(Ben Sellers, Headline USA) Sunday’s Autism Awareness Day (as part of Autism Awareness Month) has undoubtedly seen many a virtue-signaler on social media replace their Ukrainian flag with a heart-shaped, multicolored jigsaw puzzle.
Indeed, it is one of those noble, bipartisan causes that everyone can get behind and feel good about—including future House Speaker Byron Donalds, R-Fla.
There are more than 5.4 million Americans currently living with Autism.
Today we raise awareness about Autism and express our continued support for those living with this condition. pic.twitter.com/FgCs4fDdqJ
— Congressman Byron Donalds (@RepDonaldsPress) April 2, 2023
Yet, there may be a more pernicious and sinister aspect to this latest rush to embrace scientifically unsupported psychobabble. A growing number of people now claim to have autism, despite exhibiting no obivious outward symptoms, while using the condition as a convenient scapegoat for basic bad behavior.
With only heartless, cruel, un-empathetic people—probably themselves autistic—daring to criticize this most recent recurrence of mass formation psychosis, it is a prime opportunity for left-wing con-artists once again to convert public sympathy into manipulative identity politics.
In short, autism may prove to be the ultimate conduit for anti-American radicals to take down democracy by persuading U.S. citizens that they have no agency, culpability or stake in their destructive choices.
A SCIENCE OF CONVENIENCE
In a 2008 article, WebMD noted the mysterious surge in cases surrounding autism.
The article, and many others like it, asked whether there was an actual shift in the number of individuals experiencing the disorder (for reasons like, say, a new vaccine) or if it were simply a rise in autism awareness leading to a larger frequency of diagnoses where symptoms might previously have gone unrecognized.
The explanation for this dramatic—and ongoing—uptick in cases remains just as elusive now as it did then.
Regardless of its cause, though, the fact remains that in a school of 1,000 students, about 21 more students would have autism now than in 2000, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The implications of that on a macro-level, and at the individual school level, are significant. A school that had one special-education teacher then would now need to hire at least four, driving a $50,000 annual budget up to $200,000.
Yet, apart from relying upon an ever-expanding list of symptoms, the diagnosis process remains somewhat nebulous since the spectrum of autism-related disorders (ASD) varies wildly.
“Some people with ASD have a known difference, such as a genetic condition,” says a CDC information page. “Other causes are not yet known, [and] … Diagnosing ASD can be difficult since there is no medical test, like a blood test, to diagnose the disorder.”
There likewise is no defined treatment for autism, but the scientific consensus appears to be that managing it can be an expensive—and medically lucrative—proposition.
“ASD affects each person differently, meaning that people with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs,” says the CDC. “Treatment plans usually involve multiple professionals and are catered to the individual.”
It also varies among states and populations. Adults in South Dakota and Louisiana are considerably less likely to have it than adults in Massachusetts, which has the highest rate of autistic adults in the country.
Prevalence of autism among children is notably higher as a proportion of the population in California than in any other state where data are available.
Moreover, Asian–American children are much more likely to be diagnosed with it than non-Latino Caucasians. And boys are also four times more likely to have it than girls—although, anecdotally, that appears to be changing.
In fact, the very science around the disorder appears to be shifting rapidly alongside the political trade-winds as powerful forces seek to undermine America’s democratic institutions by fostering a culture of helplessness and subservience to the administrative state.
AN EPIDEMIC OF OVERDIAGNOSIS
The same has been true of other maladies—notably attention deficit disorder and depression-related conditions, for which the desired outcome of those seeking treatment is a quick-and-easy chemical panacea.
For example, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a marketing company was responsible for essentially inventing social anxiety as a disorder to help promote the newly approved drug Paxil.
Few can be blamed for wanting a clinical solution that makes life easier to bear and explains all of its unpleasantries, while removing individual agency and responsibility.
And school systems are no different.
It is highly likely that if one were to do a regression-line analysis of the rise in autism cases and other learning disabilities, there would be some correlation with the rise in school counselors referring would-be patients for the purposes of additional accommodations—untimed tests, preferred seating and the like—which are rooted in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
With the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools suddenly became more accountable for the failures of students. Thus, in order to continue receiving government funding, it became more necessary to explain them as something other than an institutional failure.
