The recent discussions about the changes to the DSM regarding autism have reminded me how much autistics continue to be segregated from the typical routes to responsible citizenship and how important it is for different routes to be created and accepted. The way our culture categorizes everyone based on a mythical version of normality doesn't seem to be being used to promote inclusion. Instead it seems to be a source for people to segregate misfits.
Based on how it relates to my experience, I would say that autism is pervasive, it is determined by how development is measured (age-appropriate standards where everyone is assumed to be traveling in the same direction to achieve the same goal), and it creates disorder (in terms of how well I fit in my environment in order to reach important goals). The three words are defined by Wiktionary like this:
pervasive :Manifested throughout: pervading, permeating, penetrating or affecting everything.
development :The process of developing; growth
disorder :Absence of order; state of not being arranged in an orderly manner
However, when the three words are put together (pervasive developmental disorder), they are not just the combination of those words, they are an umbrella term for developmental diagnosis. A diagnosis is a way to determine which treatment someone needs to acquire in order to achieve the highest level of normalcy. If these treatments had ever come close to the ideal of normal that is claimed by the diagnosis describing the lack of it that may be easier to believe as the goal of diagnosing people.
Social models of what is now often otherwise described as medical or psychiatric conditions have been around since the beginning of time. Social pressures to conform have also always been around but treatment until recently was never so organized, commercialized, and politicized. Commercial organizations and political organizations which are connected to them would benefit from all discussions regarding their labels, treatment products, and policies to promote more dependency on everything they organize.
This promotes a narrow standard of communication skills and a demand for networking done in a very narrowly defined and discriminatory way. It also allows for exclusionary education to be disguised.
Autism does have a pervasive effect on someone's development, and it typically is involved with a disruption of typical order. However, what is considered a spectrum of symptoms according to severity can't be accurately measured without considering the effects of environmental attitudes that can magnify, worsen, or even create those symptoms.The one constant that can be depended on is that dis order can only be judged by contrasting order. Diversity can only be judged by comparing it to what is normal and typical. If people are going to effectively encourage a broader spectrum of inclusion, we are going to have to look closer at what judgments we have formed about the hierarchy of peoples worth based on how they act, what they are motivated by, and how they learn.
Good blog post about the changes to the DSM have been written about by Bev, Sadderbutwisergirl, abfh, Lindsay, and Clay (thanks for the list SBWG).
Identity politics is encouraged by many myths that attempt to label peoples worth. Empowerment isn't just what people need to be trying to attain. It also needs to be a means to an end. Acknowledgment and empowerment of diverse groups and diverse individuals who question typical standards is a means for everyone's empowerment. No one is going to achieve empowerment by some distant romanticized source by making someone else look worse.
For a broader inclusion of diversity people must be seen as seeking different goals and achieving them by different means. As long as everyone is seen as traveling in the same direction in order to achieve the same goal, some people (whom the path was designed for) will always be in front of all the others and only the few at the front of the line will get where they want to go.