Are We Misdiagnosing Smart But Introverted Kids as Autistic?

blog-pompeiiSalon reports that autism diagnoses are up 78 percent in the last 10 years, but that may be because we’re pathologizing quirky but otherwise healthy behavior, like that of William:

Via Salon

By age three, William began developing a passionate interest in a range of adult-like topics. After being read a book on Pompeii, he talked endlessly for months afterwards about what he had learned. He pressured Jacqueline to check books out of the library on Pompeii in order to satisfy his need for more detailed knowledge on what Roman life was like before Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the ancient city in ashes. He strove to know more about aqueducts and amphitheaters. He insisted that Jacqueline design a toga for him, which she did. He strutted around the living room not just pretending to be, but believing that he was, a citizen of the Roman Empire, circa AD 79.

Steve, the lovable host of the children’s TV program “Blue’s Clues,” became an idol for William. He avidly watched reruns of the show and lobbied his parents hard for a green shirt, khaki pants, and brown shoes so that he could look just like Steve—no compromises.
Next he became fascinated with the Titanic, amassing a detailed knowledge of the design of the ship. Facts such as the exact length of the Titanic (882 feet, 9 inches) mattered to him. He also knew that its top speed was 23 knots. William insisted on having a uniform just like Captain Smith’s, the officer who was in command of the Titanic. Getting the color and the arrangement of the stripes and buttons correct seemed essential to William when he and his mother designed it. Jacqueline also helped William amass an impressive collection of pictures of ships, ocean liners, and uniformed officers, which he studied on his own for hours on end.

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  • Dingbert

    I read the article and it sounds way more like executive dysfunction and/or ADHD-combined to me, the armchair psychologist, especially once they include the description of him in high school. Diagnoses like that shouldn’t require any intervention. Maybe just self-awareness and knowledge of different strategies. People like that are going to have problems with institutions like school, work, and society throughout their entire life, autistic, ADHD, or not.

  • http://marymicrogram.blogspot.com/ Hux Leary McShulgin

    As with many of today’s mental illnesses, autism is likely overdiagnosed in some places and grossly underdiagnosed in others. At least it’s a real disorder, unlike “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” or “PMDD”.

    The DSM-V aims to turn virtually every human behavior into a disorder. They add and remove conditions from each issue by voting on what should stay or go. Sounds scientific.

    • mannyfurious

      But, you know, chemicals are released in the brain when kids are being “defiant.” Science.

  • rtb61

    Autism is a developmental condition. Basically the are dug addicts, the drug being a range of brain chemicals they can highly stimulate through a range of limited activities.
    When disturbed and the flow of specific brain chemicals are interrupted that behave as a drug addict would.
    The problem is the limited range of activities that promotes the greatest production of desired brain chemicals also severely limits brain development and at an early age and sustained through critical brain development can have a dramatic impact, not resolved merely hidden by today’s range of psychotropic drugs.
    Often smarter people are not smarter just because they were born that way but because is feels good, ohh so fine, so deeply relaxing, to learn about a desired range of topics and through brain chemically rewarding mental exercise developed that way.
    Cure, break the pattern early by developing a more extensive and usable range of behavioural exercises. Can be supported by drugs that will mimic the brain chemical reward whilst allowing a greater range of activity (blocking it would likely result in much less than desirable results due to sustained direct mental anguish).

    • moremisinformation

      Autism is really a description of behavioral ‘symptoms’. The saying, ‘if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism’, is apt. Your description of what is happening with autistic people is nothing I’ve ever heard before and doesn’t describe my experience at all, where did you come up with it?

  • jasonpaulhayes

    Our mutilation is to gain from the system… fhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIMKYryXHzg

  • Ted Heistman

    Yeah, I think this happens a lot. I also think more intelligent kids brains are organized differently and they may have developmental delays in some areas. If you think of biology, the more intelligent the animal, the longer it takes to mature.

  • BuzzCoastin

    Are We Misdiagnosing Smart But Introverted Kids as Autistic?

    Is money being made from this diagnosis?