Parents somehow have to ask the uncomfortable question in the doctor’s office: Is he high-functioning autistic or really a more masculine-identified boy?
The article raises a rather interesting question. We've talked before about an educational system biased against boys. What if the spike in autism diagnoses is really that same discomfort with masculine behavior?
I've seen boys being routinely misdiagnosed as ADD and medicated for it just for being well... boys. But as problematic as randomly tossing Ritalin at inquisitive boys is... this is even more serious.
Even more basic than that, if we don’t have a firm grasp of gender differences in how young children communicate and socialize, we can mistake traditional masculine behavior for high-functioning autism.
Many boys just get perplexed when you try to empathize with them. As an example, I recently had the following interaction with Alan, an eight-year-old:
Alan: In my soccer game over the weekend, the other forwards on my team never passed to me. I was so mad.
Dr. Gnaulati: You were mad because your teammates didn’t pass to you, eh.
Alan: Why are you repeating what I just said? Didn’t you hear me?
The issue here isn't communications. It's an incompatible style of communications. And we're seeing more and more of this in educational environments where the paradigm is shifting away from logical thinking and toward ostentatious shows of empathy.
It’s this public discomfort with discussing children’s gendered behavior that gets many traditionally masculine boys inappropriately labeled as high-functioning autistic. Poor eye contact, long-winded monologues about one’s new favorite topic, being overly serious and businesslike, appearing uninterested in other’s facial expressions, and restricting friendships to those who share one’s interests, may all be signs of Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism. However, these same traits typify boys who are traditionally masculine in their behavior.
Parents somehow have to ask the uncomfortable question in the doctor’s office: Is he high-functioning autistic or really a more masculine-identified boy? If it’s the latter, what a boy may need is some combination of acceptance and personal and professional help to finesse his social skills over time—not an incorrect diagnosis and unnecessary medical treatment.
But in our Brave New World, we may be just medicating masculinity.
In our extroverted culture, where being a “team player” and a “people person” are seen as linchpins of normalcy, the notion that a brainy, introverted boy might legitimately prefer the world of ideas over the world of people is hard for most people to accept.
We're developing a hive culture with a premium on conformity, on constantly 'checking in' and receiving the pings that say everyone is on the same page.
But the other thing that isn't discussed is the erosion of parenting skills in the elite liberal set. We have a combination of liberal parents incapable of discipline medicating their boys and diagnosing them with mental illnesses because they can't relate to them.