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Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder

Dear Reader,

It has come to my attention that a woman in Coventry (England) named Maxine Aston has made a series of bold claims about a new disorder named “Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder”, she claims on her web site (http://www.maxineaston.co.uk). The disease which she claimed to have documented is one suffered by the wives of men who have Asperger’s Syndrome.

The problem I have with her new condition is that the evidence for the existence of Maxine’s disorder has never been disclosed in either the peer reviewed literature or in serious reports which are on the same intellectual level as something such public enquiry into a serious accident.

It was interesting that a paper (http://www.maxineaston.co.uk/cassandra/Affective%20Deprivation.pdf=) appeared recently on Maxine’s web site which is entitled “Affective Deprivation Disorder: Does it Constitute a Relational Disorder?”

My first thoughts were

1. The paper does not present any evidence such as the results of a clinical trial or a survey to suggest that the condition exists.

2. Each reference which the paper used to support the idea that the condition exists is either Maxine’s website or a book written either by Maxine, Karen Rodman and a woman called Harriet Simons. It appears that Harriet is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Smith College School for Social Work (http://www.smith.edu/ssw/).

I have looked into the background of Harriet Simons, Smith College is a liberal arts college for women (http://www.smith.edu/aboutsmith.php). I have made a search of the Smith College website and I am unable to find many details of the university staff, the site does not appear to have pages showing the publications of the members of staff. I have made the standard ISI web of knowledge search for papers by Ms Simons published while she was at Smith College (I found nothing). I then tried a search for papers by her on the subject of “aspergers”, “autism” and “affective deprivation”, again I found nothing.

The problem with a book is that it is normally nor peer reviewed in any way what so ever, anyone can publish a book on anything. So without any peer reviewed journal papers it is hard to judge how good the case is for the existence of the disease. I like most scientists hold the view that a person making a claim for something existing should have the burden of proof on them. They need to be able to show that their ideas are true.

Now while it is impossible to trace the ideas back to their origin, I think it is possible for me to apply my critical thinking skills as a journal referee to the paper published on Maxine Aston’s web site which was written by Harriet F. Simons and Jason R. Thompson. While I can not claim to be a expert on human sciences, the skills I have used in the chemical world do work on other topics. What I have done with the paper is to subject it to a one hour simulation of the examination which I give a paper for a chemical journal.

My moral compass compels me not to consider if a paper panders to that which I hold dear, but instead I mostly consider the following questions.

1. Is the paper clearly written ?

2. Is the paper original ?

3. Does the contents of the paper support any claims made ?

4. Is there any clear error or mistake in the paper

5. Does a reasonable alternative explanation exist for the conclusions of the paper ?

6. Is the paper referenced in the proper way ?

So lets get to work !

Paragraph two

Et. al. should always be in italics but a more important issue exists in this paragraph, the reference Maxine Aston (2007c) is a web page which is on Maxine’s web site, this is not a good reference for a serious paper. So as a referee I would require that this source be replaced with a better one before the paper can be considered for publication.

Paragraph three

A reference is needed for line 6, this is required to give a source to the idea that AfDD is linked to the low emotional intelligence of at least one party in a relationship. Also the term “emotional intelligence” what does it mean, has it been used before by someone else. It may need a reference.

Paragraph four.

Again web sites as references, also in this paragraph books which appear to be popular science level books have been cited as references. Also the story of priestess Cassandra is a pretty little story which might not be appropriate for a serious journal. It is langauge which might be considered as hate speech or a bit of pop culture. I would tell the authors to express themselves in less flowery language. As a man who likes to consider himself a serious man of science I have an issue with this choice of langauge in the same way as the referees had an issue with Alan McKee’s use of vulgar words. One remark from the journal was “Certain language used in this study is unnecessarily vulgar and unscholarly” (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=409059). At the same time I would require the authors to express themselves in a way which is clear to the non specialist.

Paragraph five

How can emotional intelligence be measured, a reference is needed to explain how. In general this paragraph and the rest of the paper need to be referenced better using high quality sources. I will not waste any further words on this point as I need to move onto other issues.

