A Touch of Alyricism

Dedicated to the equally fascinating topics of autistic advocacy and the 'sisterly sophistries' of radical gender feminism. Other topics may occasionally crop up. Contactable at alyric@gmail.com


Polemicist since Grade 8

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Defaming Autistics in the Name of Autistic Advocacy

Please note that Michelle Dawson disagrees with this post. Her comment is as follows:

"I've posted my opposition to what Alyric has done here and here."

I disagree and for only one reason. I'm quite sure that when Michelle started working with Mottron and writing advocacy on behalf of innumerable folks everywhere, she had no idea where it would all end up and her own prominence in it. But, she is that prominent and there it is. The cost to prominence is to be a front runner. Therefore the argument that this is going to make her life difficult has less legitimacy than it might. Actually, I tend to think that it makes life more difficult in the long run to avoid this kind of confrontation and this confrontation has been brewing for a very long time, to the point that autism advocacy here in Canada has been poisoned by it. Now that's my opinion and goody for me, what a nice safe opinion it is too. Am I going to be affected by this action? Nope and because of that dear reader, you must take what Michelle thinks into account first before you do anything at all.

The main drag:

I wrote this letter (not a very good one) because I've had enough of the advocacy of some so intent on their narrow pursuits that they think that those who contribute in ways not supportive of their agenda can be defamed at will. That the autistic involved is important and that this importance is being recognised in the broader autistic research community is not actually central to the matter. What matters is that whole slabs of raw data, namely the perceptions and cognitive characteristics of autistics, cognitive psychological studies all, are being dismissed as 'anti-ABA'. Why? Because I suspect that this is a major point of unavoidable embarassment for behaviourists who can claim in 40 years of research nothing at all that furthers understanding of autistics, yet they have vast intervention mechanisms in place. Naturally, if you're FEATBC and are running a major political campaign to have Medicare fund ABA, anything seen to detract in any way has to be marginalised and if at all possible de-legitimised. Well that has to stop. I know their agenda and know more thAn enough about how governments fund autism services to be in sympathy with their aims, while not necessarily thinking that this is wonderful for all autistics and all skill sets. It emphatically is not and there's no evidence to say so. Just look at Medicare funding for autism services in Australia - and that's PT, OT and speech therapy, no where near ABA. They're talking to the the tune of 20 services per annum, what a joke.

It is however, no joke when autistics are defamed in the name of attempting to sideline enormously important research because it doesn't fit with your plans. How can anyone claim to represent autistics or have their interests at heart while doing so is simply not possible that I can see. As such, I'm calling on anyone who cares to write to FEATBC and any politicians you care to protesting their extraordinary activities, highlighting the importance of this research and emphasisng that reasonable people, including legitimate advocates just do not do such things. I write from the outsider perspective, not being Canadian and I think that it would be helpful if folks outside of Canada could let Canadians and their politicians become aware of the disgust in which these advocacy efforts are viewed. The Medicare for Autism website lists politicians supportive of this initiative and they are the ones who will be most aware of the very negative publicity that FEATBC's activities are likely to generate since politicians always look at the wider picture.

7 November 2008

Dr Sabrina Freeman
Executive Director
c/- Ms Jean Lewis
Board Member
Families for Early Autism Intervention of British Columbia (F.E.A.T.B.C.)
Suite 425 - 1489 Marine Drive,
West Vancouver, BC, V7T 1B8

Dear Dr Freeman and Ms Lewis

I am writing concerning the posting in duplicate of the following to the FEATBC message boards on, Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at here and here.

The text is as follows:
“The National, CBC's flagship nightly newscast hosted by Peter Mansbridge, has proven itself completely worthless to anyone who has any respect for truth.
Here is the piece of garbage they have recently produced:


It is important to note that Michelle Dawson is a self-proclaimed "autistic" who has never had a formal diagnosis. A newspaper report has revealed that she has supposedly "self-diagnosed" herself. Much evidence suggests she is an opportunist who is seeking profit and attention by exploiting public ignorance about autism.
Temple Grandin, a real autistic who is NOT against ABA, says:

"The problem is, you talk to parents with a low-functioning kid, who've got a teenager who still goes to the bathroom in his pants and who's biting himself all the time. This guy destroys the house, and he's not typing, no matter what keyboards you make available. His life is miserable."

