The mismeasure of autism: a challenge to orthodox autism theory

Nicholas Paul Chown


Thirty years ago Stephen Jay Gould wrote under the banner of The Mismeasure of Man about the use of science to justify a subordinate role for women, poor people, and black people based on an unfounded thesis that itwas natural. Twenty years ago, in her article entitled The Mismeasure of Woman, the feminist writer Carol Tavris wrote of the domination of women by men. In the light of these works concerning the apparent mismeasure of certain people, I consider the position of autistic people in the context of their relationship with the predominant (typically developing) neurotype and, more specifically, the treatment of autism as adisorder. I review current orthodox autism theory – executive functioning, the extreme male brain theory, theory of mind, and weak central coherence – as well as various newer, and arguably neglected, theories including the enactive mindhypothesis, interaction theory, and the narrative practice hypothesis. I conclude that autism has been mismeasured by a predominant neurotype medical communityand propose a synthesis of autism theory that, in my view, provides a better explanation of autism than any synthesis of orthodox theory as well as providing support for my view that autism is natural human difference.


Autism; Enactive mind hypothesis; Executive functioning; Extreme male brain theory; Interaction theory; Narrative practice hypothesis; Neurodiversity; Theory of mind; Weak central coherence


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