AfSS diagnostic criteria

Empathy Quotient is mentioned but why is no clear reference made to the work of Simon Baron Cohen. Also how does the list of psychological and physical symptoms differ from normal stress. If you compare these symptoms with those of combat stress as documented in Field manual 6-22.5 (https://rdl.train.army.mil/soldierPortal/atia/adlsc/view/public/9509-1/fm/6-22.5/TOC.HTM) it explains in section four how symptoms of combat stress include

Anxiety, a loss of confidence in both self and the unit, anger and other effects which are listed in the possible symptoms listed in the paper. The paper needs to be rewritten to explain if and how the symptoms differ from normal stress. Also the use of the term PMT is not acceptable, what does it mean it could mean “photo multipler tube” which is a electronic device or it could mean Pacemaker-mediated tachycardia which is a term in cardiac health. Also what is “female related problems”, could it include the problem that the typical small woman might have with gripping jam jar lids that an average sized man does not have ? I strongly doubt if it is the case but the paper must be rewritten to prevent misunderstanding occurring. The paper must be understandable several 100 years into the future where society is likely to be very different to our own.

The emotional sequelae of AfDD

Evidence must be cited to support the example or is it a totally hypothetical case which is being written about.

Evidence is needed to support the idea that a person can be “aspergated”, conventional wisdom dating back to the interwar years is that mental illness is not contagious. One medical book from this era wrote that the staff at mental hospitals tend to have lower rates of insanity and mental illness than the general population.

If the authors of the paper have evidence that a mental health condition can be passed like a pathogen based disease (such as AIDS or the common cold) I strongly suggest that they seek the opportunity to publish in a high profile journal. Such a finding would be of great interest to the general public, medical workers and the academic community. I do however warn the authors that as this idea goes against a paradigm which has stood for many years, so they will need to be able to offer compelling evidence.

The next paragraph uses the term “meltdown”, this is a bad term to use. The term meltdown is a very misunderstood and misused word already. It is normally understood to be part of a nuclear reactor accident where the fuel and associated metal equipment melts into a molten pool. I strongly suggest that this langauge be revised.

If the authors can show me how a person’s emotional or mental state is able to melt zirconium tubing or even uranium dioxide then I will be impressed (I sincerely think it is impossible). Also I doubt if a person can create things like clouds of hydrogen from a metal water interaction through what the paper calls a “meltdown”, I also doubt if one of these meltdowns would either make me want to swallow KI, don a gas mask (plus wrap my body in a plastic bag like suit) or take shelter.

Later on this page it states that “conventional wisdom is that true empathy cannot be taught”, whose conventional wisdom is it and kindly provide a reference.

Next paragraph, it states that Maxine has put forward valuable recommendations for the treatment of persons with AfDD. Who has judged these to be valuable, and what evidence supports this judgement. As at this point I have seen enough of the paper to judge that it should be either rejected or subjected to a rewrite I will not go any further with my examination of the paper.


34 Responses

  1. Hi, I find your assessment of the AfDD paper interesting on several points, but your assessment misses the essential (stated) point of the AfDD paper; which is only to answer whether Maxine Aston’s characterisation about AS-NT partnerships qualifies as a “Relational Disorder”. The authors of the paper answer this question in the affirmative based on criteria from the American Psyciatric Association criteria for relational disorder (RD). In other words they didnt set out to empirically study the relationships in question. They are merely qualifying the category of disorder relevant to Aston’s propositions.

    You seem to attribute a much greater objective to the paper (and then ask for proof of those objectives) than the authors themselves seek to answer.

    • Dr Foreman replies, while the paper was on the question of is the AfDD a relational disorder, I think that the work is premature. Until the AfDD can be shown to exist it is wrong for the authors to try to argue that it is (or is not) from a given class of disorders.

      Maxine Aston has failed several times in the past to take the chance to discuss the science behind the disorder which she has documented, I have also contacted the authors of the paper and they have not taken the chance to discuss it with me privately. I have strong doubts about the AfDD, how do we know if it exists.

      If we accept AfDD based on what Maxine has claimed on her web site and in unrefereed books, then what is there to stop anyone else inventing new disorders.

  2. I am a holistic therapist and have treated partners of people with Asperger’s Syndrome. It seems that those clients of mine agree wholeheartedly with Maxine Aston’s theories. However, I understand from her writing style and choice of language, how you can easily dismiss her work as merely a hypothesis. I would like to see a man of science like yourself join forces with Maxine and produce a clinical trial.

    • I have contacted Maxine regarding her work, and she has chosen not to reply.

      • maybe an intermediary could be used?

      • Well I had not considered it, but I fail to see how an email via a third party would be any different to one from me.

        While some people may not like what I have to say on some topics, I refrain from attacking a person but their point of view is a fair and reasonable target for a counterblast.

        I am interested to see that you have chosen to comment further, I thought you held the view that I was a horrible person.

        In common with what I wrote in reply to Avril, I would like to respectfully suggest that you do not attempt to practise psychiatry over the internet.

