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Dr-David-Banner

Defending Hans Asperger

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Dr-David-Banner

I've had a few months now to gather my thoughts on the accusations made towards Austrian Psychologist Hans Asperger. Despite the apparent fact that a very high percentage of the A.S.D. Community has accepted the claim at face value that Asperger was either a Nazi apologist or even a card-carrying member, let's say I remain highly sceptical (and for some very good reasons).

Let's muddy the water somewhat: I am going to quote directly from views expressed by Hans Asperger himself and little-known views voiced by his rivals. Apologies if some may find the quote  bit upsetting below:

"To list but a few examples: autism’s co-discoverer in America, Leo Kanner, supported sterilisation for the mentally disabled, while Foster Kennedy, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association, advocated a US euthanasia programme to be modelled upon the Nazis’. In England, Winston Churchill endorsed the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, mandating that all “imbeciles” be separated from society and involuntarily committed to labour camps, typically for the rest of their lives. Amid often awful squalor, many deteriorated and died."

That then is pretty shocking. Nobody today seems to take issue with the idea that Winston Churchill had zero acceptance of those he considered "inferior" and shockingly envisioned their exploitation as slave labour!!

Leo Kanner was credited with the very early conceptualisation of the childhood autism diagnosis and is still widely revered today. Nobody seems to be aware of his ethical views.

Here now is Hans Asperger's thoughts in direct quote:

”Not everything that steps out of line, and thus 'abnormal,' must necessarily be 'inferior’." -Hans Asperger

"The autistic personality is an extreme variant of male intelligence." (Hans Asperger)

"Social adaptation has to proceed via the intellect." (Hans Asperger)

The problem is this: Few people have ever read what Asperger actually said or attempted to deduce his overall ideology and outlook. Yet, this is very plain to see in his essays. There is no doubt at all, Asperger's work was directed in a very positive light and there is no real tangible sign he held views in any way similar to Leo Kanner. I never picked up any idea of Asperger as being in any way sentimental or even playing the Schindler role (supposedly pretending the children were often gifted to spare them and, therefore, exaggerating. In reality, his approach is totally scientific and research-based. Not only that but Asperger struck me as the only neurologist who was exploring the advantages to society of the autistic mind and likewise tying it in with genetics. It seems to me his work was split two ways: (1) He actually had an interest in how to change teaching methods to help slow-learners or classroom rejects. (2) He was fascinated by the fact so many of the autistic kids had intellectual parents so likewise strong intelligence genes. The absolute clincher in this argument is if you read Asperger's essays, he concludes the exact opposite of the contemporary German ideology of a blond-haired, blue-eyed race. Amazingly, Asperger concluded that genius or creativity arises from imbalance and a juxtaposition of negative personality and positive personality traits. Asperger "knew" many schizophrenics were great artists or musicians.

My honest guess is whatever evidence they gathered to discredit Asperger was probably based on his tactical positioning at a time when Austria was under a Fascist dictatorship. I also have deep suspicions the discrediting of Asperger was sort of politically motivated and strangely coincides with the decision to drop his name from professional acclaim. Yet seemingly not Leo Kanner?
And lastly, Asperger's work I found to be incredibly helpful and definitely looking at a subject from a totally more positive perspective than those who pump out drugs and anti-psychotics (often in the interests of large drug companies). When acceptance of Asperger Syndrome became consolidated in the late 1980s in the U.K., the approach taken was that of treating a psychological disorder with the focus on the various symptoms and deviations. In the USSR, research was seemingly ahead of the U.K. and U.S.A. but worryingly the emphasis was on the use of drugs and even anti-psychotics to "normalise" those who deviated from the assumed highest standard "normality".

Although I don't seriously endorse any view of superiority over neurotypicals or the "evolutionary steps" outllook that started to predominate on forums in the mid 2000's, it isn't necessarily to be excluded that the idea behind the discrediting of Asperger not long ago was intended to break up and neutralise the on-going social awareness of autistic people as a social class. Much as I dislike these days the use of the term "aspies", I am still basically in favour of a more positive image towards neurodiversity. Simply because awareness creates more rights and consideration towards those who usually were left to struggle with little support or accommodation by the system. Supposing it is true that there was a sort of conspiracy theory to put the brakes on autism awareness, you get the impression so far it appears to have worked.

