Let's start by noting that this is apparently the first time David Kirby has commented on the neurodiversity movement. He feels neurodiversity advocates are among the most vocal of his critics, who he claims are trying to "vilify" him. He must be referring to rebuttals of his arguments, calls for him to source unlikely claims and to come clean on prior predictions.
These adults argue passionately that autism is neither a disease nor a disorder, but rather a natural and special variation of the chance genetic imprint left upon human behavior.Perhaps Mr. Kirby is reading this blog. Maybe I should consider renaming it to "Natural and Special Variation". He's clearly making some generalizations. For one, the neurodiversity movement includes many non-autistic parents of autistic children. Additionally, while I do believe that various genes must be important factors in autism, there's no denying that the environment and epigenetics must also play a role (as they do in nearly everything about humans). There's also no denying that various environmental causes of autism are known, e.g. congenital rubella.
Certainly, Kirby's 2007 CDDS prediction must be on his mind. He must expect the community of bloggers who closely follow and are skeptical of the thimerosal hypothesis to be the ones to ask him to come clean on that prediction. And most of that community, surely not all, is made up of neurodiversity advocates. Under these circumstances he's decided to offer a "truce" of sorts. The "truce" consists of, get this, proposing that he's not been referring to "autism" all along, but to a new disorder he's made up called "Environmentally-acquired Neuroimmune Disorder" (END). Of course he's not being serious or candid about this, but let's play along. The criteria for the new disorder he's made up is roughly the following:
A. The child begins talking, and then suddenly never says another word. (END must thus be a subset of CDD).
B. Child may never learn to read, write, tie their shoes or fall in love. (Not really part of criteria, but an unspecified expectation about the syndrome I'm guessing).
C. Child wails in torture (usually at odd hours of the night) because something inside them hurts like a burning coal.
D. Child has inflamed, distressed gut, and bowel movements wind up in rivers of diarrhea or swirls of feces spread on a favorite carpet or pet.
E. Frequently escapes from home, and is found freezing wandering around.
F. Child spins like fireworks, and may crack head as a result.
G. Child stares at nothing and screams at everything.
H. Child bites mother.
I think he forgot "breaks mother's arm". I would suggest comparing notes with Mark Geier.
I doubt there's any validity in defining a new syndrome in this manner. But what's clear from Kirby's post is his intention to shock by means of gross descriptions such as "rivers of diarrhea". Of course autistic kids have diarrhea. More often than non-autistic kids? Maybe, I don't really know. There are no rigorous studies on the matter as far as I can tell. Has David Kirby never had a diarrhea attack?
There are obviously a number of incorrect assumptions that went into Kirby's mental gymnastics, which I think are the following:
- Autistic self-advocates and children of neurodiversity advocates do not have these characteristics.
This has been debated repeatedly. See, for example, this and this.
- All children of mercury militants do have these characteristics.
This is false. There are many mercury parents of kids who aren't too obviously autistic. Furthermore, children of prominent curebie parents are growing up, and some do not seem to agree with curebie-ism, as they are apparently starting to revolt.
- There is an epidemic of END.
There is no way to know this, as there is no epidemiology on the characteristics Kirby describes. What is the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of these characteristics?
- END is caused by thimerosal.
Those symptoms (rivers of diarrhea, spinning like fireworks) certainly do sound like symptoms reported after instances of mass mercury poisoning from historical reports, right?
It's difficult to find any merit in Kirby's latest attempt at arguing who knows what.
There's another Geierism in the post which I wanted to address:
American kids are in huge trouble. One in six has a learning disability.Is this true? Please provide a source Mr. Kirby. It appears that the prevalence of learning disability in the US is 1.69% (source) or 1-2% (source), even though approximately 2.5% of the population scores below 70 in IQ tests (which is a stable rate, BTW). If we go back to a 1981 study, it appears that 10% of children were identified as being at risk of learning disability. That was long before the "epidemic" of neurological disorders. I have found other studies with somewhat higher rates, but nothing near 1 in 6 children.
I guess it depends on how it's defined. If you make dyslexia a learning disability, and you include every child who is even a little dyslexic, then sure, 1 in 6 is plausible.
But perhaps David Kirby is referring to the prevalence of psychiatric conditions among children, and if you consider that the prevalence of ADHD in children is about 10%, I can see how 1 in 6 might be right. But then what does ADHD have to do with the END syndrome of Kirby's post? I fail to see the connection, and in fact, it makes no sense for him to consider ADHD after stating he's only concerned about "severe" symptoms.
There's a picture of a 1926 American Eugenics Movement exhibit over at autistics.org. The exhibit reads:
- Every 48 seconds a person is born in the United States who will never grow up mentally beyond that stage of a normal 8 year old boy or girl.
- Every 16 seconds a person is born in the United States.