Autism, Boys and St Thomas

An error in definition is always fatal’ – Fr Doolan, ‘Philosophy for the Layman’

Please note: the following article examines the cultural and social attitudes that impact on our understanding of what has come to be referred to as ‘autism’.  It questions whether ‘autism’ really captures disordered behaviour, whether it labels those who have a desire for accuracy and order as disordered, and whether it is being used to pathologise innate male behaviour. It also questions the validity and reliability of this term. It does not dismiss the reality that there are children who are diagnosed with ‘autism’ who display obvious signs of physiological and psychological issues nor those it deny the distress this causes the child and the family, but it does question whether the diagnosis of ‘autism’ is of any use in helping to treat individuals.

Our society is disordered.  Those who are given responsibility to fix this disorder are fuelling this disorder further. Those who are designated as mental health experts are often more out of touch with reality than the individuals they are attempting to help.  Their idea of what is right and what is ordered behaviour is often completely twisted.  These ideas are often imposed on their clients and patients.  Due to professionals’ lack of, or false, understanding of what man is, how he is designed and what he is designed for, they often label ordered, natural and healthy behaviour as disordered and label disordered, unnatural and unhealthy behaviour as ordered.  An obvious example of this is the removal of homosexual behaviour as a disorder by psychiatrists and the affirmation of homosexuality as a positive behaviour by the Psychological Society of Ireland.  However, a more subtle, a cleverer and a more pervasive example of this labelling of ordered behaviour as disordered and vice versa is the whole issue of autism in boys. Let me explain why this is so.

The Spiral Into Madness

Over the last sixty years in Western societies, there has been a rapid spiralling into disorder and chaos.  This has eventually contributed to ‘transgenderism’ and a complete blurring of the distinctions between boys and girls and men and women.  Sixty years ago, it was seen as common sense and obvious that boys and girls were different both physiologically and mentally. Boys and girls and men and women had different attributes and these innate attributes meant that they were naturally suited to different roles.  In modern times, Western society has seen men and women attempt to break free from their innate dispositions, leading to mass confusion, societal disorder and decreased psychological freedom as people are wrapped and/or wrap themselves in webs of deceit and unrealities.  The disciplines of psychiatry, psychology and social work became some of the main drivers in encouraging this ‘breaking free’.  Throughout the last sixty years, these disciplines gradually abandoned accurate understandings of the distinctions between men and women in favour of their own distorted and false ideas.  Because they distorted and de-emphasised the difference between the sexes, their model of what constituted a normal individual and ordered behaviour failed to take into account innate psychological differences between the sexes which were crucial to understanding male and female behaviour.  This has had a disastrous effect on individuals and social care services. 

First things first

Though it seems crazy to have to say, there are some who do not seem to realise the following fact: boys and girls are inherently different – they think differently, they speak differently, and they behave differently.  There is something wrong when a boy is thinking, speaking and behaving like a girl and when a girl is thinking, speaking and behaving like a boy.  However, due to the distortion of these distinctions between the sexes, the new model for ordered or normal behaviour is a ‘gender fluid’ creation that is neither too boyish nor too girlish.  When the new norm is ‘gender fluid’, any behaviours that are too masculine or too feminine are seen as abnormal and in need of correction or realignment. The consequences of this are dreadful. As Dr Willibald Demal, ‘Pastoral Psychology in Practice’, points out, ‘A denial of the sex character, accompanied by a tendency to assimilate to the particularity of the other sex, is unnatural and consequently disastrous.’ (This blurring of distinctions has had a disastrous effect on girls and women as well but as I have spoken specifically about the solutions to women’s psychological issues elsewhere, I will focus on boys and men in this blog). This is particularly true of autism.

Healthy Male Behaviour as Autistic

First, let us look at the supposed signs for autism, remembering that the standard clinical measurement for this diagnosis does not acknowledge innate psychological differences between the sexes. Rather, psychologists, psychiatrists and other ‘progressive’ professionals believe that the norm is a type of abstract ‘gender-fluid’ figure that is unconnected from what common sense and reality tell us. (See footnote). Today, statistics shows us that boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism. The following article outlines why this is the case.  The following seven ‘signs of autism’ are taken from the NHS website under the heading, ‘Signs of autism in older children’.  These are contrasted with traditional understandings of innate sex differences:

Signs of Autism:

  • Sign: ‘Not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • The Innate Difference: ‘[Man] is not so easily swayed by sentiments, emotions, moods, and prejudices, and thus does not so easily become a victim to the stirrings of sympathy and antipathy as a woman.’ (Dr Willibald Demal, ‘Pastoral Psychology in Practice’)

Men are not moved as much by emotions as women.  They have a certain detachment from them, compared to women.  To eyes that do not understand masculine behaviour and who believe men should be more like women or more ‘gender neutral’, this behaviour can come across as lacking in understanding or empathy.  Thus, this ‘lacking empathy’ sign is more likely to be seen in boys than girls.

