Defining Autism / The Unicorn Problem Re-Post

Fantastically Wrong: The Weird, Kinda Perverted History of the Unicorn (Substitute Autism myth for Unicorn Myth in the following:)

If you’re looking to figure out how an ancient myth started to get out of hand, a good place to start is with the great Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, whose epic encyclopedia Natural History stood largely as fact for some 1,600 years. Problem was, Pliny wasn’t the most incredulous of writers, and crammed his encyclopedia with pretty much any account he could get his hands on. Autism is born – Autism as we know it…1980- Autism was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Third Edition (DSM-III) as “infantile autism”. This addition made it possible for doctors to accurately diagnose Autism and gave the ability to easily differentiate Autism from schizophrenia. 1987- “Autistic Disorder” replaced “Infantile Autism” in the manual and gave a more expansive explanation of the diagnosis. 1991- Schools begin to identity and serve students with Autism following the federal government decision to make Autism a special education category. ($$$$$)

The unicorn,” Pliny wrote, “is the fiercest animal, and it is said that it is impossible to capture one alive. It has the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead. Its cry is a deep bellow.”

Note the ever-increasing list of Autism “symptoms” (behaviors) without any logical coherence, just like the growing fantasy around the unicorn. The list grows and grows more fabulous with each recounting of the mythical beast called Autism. 

‘Unicorns huh? You look more like a couple of party animals to me.’

The unicorn then shows up in various places in the Bible, at least according to some translations (it’s sometimes instead referred to as the oryx, a kind of antelope whose antlers were indeed sold as unicorn horns in medieval times, or as the auroch, a massive type of cattle that went extinct in the 17th century). Here, its fierceness is affirmed. In Numbers 24:8, for instance: “God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.”

In the 7th century, the scholar Isidore of Seville chimed in, noting that the unicorn “is very strong and pierces anything it attacks. It fights with elephants and kills them by wounding them in the belly.” He also helped popularize the myth that would serve as a hallmark in European folklore for centuries to come: Catching a unicorn is impossible…unless you have access to a virgin woman. “The unicorn is too strong to be caught by hunters,” he writes, “except by a trick: If a virgin girl is placed in front of a unicorn and she bares her breast to it, all of its fierceness will cease and it will lay its head on her bosom, and thus quieted is easily caught.” It’ll suckle until it’s lulled to sleep. So…yeah.

Note the “behavior-based” description of the unicorn – subjective, imaginary, wildly illogical, supernatural – not a “real” animal at all.  

…Not only was the natural history of the animal given, but each was then compared to a biblical figure. And the unicorn stood for Christ, since he was captured and put to death like the unicorn is done in by the virgin (though pretty much every other animal was also compared to Christ, even the pelican, which was said to peck at its own breast to revive its young with blood, like Jesus shed his own blood for us).

Thus the unicorn became firmly implanted in  European lore. And Autism in American Psychology lore. What followed was a full-blown mania for their horns, which were said to detect poison if you stirred them around in your food or drink. They went for tens of thousands of dollars in today’s money, and were particularly popular among paranoid royalty. More industrious users who didn’t want to wait around to have their food poisoned would grind up the horns—usually those of the oryx or narwal (whose horn is actually a giant tooth)—to gain immunity from toxins.

Over in the East, royalty had a rather more complicated relationship with their version of the unicorn, the aforementioned kirin, or qilin. Its appearance was said to foretell the birth of a royal baby, which is nice of it, but can also predict an imminent death, which is not so nice. In the 15th century, a giraffe was brought to China for the first time and presented to the emperor as a kirin, which was a gutsy move considering its proclivities for letting royalty know they’re going to die soon. The emperor, though, dismissed it as a fraud and went on to live another 10 years. Does a giraffe look anything like the mythical unicorn? And yet … maybe it does! Who knows? But unicorns must surely exist? Autism surely must exist? Psychologists say so. 

No one seems to notice throughout this sad charade, that just like the unicorn, the mythical beast called Autism, does not require proof of its existence. No such animal called the unicorn was ever shown to be real; nothing more than a barrage of  anecdotal reports, subjective opinions and imaginary conclusions have ever been  presented by psychologists.   

A Myth Is Born / “Autism, 1994”

The myth of the unicorn may have come from sightings of antelope and such ungulates with only one horn, having either been born with the defect or lost the horn when scrapping with a predator or one of its own kind. Less likely still is seeing a normal antelope from afar in profile, since that would only last as long as the animal didn’t move.

