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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 624)...

    You mention autism briefly in My Ishmael. Autism is a diagnosis used in our culture to describe abnormal human development. Would a leaver culture have criterion for such a diagnosis? Can there be autism or autistics in a leaver culture?

    ...and the response:

    I'm afraid I don't have an answer to that one. I've never read of any instance of autism occurring in a Leaver culture, but that doesn't mean it doesn't. I've never read of it occurring in ancient Greece or Rome either. As for having criteria for diagnosis, the criteria for diagnosis of any disorder only come into existence when it's DEFINED as a disorder, and autism wasn't defined as a disorder until about ninety years ago. A similar example is attention-deficit disorder--it's not a disorder until you SAY it's a disorder. By examining the remains of someone who died five thousand years ago, forensic anthropologists can tell you the person suffered from arthritis or osteoporosis, but they can't tell you whether they suffered from autism, attention-deficit disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.


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