Monday, October 29, 2012

Is Asperger's A Vanishing Diagnosis That's Already Lost Its Meaning?

Benjamin Wallace, writing in New York Magazine about Asperger’s and its use, overuse, and abuse as a term, begins his lengthy piece with a question from the late Nora Ephron:
Is every man in America somewhere on it?” Nora Ephron wondered about the autism spectrum in an e-mail to a friend a few months before her death. “Is every producer on it? Is every 8-year-old boy who is obsessed with statistics on it? Sometimes, when we say someone is on the spectrum, do we just mean he’s a prick? Or a pathological narcissist? I notice that at least three times a week I am told (or I tell someone) that some man or other is on the spectrum.”
via Is Everyone on the Autism Spectrum? — New York Magazine.
The article ranges over a great deal of social interpretation of Asperger’s and autism, just as Ephron seems to have encountered. It’s true that this term has entered the lexicon as shorthand for a collection of traits–smart but awkward, socially inept–and that armchair psychologists (a.k.a. “pundits”) have suggested the diagnosis for everyone from the president to the perpetrator of the horrific Aurora movie theater shootings. But popular application of “Asperger’s” doesn’t make the recipient autistic any more than a recent application of the pejorative “retard” makes Barack Obama intellectually disabled.
Click HERE to read the whole story at

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