 

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Edited by Dr-David-Banner

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Dr-David-Banner

Forums related to Asperger Syndrome or autism really appear to be "dead ducks". This is not the only one affected. I should say that autism study is about my third major interest but, sure, I do find it interesting. I definitely also have a goal to actually relaunch Asperger diagnosis but as it actually existed, in its original form. The stark conclusion is "only" those with autism can take a deeper look at Asperger and his biography. Why would someone with such a positive take on autism spectrum supposedly embrace the flawed, misguided ideas of Nazism?

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Dr-David-Banner

Interestingly, because Asperger did have this highly positive attitude to autistic people, he gradually became a "personality cult". Pretty much most experts, psychiatrists and neurologists historically looked at autism as somehow "inferiority". Sure, autism is a deviation that can be destabilising and has many negative aspects. However Asperger alone tended to delve into its more positive message. You wonder if this fame around the Austrian psychiatrist rocked the boat somewhat. 

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Ace

I'll be honest, when I see a lot of reading like this I usually don't read it because I don't like reading that much (I have slight dyslexia). So when I saw this a few days ago, I didn't read it, but my boredom right now decided to start reading it and I actually find this very interesting. Considering only very recently I have tried to be a part of any community like this, I had no idea they were trying to discredit Asperger's work. but you make very good points. Is there specific articles that make these accusations? I might like to read them for myself to see how baseless they might be.

I for one have a strong belief that just because someone is part of a specific group or movement doesn't mean you can discredit all of what they do. I don't want to get to much into this here but lets say hypothetically Asperger was a Nazi scientist. If he actually did some thorough, truthful, and solid research into autism (specifically Aspergers) I would not be able to (in my mind) discredit his research based on the fact he was a Nazi (which I agree based on what I read above, he wasn't). don't get me wrong, the Nazis were a despicable part of human history, but you can't say they had some really smart scientists that did a lot of scientific research, however inhumane it was.

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Dr-David-Banner
On ‎8‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 5:02 AM, Ace said:

I'll be honest, when I see a lot of reading like this I usually don't read it because I don't like reading that much (I have slight dyslexia). So when I saw this a few days ago, I didn't read it, but my boredom right now decided to start reading it and I actually find this very interesting. Considering only very recently I have tried to be a part of any community like this, I had no idea they were trying to discredit Asperger's work. but you make very good points. Is there specific articles that make these accusations? I might like to read them for myself to see how baseless they might be.

I for one have a strong belief that just because someone is part of a specific group or movement doesn't mean you can discredit all of what they do. I don't want to get to much into this here but lets say hypothetically Asperger was a Nazi scientist. If he actually did some thorough, truthful, and solid research into autism (specifically Aspergers) I would not be able to (in my mind) discredit his research based on the fact he was a Nazi (which I agree based on what I read above, he wasn't). don't get me wrong, the Nazis were a despicable part of human history, but you can't say they had some really smart scientists that did a lot of scientific research, however inhumane it was.

I think you'll find if you Google something like "Hans Asperger discredited", you will find countless examples of people expressing their shock and horror. Unfortunately, all these people are assuming what they've been told is undisputed and a proven fact. Fortunately, I'm not the only one to be sceptical. Already someone has written a solid argument defending Asperger in light of the reality of the Fascist occupation of Austria (where Asperger's clinic was located).

Here we have to be careful not to apply seemingly rational gut reactions to a time in history when thousands were dying in the war with Nazism. Some high profile people like Asperger needed to bide for time and wait it out. Besides that, Asperger's written essays and studies on autism simply don't hold any common ground with Nazi philosophy or the idea human beings were supposed to be blond-haired and blue-eyed as well as psychologically "perfect". Asperger's work is the exact opposite.

The question to ask is why did the accusations against Asperger become public at the very time the Asperger diagnosis was to be scrapped and replaced by A.S.D.? Really it strikes me as an attempt to wipe the blackboard clean and start afresh.

