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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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