take him in public." )

"I don't believe that anyone using that term is implying that autism is not a disability. "

"In sum - with the negative marketing of autism as a fate worse than cancer, even though autism is a disability not an illness, discussing our children in pejorative terms in public, or for the purposes of obtaining public funding, and with interventions to render the child “indistinguishable” from others – does the end justify the means?"

"Also, before you hurl “neurodiverse” at me as an insult, I’ll remind everyone that I do think autism is a disability - so be cautious before you oversimplify my views!"

"Autism, like Down syndrome, is a neurodevelopmental disability."

Steve D said...

Jypsy and AV -
I'm with both of you. What's right is right. It's like a congressman once said - "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it."

jypsy said...

Like magic the comments on that other blog have now re-appeared. Strangely, I'm not the only one who saw my comments appear then disappear... ("A number of comments ended up in my spam filter. I have now published them."???!)

jypsy said...

Then my comments re-appeared again, then disappeared again, then her explanation :
"I am not sure what has happened to “gypsy’s” comments as it has never happened before. I have spam karma and akismet plug ins that somehow allowed me to published all of “gypsy’s” comments. Then they disappeared again. I just checked and they are back in my spam filter ­ where I will now leave them. As a result, I removed all of my comments in response. I will, however, leave all other comments.

Gypsy ­ If you want to leave more comments, just be aware that certain inflammatory words are pre-programmed that will automatically get them deleted. These plug ins are not like blogger. Comments don’t simply go into moderation. They go past moderation and into a spam filter, very effective in that regard and a primary reason I prefer WordPress.

Whatever the case, this controversy is not helpful to anyone involved in autism research or advocacy."

Then that comment got re-written (and she deleted the bit where she called me "arrogant and argumentative"). Now all that remains is a thank you to Mr. Doherty "for the links that clearly define the controversy." and closed comments. Much truth apparently sucked into a black hole and the implication that I was not "informative" but "inflammatory or controversial".....

Michelle Dawson said...

With apologies to Seve D--I've managed to get a comment at least temporarily posted on the blog that censored jypsy's comment. In case it disappears, I'm posting it here, as well as on TMoB. Sorry Steve D, the following repeats things already on my blog (I did not want to use links). But I think it's important to have a record in as many places as possible of what kind of information autism advocates consider to be unacceptable. Thanks for your patience and your space, Steve D. Here's my comment:


I wrote recently on my blog that neurodiversity is:

"part of the general idea that disabled people should have human rights."

This is consistent with the Charter, and only controversial (and "inflammatory") when the disabled people are autistic. This is a major achievement of autism advocacy.

For a good definition of "disability," see the Eldridge Supreme Court of Canada decision, which I've frequently quoted on my blog. This decision includes the fact that the unequal treatment experienced by disabled people, and which prevents us from having good outcomes, "has to a great extent been shaped and perpetuated by the notion that disability is an abnormality or flaw."

Also as I've posted many times on my blog and elsewhere, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society writes, in a policy position, that

"Down syndrome is not a disease, disorder, defect or medical condition. It is inappropriate and offensive to refer to people with Down syndrome as "afflicted with" or "suffering from" it. Down syndrome itself does not require either treatment or prevention."

The CDSS also ran a large ad in the Globe and Mail, expressing their ideal that in the future, ignorance will be cured, not Down syndrome.

As I've written on my blog recently,

"only autism advocates would leap to the irrational presumption that the CDSS is really saying that DS people (unlike all other human beings) do not need assistance or services, and that DS people (unlike all other human beings) never suffer at all and never face any challenges or difficulties."

On the same blog post, I provided (as I've provided many times before, including in the Senate in 2006) my position, which includes that autistics are fully human and should have human rights; that autistics deserve the recognized standards of science and ethics (including professional ethics) that automatically protect and benefit nonautistics; and that services for autistics, whatever those services may be, should be asked for accurately (including with respect to the existing science), ethically, and respectfully.

This is the position so powerfully opposed by yourself and Mr Doherty (and by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment), and by autism advocates in general.

My position in Auton, which has been publicly available on my website since before the hearing in 2004, was based on autism being a disability.

May I suggest that before people comment on my position in Auton, they should read it. Mr Doherty has displayed his standards by, e.g., claiming that I supported the government in Auton. Fortunately, the relevant, easily-available documents show that I opposed both sides (whose positions were largely indistinguishable), and both sides agreed with each other in opposing my intervention.