  3. until you have been in a relationship with a person who has asperger’s syndrome, you will never understand the full negative impact. the damage is real. i am living with it. but i am too exhausted to try to convince people of it, in fact i am too exhausted to do any of the things i used to do before this relationship. i have lost myself. and i try to tell my partner i am broken. not that it registers.

    • I am somewhat busy right now, but I will get back to you and your point soon.

    • Dear Anna,

      I am sorry to hear that things have not worked out in your relationship.

      However your sad relationship does not make the work of Maxine Aston any more valid, nor does it improve the paper which was written on the subject.

      I strongly doubt if Maxine’s disorder is real, but if we assume for a moment that it is real then a poorly researched and badly written paper on the subject will do you no good. If it is a real condition then what is needed is a high quaility study on the subject.

      I would also like to point out that your comments suggest to me that you are playing an interesting but sad card. An Industrial psychologist once told me how some people pretend that nobody else has a point of view which is valid on a subject. One of the ways which people make such a claim is to state “unless you have experienced XYZ then you can not comment on XYZ”. This is a very poor argument.

      I can think of many things which I have not personally experienced which I am equipped to comment on. For example I hold the view that jumping off the roof of my office I am staying in would be bad for my health, my view of this is not made invalid by the fact that I have never tried throwing myself off the top of a 7 floor building.

      I know that over exposure to sunlight can cause cancer, but my view on the carcinogenic nature of sunlight is not made invalid by the fact that I have not developed a UV related skin cancer.

      In the same way while I may not have lived in your relationship, I am still able to comment on what I view as poor research on what is a contraversal subject. My own view is that Maxine should take great care to do a good job if she wants to work on a contraversal topic, she should be honest and take the care required to do the best possible job.

      So far as a journal referee I can say that she has failed to pass the reasonable test that I apply to journal papers.

  4. I just stumbled across this rather strange little article, and it strikes me as interesting that someone with a website about chemistry should have felt the need or desire even to address the issue of a psychologist and therapist’s work.

    I can see that there are two conversations going on here:
    1. an analysis of Maxine Aston’s paper appying criteria applicable to a chemistry paper (which will most likely have partial validity, as to scientific credentials only)
    2. a defence by readers of the idea of CADD (ir AfDD) as affecting partners of people on the autism spectrum.

    I think we can grant people the validity of their feelings.

    Dr Foreman, you say: ‘While I can not claim to be a [sic] expert on human sciences, the skills I have used in the chemical world do work on other topics.’ As you’re not an expert on ‘human sciences’, perhaps you’ll concede that there may be elements of Ms Aston’s paper that you’re not picking up.

    Maxine Aston is recognised as the world leader in her field, which is relationship dynamics where one partner is on the autism spectrum and the other isn’t. As relationships are a ‘human science’, they are perforce outside the analytical scope of chemistry. Ms Aston will have gained much knowledge from observation of her clients, as well as anecdotal understanding based on the things they report to her. In the ‘human’ sciences, knowledge gained through conversation and relating to others is widely regarded as valid., and she will have become very adept at seeing what lies behind people’s statements, as well as observing their effect on others.

    The myth of Cassandra dates from ancient Greece and is not a pretty story at all. It is a terrifying story and was regarded for a long time as sacred. Your failure to understand this, or the term ’emotional intelligence’ (which most people know the meaning of, at least; it is easy to work out) strikes me as deliberate. And your childish demolition of her figurative language as if it were intended literally (‘meltdown’ etc) does you no credit. Of course Ms Aston never intended people to think a temper tantrum could melt a nuclear reactor core. It is a metaphorical term in common use.

    Ms Aston’s work has helped many people. Merely seeking to demolish her paper with an hour of analysis applicable to another field, combined with what looks like deep ignorance of the area addressed in her paper – i.e., people’s feelings, and even cultural history – makes it look as if your ill-thought-out and worse-written attack may be personally motivated, even though you’ve attempted to dress it up as ‘scientific’ – especially as it doesn’t relate to your own field of study.

    I certainly hope you don’t do this to your wife and children.

    • I just stumbled across your rather strange little comment, and it strikes me as interesting that someone who is a self-promoted personal shopper, poet and style consultant should have felt the need, or desire even, to address the issue of how valid a professor in nuclear chemistry’s opinion of an academic paper is.

      I can see that there are two conversations going on here;
      1. A sting of claims that throw doubt onto the validity of Dr Foreman’s opinion (which is based on previous knowledge of reviewing academic papers and journals, unlike yours)
      2. A claim that Ms Aston is the “world leader in her field”

      I think we can grant people the validity of their professional experience.

