Thomas Sowell

Another factor in the great increase in the number of children diagnosed as autistic is a growing practice of referring to children as being on "the autistic spectrum."

In other words, a child may not actually be autistic but has a number of characteristics common among autistic children. The problem with this approach is that lots of children who are not autistic have characteristics that are common among autistic children.

For example, a study of high-IQ children by Professor Ellen Winner of Boston College found these children to have "obsessive interests" and "often play alone and enjoy solitude," as well as being children who "seem to march to their own drummer" and have "prodigious memories." Many of the children in my group and in Professor Camarata's group have these characteristics.

Those who diagnose children by running down a checklist of "symptoms" can find many apparently "autistic" children or children on "the autism spectrum."

Parents need to be spared the emotional trauma of false diagnoses and children need to be spared stressful treatments that follow false diagnoses. Yet the "autism spectrum" concept provides lots of wiggle room for those who are making false diagnoses.

Real autism may not get as much money as it needs if much of that money is dissipated on children who are not in fact autistic. But money is money to those who are running research projects-- and a gullible media helps them get that money.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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