Thursday, April 5, 2018

Is "high-functioning autism" a real thing?

One thing you notice is that, for some reason, there seems to be some kind of strange epidemic of attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Asperger Syndrome, and high-functioning autism, in the United States. For some reason these conditions seem much more prevalent there than in any other country in the world.

Is this because medical diagnosis of these conditions is so much more advanced there than anywhere else? Or might it be, perhaps, that these things are over-diagnosed because American pharmaceutical megacorporations are pressuring medical doctors to diagnose these things, and prescribe treatment medication for them? I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this isn't actually such a bold claim, and there's plenty of evidence that big pharma does pressure doctors into prescribing their drugs.

Some children are more hyperactive than others. Children have tons and tons of energy, and they can run around all day without getting tired. Sometimes they can have so much energy that it affects their ability to concentrate, and pay attention to a particular thing for extended periods of time. Is this due to some kind of congenital syndrome, or is it just a normal personality trait? Sometimes it might indeed by a syndrome that could benefit from treatment. Othertimes it's not, but might be misdiagnosed as such. And with doctors being pressured into diagnosing it as much as possible, I suspect the number of misdiagnoses is quite high. Where in most other countries prescribing drugs is the last-ditch effort to try to remedy a life-quality-degrading condition, I believe in many parts of the United States these treatment drugs are prescribed like candy, often when it wouldn't even be needed. (In some cases the doctor might in fact be pressured by the parents of the child, who are too lazy to deal with their unruly hyper-active kid, and just want to drug him into being docile. Yes, this does happen.)

But now for the question I present in the title of this post.

There's an infamous video clip of a charity stream of somebody commenting on somebody else's speedrun, and this commenter keeps babbling about things that are happening in the game, but not necessarily so relevant to the speedrun itself. Nothing he says is extraordinarily stupid or inappropriate, but quite clearly the speedrunner himself is becoming more and more annoyed at it, and at one point he passive-aggressively asks him to shut up. This commenter person is clearly embarrassed and heavily distraught by having been told such so suddenly and without warning, on a live stream, but tries to keep his composure.

Anyway, this person later said that he has been diagnosed with "high-functioning autism".

To me, this "condition" has all the hallmarks of being a completely bullshit syndrome. At least in this case.

That person is a speedrunner himself, and has (or at least had at the time) his own twitch stream channel with a relatively large amount of followers. He wasn't acquainted with this particular game in this incident, but he is a quite competent speedrunner of certain other games. Also, while he might be a bit socially awkward, nothing of what he said was absolutely stupid or horrendously retarded, and he seemed to be quite capable of having a normal conversation, even if he wasn't exactly at the level of Einstein or Shakespeare. If being a bit socially awkward and not always having the absolutely smartest things to say is a disease, then at least half of the human population has this same disease.

My point is, he looks like a completely normal, perhaps a bit socially awkward person. He is perfectly aware of his surroundings, can perfectly well tell and understand at any given moment what's happening, can comment on everything that's happening, in a rather normal way, can have a normal conversation, understands what's happening, doesn't seem unintelligent in any significant way (and is probably more intelligent than average), can play video games normally and with great skill, and is in fact more talented at running a speedrunning stream than the average person.

As said, if being a bit socially awkward, and embarrassing oneself, is a disease, then half of people have it.

And the thing is, there is no laboratory test for autism, much less "high-functioning" one. You can't test it with a blood sample, or a magnetic resonance spectroscope, or any other device. It's all based on the doctor's interpretation of behavior and parent testimony.

Coupling this with the pressure that American doctors have to diagnose kids with things and prescribe them medication, it makes me suspicious. (It likewise makes me suspicious that this seems like an awfully convenient excuse for somebody to use in order to explain their gaffe.)

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