  • Sign: ‘Finding it hard to say how they feel’
  • The Innate Difference: ‘If we try to delineate these specifically feminine and masculine features, we find in women a unity of personality by the fact that heart, intellect, and temperament are much more interwoven, whereas in man there is a specific capacity to emancipate himself with his intellect from the affective sphere.’ (Dietrich von Hildebrand, ‘Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy’)

Similar to point one, boys and men do not care as much about feelings as girls and women.  In comparison to girls, boys do not spend as much time analysing or deciphering subjective feelings as girls do.  This is partly explained by the fact that the feelings girls experience are generally more intense than boys so it is easier for them to identify and express these feelings.  Common experience and recent psychological research also highlights how women show more emotionality or neuroticism than men (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149680/). This difference in emotional expression is also because the thinking of boys is not as wrapped up in feelings as girl’s as von Hildebrand states above. This ‘finding it hard to say how you feel’ sign is more likely to be seen in boys than girls.

  • Sign: ‘Liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes’
  • The Innate Difference: ‘The specific, organic meld of heart and mind, of the affective and intellective centres in woman, the unity of her entire nature, the delicacy and receptivity of her whole being, the precedence of Being as a personality over objective accomplishments – versus man’s specific ability to emancipate the mind from all his vitality, the ability for pure objectivity which predestines him for official positions, his specific suitability for efficacy and the accomplishments of objective works, his clarity, his strength, and greatness, these differences mark the two sexes in their own peculiar nature.’ (Dietrich von Hildebrand, ‘Man and Woman: Love and the Meaning of Intimacy’)

Men are designed to be active workers and leaders in the home and/or in society.  Women are designed to be the heart of the home.  They are designed to respond to and embrace the variability that a busy family life with children running under your feet and acting spontaneously brings. They are designed to be more flexible than men as they operate in a different environment than men.  Men are meant to establish and guard order and routine both within and outside the home. This makes it easier for women to operate freely and flexibly in these environments. It is natural for boys to like strict routine more and to be upset when this changes. It is natural for girls to like flexibility more and be upset when they can not have this. This ‘liking strict routine’ sign is another one that is more likely to be seen in boys than girls.

  • Sign: ‘Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities’
  • The Innate Difference: ‘What makes it difficult for the average man to be a universalist is that the average man has to be a specialist; he has not only to learn one trade, but to learn it so well as to uphold him in a more or less ruthless society.  This is generally true of males from the first hunter to the last electrical engineer; each has not merely to act, but to excel. Nimrod has not only to be a mighty hunter before the Lord, but also a mighty hunter before the other hunters.  The electrical engineer has to be a very electrical engineer, or he is outstripped by engineers yet more electrical…Shall all mankind be specialist surgeons or peculiar plumbers; shall all humanity be monomaniac?  Tradition has decided that only half of humanity shall be monomaniac. It has decided that in every home there shall be a tradesman and a Jack-of-all-trades. But is has also decided, among other things, that the Jack-of-all-trades shall be a Gill-of-all-trades. It has decided, rightly or wrongly, that this specialism and this universalism shall be divided between the sexes.’ (G K Chesterton, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’)

As Chesterton points out, men are designed to be specialists while women are designed to the ‘Gill-of-all-trades’.  This distinction is buried within our nature.  It is linked to our natural roles as outlined in the third point above. To rebel against it is rebel against the natural law.  Even the car manufacturer, Volkswagen, knows that women want to be ‘Gill-of-all-trades’ and it cleverly sells women the fulfilment of this deep psychological yearning through the purchase of its new car with its ‘more than one thing’ tagline (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLEF2JSM7Dc). This ‘keen interest’ sign is far more likely to be seen in boys than girls.

