Temple Grandin and historical autism

Just finished watching the HBO Temple Grandin movie off my DVR.  It was terrific.  I was only going to watch a few minutes tonight and ended up watching the whole thing.  You should totally watch it when it comes out on DVD (or now, if you have HBO).   Two comments, one personal, one otherwise. 

 First, the personal.  I was somewhat struck and saddened by the fact that Temple Grandin is slightly older than my brother who has severe autism.  At that time, "experts" blamed cold, distant "refrigerator mothers" who failed to bond with the child and invariably recommend institutionalization.  Temple's mother fought this and did her damndest to get Temple to connect with the world and helped make her the success that she is in spite of her autism.  My parents, like most at the time, listened to the "experts" and put my brother Robbie in an institution where, I'm sure they were well meaning, but at that time clearly had no clue as to how to treat autism.  I don't blame my parents one bit for that, but I couldn't help thinking about how Robbie's life could have been better if my parents had rejected this expert wisdom and followed a route (admittedly a very difficult one) like Temple Grandin's mom.  Just makes me sad.

On a totally unrelated note, recent discussions over the re-definition and classification of Autism in the DSM-V have led to a number of interesting reports on autism and Asperger's who's links I don't feel like looking up.  Suffice it to say, I get awfully tired of hearing of all the famous historical figures who "might" have had Asperger's.  Maybe some, but I just don't really buy it.  What really bothers me is having Asperger's basically being dumbed down to "shy with deficient social skills."  It is so much more than that.  If every shy and awkward person was actually on the autism spectrum, that might be half the faculty in many a college science department.  Not to mention, the prevalence of autism would be more like 1 in 20.  Anyway, Asperger's is something to be taken seriously, and I don't think we do people with it (or just plain shy people) any favors when people want to diagnose a long dead figure based on anecdotes of social behavior. 

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