Autism Speaks and the No True Scotsman Fallacy

I wrote about Autism Speaks a few weeks ago, and my email box has been lively with parents telling me to “check my facts” or sorrowfully wanting correct my “”unsound and terribly flawed” information.

One of the issues with Autism Speaks is that they define Autism as tragedy. Then, when confronted by autistics who are clearly not tragic, they respond, “Well your autism is not like our autism,” or “you are not like our children.”

Here’s an insight, I think. The definition of autism employed by Autism Speaks and its defenders depends on the “No True Scotsman Fallacy.” From Wikipedia –

No true Scotsman is an informal fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.[1] When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim (“no Scotsman would do such a thing”), rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule (“no true Scotsman would do such a thing”).[2]

Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
Person B: “But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge.”
Person A: “Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

That’s how Autism Speaks deals with autistic people.

AS says: – People with autism can’t …
Autistic person says: I can!
AS says: No true person with autism can …

It allows them to dismiss autistic critics as not relevant or not the people they are working to “save.”

There are, of course, parents who are struggling, but lots of parent groups recognize that the diversity of the autistic spectrum is a strength, a way to build a movement, rather than a threat to fundraising based on sorrow.

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