Why do people like Michelle Dawson never talk about how miserable these children get without treatment? That's because they want the fame and fortune of Temple Grandin but have nothing to contribute, so they resort to any method imaginable, often at the expense of truly disabled children.


Everybody has an opinion but, the problem is that this posting will place the Medicare for Autism Now campaign in jeopardy if it ever becomes apparent in government circles that a prominent autism advocacy society, which claims to be doing their all for their constituency - autistics, one would assume, blatantly treats one of them to a disgraceful display of overt defamation and disrespect. No one it seems has considered the effect of such antics on an outsider. I am an outsider, though reasonably knowledgeable of the history of the altercation, having followed it from my own country before I arrived in yours. Your government decision makers are also outsiders. What is immediately obvious is that a prominent Canadian researcher in autism, Michelle Dawson, who has done as much as anyone to drag psychological research into autism into the cognitive revolution and who selflessly represented herself and therefore all autistics before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT), is being grossly misrepresented. Those who seek prominence and profit do not elect to work as unpaid volunteer researchers (for
the many years that the CHRT case was in progress) and neither do they seek no damages following the successful outcome of their CHRT case. It is also obvious that Ms Dawson’s diagnosis will have been scrutinised most thoroughly by CHRT. The numerous non sequiturs in this posting would not under any circumstances be put to any other Canadian researcher. Imagine if Dr Eric Fombonne were to be asked to “talk about how miserable these people would be without treatment”. The attitudes expressed represent ignorance combined with base ingratitude. I am not a Canadian but I know where to find the text of Ms Dawson’s CHRT outcome. These lines are particularly memorable:

“the Tribunal finds it disturbing for the future of autistic people that they be seen because of their condition to pose a threat to the safety of others and some form of nuisance in the workplace. An employer has a duty to ensure not only that all employees work in a safe environment but also that ill perceptions about an employee's condition due to poor or inadequate information about his disability lead other employees to have negative and ill-founded perceptions about him.”

I plan to use those lines in the event of discrimination in the workplace against my ASD offspring. But those lines, bearing the imprimatur of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, would not exist without the perseverance and hard work of Michelle Dawson. They can be a resource for anyone, including non-Canadians.

I find it extraordinary that an autism advocacy organisation should allow such contempt for what are admirable achievements by anybody using any yardstick. There are not many Canadian researchers who are listed as principal author for papers published in the prestigious journal Psychological Science, which is where one can find Dawson et al, The Level and Nature of Autistic Intelligence. There are not many who contribute to book chapters for sentinel reference texts. Ms Dawson has done that also with her contribution of Learning in Autism to J. H. Byrne (Series Ed.) & H. Roediger (Vol. Ed.), Learning and memory: A comprehensive reference: Cognitive Psychology. What country wouldn’t be proud of such a daughter? What autistic advocacy organisation wouldn’t be proud of such an autistic daughter?

The sentiments expressed by the poster and disseminated by supporters of FEATBC do nothing for the reputations of those involved and may do a great deal more harm than foreshadowed given the importance the participants put on persuading governments to do more for autistic children. That these proponents have disseminated such blatant falsehoods about a prominent and autistic Canadian does nothing to persuade others that their concerns are justified and worthy of serious debate.

I look to the governance of FEATBC and Medicare for Autism Now to rectify this situation.

Yours sincerely


Blogger Michelle Dawson said...

I've posted my opposition to what Alyric has done here and here.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

Instead of defaming each other (which unfortunately Michelle Dawson is involved in doing with many others) - I suggest the approach I proposed in an email when someone felt I was defaming that person:

"I think it is very important that everyone who wishes to help persons with autism try to work together and help each other, even if we have some differences in our opinions."

"...let us try to go forward in cooperation to help persons with autism."

"...I am trying to listen to your concerns and improve my own actions. I believe that being human means to always have room to improve...."