Reality is of no importance; social typical inattentional blindness conveniently “denies” any physical evidence that is contrary to social dogma. Autism is “supernatural” – above scientific explanation.

A far more likely culprit is the Indian rhinoceros, and clues for this are sprinkled throughout the early accounts—indeed, the unicorn is sometimes referred to as the Indian ass. Pliny, for instance, mentions that the unicorn has “the feet of an elephant,” a rhino’s feet in fact being not hooved like a horse’s, but fleshy like an elephant’s. He also notes that it has “the tail of a boar,” much like a rhino’s, “and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead.” Writers would only later describe the horn as white.

Evidence? What evidence? Neurotypicals can look a rhinoceros in the face and call it a moose. If authorities say it is a duck, they will then call it a duck – or an Autistic duck.   

The ancient Greeks and Romans, you see, had been making forays into India and bringing back tales of the strange beasts there, and the facts tended to get a bit…lost. Cotton, for instance, was said to grow in India as an actual lamb that sprouted from the ground, just hanging there patiently producing cotton. And while Pliny actually did a pretty good job of describing the rhino, his popularization of the “unicorn” picked up more and more improbabilities as the centuries wore on. We also know that the ancient Chinese had contact with rhinos from art made out of their horns, so the animal could well have also inspired the kirin.

The tragedy of this story is that people who ought to know better – medical doctors, geneticists, and neuroscientists have “bought” the myth of Autism as a “thing” in itself, when it is merely a collection of symptoms due to real and specific causes that can be radically different from case to case.

Symptoms can be as “supernatural” as a brain that “lights up wrong” – or social difficulties judged to “be annoying” by self-centered adults; parents, teachers and Puritanical psychologists who demand obedience. Who enforce an rigid and unkind  social behavior regime specific to “certain Americans” but which is alien to many “diverse” groups, cultures and child-raising traditions. Kids are being declared “defective” by opinionated psychologists and miscellaneous imperious adults on the basis of utterly subjective criteria.

Autism is not a “disease, mental illness, or even a MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS. It is a grab bag of social behavior that is rejected by psychologists and proclaimed to be “defective”. It has become fear-induced hysteria in the U.S. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder  / DSM 5 299.00 (F84.0)

Diagnostic Criteria (What a joke!)

A.      Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, see text): This is utterly subjective; depends on the “opinion” of the person doing the “reporting” – hearsay evidence; not admissible in a court of law, but “good enough” for labeling a child as defective. No standards for comparison are provided: “behaviors” are not-quantifiable; those listed vary wildly from family to family and culture to culture. 

1.       Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions. Abnormal and reduced compared to what standard? There are no objective criteria in these judgements. None of these blah, blah, blah criteria are even testable!

2.       Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication. So vague, arbitrary and subjective as to be ridiculous. Where are the objective standards and “proof” that the vast majority of human children conform to these “undefined but absolutist” subjective interpretations of behavior? Where is the proof that any two people observing a child, will even agree with each other that these observations are factual? No “facts” are allowed – or considered to exist!

3.       Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers. WOW! This paragraph is so general that it could apply to any human being alive on planet earth.

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table 2).

B.      Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):

Any child could be diagnosed as autistic using this “potpourri” of “socially objectionable” activities!

1.       Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases). If you throw enough non-related behaviors at a wall, (and this is quite a mix of motor, language, organizational, speech and cognitive behaviors) then one or more will likely “stick”. 

2.       Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day). Describes half the people in any office environment every day; and 100% of humans at some point, depending on “what kind of day” they are experiencing. 

3.       Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest). Such as obsessions that “normal kids” display: playing video games, constant social media monitoring, texting, uploading selfies, extremely limited self-image conformity, incessant talking, cruelty to other children, foul language, and mutual verbal abuse – but these are “not unusual” and therefore acceptable. But that child who likes to arrange toys by size and color? A threat to the social order…

4.       Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement). Any reactions to the environment other than those displayed by a “perfect child” (a being as mythical as the Unicorn), are pathological. The perfect child notices nothing in the environment, even if it is dangerous, toxic or extraordinarily beautiful. No personal preferences are allowed. 

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table 2).

C.      Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life). How non-specific! Anywhere, anytime, any behavior, observable or not – pathological. 