  • Sign: ‘Getting very upset if you ask them to do something’
  • The Innate Difference: ‘The upright man hates lies, deceit and all pretence.’  (Dr Willibald Demal, ‘Pastoral Psychology in Practice’)

As St Thomas explains in his masterpiece, Summa Theologica, an emotional reaction that is in accordance with the good, i.e. in accordance with the will of God, is a sign of moral perfection.  For example, being upset, or even very upset, at blasphemy towards God or insults towards our Lady, are signs of moral perfection (I have spoken about this here giving examples of saintly reactions to blasphemy).  Today, children are being exposed to toxic falsehoods and messages within our schools, such as inappropriate sexual images and information.  Negative emotional reactions to this are a good sign.  As well as this, boys, more than girls, tend to think more objectively.  They are generally more attached to the objective truth than girls. They care more about the objective truth than what people think. Psychological research also shows that boys are less conscientious and are less likely to follow instruction as, compared to girls, they do not have the same level of innate desire to please and follow authority. Boys are more concerned with defending the truth while women are ‘concerned more with persons than with ideas’. (Dr Willibald Demal, ‘Pastoral Psychology in Practice’). Hence, it is more likely that boys rather than girls will challenge authority, especially one who espouses an inconsistent, hypocritical or false message. There are many lies and much deceit and pretence in our school systems today.  Boys are more likely to challenge the toxicity being spread in our schools than girls and occasionally they may express this by being very upset when asked to do something that they know is not right or which they have concerns about.  Again, it is likely that this ‘sign of autism’ will be seen in boys than girls.  

  • Sign: ‘Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own’
  • The Innate Difference: A woman should not be judged for needing reassurance, just as a man should not be judged for needing to withdraw.’ (John Gray, ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’)

Linked to points one and two above, men tend to be able to process and manage emotional reactions or difficulties on their own more so than women.  Hence, they do not need the comfort of friends as much as women do. This is evident in social media where women tend to have more friends and where they tend to share more information than men.  This desire amongst men for withdrawal from the world is also evident in early Christian monastic life which was inspired by Desert Fathers, such as St Anthony, and in later Christian monastic life by saints such as St Benedict and St Bernard, with these saints preferring to be on their own so they could be alone with God. Even modern popular psychology books recognise this obvious difference between men and women in this regard with John Gray in his famous book, ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’, recognising the need for what he terms, the ‘man cave’. This ‘preferring to be on their own’ sign is more likely to be seen in boys than girls.

  • Sign: ‘Taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like “break a leg”
  • The Innate Difference: As far as I am aware, there is no evidence that this sign is a predominantly male or female characteristic. 

Boys will be boys!

So, out of the seven signs of autism in older children, six of these signs are more likely to be evident in boys.  This is not because boys are more likely to be autistic but because boys are more likely to act like boys! It becomes clear that autism is a tool that is being used, consciously by some and unconsciously by most, to pathologise and discourage healthy and virtuous male behaviour.  Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and often parents, driven by twisted ‘gender’ ideology propaganda, are encouraging boys to be more like tame, compliant girls. Any boys who challenge inconsistent authority, who don’t base their opinions about reality on their own or other’s feelings, who value order and routine highly, who have keen interests in one or two particular fields, and who like time on their own, are in danger of being told that they have a disorder called ‘autism’, i.e. any boy that acts like a boy is in danger of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disease! 

The Implications:

Either the writers that are quoted above are right about the differences between the sexes and we need to base our understanding of ordered and disordered behaviour on this OR we need to admit, despite what our eyes and common sense tell us, that we are more ‘enlightened’ today and that there are no real differences between the sexes.

Traditional or ‘Enlightened’ Views on Masculine Behaviour – A Saintly Example:

What theory we choose from above has particularly important implications for Catholics and Catholic teaching on academic pursuits.  For example, if there are two theories on what constitutes disordered behaviour amongst men, what are we to make of the behaviour of one of the greatest of saints, the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas?

The radicalism of youth is above all a sort of metaphysical hunger, a desire to get to the root of things.’ (Dr Wilibald Demal, ‘Pastoral Psychology in Practice’)

