The Nazi History Behind ‘Asperger’

My son’s school, David Starr Jordan Middle School, is being renamed. A seventh grader exposed the honoree, Stanford University’s first president, as a prominent eugenicist of the early 20th century who championed sterilization of the “unfit.”

This sort of debate is happening all over the country, as communities fight over whether to tear down Confederate monuments and whether Andrew Jackson deserves to remain on the $20 bill. How do we decide whom to honor and whom to disavow?

There are some straightforward cases: Hitler Squares were renamed after World War II; Lenin statues were hauled away after the collapse of the Soviet Union.…  Seguir leyendo »

Asperger syndrome and Aspies — the affectionate name that people diagnosed with Asperger syndrome call themselves — seem to be everywhere.

Considered to be at the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, Asperger syndrome has become more loosely defined in the past 20 years, by both the mental health profession and by lay people, and in many instances is now synonymous with social and interpersonal disabilities. But people with social disabilities are not necessarily autistic, and giving them diagnoses on the autism spectrum often does a real disservice. An expert task force appointed by the American Psychiatric Association is now looking into the possibility of changing the way we diagnose Asperger.…  Seguir leyendo »

For a brief, heady period in the history of autism spectrum diagnosis, in the late ’90s, I had Asperger syndrome.

There’s an educational video from that time, called “Understanding Asperger’s,” in which I appear. I am the affected 20-year-old in the wannabe-hipster vintage polo shirt talking about how keen his understanding of literature is and how misunderstood he was in fifth grade. The film was a research project directed by my mother, a psychology professor and Asperger specialist, and another expert in her department. It presents me as a young man living a full, meaningful life, despite his mental abnormality.

“Understanding Asperger’s” was no act of fraud.…  Seguir leyendo »

You remember how difficult it was to be one of the boys. Others were on the pitch playing football. You were somewhat clumsy and that made you avoid sports. In any case, you preferred to read by yourself. You joined the Boy Scouts. That ended disastrously when you had to overnight in a tent with three others. The close proximity gave you the creeps and constipation. Your nights went sleepless.

You found it hard to join in conversations. It always seemed you were rudely butting in. The few times you succeeded, you did not know when to stop. You could not understand why the others didn’t find the origins of the Pythagorean Theorem interesting.…  Seguir leyendo »