Arthur Golden

12:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You have alleged that defamatory statements have been made. Can you identify the specific statements you consider to be defamatory and explain why you characterize them in that fashion?

Also are you aware that some of the people you are criticizing have done much to help autistic Canadian children receive evidence based interventions eg. ABA?

12:40 PM  
Blogger Michelle Dawson said...

I also disagree with what Alyric has added on to her original post, because much of it is inaccurate.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Seems like I'm having a fine old time disagreeing with everyone. Well, that wouldn't be for the first time.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Alyric said...


I have read your comments in many places. I don't always agree with them but I usually respect them. Here I respectfully disagree. I can recall not one single instance of Michelle Dawson defaming anyone at any time. I can be wrong about that, but I do not think so, mostly because it would be completely out of step with her own views of defamation.

Harold, somewhat ironic you not knowing what defamation is having had to er amend two of your own recent blog posts to get rid of the defamation that you yourself put there. Heavens, one would think you were a slow learner.

3:20 PM  
Blogger jypsy said...

It seems that what most of us see as defamation Mr. Doherty sees as mistaken, wrong, inaccurate, improper, indecent and immoral, and he's quite ok with publishing that.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

When I have the time, I will try to send you a private email with what I mean.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

When I couldn't post to the FEAT of BC discussion board to reply to message from Tony Tamer (I tried to sign up but I was ignored), then Harold Doherty wrote a similar message. So I quoted Tony Tamer's message on Harold Doherty's blog including "Why do people like Michelle Dawson never talk about how miserable these children get without treatment?" I then responded that (and Harold Doherty who always seems to have moderation "on" allowed my comment) with the factually accurate information:

"My son received ABA-type services for 5 years from ages 8-1/2 to 13-1/2, with the first 1-1/2 years at the May Institute for Autistic Children in Chatham, Massachusetts. But at age 13-1/2, I would have still stated that "His life is miserable." "

By the way, as soon as my son stopped having ABA-type services and for the 22 years since then, I would state that "His life is happy."

I would have loved to share this information with Michelle Dawson, the point being that children and adults can have a happy life without ABA, so there is no reason for "people like Michelle Dawson" to talk about how miserable life would be without ABA since there is factually accurate information, such as the case of my own now 36 year-old son, that show otherwise. Indeed, it is clear that ABA-type services made my son miserable. Unfortunately, Michelle Dawson will not let me share any information with her QuickTopic discussion board, as I will explain in a private email to you.

Arthur Golden

5:41 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

For the record, I wish to note that over the past three days I sent Alyric a total of 9 emails, the first 6 of which provided the information I planned on initially sending, and the next 3 responding to the 5 emails from Alyric which responded to each of the first 5 of my emails. After Alyric responds to my 6th email, I hope to post another message here on the original blog entry on "Defaming Autistics in the Name of Autistic Advocacy."

My last 3 emails primarily concern a different issue but are related in that it is the substantive subject matter on which I state that Michelle Dawson defamed Professor Anne Donnellan and me, noting here that Alyric explained why she disagrees with me about Professor Anne Donnellan in her lastest email to me and I am awaiting her response about me (the subject of my 6th email). I greatly appreciate that Alyric is willing in her private emails to discuss this specific subject matter with me and I would be very pleased to see public discussions about it.

Arthur Golden

12:38 AM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

I have decided to note that Michelle Dawson has just posted two messages about me on her QuickTopic discussion board and has deleted my effort to respond to her there, so I have sent her a private email, ending with:

I look forward to resolving our disagreement so we can try to work together to assist persons with autism.

Arthur Golden

3:30 AM  
Blogger Alyric said...

Hmm, just to keep the public record straight. I have basically repeated what is already on the TMOB quick topic discussion board re Donnellan.

The notable point about defamation is that it must be factually wrong. If it isn't then it isn't defamation. And disagreement in academic domains is very removed from defamation. With those two points I fail to see that either Donnellan or Biklen have been defamed at all in any of that discussion - well over a year ago I might add.