May I also suggest that before you comment on positions attributed to me by autism advocates, you should read my publicly-available work, including my formal work. If you don't bother, and present yourself as an expert in my work anyway (as Mr Doherty does), then you are only revealing your own character and your own poor standards.

Unlike Mr Doherty, my work has to pass peer review. If you follow the link on my blog to my CV, you can find a list of the research I've contributed to, which has been published in several peer-reviewed journals. This research now includes an IMFAR presentation in the area of ABA-based interventions, as well as a review of learning in autism.

If you are taking the position that it is wrong for me to contribute to autism research, as it seems you are, perhaps you could explain why. I would greatly appreciate that.

If you are taking the position, as you appear to be, that basic human rights, as well as recognized standards of science and ethics, are bad for autistics, perhaps you could explain why. I would greatly appreciate that also.

My work tends to provide all necessary sources and references (e.g., to primary sources) so that what I write can be verified. If you can find any factual errors in my work, I would greatly appreciate hearing about it. Genuine criticism is the foundation of good science. Only autism advocates like Mr Doherty claim to be infallible.

Because of the wonders of the "spam filter," (I'm definitely in awe) and even though I haven't used links in this post, like another person whose comment was disallowed, I'm going to post this comment to another blog, as well as on the TMoB board.

This will help others with an interest in autism issues to understand what views autism advocates find unacceptable and do not want in the public discourse about autism.

While Mr Doherty has censored my attempts to comment politely on his blog, he has always been welcome to post comments on my blog, where he has posted copiously. And while this comment is unlikely to show up here, you are also welcome to comment on my blog or on the large, polite, unmoderated and informative TMoB board.


Steve D said...

Michelle -
Thank you for asking, but I have no problem whatsoever with you secondarily posting here. Last I looked - a few hours ago - your comments were on that other blog, as were some of Jypsy's. This is good, as that blog author owes it to herself to listen to both sides of the argument, as it were, and make an informed assessment of where the debate stands.
I think you and Jypsy did the readers of that blog a service by offering fair and comelling reasons to consider both sides of the issue. Thank you for that. It is unfortunate that the blog owner seems to be as proficient with comment-screening as Mr. Doherty himself.

Also, to Jypsy, I apologize for taking so long to respond as well as not helping with the discussion over there as I would have liked to. I have had a very busy weekend with friends and family and that has (happily) kept me away from my blog for a couple of days.

jypsy said...

I'd like to apologize as well for going on and on here. It did have a fairly direct connection to your post in the beginning, but things just got very strange (and stranger still) and my updates landed here. I've never seen someone alter their own post and comments as happened there, never mind what happened to my comments.

My "closing comments" are over on Michelle's board

I'd also like to say -- there was much drooling involved here in reading your following 2 posts. As well, I wanted to say I was thinking of you during the recent fires and am glad that you & yours came out of it ok.

Steve D said...

Jypsy -
Please don't apologize. It is extremely frustrating when people misrepresent our positions - any of us - and that is the connection between this post and the one you linked to. I'm going to hop on over to Michelle's board (which I actually had never seen before a few days ago) to see what the final result was.

Sandy Crux said...

Excuse me everyone. Jypsy's comments were not deleted. I explained to her that they ended up in my spam filter -- which they did. I actually had quite a time getting them to stay out of the filter. For those of you with blogger, Word Press is quite different in that respect. So, no paranoia please.

Moreover, I have written an update that thanks not only Harold Doherty but Michelle Dawson and Amanda and Gypsy.

I am not sure what this whole battle is about but until yesterday I thought I was an autism advocate, given that my 42 year old son has the disorder.

This whole argument and misrepresentation of my position (I am supporting no particular person or particular organization)is very depressing.

I am a retired special educator and sixty-eight years old. I have spent my whole career as an advocate and I really don't think I deserve to be presented in this kind of negative light.

Gypsy and I exchanged very friendly and frank e-mails and I am disappointed in her presentation. I frequently rewrite and remove things when I publish an update.

There was no agenda in any changes I made. Period. I simply thought that I was making my post much fairer by removing the offending link.

In any event, don't worry. Consider me finished with autism.

jypsy said...