While parents of an earlier era may have looked at the autism diagnosis as a setback—consigning their kids to remedial-education classes and the dreaded short bus—it quickly became a palatable way to excuse any sort of student underperformance or behavioral concern.
And for ultra-engaged helicopter parents, it was only right that their child be given every available advantage to succeed in life, including designating them as “disabled” to receive a so-called 504 plan.
The burden (and blame) then shifts to the teacher who fails (or refuses) to let an unmotivated or otherwise unprepared student be spoon-fed the expected results.
AMERICA’S ‘CRUTCH’ ADDICTION
In the two decades since the uptick in autism cases was first noted, the excuses have continued to snowball.
Thus, we now find ourselves in a pharmaceutical culture on steroids—and Ritalin, Prozac, Paxil and every other “performance-enhancing” crutch of a drug.
Full-grown adults now take to Reddit and TikTok to recount their harrowing journey as autism survivors and wear their infirmities as a badge of pride.
Terms like “autism masking,” “autism assimilation” and “autism burnout” offer easy cover for why they are perfectly capable of functioning in society when they so choose.
Of course, those afflicted also are demanding accommodations from their workplaces—and even from their social relationships.
Appropriately enough, left-wing researchers are now hard at work trying to link autism and transgenderism; and, indeed, they have found a correlation—but with no explanation why.
“The link between autism and gender dysphoria, and queerness as a whole, is well-established,” wrote“Transgender and gender-diverse adults are more likely to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.”
In both cases, it may boil down to the extrinsic influence of our society, and a need for otherwise unproductive people to feel validated:
Is there an actual uptick in the number of afflicted people due to the broader acceptance and media representation opening closet doors everywhere? Or is the contrived push to force transgenderism and autism into the mainstream actually indoctrinating those who otherwise would identify as “normal,” by telling them there is something special and unique about divergency, be it sexual deviancy or neurodiversity?
There is an inherent harm in allowing those who are not really afflicted with a serious condition to believe that they are—or in broadening the definition to include a larger swath of the population for the sake of political correctness.
There are, to be sure, low-functioning autistic individuals who clearly need extra compassion and support, etc., etc. And there are people who clearly suffer from gender dysphoria and should be given every available option to treat this disorder.
But a growing number of those who claim to be afflicted are, in fact, exploiting these disorders to advance a clear political agenda, and in the process victimizing those with whom they claim to be seeking solidarity.
As is the case with another overused “ism”—the word racism—it may simply be that the concept of autism over time ceases to have any meaning whatsoever.
If everything is racist, nothing is pic.twitter.com/reOssPESS4
— End Wokeness (@EndWokeness) March 24, 2023
And there is an even greater problem when that abuse of a false medical condition provides the cover needed to excuse socially unacceptable—and sometimes criminal—behavior.
In the wake of Monday’s shooting involving a high-functioning autistic who also happened to be transgender, it is worth asking whether our overdiagnosis culture may continue to have grim implications by failing to stigmatize and/or flag anti-social behaviors that might manifest in more violent and dangerous ways.
I have been telling you for a long time that left wing trans extremists are violent, dangerous people who have made been to feel absolutely entitled to say and do whatever they want. The deranged claims of “genocide” are an open invitation to violence. It will get worse from here
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) March 28, 2023
THE ULTIMATE EXCUSE
While transgenderism finally opened the door for your average white, middle-class, often heterosexual individual to identify as part of an oppressed and marginalized group, it takes a certain level of commitment that not everyone is willing to endure.
By contrast, neurodiversity can be readily self-diagnosed by anyone at any time.
In his screed about the Georgia transgender law, Garcia cited a “study” by the journal Autism with a population of 21 autistic adults reporting on their experiences.
“Being autistic is like everybody else has got the rulebook and you didn’t, so you can understand why gender would come into it because that was in the rulebook you do not get,” said one participant.
In a world where leftists are aggressively seeking to reframe every cultural institution and convention as part of an oppressive “construct” in order to pull a Marxist bait-and-switch on America’s democratic system, convincing an easily pliable population that breaking rules is their biological birthright may be the greatest coup of all.
Ben Sellers is the editor of Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/realbensellers.