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Autism, Asperger’s, employment and ‘over diagnosis’

Reflections on Lauri Love case prompt furious debate.

Recent statements from Dr Mike Shooter.

It is unfortunate that to read The Times online, one needs to take out s subscription. This means that many will be unaware of, and unable to access, the articles and correspondence on the subject of autism and more specifically Asperger syndrome, its diagnosis, and employment

On Feb 5th, alleged ‘hacker’ Lauri Love was in the news when he won his appeal in the High Court against his proposed extradition to the United States. Google ‘Lauri Love’ to find full details in news sources other than The Times e.g. BBC News

On Feb 7th, journalist Alice Thomson, who had interviewed Lauri Love a year ago (getting an insight into not only his special skills with technology, but also the extent to which he was affected by his autistic spectrum disorder) published and article headed ‘Adults with autism deserve better than this. The case of Lauri Love is a reminder of the care that people on the spectrum need but also of the skills we ought to use.’

On  Feb 8th, The Times published a response to Thomson’s article by Dr Mike Shooter, which was headed ‘Autism is vastly over-diagnosed. It’s the parents’ way out’. Shooter, a past President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a former Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry even described autism  as ‘a convenient way out for parents who refuse to accept the responsibility of their child’s behaviour’.

Hardly surprisingly, Shooters comments provoked outrage, anger, and bafflement in many quarters.

On Feb 10th, The Times letters page featured responses from Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the NAS, and from trustees of Autism Forward.  Lambert cited the barriers which exist to autistic people finding employment (echoed by Autism Forward), the delays in getting a diagnosis (an average wait of three and a half years). She concluded with the words ‘diagnosis is often the only hope that parents and children have of getting a half-decent education with teachers who understand their condition and challenges’.

Note: The text of  Sarah Lambert’s letter to the Times is now available on the NAS website on a page titled Our response to Dr. Mike Shooter.

So many issues in the mix here (SEN, employment, care and support, diagnoses). I write as the parent an adult son with Asperger syndrome,who had an education that I suspect many would envy, but who, barring a few weeks, is a stranger to employment and the world of work. Dr Shooter’s arguments do not chime with my experiences over the last 35 years.

Addendum: Dr Shooter apparently has a book to publicise and also appeared recently on ITV’s Good Morning, where he was similarly provocative in his opinions. This was one parent’s angry and baffled reaction (available in full on the Independent’s website). Please take a look.

 

 

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