      Although you claim you are an editor and copywriter, you have failed miserably to see the main point of the argument. Firstly, the question of whether you are an editor or not is thrown into question on the most basic of levels. Not only have you missed the fact you wrote “…regarded as valid., and…” missing the obvious grammatical mistake, but your grammar and use of punctuation elsewhere in the text is of a slightly undesirable level. Are you really who you say you are on your profile?
      Secondly, anyone with the slightest intelligence can see that the point of Dr Foreman’s article is to evaluate the validity of the academic paper linked above, not to slander Maxine Aston. It is not wrong to express dislike for a theory or person.
      I quote;
      “The problem I have with her new condition is that the evidence for the existence of Maxine’s disorder has never been disclosed in either the peer reviewed literature or in serious reports which are on the same intellectual level as something such [as a] public enquiry into a serious accident.”
      You may want to read this paragraph a few times through and highlight the main points, should you still be unsure. I would hate to see any work you have edited if you make this huge mistake every time.

      Although the general view is that Wikipedia is not a valid source, it does use valid sources itself. If you take a look at this link (http://en.wikipedia.g-webs.com/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Affective_Deprivation_Disorder) you will see that even Wikipedia notices that Maxine Aston is not a researcher. I shall quote, in case this link does not work in the future;
      “Affective Deprivation Disorder. The topic seems to be the recent invention of a non-notable person Maxine Aston and has never been peer reviewed. There are only 7 entries in Google two resolve to Maxine Aston’s personal webpage, two resolve to postings promoting Maxine Aston’s website on a non-notable MSN group one refers to a link to a blog, as yet unindexed, promoting Maxine Aston’s website one refers to an index of recent updates for the same, unindexed, blog, and one refers to a blog that has recently been deleted… I strongly support deleting the article. Aston has never published any research, so is not a ‘researcher’ as the article claims. No graduate degree. She’s not qualified to introduce new psych disorders”.
      Now, I am not claiming that Wikipedia is the source of all knowledge, but after finding this on Google, I searched further. Everything stated here is correct. Maxine Aston IS a non-notable person, all the websites talking about Cassandra Affective Deprivadion Disorder (CADD) / Affective Deprivation Disorder (AFDD) ARE her own websites, blogs and promotional sites, and she has NEVER had her work reviewed, as all proper researcher do.

      As a supposed critic, does this not ring alarm bells? Are you seriously going to suggest that she is “the world leader in her field” when her ‘field’ seems to only consist of her and her friends? Are you going to take everything she says as fact even though she has never had her information reviewed? Anyone can publish a book, you must know that. the information that is included in non-fiction texts is not reviewed by the publisher, only the writing. Saying that what Aston claims in her “academic” paper is fact, based on either gut feeling or comments from people saying they have been in a CADD situation is the same as saying “ghosts exist” is a fact because some people have seen them.
      To put it in layman’s terms for you; during the Second World War, some of the German population saw Hitler and his government as the world leaders in genetics. Look how that turned out.

      To address your claim that “As you’re not an expert in ‘human sciences’, perhaps you’ll concede that there may be elements of Ms Aston’s paper that you’re not picking up.” I refer you back to the paragraph I quoted in the beginning of my response.
      Dr Foreman has stated he would be applying the criteria he uses to review a chemical paper. I see that you obviously picked up on the words “chemical paper” without actually reading the questions. Irrespective of whether Dr Foreman can comment on the likes of Q.5 (about other explanations as to the conclusion of the paper), it is Q.6 that poses the real threat for Ms Aston; “Is the paper referenced in the proper way?”. From the information given both in the paper itself and the Wikipedia link, we can see that the paper is not referenced at all well.
      anyone who has studied A-Levels upwards knows that in subjects such as History, Business Management and Psychology, it doesn’t matter so much what your claim is in an essay/paper, but that you can back it up. I could, for example, claim that Hitler was actually a communist and write my university paper on this theory. and I could still get good marks, SO LONG AS I CAN BACK UP AND REFERENCE MY CLAIMS AND SOURCES. this is something Ms Aston is clearly not doing to a sufficient enough level. I could back up my arguments much better in my IB exams than she has done in her so-called “academic paper”. This is her ultimate downfall, apart from the fact that her theories are just theories – and bad ones at that. she could claim whatever she likes in her academic paper, but if she can’t back it up or reference where she got her material from, she has fallen at the first hurdle, as this is one of the basic points of paper-writing.