Gypsy and I exchanged very friendly and frank e-mails and I am disappointed in her presentation. I frequently rewrite and remove things when I publish an update.

My "presentation" (comments here I assume?) happened a while before our "friendly and frank e-mails" and describe what happened, along with Sandy's explanations as to why. I'm not the only one who saw my comments appear & disappear and likely I'm not the only one who saw the changes to the original post as well as Sandy's comments. My comment that "I've never seen someone alter their own post and comments as happened there" is simply that. A statement of fact. I've never seen that amount of altering before, not only of the original post, but of the comments. As well, whatever happened to my comments, given Sandy's explanation, is equally if not more bizarre to me. I have never heard of published comments jumping into a spam filter, whatever the blog host. I'm not denying it happened, I just said "I've never seen.."

I was told that in Wordpress "Comments don’t simply go into moderation" but I assure you that 2 of my comments were visible to me on Sandy's page with a note above them "Your comment is awaiting moderation." They were my 2nd and 3rd or 3rd & 4th comments (after the 1st or 1st & 2nd appearing right away). After that, my comments were all met with "Sorry, but your comment has been flagged by the spam filter running on this blog: this might be an error, in which case all apologies. Your comment will be presented to the blog admin who will be able to restore it immediately.
You may want to contact the blog admin via e-mail to notify him."

If Sandy's disappointment is somehow related to my comment about "agendas" on Michelle's board, (I truly don't understand Sandy means by being "disappointed in her presentation"), I thought it was quite clear there that "others" meant "other than Sandy"

As with the "arrogance" statement, any help in understanding would be much appreciated.

Steve D said...

Sandy -
Thank you for clarifying that, but I must say it is not necessary to do so here.
The reason your blog was mentioned here is really related more to highlighting some of the misrepresentation that is perpetuated by Mr. Doherty.

Please note that interest in your post was generated by a link from Mr. Doherty's blog, and that he did so in support of your post which clearly espoused the view that "Neurodiversity does not want autistic people to receive support."

I hope that, in the final analysis, you have been exposed to a point of view that may help to frame the debate with some balance.

Forgive me if I am restating anything that has already been said or resolved, but time constraints have kept me from following this along as much as I would have liked.

jypsy said...

Please note that interest in your post was generated by a link from Mr. Doherty's blog, and that he did so in support of your post which clearly espoused the view that "Neurodiversity does not want autistic people to receive support."

Mr. Doherty has removed that post. Enough said.

(Anyone who knows my reputation for saving things/never deleting things will not be at all surprised to hear I can supply a copy of that post if anyone missed it)

jypsy said...

Google has a cached version of Mr. Doherty's deleted blog post as well as a cached version of Ms. Crux's original post, before all the re-writes.

jypsy said...

Ms. Crux has re-written her post yet again, deleted all the comments and closed the comment section.

"I have deleted the original post and updates, as well as the comments because several were advocating one position versus another."

I was advocating for truth over myth. I was trying to correct the misinformation contained in these statements:
"Those who are advocating that autism is not a disability but simply represents a different personality type, an example of neuro-diversity, are hurting many children and adults with the disorder. The reason the neuro-diversity advocates are hurting those with autism is because they are making the claim that medication and behavioural treatment are not only unnecessary, but counter productive."

In the end it appears I failed. (In the middle of it all it appeared I had succeeded.) I may have to do some editing of my own over on Michelle's board.

"In my view, as a former special needs practitioner and consultant, the underlying reasons for this difference of opinion are the signs and symptoms of the disorder itself because, for the most part, the people who are making the neuro-diversity claims have autism themselves. Meaning, the very people who perceive the world differently are making statements that are affecting the well being of others."

The "difference of opinion" in question is largely a myth, or attributed to those described by the given source (that was added at one point in a re-write) as a "radical" who many disagree with.

In my humble opinion, we who "perceive the world differently" have as much right as those who perceive the world differently from us to make statements about others who perceive the world as we do. I hope Ms. Crux was not implying otherwise.

Joseph said...

It has always been apparent that Harold is sympathetic towards quackery, in particular mercury quackery. His usual line about "evidence-based medicine" is a sort of cover it would seem.

Not to mention that ABA can't really be said to be evidence-based when the most rigorous (and only) randomized study to date on it was largely a failure. Of course, Harold's reply to that consists of invoking authority.