By land of Oz, I mean Australia.. and by if I mean being autistic is a crime only for those who thought they had a valid driver’s license, but who are diagnosed autistic and are still out there driving without the necessary fitness assessment that we’ve now just been told by the ABC that you need.
The criminality of your driving varies by state. But the decision to require the fitness assessment is a national one.
If you’re not an Australian then the issue is perhaps academic. Except it’s a warning of what to expect going forward. They tried this out in the UK too.
The background to all the above is discussed in my previous Medium article below (not paywalled — neither is this one):
Autism is now a crime in Australia!
If you drive a car in Australia and you are autistic, or have identified yourself as “on the spectrum”…
I had hoped that as autism advocates in Australia heard about the news and pointed out to the relevant authorities the obvious issues and discrimination, that the Australian government would come to its senses. Because they were consulted in the first place right?
They’ve doubled down.
The ABC has released this update on the matter (ABC is the Australian government public broadcaster):
Would you still pursue an autism diagnosis if it meant you might lose your driver's licence?
Psychologists say some Australians are cancelling their autism assessment appointments after learning they could be…
It’s a pretty good overview of the issues in some ways.
You’ll have to dig deeper to understand the mistake I believe the Australian government has made.
So here it is.
Which version of Autism did they think they were talking about and deciding on?
Autism as defined by the psychs before 2013 or the one after 2013?
Why is 2013 important and which psychs?
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders 5: A quick glance
Dr. Dilip Jeste, the then President of the American Psychiatric Association, released the Fifth Edition of the…
That’s a link to some info on the DSM — the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. And the psychs in question are the experts over in the USA that maintain this document.
Please note the date of this edition of the DSM.
DSM 5 came out in 2013.
You see the DSM before 2013 (DSM 4) made a distinction between Asperger's and Kanner’s (named after the two specialists who reported the behaviors).
After 2013 the decided to lump it all together into:
Which means your typical Aspie (little professor) who I would argue is very different from your typical Kanners (non verbal, probably low IQ?), is now in the same tent and share a label.
Because their shared problem is apparently communication?
Yep — I don’t agree with the spectrum approach in case that wasn’t obvious. I would call my daughter profoundly autistic rather than Level 3 ASD for that reason. She ain’t going to be driving a car at all. Is that ASD or intellectual disability? Hard to say.
But it gets worse (harder to grasp?).
In the original ABC article on the matter, it looks like the government is citing a scientific study to justify this decision. It’s not clear why the ABC include the reference to the research unless it was what the government told it they were using?
Now you probably can’t access that research unless you’ve got a login through a university library or the like.
Thankfully I know someone who does.
And when you read that study you’ll have to laugh at the lack of fact checking. In short:
We can officially hold 7 American autistic male 15 year olds responsible for the decision that all autistics in oz are by default assumed to be in need of a fitness assessment.
Um. Sample size issues? Whilst the original reference by the ABC suggests a higher number (44 in total: 22 and 22 normal), when you read the actual research it turns out they actually only had 7 ASD — they lumped in the ADHD and the ASD ADHD to get to 22.
And when was this research conducted? Wait for it..
So which version of Autism were they using again?
In fairness to the authors of that study, it was done as exploration of the subject to see if more research was required, it wasn’t done to guide government policy (for the whole of a bloody country!).
I really hope the ABC just threw that reference in as context and that it wasn’t the actual basis of our government’s policy on autistic drivers.
So where to from here?
I guess it’s time to move forward with embarrassing the government publicly since they seem pretty committed to the idea that ALL those on the autistic spectrum are now a risk to their fellow drivers in Oz!
I think it’s also a good time to talk about the problem of lumping together Asperger's and Kanner’s too.