I suppose this discussion isn't completely pointless since it highlights what amazingly light standards are sometimes permissible in autism academia, but it sure gets close.

6:50 AM  
Blogger jypsy said...

Mr. Golden,

Can you define "recognized standards of science and ethics" for us?

7:34 AM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...


"Recognized standards of science and ethics" is an expression often used by Michelle Dawson. When in her QuickTopic discussion board message #7338 of February 4, 2008 (please note that she deleted messages #7332 to 7343 that day) she defamed me by stating that I "objected to recognized standards of science and ethics" (along with several other negative statements about me), I tried to get her to respond by private email to explain what she meant, which she ignored.

Since you raised the subject, could you please do me the favor of defining "recognized standards of science and ethics?" It might be that there is some misunderstanding on my part that you could enlighten me about so I could improve my behavior.

Then, as I ended my last comment to this blog, and wrote in an email to Michelle Dawson, I look forward to resolving our disagreement so we can try to work together to assist persons with autism.

Arthur Golden

9:34 AM  
Blogger jypsy said...

Mr. Golden,

As you have noted, *you* have discussed this ("Recognized standards of science and ethics"), *I* haven't. So, I'm asking again, will you please define "Recognized standards of science and ethics"?

(I have *every* message ever posted on every message board Michelle has ever owned including every piece of spam and anything else ever deleted. As well, I have a very efficient way of searching them.)

9:40 AM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...


Actually, I understand it was Michelle Dawson who originally raised this point about Douglas Biklen, Anne Donnellan, me and many others (however, you raised the subject of "recognized standards of science and ethics?" on this blog)- but Michelle Dawson refuses to communicate with me even though she states today in her QuickTopic discussion board message #8563:

"I routinely make the kinds of criticisms (about standards of science and ethics) I made re Anne Donnellan's work about the work of others in the area of autism research, including researchers I work with. I also welcome this kind of criticism of my own work..." (although maybe she did not mean to include a criticism of her criticism?).

So could you please do me the favor to ask Michelle Dawson to define "recognized standards of science and ethics?" Then, as I just wrote it might be that there is some misunderstanding on my part that [she] could enlighten me about so I could improve my behavior.

Then, as I ended my last comment to this blog, and wrote in an email to Michelle Dawson, I look forward to resolving our disagreement so we can try to work together to assist persons with autism.

Arthur Golden

9:58 AM  
Blogger jypsy said...

No, sorry. If you cannot answer a simple question, I cannot due you a favour. I'm afraid this is going nowhere. You claim defamation but the best I can find is a possible misunderstanding and you won't even clear that question up for me. I'm done here. I did years of favours for you & Ben. I owe you nothing.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...


Defining recognized standards of science and ethics might be a simple question to you, but the answer seems quite complicated to me, especially with the confusion I believe has been generated with the way Michelle Dawson frequently uses the term without explaining how anyone fails to use recognized standards of science and ethics, despite my specific requests to her to do so less than 10 months ago. However, since you are so persistently demanding of me in this public forum (I would have preferred you made such comments in a private email, as I have explained to you before), I will try to write a defintion to post to this public forum. But now I need to help my son Ben get ready for bed (and numerous other pressing matters tonight when it is already close to 9 pm here) so please try to be patient - I may not post my definition for about three days. Please keep in mind that I do not write on the internet on the Jewish Sabbath and my wife and I work together to prepare for the Jewish Sabbath, including hosting guests for meals in our home.

Oh, and thank you for posting Ben's first public essay to the internet 11 years ago. Could you please remind me of the other "years of favours for you & Ben" you did?

Arthur Golden

10:45 AM  
Blogger jypsy said...

"persistently demanding"?!

I asked. I asked again with "please". I then stated I was done with the conversation. I didn't get an answer, I'm no longer asking, I don't want one, please don't bother giving me one.

"Hosting", not "posting". 11 years ago for how many years? Did I say there were "others"?

I don't need an answer, I know.

And for the record, you owe me nothing. No answers to any questions I may have ever asked, nothing. Nothing. Please don't reply, there is no need.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

Dear Ms. Norman-Bain,

I believe it is more appropriate to reply to you by email.

