i autistic » Treatment » Consequences of Losing the Autism Diagnosis

Some parents mentioned that it is possible to lose the autism diagnosis, by getting a second opinion from an autism professional to state that either the initial diagnosis was inaccurate or that the autistic has somehow managed to “grow” out of autism. Some autistics like the idea because they will no longer face discrimination from society.

However, reading the discussion on this topic makes me feel uncomfortable. Sidestepping the question of whether autism can be converted into Neurotypicalism, there are other issues:


1) The medical model of disability stating that autism is a defect/disorder is central to this issue. Autism is the villain here and not a hero as the neurodiversity model would suppose. How many of us will still champion diversity if we have a magic wand that can miraculously remove disabilities? How many autistics will still be proud of autism if they can instantly convert to being NeuroTypical by taking a magical pill?


2) Autism is not a set of behaviours. This misconception is based on the concept of behavioural psychology, which posits that only observed behaviour is real. The diagnosis of autism is currently built on the observation of certain patterns of behaviours, so if autistics do not exhibit behaviours used to diagnose autism (at least in public), then they should automatically lose their diagnosis.

This is confusing the map for the territory or thinking that the tail is wagging the dog. It is the different way that autistic minds work that generate different behaviours, not the other way around. The fact that someone can behave like a NeuroTypical does not make them a NeuroTypical; it makes them actors.


3) Losing a diagnosis does not have any impact on the person, but on how other people see that person. That person still has social, sensory, chronic fatigue, executive functioning issues etc. A diagnostic label is supposed to help people with challenges get accommodation from challenges faced by their biomedical, developmental or neurological differences; removing the label means that the person has to do without these accommodations. Being able to fit in does not mean that all the issues have been resolved, but may have simply been swept under the carpet.


4) If the autistic has previously claimed insurance benefits or special accommodations for autism (e.g. military service exemption), then losing the diagnosis may complicate matters. Did this youth have autism, or did he merely acquire the label of autism to evade the duties of serving his nation? People may start asking questions about the integrity of the people who change their diagnosis for their benefit or convenience.


5) Getting and then losing diagnostic labels easily raises serious ethical issues. At the very least, these call into question the integrity of the psychiatric profession and fuel conspiracy theories that psychiatric professionals invented invisible disability labels for profit.

If people believe that autism is bogus, the effects will be devastating to the autism community. There are already many people who openly challenge the existence of autism. They insist that the problematic behaviour of autistic children is due to bad parenting, and some tough love (e.g. spanking and caning) will fix all these issues. Making a fool of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) will likely embolden them to pressure governments to stop wasting precious taxpayer money on these “nonsense” issues.

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