Monday 12 October, 7.00pm until 8.30pm, Foyles Charing Cross Road
Venue: Foyles Charing Cross Road, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2 0EB
Tickets: £7.50 (£5 concessions) per person. Tickets are available from the Institute of Ideas website.
From being a developmental disability little heard of outside of medical circles and families directly affected by the condition twenty years ago, the idea of autism has become part of everyday culture and speech. From the figure of the autistic savant promoted in films such as Rain Man to George Osborne’s ‘autistic’ jibe aimed at Gordon Brown in 2006, autism has become shorthand for social phenomena of all sorts. For anti-MMR campaigners, autism is a consequence of the toxicity of modern medicine and modern life; self-help groups such as Aspies for Freedom make autism a matter of identity politics, arguing for a positive identity, and for people to ‘self-identify’ as autistic. Indeed, the autistic spectrum seems to be ever-widening, with a 2009 report arguing that it is wrong to see autism as a ‘distinct illness’ and that autistic traits are far more common in children than recognised.
Are we suffering from an epidemic of autism? Or are we living through what has been termed the ‘Age of Autism’, where a developmental condition has taken on a far wider definition and meaning in society? Has increased debate and discussion about autism helped or hindered those suffering from the condition and their families? And what does our fascination with autism say about us as a society?
|Professor Richard E Ashcroft|
professor of bioethics, Queen Mary University of London
|Dr Michael Fitzpatrick|
writer on medicine and politics; author, The Tyranny of Health
|Dr Elisabeth Hill|
senior lecturer, Goldsmiths College, University of London; co-editor, Autism: mind and brain
|Professor Stuart Murray|
professor, contemporary literatures and film, University of Leeds; author, Representing Autism: culture, narrative, fascination
communications officer, Progress Educational Trust; webmaster, BioNews
Dr Shirley Dent
communications specialist (currently working with the British Veterinary Association media team); editor, tlfw.co.uk; author, Radical Blake
It may reduce the stigma but it trivialises the learning difficulties and isolation sufferers endure.Michael Fitzpatrick, The Times, 12 October 2009
In recent years, we have come to understand more about the genetics of ASD. Although we are at a very early stage of understanding the biology of ASD, genetic research promises much.Richard Ashcroft, BioNews, 22 September 2009
The early narrow definition of autism emerged out of the psychiatry of the pre-war years and became widely accepted in the post-war decades. While research revealed a substantial genetic contribution to autism, in the late twentieth century there was an upsurge in the diagnosis of autism, particularly among 'higher functioning' individuals, and the concept of the 'autistic spectrum' became established.Michael Fitzpatrick, BioNews, 22 September 2009
Lumping Mozart and Einstein in with those who have severe socialisation problems is no help to sufferers or science.Sandy Starr, spiked, 15 September 2009
British computer hacker Gary McKinnon's fight against extradition to the US has drawn support from a large and diverse range of influential people. How did his case become such a cause celebre?Caroline McClatchey, BBC News, 4 August 2009
Hundreds of thousands of children with autism have not been diagnosed, Cambridge University scientists have found.Rebecca Smith, Telegraph, 30 May 2009
Scientists are closing in on the genes linked to autism. So why is Ari Ne'eman so worried?Claudia Kalb, Newsweek, 17 May 2009
Discussion of prenatal testing hasn't included the people it plans to eliminate: society disables us more than autism ever could.Anya Ustaszewski, Guardian Comment is Free, 15 January 2009
The author of the new book Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion asks why autism has sidelined even Joe the Plumber in the US election.Michael Fitzpatrick, spiked, 30 October 2008
Michael Fitzpatrick, Routledge, 20 October 2008
From concerns of an 'autism epidemic' to the MMR vaccine crisis, autism is a source of peculiar fascination in the contemporary media. Discussion of the condition has been largely framed within medicine, psychiatry and education but there has been no exploration of its power within representative narrative forms.
Stuart Murray, Liverpool University Press, 30 May 2008
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that allows a unique window on the relationship between mind and brain. The study of autism provides insight into the brain basis of the complex social interactions typical of human beings, since a profound impairment in social interactions is the hallmark of autistic disorders.
Uta Frith & Elisabeth Hill (eds.), Oxford University Press, 15 January 2004