Rebecca Hartong on Schaler
----- Original Message -----
From: "Rebecca Hartong"
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2005 5:20 PM
Subject: Comment for Szasz Blog
In regard to the 7/22/05 post "Questioning Mental Illness" --
I listened to the Lehrer show interview and found it interesting. I'm
curious how Dr. Schaler explains something like autism. Brain disease?
(Are there diagnostic laboratory tests that can be performed to detect
autism?) Or is it a freely chosen behavior?
Dear Ms. Hartong:
Look in a standard textbook of pathology and see if autism is listed there.
If it is not listed, ask a pathologist why it is not included. If it is
included, then autism refers to a disease. There are specific physical
signs that meet the nosological criteria for disease classification. I
would be surprised if these are well defined and predict the label of
All behavior is freely chosen, there is no such thing as involuntary
behavior. Behavior means mode of conduct; deportment. A seizure, for
example, is not considered behavior. It is a neurological reflex. Autism
is generally regarded as a developmental disorder, not a mental illness or a
disease. Children labeled autistic have difficulties learning certain
cognitive tasks; they generally do not display the kind of psychological,
emotional, and social competence necessary for self-sufficience, autonomy.
Do they do things they want to do? Of course. Does their behavior seem
irrational, self destructive, etc. at times? Certainly. Can behavior be a
disease? Never. Diseases are only of the body. This said, I am no
specialist on what is labeled autism.
Thanks for writing.
Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.
Department of Justice, Law and Society
School of Public Affairs
4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20016-8043 USA
Office telephone 202.885.3667, cell phone 240.460.0987
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Home page: www.schaler.net