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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Is Your Child Autistic Like a World Renowned Physicist Was "Schizophrenic"?

Newspaper and other reports often indicate high rates of autism among children. One, in South Korea, asserted a huge rate of one in thirty-eight, it also including some "highly functioning children."
These provoke understandable alarm for autism is probably the most devastating of all the mental health disorders. It cripples childhood and later adult functioning and requires huge expenditures.
Yet I feel that I must question the accuracy of these statistics since, having worked in many types of mental health settings for decades, I have seen relatively few children who could accurately be described as autistic. And having one or two autistic features doesn't count since these can disappear after just a few months of traditional child play psychotherapy.
I have spoken with many parents who were made anxious by school personnel though their child's problems were about as far from autism as one can get. They had difficulties which would benefit from psychotherapy, but these were certainly not autism.
Does your child have "awkward movements" or "seem to be in a world of their own"? These were some of the questions on the South Korean study though all young children exhibit these "symptoms." And I doubt that there are many writers who aren't, at times, accused of being in a world of their own.
What we may be seeing in too many autism studies is a combination of greater interest in infant development, which is desirable, and a lack of sophistication about early childhood development and psychopathology, which is not.
So, parents, if anyone describes your child as being autistic, have them evaluated a second and even a third time. You and they deserve it.
Keep in mind that J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Manhattan Project which built the atomic bomb during World War Two, was diagnosed, while a graduate student in England during his twenties, as being "schizophrenic" by a psychiatrist. Every nation would benefit from having more such "schizophrenic" members.

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