      Dr Foreman was not ‘childishly demolishing’ Aston’s figurative language as if it were “intended literally (‘meltdown’ etc)”. Academic papers should be written so that people will still understand them in years to come. They should also use correct, formal language. I refer you once again to an external website, this time the Oxford Dictionary (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/meltdown);
      Pronunciation: /ˈmɛltdaʊn/
      1a. disastrous collapse or breakdown
      eg; the global financial system suffered a major meltdown
      1b. (informal) an uncontrolled emotional outburst or a mental collapse
      eg; the story will revolve around her meltdown following the accident
      2 an accident in a nuclear reactor in which the fuel overheats and melts the reactor core or shielding.”
      As you see here, the Oxford Dictionary says the use of ‘meltdown’ to mean a mental collapse is informal, therefore it should not be used in that way in an academic paper. also, ‘meltdown’ is not really in common use. I know plenty of people who would not have ever heard it used in this ‘common’ way. The major area of usage is when talking about Autism.
      Further reading;

      Lastly, your final paragraph was hilarious to read. You state that Dr Foreman’s analysis of the academic paper from a peer-reviewer’s point of view looks personally motivated. Did you ever stop to think that Aston’s work may also be personally motivated? After all, she WAS in a long-term relationship with an Autistic man, a relationship that went sour. co-hinky-dink? Methinks not. Maybe you should spend as much time analyzing and looking critically at the things written by Maxine Aston as you do her ‘opposition’. As to Dr Foreman attempting to “Dress it [the blog entry] as ‘scientific'”, pot? Kettle? Black? Are you not also doing the same thing? you have made many claims as to the authenticity of Ms Aston without baking them up. Dr Foreman on the other hand as stated the criteria used to analyse, the paragraphs analysed and the analysis, while you have stated your opinions (because they are only your opinions, not fact) and been quite vile in your response, especially, as stated, in your last paragraph.
      You claim, also that “Your failure to understand this, or the term ’emotional intelligence’ (which most people know the meaning of, at least; it is easy to work out) strikes me as deliberate”.
      There are several different models that disagree about the exact definition of the term emotional intelligence, so please enlighten everybody reading this exactly what it means. I will give you a Nobel prize if you manage.

      To sum up, you have made the fatal mistake that Aston has made – you are both unable to back up your ideas, reference and give evidence for them.

      Time for one last quote;
      “..especially as it doesn’t relate to your own field of study.”
      This may be very true in terms of the content of the paper, but in terms of both the paper’s content and this blog’s content, I don’t see how either of them relate to YOUR field of study, which I imagine would be which colours go best together and which dress suits your client. Maybe you should save judgements until you have fully understood where you yourself stand in the great scheme of academics relating to both natural- and human sciences.

    • Your last comment is vile, spiteful and uncalled for. Shame on you.

      • My comment was to Ms Baroque not Cassandra.

      • Paula happens to be my wife,

        Ms Baroque’s final one line comment regarding my wife and family is a disagreeable and dirty little remark. While I find some of the ideas of Maxine Aston disagreeable, I have yet to resort to making personal attacks on her.

  5. Dear Ms Baroque,

    I read with interest your comments, I hold the opinion that people have the freedom to hold and express (within some limits) their thoughts even when their thoughts and ideas are not agreeable to me. So I have chosen to extend to you’re the courtesy of allowing you to reply to my post.

    But this freedom I extend to you is a two edged sword, it cuts both ways. I feel that I am entitled to publish a rebuttal to your comments.

    As a docent I have a series of transferable skills which I consider myself free to apply to any problem or subject which I encounter. My radiochemical father (Jiri) is a professor of physical chemistry with a deep interest in solvent extraction, but in addition to having well thought out opinions on his own area of chemistry he makes an effort to have a reasoned and well thought out opinion on many topics which he encounters. If you look at the history of the university sector you will find that many years ago one of the original aims of the university sector was to create a well rounded man (the Renaissance man) who would be educated in more than a single narrow field.

    I am merely following the spirit of this early university activity.

    I would now like to get to work on your comments, you wrote “I think we can grant people the validity of their feelings”. I have to say I disagree with the idea of allowing people to have an absolute license for their feelings to validate or justify their belief systems or actions.

    For example I might see a glorious sports car and have the feeling that I want to go for a drive in it. What do you mean by “validity of their feelings”, does this mean that I am free to act on my feelings and just got for a joy ride in the car ?

    Also many feelings which a person has are as a result of their observations / experiences of the world around them. As there is no such thing as a unbiased observer how do I know that your feelings (based on your observations of the world) are correct and valid.