D.      Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning. What constitutes clinically significant? Your clinic, or mine? The gym teacher’s or school counselor’s office? The BA in psychology who “does” therapy? Anyone and everyone is “diagnosing” Autism today. 

E.       These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur WOW! How lame: Autism “symptoms” are the RESULT of specific disabilities due to birth defects, premature birth, emotional and physical trauma, injury or disease, rare genetic conditions and myriad unknown “causes” – including the fact that human beings are not identical “clones” of imaginary supernatural “templates” but individuals with a range of personalities and temperaments AND BRAIN ORGANIZATION; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level. Who sets the standards and parameters for “judging” and “rating” childhood behavior? Just who are these people? No one asks; neurotypicals accept social authority as being reliable in the same way that the Laws of Physics are reliable.  

Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder. Wow! Nothing like throwing you own previous diagnostic criteria under the bus! Why should anyone trust the DSM, or the existence of Autism to start with?

Specify if:
With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
With or without accompanying language impairment
Associated with a known medical or genetic condition (which is the ACTUAL PROBLEM) or environmental factor
(Coding note: Use additional code to identify the associated medical or genetic condition.)
Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
(Coding note: Use additional code[s] to identify the associated neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder[s].)
With catatonia (refer to the criteria for catatonia associated with another mental disorder, pp. 119-120, for definition) (Coding note: Use additional code 293.89 [F06.1] catatonia associated with autism spectrum disorder to indicate the presence of the comorbid catatonia.)

Codes – this Autism Diagnosis charade is driven by insurance reimbursement: that is the CODE that matters to the “behavior industry” and not the accuracy of the diagnosis.  

 Autism (the label) is a selective symptom-based system for socially pathologizing and isolating children who suffer from a range of effects previously known as “mental retardation” – conditions caused by real physical impairments.
Today, Autism has grown to be a highly profitable industry, by sweeping inclusion of non-medical, non-scientific labeling of children who are not “retarded” but “socially unacceptable” using vague and subjective opinions dictated by overblown psychological dogma, which is “prescriptive” in origin and structure. It is a “super-fraud” that destroys families and dooms children to a lifetime of social “subhuman” status. And prevents effective provisions for real treatment for real problems experienced by real people.   

Table 2  Severity levels for autism spectrum disorder “The Table of Social Doom”

Severity level Restricted, repetitive behaviors
Level 3
“Requiring very substantial support”
Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills cause severe impairments in functioning, very limited initiation of social interactions, and minimal response to social overtures from others. For example, a person with few words of intelligible speech who rarely initiates interaction and, when he or she does, makes unusual approaches to meet needs only and responds to only very direct social approaches
Inflexibility of behavior, extreme difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors markedly interfere with functioning in all spheres. Great distress/difficulty changing focus or action.
Level 2
“Requiring substantial support”
Marked deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills; social impairments apparent even with supports in place; limited initiation of social interactions; and reduced or  abnormal responses to social overtures from others. For example, a person who speaks simple sentences, whose interaction is limited  to narrow special interests, and how has markedly odd nonverbal communication.
Inflexibility of behavior, difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors appear frequently enough to be obvious to the casual observer and interfere with functioning in  a variety of contexts. Distress and/or difficulty changing focus or action.
Level 1
“Requiring support”
Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to- and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.
Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

7 thoughts on “Defining Autism / The Unicorn Problem Re-Post

  1. I’m not sure exactly what M0 stands for, but the author’s suggesting that the ‘neurotypical’ cognitive style (which he calls ‘packing’) is caused by a hypothesised tendency of the brain to secrete dopamine when bored. The sense of well-being brought about by elevated dopamine leads to literal addiction to boredom, which expresses in meaningless ritual and proceduralism. The addiction propagates when adults transmit it to their children, and engage in gregariously boring others. He suggests that boredom-addiction can afflict entire societies. The overall process, from the mechanism of dopamine self-addiction to its means of spreading, he likens to a parasitic organism, which he terms M0.

    I thought you’d find it fun because the mechanism described is simple and relatively elegant, and because it suggests that neurotypicality might be curable! 🙂


    • What does MO stand for? I’m having trouble “interpreting” your scheme without it! Is MO the neurotypical – doesn’t seem to be… I’m a geologist, and biology (?) is full of “squishy” stuff…LOL more physics, chemistry oriented.


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