The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Fifth Edition, is the 2013 update to the DSM, the taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In the United States, the DSM serves as the principal authority for psychiatric diagnoses. Treatment recommendations, as well as payment by health care providers, are often determined by DSM classifications.
The problem begins with the APA’s declaration that the autistic brain is a disordered “normal” brain. The APA assumes a baseline “normal” then assigns the term “disorder” to those things that do not operate according to their agreed upon definitions and baseline.
In it’s press conference, held after US President Trump signed the Autism CARES Act into law, Autism Speaks noted, “This funding primarily supports autism research grants awarded by NIH which advance the scientific understanding of autism, expand efforts to develop treatments for medical conditions often associated with autism, and address the needs of people affected by it. The NIH Autism Centers of Excellence also fosters collaboration within and among research centers, increasing the power and efficiency of their efforts.”
Now, let’s assemble these quotes to synthesize the common threads. According the various US government health agencies and departments, the APA, and Autism Speaks, what we know as autism needs treatment that leads to a cure so that autistic people will no longer negatively affect their families and their communities. Consider what that statement says to someone who happens to be autistic – like me.
Nevertheless, the NIH notes that “no cure has been found for ASD.” It goes on to note that “many parents try complementary health approaches, usually along with conventional medical care, for their children with ASD,” ignoring the fact that “there’s very little high-quality research on complementary health approaches for ASD.”
But, let’s shift directions here. We’ve been considering “treatment” from the medical standpoint, “medical care given to a patient for an illness or injury.” Given the many problems with the English language that I’ve illustrated previously, what happens to this conversation if we use an alternative definition of “treatment?” “Treatment” can also mean, “the manner in which someone behaves toward or deals with someone or something” – as in, “ Title IX’s directives required equal treatment for men and women.”