Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Will The Real Amanda Baggs Please Stand Up?

First of all, in order to head off the barrage of emails this post is almost certainly sure to generate, let me just say that I mean no ill-will to Amanda Baggs as a person. In fact, there was many a time I was at my wits end with The Old Man and she gave me at least some ray of hope that individuals even MORE impaired than him can have something of IMPORT to contribute to the world.

That being the case, there is this matter of "Amanda Baggs" the "phenomenon", and, well, for better or worse, anyone who volunteers to be in the public eye via CNN junkets, web sites, and various public speaking engagements is somewhat subject to scrutiny.

In fact, although I don't think she's seriously considering running for public office, and it would be almost impossible for one human being to adequately digest all of her writings in a single lifetime, I think it is a fair interpretation to say that Amanda advocates a political view that many manifestations of the autism spectrum are not in need of "curing" but "accomodation". That being the case, yes, in the broadest sense, I believe the background of someone expressing such a belief is subject to scrutiny if the expression of that belief has a real possibility of affecting public policy.

Her biggest detractor, if I understand him correctly, has a severely autistic son. The detractor is CONVINCED that thimerosal caused his son's autism and, I'm speculating that he is looking for some BIG bucks from the government for causing this damage.

Of course a person with such a belief would have some motivation to attempt to supress a belief that autism may not be in need of a cure at all, so, in a fashion eerily similar to 9/11 conspiracy theorists, he starts hammering away at certain bits of Amanda's background.

The 9/11 conspiracists keep preaching over and over, "freefall speed" and "pull WTC 7", and Amanda's detractor seems to take an absolute fascination with a video she made about how much trouble she has boiling water, plus some postings she made a number of years ago about being an "elf" from the Tolkein novels, some miscellaneous drug use, and that she apparently was more "functional" when she was younger.

These ideas of course can be gleaned from Amanda's MASSIVE collection of Usenet postings, and I believe these are fair game, but I'm hardly convinced that anyone has yet developed an adequate theory to describe this massive body of work.

Of course that's not enough - he just HAD to bring in someone who claims to have known Amanda as a teenager who proceeded to publish a pretty healthy collection of largely unverifiable information.

Of course THAT prompted someone to get on MY blog who swears up and down to have actually examined Amanda's medical records.

Now part of this story this person is telling on my blog is interesting, and would tend to explain a story that Amanda has written about at times. If I understand it correctly, Amanda had a doctor who was SO insistent that Amanda needed to be institutionalized because of her autism that her parents had no choice but to try to get her diagnosis changed to schizophrenic in order to avoid having her taken away from them.

Well, I'm not sure I'm too convinced of the accuracy or relevancy of most medical records either. Certainly when dealing with mental illness and functional impariments you can get any number of diagnoses. It's certainly possible to get multiple diagnoses of PHYSICAL ailments.

It would probably be utterly impossible to get an objective account of the events, but what might be FASCINATING to explore is the basic public policy consideration - should a person be considered to have a Constitutional right to do what Amanda was doing that had one of her doctors convinced that she needed to be institutionalized.

Of course obtaining an UNBIASED, DETAILED account of those events might prove somewhat difficult ...

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