    For example you might see a pretty flower plus a fruit bush and then based on these observations have some warm feeling inside you and feel the urge to sit on a mound of earth and have a nice picnic. I might see an ants nest (Swedish ant nests tend to be mounds of earth) in the forest next to some flowers and a wild berry bush, have a feeling of dread and then choose to avoid parking my backside in this place for fear of irking the ants. Are both of our feelings equally right ? I think that they are not equally right.

    The great problem with books is that if I find the right publishing house I could get printed close to anything. For example Dr Foreman’s history of England could state that Henry the eighth was given a special medal by the pope while on his deathbed (Clearly wrong).

    You wrote that “Maxine Aston is recognised as a world leader in her field”, I would like to ask recognised by who ? I have noticed that Maxine never seems to publish anything on the subject in a serious academic literature while SBC at Cambridge seems to publish on a regular basis his observations and ideas on a very closely related field.

    I would like to ask you the question of why should we treat Maxine as a serious scholar and expert in her field, the great problem is that she chooses to publish in books which circumvents the peer review process. I have no idea if you have ever tried to publish in the academic literature, but I will say that for all the faults of the peer review system it is the least bad system which we have found so far. The purpose of the peer review system is to provide a quality control for the literature and also to improve the quality of many works.

    While I can not say I enjoy having a paper rejected by the editor / referees, I will say that by addressing the concerns of the editor / referees many of my papers have become better. Better written and better thought out. Maxine’s avoidance of the peer review system makes it harder for anyone to make a reasoned judgement on her work.

    You wrote that “Ms Aston will have gained much knowledge from observation of her clients” as well as “anecdotal understanding based on the things they report to her”. You also say that “she will have become very adept at seeing what lies behind people’s statements”.

    My worry is that Maxine is not open about the intellectual process by which she has interpreted her observations, nor has she been willing to enter into a discussion regarding her research work. I find your notion “she will have become very adept at seeing what lies behind people’s statements” both interesting and disturbing.

    If you look at the history of the philosophy of science you will read about a man named Karl Popper. If you read Alan Chalmers’s book on the theory of science (It is a good book and it helped me develop into a docent) you will see Alan’s opinion that Karl’s work was a reaction to the Marxists and Freudians who were inclined to interpret all human behaviour after the event in such a way that it supported their theories.

    While I sincerely hope that Maxine has not embarked on the fool’s errand which Freudian psychoanalysis is, I would like to know how she is so able to see “what lies behind people’s statements”. To date (thank God !) to the best of my knowledge nobody has been able to devise a way of seeing what is going on inside a person’s mind.

    You suggest that because Maxine is in a different field to me that I am not entitled to comment on her work. I think that this is a deeply disturbing idea. I am not going to waste time pointing out that I should be free to comment on the human sciences, I am going to flip your argument back to you.

    I guess like most members of the general public you are rather concerned about chemicals and radiation, the chances you do not want to be excluded along with everyone else who lacks professional experience of these things from the decision making process.

    I imagine that you would not be happy if me, a pack of radioactivity workers, a bunch of hazardous waste workers and a small population of academics were to given carte blanche / absolute power to make binding decisions regarding hazardous waste disposal in the UK.

    The day you and the general population in the UK are happy to resign their rights to object to plans for radioactive / asbestos / clinical / toxic / very toxic / nightmare toxic waste management / disposal then I will be perfectly happy to give you an undertaking to leave the human sciences alone.

  6. Hi Mark, the paper you’re talking about appears to have been removed … but don’t panic, I found it again here:


    As a human rights lawyer and disabilities advocate I am pleased to see someone with a proper scientific background standing up against charlatans who dress up prejudice and opinion as science fact.

  7. Smoke, mirrors, and a big fat dollop of antagonism. You clearly have an emotional reaction to this woman’s paper, and you’re attempting to dress it up as an intellectual objection. That is all I sought to say. In fact, after reading your post I did a google and discovered that there’s actually a MOVEMENT against Maxine Aston et al, and it seems to be spearheaded by men on the spectrum.

    Frankly, this petty-minded nitpicking blame-mongering mindset is rather unattractive.

    And it’s not even my fight – as I say, I happened along here and was struck by the really quite nasty tone of your original post, its poor arguments and ungrammatical writing, and decided to do a favour for Anna, above. I’m out. Bye.

    • Pitty you feel you need to drop out and give up.

      I fail to see what is so nasty about my tone, maybe you confuse a person not agreeing with you with a person being spiteful. The two are very different things.