Steve Silberman here weighs in on defending Asperger and we seem to see eye-to-eye totally (first time I just saw this video by recommendation)
 

 

Edited by Dr-David-Banner
video didn't appear

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Dr-David-Banner

Just to add to Steve's analysis:

In the video Steve stated how Asperger's Clinic was so different to what you would have expected. There was a different angle to it altogether. This is definitely what I picked up in Asperger's essays. Let me explain: These days I read a lot of high quality essays by highly qualified USSR psychiatrists and neurologists but "all" of them come from a direction of autistic people as being "defective", "ill", "socially inept". There is no looking at the subject as a bigger picture. Whereas the USSR doctors accurately record the symptoms and contemplate which drugs to use or how to "normalise" the patients, Asperger asks some very searching much broader questions:
(1) How come these kids perform so badly socially (and at school) but their parents tend to be intellectual or a history of intellectualism (as well as aloofness) in the family?
(2) What does it mean that the kids tend to perform better than average kids in cases where tests switch to "abstract problems"?
(3) Individuality. Asperger understood and pointed out that we "need" individuality to be able to reject mass belief and opinion while we strive for truth. Too much individuality and we are unable to assimilate knowledge passed on by others. Too little individuality and we become like a herd mentality, blindly following popular opinion. Asperger realised individuality was often an asset.

And finally, I also have this belief when Lorna Wing back in the late eighties borrowed from Asperger's work to develop her Asperger Syndrome diagnosis, I think she didn't have the same grasp of Asperger as Steve above in the video. I think she missed the point of what Asperger was trying to do and I always figured she cherry picked his work.

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Dr-David-Banner

I referenced dates yesterday and discovered USSR specialist V. Kagan published a thorough outline of ASD around 1976. This at least in theory was similar to Kanner's and Asperger's take on the subject. In the UK it wasn't till the early eighties Lorna Wing brought the same information to Brits, Australians and Americans. So USSR countries such as Lithuania, Ukraine, Estonia were ahead. The source would have been in German language which had to be translated for English speakers. Probably the USSR had East German texts to help their own psychiatrists. I can only assume the sciences of psychology and psychiatry in the UK lagged Germany. Lorna Wing stated nothing was known of Asperger in the UK before 1980 but he is quoted as A.S. Sperger in some USSR texts.

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Dr-David-Banner

I sometimes wonder if Asperger's essays are available in English in the UK. Quick searches failed to locate more than fragments but surely they must be out there? They are not complex to read. You can get to the heart of it by skipping most of essay 1 and wading into essay 2. This gives about three case studies with added headings that explain how all the behaviour patterns fit in. The patients boarded at the clinic so assessment was ongoing. The emphasis on education and testing makes Asperger's approach better than his rivals. It's a far wider perspective with points other specialists never grasped. In truth dropping Asperger and his work in Vienna would be like trying, to launch rockets while ignoring the knowledge of the V2 rocket scientists from Germany (after the war who migrated to work for NASA). Who wants to return to the pre eighties era when psychology was behind?

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Dr-David-Banner

Some small point that struck me hard: Did anyone ever wonder why Asperger asked his patients to describe how they perceived differences between a butterfly and a caterpillar? This is one rare case of reincarnation during a life span and has interested Budhists for centuries. The question also tests a student in a very non rigid way but an answer can indicate power of imagination and abstract approach. Also he asks to describe differences between a ladder and stairway. All designed to test in unorthodox ways.

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Dr-David-Banner

I found an interview with Steve Silberman where the interviewer (autism expert) remarks:

"Asperger’s full name for our neurology was “autistic psychopathy” because our lower-than-neurotypical interest in social compliance was viewed as dangerous to the state."

Asperger didn't invent this term which was used universally for decades.

I think this point needs to be looked at as I tend to keep reading where psychiatrists, psychologists or autism groups trip up over the term.

Asperger didn't invent the term "autistic psychopathy" and it's use was purely clinical. When the phenomenon of High Functioning Autism was outlined fully in the 1920s by a Russian-speaking Jewish clinician (female) by the name of Grunya Sukhareva, It's thought Asperger almost certainly read her essays. The condition, therefore, was first named in Russian language (and not German or English). The condition was fully outlined in the 1920s.

https://jewishnews.com.ua/en/en-science/jewish-genius-grunya-sukhareva,-the-discoverer-of-child-autism

" But Grunya herself did not use the term “autism” – she defined the illness as “schizoid psychopathy”, and later changed it to “autistic (pathological avoidance) psycopathy”. Grunya was the first to observe and write that these children had a paradoxical combination of high intellect and low level of motor skills."

The actual term "psychopathy" appears to be formed from "psych" and possibly "pathology" (The word pathology refers to the study of disease in general, incorporating a wide range of bioscience research fields and medical practices).

I think from around the end of the 1950s, the term itself developed a different meaning altogether. For example, the adjective "docile" in the 1940s was a term of endearment which meant "sweet" but by the 1970s "docile" was used as an insult.

Below Suhareva at a young age.

 

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