NT’s with Autistic traits have higher suicide attempt rate

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ASPartOfMe
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24 Oct 2017, 12:46 am

New autism study a "shocking wake-up call" for society, say academics

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People who show characteristics of autism are more at risk of attempting suicide, according to a Coventry University study whose results are being presented to a United States federal advisory committee tomorrow.

Researchers found that people who exhibited higher levels of autistic traits were more likely to try to end their lives than people without the traits because they felt they were excluded from society, were a burden on friends and family, and because they experienced depression.

However, this is the first study to suggest those who have not been diagnosed with autism but had certain traits typical of autistic people were also more at risk of attempting suicide.

The Coventry University study – published in the journal Autism Research – involved 163 people aged between 18 and 30 who completed an online survey which asked a range of questions to establish the level at which they showed characteristics of autism, depression and suicidal behaviour.

The research was carried out by Mirabel Pelton as part of her thesis for her MSc Psychology at Coventry University. She is now working towards a PhD and is expanding her research on the topic.


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24 Oct 2017, 2:33 am

The issue I have with the article is this: it lacks contextualisation. Any minority group which consistently faces dehumanisation, stigmatisation, and denigration, combined with exclusion from full participation by the dominant group, is going to have a high rate of suicide. There is a whole catalogue of sociology that looks at groups and individuals with "spoiled identity" and the impacts of prejudice upon them. These one-off studies, like this one, have no real impact, tragic as their findings are.

The dominant population won't have a big wake up call from this announced finding. Most will yawn and move on, unless they truly love someone on the spectrum, then they have skin in the game. There will be a few compassionate individuals who will care, but they probably won't care enough to do anything constructive to assist change in behaviour or attitudes.

The only people who will really care in any number are spectrum people themselves. And of course we should care, and act collectively to demand better solutions in consultation with us. But we don't. In the future it might happen, though not in my lifetime, I think.

Looking to research to improve the treatment of AS people is understandable, but it is a misguided hope. There has been sh*tloads of research, lots of money in it for researchers, and what has changed? Research is not going to be rescue for the AS community, it hasn't been productive in this way and it won't be.

Activism can change things, if it is collective, focused, informed, organised, and fact based with very able leadership. The AS community seems unable or unready or unwilling to go there in any significant way at this time in history, so the rate of suicide will probably continue to increase.



cyberdad
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24 Oct 2017, 4:08 pm

There's a psych lab class offered in one of our local unis where students measure their "autistic traits" as an NT can (apparently) have high levels of autistic traits without an official diagnosis

Of course if you are scoring high on one of these self-report inventories that probably means it's worth getting assessed.
There's a media inspired narrative that children are over diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities and that introversion is simply a personality trait. I'd say there could be plenty of Aspies walking around with no idea what they have or not even aware of it.



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24 Oct 2017, 6:08 pm

Until the 1980s, what is diagnosed as AS these days was named as learning disability or ADHD then, and the increasing accuracy of recognition drove the so called "epidemic". There wasn't one, it was a cash cow idea driven by Autism Speaks and the 3 public relations companies they pay bucketloads of cash to for pushing the tragedy/epidemic/destroying families rhetoric that maintains cashflow into their abundant coffers. They are a foul, foul, organisation that present lies as truth, that demonise the people they claim to be help, and manipulate politicians to collude with them for votes. If a meteor hits the earth, I hope it lands on Autism Speaks, I'm sorry to say.



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25 Oct 2017, 12:28 am

There seems to be a confluence of agendas. Autism Speaks wants to portray autism as a great tragedy that needs curing but many of the people involved are parents of severely autistic children so I can sympathise with their way of thinking (even if I don't agree with everything they do). Perhaps Autism Speaks should stop speaking on behalf of all people with autism.

Conversely Aspies should stop trying to take ownership of "autism" as if only people who are high functioning matter and everyone else "lower down" the spectrum are invisible. Perhaps DSMV hasn't done either end of the spectrum many favors, I remember joining WP many years ago and there were plenty of Aspies who were angry at being called autistic.

On the other hand there is a perception among NTs that too many kids are diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities - this extends to the simple idea that most NTs carry is that you are either disabled or you are not.



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25 Oct 2017, 3:28 am

I can tell you the stark and savage difference in public perceptions here in 2017, between autism and Aspergers, driven by two factors - depictions on media (particularly tv news) and judicial decisions. AS people are seen as people - weird people, geeky, strange, harmless, who tend to rarely make the news except when they win some prestigious competition, (like the closet aspie who is a world scrabble master in different languages).