      We like to think that we live in a free world where we are allowed freedom of thought and expression, the great problem is that people who disagree with you and me also have the freedom to have and express their ideas.

      One of your comments is an idea which is so interesting and disturbing that it warrents a blog post of its own.

    • You’ll find that the MOVEMENT you speak of is actually a RESPONSE to the hatred and discrimination against men on the spectrum that Maxine Aston is campaigning for.

      The puropose of one of the ‘papers’ she published was to convince protective services that domestic violence and men with autism go hand in hand. Where there’s one, you’ll find the other. There was no quantitative evidence to support her claims, just her opinion. That is prejudice.

      There’s a simple test one can employ to test to see if someone is using hate speech. Replace the name of group with the name of another minority group and see how if feels. If I were to say black men who get into relationships are likely to abuse and be violent to their partners and children, would that be ok? Would you be surprised if black men responded negatively to what I had to say?

      Using someone’s inate difference to prelabel them in a negative, damaging way is breaching their human rights.

    • I think it’s funny that you leave once you get a serious reply. Dr Foreman’s blog entry was less hateful than your reply.

      The movement would obviously be spearheaded with autistic males, as it is autistic males Aston targets.

      Your posts have even poorer arguments – you cannot even defend them! And your writing is not grammatically correct either, so you’re the nit-picker, it seems.

      Good riddance!

  8. […] en tout cas de nombreux posts pour en dénoncer le franc manque de sérieux (par exemple ici, ici, ici ou là – montrant Tony Atwood pris à parti par la controverse), voire pour accuser son […]

  9. Mark, The old Shakespearian quote: “Me thinks though dost protest too much.” fits your rant here.

  10. I protest so much because disableism is unacceptable. I never rant, I hold the view that those who complain against me resort to ranting and emoting.

    Being opposed to hate speech and speaking out against it is not ranting, would it be right to denounce Labi Siffre and the late Martin Luther King as ranters for speaking out against bigotry ?

    One of my critics commented “I think we can grant people the validity of their feelings”, this is a deeply wrong and immoral attitude to take. I am sure that Anders Behring Breivik and David Copeland had a feeling of hatred and repulsion at leftwingers and gay people, their feelings do not make their despicable deeds any less immoral.

    I am opposed to weak and poor academic practise and pseudo-accdemics aping the language of academia for their own personal causes.

    If this is the famous Rosemary Radford then I would be glad to enter into a discussion with you by means of email.

  11. there is no point trying to explain the suffering we partners of Aspies suffer to an Aspie…..Mark Foreman has the analytical mind and ways of thinking which give the telltale signs…..

    • Well Netty,

      Firstly we are not here to discuss my mind, the fact that I have written about some poor quality academic work which is possible hate speech directed against people with autism does not make me have autism any more than speaking out against apartheid makes a man black.

      Adolph Malan (Skipper) was a white man who spoke out against apartheid, the fact that apartheid did not oppress him directly did not make it wrong for him to be a critic of apartheid. Nor did it turn him into a black man.

      I have looked up your web site and I note that you are an artist; I suspect that if you spent your formative years doing art then you are less likely to have the analytical mind required for science or another hard subject like moral philosophy. I am sure in a university philosophy department you will find people who can find something which is harmful to others to be morally offensive.

      I would say that any of the science PhD students I supervise or help to supervise could have done an equal job on the Cassandra syndrome paper.

      One of the key features of an analytical mind is the ability and willingness to park your emotions at the door and consider the hard facts of an academic question.

      I also note that you are playing a card which I was told about by an industrial psychologist in Scotland. He told me that people with serious drug problems often ignore anyone who tells them to “stop doing drugs” using the excuse that “unless you have been doing drugs you have no idea of what it is like to do drugs”. This is a weak excuse, I would like to point out that a person from a remote village who has never meet a black person would still be able to understand the heinous nature of the Stephen Lawrence murder. You do not need to be black or even know a black person to be able to understand that a hate crime committed for no reason other than the fact that a person looks different is deeply wrong.

      In the same way it is possible for a person with autism to understand the suffering of others, I would be careful if I was you. Your comment could be understood by others as you expressing the view that people with autism are less than human. I sincerely hope that you do not hold such point of view.

