Friday, 30 March 2012

Could our society be contributing to the rise in autism rates?

According to recent news reports, the number of school children classified as being autistic has risen by 56% in the last 5 years.

This is an enormous number, and controversy is raging over whether the rise is due to parents pushing for a diagnosis to gain extra resources for a child showing only mild traits or if there is an environmental cause for such a dramatic rise.

Studies have indicated that the criteria for autism is now so broad that other developmental disorders (for example language developmental disorders) which, several years ago, would have been diagnosed separately, now meet the criteria for autism.

The widening of the criteria for autism indicates that there is no organising idea behind the understanding of the condition. From the human givens perspective, we would suggest that what we term 'caetextia' ('context blindness' a chronic disorder manifesting in the inability to adjust behaviours or perception to deal appropriately with interacting variables) is the organising idea behind autism and Asperger's.

The reason for the rise in autism is probably due to a number of different factors, however there is a possibility that, in addition, the set up of our current culture is actively favouring the development of both left brained and right brained autism (what we term 'right brained caetextia').

As we discussed in a previous post, in Silicon Valley, the technological centre of the USA, there has been a threefold rise in children diagnosed with autism in just a decade.

In the same way, it is possible that in our society as a whole, we are inadvertently encouraging both left brain and right brain autism.

Here is a quote from Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang, explaining the premise behind this idea:
"Another factor favouring autistic behaviour in today's workplace is the growth of overly prescribed working practices that remove personal responsibility from people in public services. The management style in HM Revenue & Customs, and agencies focused on education, health, policing and law, suit those who are context blind. (For a person with caetextia, 'responsibility' is just a buzzword - without multiple processing abilities, their attempts to be responsible often lack common sense, which after all is just another way of saying, 'seeing the bigger context'.) 
Alongside the growth of working conditions that favour people with left-brained caetextia, the media may be encouraging right-brained caetextia by randomly generating fantasies and continually stimulating imagination in ways that make it harder for people to stay in touch with reality. Vast numbers now pay a disproportionate amount of attention to emotionalism in music, television, 'reality' shows, computer games and on-screen interaction with one another in ways the inhibit the development of apathy skills and the ability to read multiple contexts. Characters in soap operas become real for them, artificially constructed celebrities infiltrate their mental landscape, and online 'relationships' divorced from empathic face-to-face communication, mimic psychotic symptoms to become delusional substitutes for genuine friendships (which involve mutual understanding and getting innate needs met.) 
Although both types of caetextia occur in society, there is no widespread understanding of what is required for people to hold the middle ground: the flexibility of thought that arises from having equal access to imagination and reason. If we continue to create the conditions that favour both left-brained and right-brained caetextia, either by means of the media saturating the population with emotionalism, or by subjecting people to overly systematised, computer-controlled and rightly prescribed working environments, without valuing the middle position, the end result might be that the window of opportunity for us to evolve further will slam shut."
For more on this topic and references for the above passage, please see the book Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang.

Our course on removing the barriers to learning for those on the ASD spectrum, Demystifying Autism and Asperger's Syndrome: Practical solutions for parents, carers, teachers and other professionals, is available from Human Givens College as an in-house training day in the UK.

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