Autistic people are not seen as people, in the full sense of the word, but a lesser species not deserving of human rights, (kill one and you will get no sentence or a very light one - the judges deem parenting an autistic child as exculpatory), lock one up for no crime in solitary confinement for years in breach of all the conventions NZ has signed and our human rights legislation and that is ok, (Ashley Peacock), bash one and you are unlikely to be charged as a parent. Autism, because of the tv news depictions, is perceived as a violent out of control male child, IHC at the lowest end of the scale, lacking any capacity for stillness, self reflection or meaningful interaction, or any kind of self control normally associated with being human, with no potential, more akin to a wild animal than a human being, leeches on the taxpayer and school budgets (schools refuse them enrolment purely on the grounds of being autistic, another breach of our human rights law and other laws).

So killing a child deemed autistic as a parent is seen as understandable, and the parents are seen as blameless victims of circumstance who put down a wild creature who is destroying their house and home. I am not saying that either of these depictions are real, but they are reified, so those perceptions are real to the public that believes in them. (The Thomas effect).

In blogs by AS writers here (AStrangerInGodzone for example) the perspective she takes is that autism is an inclusive term of anyone on the spectrum - for a readership of people on the spectrum. However in public, I notice that the parents of AS children, when interviewed, are very quick to mention Aspergers, in relation to their child, with the subtext "not like those autistic subhuman children", and I know of only one media person who has a realistic conception of the spectrum of autism beyond the false stereotypes, so nothing is going to change any time soon.

There has been a slight shift, in that killing an autistic child now tends to get a small sentence rather than none.

I know quite a few AS people here, adults, and not one has come out as autistic. Why would they? Job opportunities
would be nil. They would be smeared with the false stereotype driven by the media instantly. I know a few who have tried to tell their doctors that they are autistic, and they have been literally laughed at, as deluded. Doctors too don't make any connection between functioning people who can walk by themselves into a doctor's surgery and someone who is autistic, because in their mind autistic people are too subnormal to be independently self determining.

It's a quandary for the HFAs, who have struggles of their own, no time nor energy to engage in a huge public education campaign (you would think Autism NZ might do this, but they lack the resources and perhaps the will)
If someone with Aspergers Syndrome was locked up in solitary confinement for years simply for being on the spectrum and wanting government help (as happened with the unfortunate Peacock) there would be outrage. If someone with autism is, the general attitude is - no worries mate, they aren't really human, are they?

Unlike the States, this is more ignorance driven than politically driven. No charity is working here to demonise autistic people in return for cash, as in the USA. Autism NZ functions not as a lobby nor public educational group but as a referral centre for parents. It does not see AS people are meriting any but a tiny share of its slender resources. So the stereotypes are not being challenged, the public is not being educated, and the prejudice against "autistic" people, in these mean free market last 3 decades, has greatly increased. They are seen to have no market value, so they are despised by free market governments (like the one we just got rid of, and good riddance to them). We have a government of human beings again now, not free market robots, so things may improve for everyone on the spectrum in time.

This is the sad reality at this time. No Aspergers person in their right mind, can adopt the self-description of autistic here and expect to be treated with respect and fairness. The prejudice and ignorance is still far too great. There are support groups but no formal lobby that can work for awareness and challenge the prejudice.

I think the unification of the two forms of autism hasn't had any positive benefits for either group to date, at least not here, where conceptions of what autism is are not based on anything the DSM has said in any of its versions. Possibly in other countries which think more of the DSM than we do, the unification has worked to draw Aspergers under the stigma umbrella that "autism" more readily seems to attract, and the people who were saying that when you joined saw it coming.

It's sad and it's wrong and it's terrible, but it will take years to peel away the myths that feed that stigmas that work like gintraps.



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25 Oct 2017, 3:48 am

Commenting on the above post: I've been thinking about the autism/Aspergers distinction recently. It's been a while since the US removed the Asperger's diagnosis, and it's kinda obvious that it's the same thing, just different functioning levels.

However, when I recently got diagnosed, it was with Asperger's, because my country still uses that diagnosis. And in many ways i was that cliche of an Aspergers' child - precocious in some ways, struggling in others.

I wonder if the distinction is in fact useful - because the issue of autism is so incredibly complex, because it's difficult even for autistics to comprehend the sheer variety of the spectrum. For NTs it's even harder to understand how similar we are when we present in so many different ways.

For example, I saw that documentary with Chris Packham. He has a lot of trouble with messy environments, and needs everything to be neat and orderly. I'm the direct opposite. My eye is constantly roving and looking for stimulation. I can't stand minimalist interiors and geometric patterns, they get me stuck in a loop. I doubt that most NTs would understand that both presentations are autistic.

I think that to most of the world, functioning levels is what they look at. That is the most useful distinction when interacting with the rest of the world. There has to be some kind of shorthand for 'disabled but capable of working'.


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