Saturday, October 28, 2006

What crisis?

It's not hard to create a crisis. You can start by spreading a lot of false information about an identifiable group of people. You could, e.g., call them diseased and tell everyone that because of their disease, these people can't communicate, so no one should listen to them. Then you're free to spread fear and dread of these people, including by claiming that their numbers are exploding. This is great way to create a scary, urgent crisis demanding attention and money in the face of impending doom (for families, for society, for the economy, for the world as we know it, etc).

This kind of crisis creation has been the primary activity of "autism advocacy", which is the widespread effort to make the world as free of autism--of autistic people--as possible.

Two Octobers in a row, Autism Society Canada has declared a "growing autism crisis". This is their Canadian Autism Awareness Month campaign to make sure all Canadians know that autism is scary. Autism is so scary, according to ASC, that it must become a reportable disease--a status reserved for infectious and deadly diseases in Canada. But as ASC themselves have noted two years running, there hasn't been any increase in the prevalence of autism going back generations. ASC gives the figure of ~200,000 autistics in Canada. This means a steady prevalence of ~60/10,000 which has not changed, going back at least a full lifespan. There is no higher prevalence of autism now than there was 30 or 70 years ago, according to the figures in ASC's recent press releases. Whatever is causing ASC's scary and growing crisis, it isn't autism itself.

I'm possibly the world's slowest and most laborious writer, but when I can, I'll be writing here about the science and ethics of autism advocacy, and also about its consequences. If we're having an autism crisis, as autism advocates in Canada and elsewhere insist, what exactly is this crisis anyway, and who caused it?