The Dark End of the Spectrum

October 31, 2008
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CBC’s Ideas radio program is rebroadcasting the series The Dark End of the Spectrum (which you can listen to from this link):

For parents of autistic children, the realization often comes slowly. A worry, a pang, a sinking feeling when trying to play with the new baby, who seems – uninterested, even unreachable.

What could be wrong? If it is, in fact, autism, it is not the end, but the beginning of a journey.

First seen as a medical oddity, the story of autism is both fascinating and troubling. Autism was first described and named in the 1940s, in the heyday of psychoanalysis. Brilliant and charismatic doctors concluded the disorder was caused by nurture – not nature. In short, it was the parents’ fault. They were branded with the heartless label: “refrigerator mothers.”

Bernice Landry explores how our understanding of autism has taken an about-face in recent years. Scientists and an army of activist parents are beginning to make up for lost time, to shine new light on the darkest secrets of our genes.

In episode 2 we hear the story of Darius McCollum, a serial impersonator whose obsession with trains has lead him to spend much of his life in jail. Darius has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a version of autism.

Also see: Ontario failing adults with autism spectrum disorders: report from the CBC website, that was posted just this month.

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