Since it is so late here and I am quite busy up to the Jewish Sabbath and then unavailable during the Jewish Sabbath, it might be about 3 days before I send you an email.

Arthur Golden

12:29 PM  
Blogger jypsy said...

I repeat - Do not reply.

It is inappropriate to reply. It is even more inappropriate to reply to me in a personal email. These are my publicly stated wishes.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

Ms. Norman-Bain,

I disagree.

I will honor your request to not send a private email.

I do believe that I am entitled to respond to some of your statements with which I disagree and I might do so here or on my own public website (autismfc) in the next few days.

Arthur Golden

4:53 PM  
Blogger Arthur Golden said...

try to be positive

1. After careful consideration during the Jewish Sabbath, I have decided in all my public statements to try to be positive and I urge everyone to try to be positive. Therefore, I hereby retract all public statements that are negative, including on this blog. I will try to resolve all disagreements I have with others but only through private discussions, including through private emails. With that said, I do have some statements to add, with which I am keeping in mind my decision to try to be positive.

2. For about four and a half decades I have been actually assisting persons with all types of disabilities, and not just with autism. Many of the persons I am currently assisting have a diagnosis of mental illness but based on my own extensive experience I believe that some might now receive a diagnosis of autism under the much broader new definition of diagnosis since the early 1990s, which according to a 2005 scientific article co-authored by Michelle Dawson has resulted in a several-fold increase in the number of persons diagnosed with autism.

3. My own son Ben, age 36 completely nonverbal and considered "low functioning," was diagnosed with autism under the much narrower old definition in January 1977 before his fifth birthday by Dr. Peter B. Rosenberger, a pediatric neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, to whom I was referred by Barbara Cutler, the mother of Rob Cutler of Arlington, Massachusetts. According to information I have read from websites that Michelle Dawson posted, Michelle Dawson at about age 30 in the early 1990s was first diagnosed with autism under what I understand to be the much broader new definition by an unnamed psychologist whose credentials as an autism expert are not disclosed.

4. "Recognized standards of science and ethics" is a term that has been frequently used for several years by one person, Michelle Dawson of Montreal Canada, and I cannot find that it is in common usage nor that it has a commonly accepted definition. I will clearly state that I recognize the importance of ethics and that I recognize the importance of science, especially for persons with autism, who are human beings who deserve to be protected by ethics and science. Although I am not a scientist, I realize that doing science is hard work. I am committed to continuing A WONDERFUL LIFE for my son Ben and others that I assist, realizing doing so is very hard work.

5. I agree with the statement I just read Friday at page 29 as the last paragraph to chapter 2 in a 2004 book, chief editor the late John W. Jacobson:

"While the process of empirical validation remains the critical means by which efficacious approaches are adopted and fallacious ones abandoned, a final element in the process deserves special emphasis. The quantitative methods of science are inadequate and the overreaching generalizations of ideologically driven movements are inappropriate, to make the value-based decisions in individual cases. No idea, model, method, or movement should be allowed to ordain what is right or wrong for an individual. Data can inform, advocacy can exhort, but at the end of the day, decisions regarding the issues unique to an individual belong as close as possible to that individual. The challenge in the field of developmental disabilities is to continue to provide sound options, not those based on supposition, to those making such life-altering decisions for the people they love."

I would add that I believe in person-centered planning and that any person, even with most severe difficulty in communcation and no matter how "low-functioning" that person is considered, should be the lead person in making such "life-altering decisions" as has been the actual situation for my own son Ben and I pray will continue to be so.

6. Although I am trying to be positive and I urge everyone to try to be positive, I realize that the above statements, mostly of factually accurate information, may result in some disagreement, possibly due to a misunderstanding because I did not express myself adequately. So, as I wrote in point 1, I will try to resolve all disagreements I have with others but only through private discussions, including through private emails. If anyone thinks there is a disagreement with me (which might only be a misunderstanding) I can be contacted by email sent to golden@shani.net

Arthur Golden

6:08 PM  
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