POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL
My statement that autism training resembles dog obedience training is not just a comparison and certainly not a demeaning comparison, it is the truth, minus the political correctness and pseudo-science.
Dog training works in certain limited ways, we all know that. And so does this autism training, in the same limited ways.
A series of trained responses to cues, taught at a colossal cost on the order of 60 thousand dollars a year per child, is not a treatment or therapy. It is a cosmetic effect.
Autism almost certainly is some kind of different wiring job in the brain, but then so most likely are all the plagues of mental illness from schizophrenia and depression to manic depression and obsessive/compulsive behaviors.
The brain is the largest and most complex organ, and it is no surprise that so many faults and glitches can happen with it. We all readily accept the faults and glitches of other organs - heart irregularities, lungs, liver, pancreas, etc - yet think these conditions of the mind should somehow be regarded differently.
Pretending that autism is a mere variation of human experience seems needlessly naive. No parent would choose autism as a characteristic for a child.
A few decades ago, some eminent psychiatrists were saying that mental illness was manufactured or produced by family dynamics. A little before that, therapists said schizophrenia was induced by "bad mothers." All nonsense and just evidence of how little we knew.
We still know not a lot, but it seems clear all these mental disorders are genetic in origin. Fifty years from now, perhaps gene therapy will make them disappear, a true blessing for humanity I think.