Ask Doug: Autism, ADHD, and Fad Diagnoses

In this Ask Doug segment, Pastor Wilson answers the question:

“Several family members have come to believe that our youngest son (age 5) has Autism. This is mainly because he was a late talker, though he talks almost incessantly now, and seems well-adjusted socially. Thomas Sowell and others have argued that autism is becoming something of a fad diagnosis, and that the autism “spectrum” allows many children to be diagnosed who probably shouldn’t. It kind of reminds me of how every bouncy kid gets labeled as ADHD. I have heard that some in the Reformed world believe that autism is a spiritual issue to be dealt with by counseling, not medical treatment. For these and other reasons, I am reluctant to have him tested. So here’s my two-fold question: As Christians, how should we think about autism? And, do you have any thoughts on nouthetic counseling?”



  1. Anon says:

    Could you perhaps expand on this and discuss depression, especially manic or bipolar depression in teenagers and young adults?

  2. I belong to a reformed church (PCA) and have two kids with Asperger’s. My brother is autistic. So I can weigh in on your concerns.

    It is my experience that current medical treatment for autism is not particularly helpful. Doctors prescribe drugs, which may help the autistic person deal with side issues such as ADD, depression, and anxiety, or they may cause more trouble. In particular drugs prescribed for my son tended to make him aggressive, so they had to prescribe more drugs to control aggression, and pretty soon he was considerably overweight and still anxious.

    You mentioned counseling. Counseling can help an individual deal with mild autism or Asperger’s, which is at root a social disconnect. The individual cannot stand in someone else’s shoes, possibly because of missing “mirror cells” in the brain. Social coaching is in order.

    But with the autism epidemic currently under way (1 in 100 children), there are many children with severe autism. They are being helped by practical protocols developed by DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) doctors, nearly all of whom are physicians who found they had an autistic child. These are not “medical” interventions, but involve diet and food supplements, plus sometimes chelation to get rid of heavy metals that have accumulated in the system.

    Nobody knows for sure what causes autism, but it’s very real, and it really can be improved by these practical protocols. In fact, my daughter with Asperger’s, after a year on an unconventional Eastern-style treatment called NAET, can now understand what others are thinking. Someone just a couple of days ago called her “affable.” I believe she is no longer autistic. She is 23.

    As for your 5-year-old who may be somewhat autistic, I think you are wise to wait and see. Those medications are nothing but trouble, as far as I am concerned. If his behavior gets worse, you should look up a DAN! doctor.

  3. elisabeth says:

    Aspirin does not the same effects as the heavy medication given to children or adults.
    In time and history Pastor, God has put me in a position to look at this head on. A mother of three children and a divorce over these very issues run amok, only brings disaster and heartache. I must say I am more purist in my view for reasons of actually seeing the effects that meds has on my ex-husband.SHHHHHHHH!!! i cant talk about this the medical field is not going to make money …but I see this as a trojan horse for many a doctor to prescribe and misdiagnose…because the xpert advise is more believable! Medication has ruined evrything….My mouth has been shut down because i hold to the view that they should be verty slow to prescribe any sort of meds, just by virtue that it does more harm than good. I walk in to a community counselling cener..that is liberall all around and i see zombies walking shuffling around talking with slur speech and drool…! this grates on me and i dont know what to do. My son JACOB SUPPOSEDLY HAS ASPERGERS…A MILD FORM…BUT AS HIS MOTHER AFTER TIME WITH HIM…MEANING DAY IN AND DAY OUT he doesnt have it……because he didnt look you in the EYE! this is one of the symptoms and he being hyper focused another symptom..and anti-social…etc…at one point i listenedto the public schoold view and this so called expert advice with great trepidation knowing deep inside there wasnt anything wrong..i was selling out, and when i confronted nicely to my ex-husband my views he just discarded me views on anything I said. JACOB HAPPENS TO BE A VERT WILLFULL, stubborn, lazy young man today..he hasa temper…he is not disciplined..and this is the problem i see. He was a more willful child than Ben…..No to medications and yes to proper discipline and counsel…..but I cannot get through at all. I need a miracle

  4. James says:

    A questions for Rev. Wilson: Do you actually KNOW anyone who is seeking attention for themselves through their so-called “fad diagnosis?” Or have you just heard about it? Perhaps the fad (and the sin perhaps?) is the labeling and stereotyping people who, like my son, have high-functioning autism/aspergers, as people who want attention.

    My son doesn’t look disabled – he doesn’t flap his hands and do mental math like Rain Man – but it takes 2 minutes interacting with him to realize something is off. He talks too loud, interrupts, can’t focus his thoughts, obsesses on subjects, etc. If this is somehow related to or representative of his “sins,” well then here is an interesting point: at age 4 he could not talk at all and was out of control behaviorally, but through intensive therapy (based on the work of the atheist BF Skinner, not nouthetics, I might add) he now can speak freely and tries hard to control his behavior. So was he a hardened sinner at 4, but now he’s getting right with the Lord via the teachings of Skinner? But enough metaphysics.

    The idea he, or other aspergers kids, WANT attention is foolish and hurtful. They want just the opposite — to be normal, to blend in with their classmate, even disappear. And they do disappear; they kill themselves at a significantly higher rate than the normal population. The idea the parents of these kids WANT attention is insulting. My wife was devastated by the diagnosis and wouldn’t let me tell anyone beyond close family for more than a year. And I can tell you this is fairly typical. You should learn of what you speak before you speak.

  5. Chrissy Theall says:

    Academic difficulties are also frequent. The symptoms are especially difficult to define because it is hard to draw a line at where normal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity end and clinically significant levels requiring intervention begin. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed in two different settings for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

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