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On Hans Asperger, the Nazis, and Autism: A Conversation Across Neurologies

by Maxfield Sparrow and Steve Silberman How complicit was Hans Asperger with the murderous eugenic policies of the Third Reich in his role as the head of the Children’s Clinic at University of Vienna in the 1930s and 1940s? This painful question, which has vexed autism history for decades, has been reopened by the simultaneous publication of Edith Sheffer’s book “Asperger’s Children” and Herwig Czech’s paper in The Journal of Molecular Autism, “Hans Asperger, National Socialism, and ‘race hygiene’ in Nazi-era Vienna.” By unearthing new information from the municipal archives in Vienna that was mistakenly believed to be lost, Sheffer and Czech make the case that Asperger was more culpable than historians previously believed. They portray him as a calculating, ambitious young physician who never joined the Nazi party but was “prematurely promoted” over the heads of his Jewish colleagues as they were purged from the university in the increasingly…

The Dangers of Misrepresentation

Lydia Brown autistichoya.blogspot.com Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist gunman who killed seventy-seven people in one day last summer, appeared in court yesterday morning as a psychiatrist declared that he likely “suffers” from Asperger syndrome and Tourette syndrome. One news article claimed that “Asperger’s is a developmental disorder on the autistic spectrum that often is characterized by a lack of empathy.”1 Another article paraphrased the psychiatrist and wrote that “Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik has a rare, high-functioning form of Asperger’s that has left him incapable of empathy or real friendship.”2 Although even a peer-reviewed paper published as early as 19913 found no evidence for any correlation between violence and Asperger Syndrome — further finding that the incidence of violent behavior in those with Asperger’s is lower than the incidence in the total population — the media has continually and repeatedly conflated being Autistic with a propensity toward violent or…

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Hend and Hamza and Autism Acceptance Month

We’re featuring “Slice of Life” conversations with Autistics of all ages — kids through adults — throughout April’s Autism Acceptance Month. Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label. We are the people in each other’s neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other — the more visible autistic people and children are — the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope. Today we’re talking with future Condor Rescuer Hend, and her digger-loving brother Hamza. They were interviewed by their mother, Emma Apple. —- Emma writes: Hend. Almost seven, diagnosed with Asperger’s at five. Has a giant imagination, loves condors and birds in general (to a lesser intensity), intent on becoming a ‘Condor rescuer’ when she grows up. What is your…

Paula C. Durbin-Westby and Autism Acceptance Month

We’re featuring “Slice of Life” conversations with Autistics of all ages — kids through adults — throughout April’s Autism Acceptance Month. Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label. We are the people in each other’s neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other — the more visible autistic people and children are — the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope. Today we’re talking with Paula C. Durbin-Westby who has been running an Autism Awareness Day and Month campaign all month in the name of “ACCEPTANCE, not tolerance, not ‘yes, but…,’ just acceptance. Pro-neurodiversity, pro-supports and services, against ‘cures.’” Paula also recorded a video version of her answers to our questionnaire, for greater accessibility. What is your name? Paula C.…

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Aaron and Autism Acceptance Month

We’re featuring “Slice of Life” conversations with Autistics of all ages — kids through adults — throughout April’s Autism Acceptance Month. Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label. We are the people in each other’s neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other — the more visible autistic people and children are — the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope. Today we’re talking with “excellent student” and “big history geek” Aaron.  What would a one-sentence description of yourself sound like?  A history loving autistic child. Do you have a website?  Yes I do. My website is called Bertram’s Blog. What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?  I am an excellent student and a big history…

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John Elder Robison and Autism Acceptance Month

We’re featuring “Slice of Life” conversations with Autistics of all ages — kids through adults — throughout April’s Autism Acceptance Month Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label. We are the people in each other’s neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other — the more visible autistic people and children are — the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope.  Today we’re talking with John Elder Robison, author of the books Look Me in the Eye and Be Different, as well as the mastermind behind Ace Frehley’s light up guitar (and so hero to anyone who ever owned a KISS lunchbox). What is your name? John Elder Robison Do you have a website? www.johnrobison.com and www.robisonservice.com. What would you…

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I Don’t Know His Name, But His Face Rings a Bell

Allison Blazek www.drblazek.com image © icanhascheezeburger.com [photo: Black-and-white photo of Anton Levey, a bald white man with a dark goatee, holding a snake. Meme-style text on photo reads, “Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name!] You are at a party. You are introduced to the wife of an acquaintance. You have met her before over the last ten years, at least three times. She shakes your hand as if she has never seen you. As she walks away, you are likely to think, “She is so rude! She knows she has met me before.” Maybe you say it out loud, and maybe your friends agree with you, having experienced the same thing with her as well. But there is another explanation. She really does not remember meeting you. She has prosopagnosia, also known as facial blindness. Once thought to be very rare, it appears to be more common…

Undeniably Autism: The NY Times and Asperger’s Diagnoses

Sarah MacLeod quarksandquirks.wordpress.com The New York Times recently printed two op-eds questioning the existence of Asperger syndrome. The articles came soon after a flurry of media coverage about upcoming proposed changes to the DSM-V, the newest version of psychiatry’s diagnostic guide. These changes remove Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder — not otherwise specified) from the manual, instead creating one category for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Concerns abound. Will people previously fitting one of the three categories now fall into a diagnostic limbo? Will folks lose services because they don’t fit the definition? At least one study claims that these new criteria may greatly reduced the number of people diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum, although only time will tell. Two op-ed contributors to the New York Times seem to have the answer to this possible upcoming crisis: deny that Asperger’s exists and insist the only autism is the classic,…