Described as an incredibly sensitive soul, St Thomas was someone who locked himself away from his family and friends in a monastery in his pursuit of truth.  Nothing could hold him back from this pursuit of his beloved Truth.  Fr Martindale, in his book, ‘What are Saints?’ describes the determined, detailed, ordered and zealous investigations into truth that were characteristic of St Thomas, ‘Nowhere in the world – no, not in Aristotle himself – will you find such ruthless distinction between speculation and proof, hypothesis and demonstration, such relentless logic as in St. Thomas, such laborious accumulation of all available fact, such shifting and reshifting and assessment of evidence, such absolute freedom from the scientific or philosophic fashion of the moment – for science has fads and fashions, slagons and cant-phrases too…Aquinas read everything, and forgot nothing; never mixed up the materials with which he was dealing, whether they concerned sheer history, or human psychology…or ascetism, or metaphysics, or revealed dogma and theology.  Nowhere in his enormous work is the least dislocation to be found; nowhere a word used without its meaning having been previously made clear; nowhere a side-slip in an argument.’ St Thomas’ behaviour ticks many of the boxes for the ‘signs of autism’ listed above. He did not allow his own or other people’s feelings influence his reasoning and pursuit of truth, he enjoyed a strict routine as a monk in a monastery, he hated sin and vice and became very upset when his purity was threatened, and he spent most of his life happily alone in his monastic cell while he pursued one particular area, i.e. the study of God, with his whole mind, heart and soul.  We are faced with a slight dilemma and questions arise: Is St Thomas a model for boys who want to commit themselves seriously to study as the Catholic Church has held him up to be? Or, in our ‘enlightened’ times, do we dare to look back at this great saint and call his behaviour a sign of autism and thus disordered? 

The Ordered or Disordered Life of St Thomas?

The answer to this question has serious implications.  It could mean that we hold up saints, such as St Thomas, as models for boys to follow, especially those boys interested in academic pursuits.  Or we could see in his behaviour signs of a modern disorder that we have only recently become enlightened about and, if this is true, it would only be wise and prudent to discourage boys from following his example. To me, the answer is obvious.  The second option, which is the current trend today, has led, and only leads, to disaster. Its fruits are transgenderism and societal disorder. If St Thomas was a young man in our modern society and he showed the same boyish enthusiasm for the truth as he did when he was young, what would happen to him?  Would he be considered disordered and given treatment to realign his mind?  How many sensitive young boys today, like St Thomas, who show a love for truth, honesty and accuracy and a hatred for falsehoods, lies and error are told that they have a disorder? The world rejects, ridicules and pathologises young men like St Thomas when the world actually needs more boys and men like St Thomas.  It needs sensitive men who love truth, purity and order and who challenge and detest falsehoods, vice and disorder.  It needs men to search for the truth and once they have discovered it, to tell this truth to the world no matter what labels the world tries to stick on them.  The Catholic Church has always supported endeavours such as this. ‘The Catholic Church…has always upheld St Thomas in his insistence that the business of science, as well as philosophy, is to ascertain not what people think but what is the objective truth or fact.’ (‘Philosophy for the Layman’ – Fr Doolan).  And thank God, the Catholic Church has done so as it helped St Thomas leave his wonderful gifts with us, such as the Summa Theologica.  St John advised his brethren who followed Christ to ‘Wonder not, brethren, if the world hate you.’ (1 John 3:13).  To those boys and young men who follow the example of St Thomas, it might be said, ‘Wonder not, boys, if the world labels you with a disorder’.

Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits if they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1)

So, I hope that it becomes clear from this analysis that autism is, at the very least, a very questionable diagnosis. It is a diagnosis that appears to pathologise healthy boyish behaviour and one that would paint one of the Church’s greatest minds and saints as disordered. No, let us put away this nonsense and retrospective application of these arrogant and twisted modern theories.  Instead, let us pray to St Thomas that he intercedes for young boys, who like himself, are full of zeal for the truth. Let us pray that, St Thomas, who escaped from the clutches of family members who taught he was mad in his pursuit of his beloved Truth, helps these boys to avoid the snares of psychiatrists, psychologist, social workers, and perhaps their own parents, who tell them that they are disordered and in need of treatment or realignment. Let us not fall for the disordered and dangerous interpretations of behaviour that the world presents to us through false prophets, but let us critically ‘try’ their claims and let us look to saints, such as St Thomas, to guide our understanding of what normal and ordered behaviour should look like.

St Thomas, Angelic Doctor of the Church, pray for us!

Footnote:

There has been one prominent psychiatrist, Sami Timimi, who has pointed out how the diagnosis of autism is not a scientifically valid or clinically useful diagnosis. He explains how this diagnosis pathologises healthy childhood behaviour and he recommends avoiding sending your child to a child psychiatrist for ‘treatment’. However, while he rightly points out many of the errors of psychiatry and psychiatric diagnoses, as an atheist and fan of postmodern Marxist theories, his proposed solutions to psychological distress are flawed and dangerous as they fail to define accurately what human beings are and what the purpose of life is.  In doing so, he fails to direct people to the Divine Physician who will cure them and ultimately reward them with perfect happiness if they follow His will.

Quotes from Bible taken from the Douay Rheims edition, available at: http://drbo.org/