Liberal MP Andy Scott's motion to create a national autism strategy was passed in the House of Commons today. All national political parties supported this motion, a reflection of their explicitly stated shared goal and ideal of a Canada free of autistic people.
Mr Scott's motion, drafted in consultation with Canada's important autism advocates, can be found in his press release announcing the passing of this motion
This is what I wrote about the consequences of Mr Scott's motion on the TMoB board, many hours before it passed:
[A]utistics in Canada will be more and more seen and treated as though we are sick, defective, diseased and unwanted burdens who have nothing to contribute to Canada except the possibility that we may one day (after undergoing unlimited medical and other interventions) imitate the people who say we have so little worth that we shouldn't even exist.
Starting tomorrow, we'll be more and more likely to be required to undergo unlimited treatment to get rid of our essential traits and abilities. We'll be less and less likely to receive assistance and accommodation to allow these traits and abilities to flourish. We'll be less and less likely to have basic human rights to protect our essential differences.
Interestingly, both the autism advocate Harold Doherty and Liberal MP and autism advocate Shawn Murphy consider that this motion is about autistic children only, though the exclusiveness of the motion to children who Mr Murphy considers to be "suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder" is not specified in the motion itself. The debates in the House of Commons prior to the passing of Mr Scott's motion also revealed that our political leaders see all autistic people who now exist in Canada as being children. In fact, Peter Stoffer, the NDP MP who seconded Mr Scott's motion, invariably describes autistics as children, which is like referring to all aboriginal people in Canada as children.
However, Mr Scott's motion does not go nearly as far as autism advocates wish, or as far as Mr Scott (who sees all autistics as sick and requiring medical treatment) wishes. Also, this is merely a motion against autism, and our autism advocates demand a law against autism. This time, Mr Murphy is leading the charge, to pathologize all autistic traits and abilities under the law, and to have one approach to autism--that would be ABA/IBI--legislated as "medically necessary" treatment for all autistic people in Canada (keeping in mind that Mr Murphy seems to consider all autistic people to be children).
Mr Murphy wrote in his recent press release:
Research shows that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which affects two in every thousand Canadian children, can grow up to function independently in society when they receive Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) from an early age through to adulthood.
In fact, research shows that Mr Murphy's epidemiology is out to lunch, and therefore consistent with the standards of all our famous autism advocates.
But I want to see the peer-reviewed research Mr Murphy refers to, which apparently gives data from a controlled trial about the adult outcomes of children who underwent early ABA/IBI, and shows that these adults "function independently" (whatever that means; independently of what?). In fact, Mr Murphy is reporting research on autistics who start ABA/IBI at the age of early diagnosis and stay in it "through to adulthood", and "function independently" (starting at what age?). I'd like to see those controlled trials as reported in peer-reviewed papers.
I'd write to him and ask for the references, but he hasn't answered even one of a handful of much easier questions I sent him a long time ago. Questions like whether his proposed law would make ABA/IBI "medically necessary" for Rett's individuals, or who should be involved in making decisions about autistic people, or which kind(s) of ABA/IBI he wants the law to make "medically necessary", or whether ABA-based interventions would only be considered medical treatment when applied to autistics but not to those with other neurodevelopmental disabilities, or whether behaviour analysts would now be considered medical professionals, etc. I was told by his staff that these questions were too difficult.
They shouldn't be, not for an expert like Mr Murphy, who took one look at a photo of an autistic person and declared that this person, Alex Bain, looked "normal" (Mr Murphy's instant diagnosis). This made Mr Murphy decide that this autistic's mother--janet norman-bain--was ignorant of autism. In true autism advocate style, Mr Murphy thought it necessary to repeatedly inform Ms norman-bain that autism is a spectrum, something he assumed she was not aware of. At least we now know that Mr Murphy is an expert in condescension. He could give lessons.
In any case, I'd sure like to see all that research showing that ABA-based autism interventions are medical in nature and therefore constitute medical treatment. Where is this research, Mr Murphy and Mr Scott? All I see everywhere in peer-reviewed behaviour analytic journals is ABA-based interventions being described as education, as a learning approach, as instruction, as training. And I don't see ABA-based intervention studies being published in medical journals, with medical journal standards (e.g., disclosing conflicts of interest). I also see famous behaviour analysts denying that medical approaches to autism are valid, and emphasizing the effectiveness--by their standards--of non-medical approaches (Lovaas, 1979; Lovaas and Smith, 1988, 1989; Lovaas, 1993; Lovaas, 2002; etc.).
But anyone who's familiar with autism advocacy knows that autism advocates believe that autistics don't deserve even the most basic standards of science, ethics, and advocacy, much less the high standards that benefit and protect themselves. After all, their ideal Canada is not one in which autistics participate as equals, but one in which autism is prevented and therefore autistics do not exist at all. In the meantime, we have a motion against autism, and a law can't be far behind.
Lovaas, O.I. (1979). Contrasting illness and behavioral models for the treatment of autistic children: A historical perspective. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 9, 315-323.
Lovaas, O.I . (2002) Teaching Individuals with Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Lovaas, O.I., & Smith, T. (1988). Intensive behavioral treatment for young autistic children. In B.B. Lahey, and A.E. Kazdin (Eds.), Advances in Clinical Child Psychology, 11. New York: Plenum Press.
Lovaas, O.I., & Smith, T. (1989). A comprehensive behavior theory of autistic children: Paradigm for research and treatment. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 20, 17-29.