      • Those of us who know and love people with Autism KNOW that they understand and care about suffering. Many famous Aspies are known for their charity so clearly they care. They simply have a horrible time expressing it emotionally, one on one. Unfortunately, women are emotional creatures, this is how we were created. If you had read any of the diagnosis criteria for Autism, you would know that the things Maxine writes about are based on facts about many people with Autism. I think it’s especially true for men who were not brought up knowing they had Autism so they genuinely cannot help not being able to evidence empathy. My husband’s half ass tries just leave me genuinely sad. My son, who was diagnosed at 7 and raised to be aware of his impact on others, will take the extra step and offer a full, genuine hug. In other words, he knows he may not get it but he still wants to show me he cares. Of course it is much different when the person is supposed to be your soul mate yet you feel as if you love them more than they can ever love you. Obviously this is not the case for all NT, AS couples. Btw: being told you might be smart enough to be an Aspie is not a put down. It only means you’re intelligent and capable of inventing great things. I’m fairly confident that if we didn’t have aspies, we’d all still be sitting around trying to figure out fire. Personally I like heat, cars, computers and…

      • The problem with Maxine is that she has never been open about the process which lead to her sweeping conculsions, she has even made claims that a relationship with an “aspie” has can have a harmful physical effect on their partner. In recent years she appears to have cleaned up her web site, but I am unable to tell if she has recanted of some of her ideas. If you want to see an older copy of her site see http://web.archive.org/web/20080114043010/http://www.maxineaston.co.uk/cassandra/

        I would avocate being careful with the idea that Maxine is gathering data, the problem is that it is impossible to judge how good the quaility of the “facts” / “data” is unless the person gathering data is willing to be open about how they did it. Without proper review it is impossible to judge the quaility of the work.

        Also I see a dangerous idea being put forward by her that many man who are “poor uncaring husbands” or whatever the latest term is are likely to be undiagnosed aspies. The danger here is that how do we know that this is true. I have seen a claim that Putin is an aspie, one of the bits of scant evidence is that his body langauge is not “normal”. One could argue that a man like Putin who spent years in the KGB might have needed for years to control his body lanaguge and as a result his is a bit different to “Mr Average”.

        The problem is that there are many reasons why a man might be a bad husband, to try to blame all bad husbands on autism is unfair and harmful to the interests of people with autism / autistic people. Also it is reckless to go for this idea that all bad examples of X are caused by Y.

        I have not moral problem with aspies I know quite a large number and have been exposed to autistic culture, I suspect that those who brought up the irrelevent comments claiming I was an aspie are trying to discredit my message. To my mind the state of mind of the person does alter the quaility of the message, but to some people it does matter. I would like you to consider the question of is 2+2=4 true even if you find your maths prof to be a disgusting person ?

  12. you have made many wrong assumptions about me and are very defensive which concerns me. I will not be entering any discussions with you further because you do not sound like a particularly pleasant character. Anyone can say they defend the minority etc but bullying is not the way in which real change occurs. You know nothing about me from what you have seen….If I receive any bullying from you I will take it to the appropriate authorities.

  13. First of all, you must have Aspergers and secondly, Maxine did extensive research using surveys completed by partners of Aspergers and is qualified to come to the conclusions that Casandra disorder is a condition that we partners of Aspergers suffer from.

    • I do not think that Maxine has done extensive work on the subject, also her work is likely to have some serious flaws which she is unwilling to discuss. The fact that she is unwilling to discuss her work does make my view her as not a serious researcher.

      Also I think it is offensive and irresponsible for you to be attempting to diagnose aspergers or any other condition in total strangers without their consent. I would like to point out that it is unliekly that you have the professional training required, and if you were a metal health professional you would be aware that the “internet diagnosis” based on the writing of others would be a serious breach of the ethical code of any of the serious professional bodies. I suspect it would cost a real doctor their license.

      While it might be tempting for me to have a go at diagnosing a range of conditions in those who irk or annoy me, I choose not to. My moral compass does not allow me to reach down to that level.

  14. What a load of venom! Is it so wrong for insistence on references, peer review, and other validation of work in order for it to be passed off as academic???
    Whether Maxine Aston’s theory is scientifically valid is unknown until there is real, properly demonstrated and peer reviewed evidence. However compelling anecdotes may be, they do not constitute scientific evidence.
    As the wife of an aspie and mother of an aspie, I value anecdotal stories for the feeling they give me that I am not alone in the particular struggles I face (much the same way I value people’s ideas about potty training little ones). However, I require MUCH higher standards of research and evidence in order to accept a diagnosis or in order to take serious steps in a relationship. I value my marriage relationship too highly to consider acting on something that is presented without proper documentation.
    Armchair diagnosis of people one does not know is irresponsible and completely rude.
    I do personally believe that there is room for terms such as “meltdown” to be used here if they are properly defined and parameters are set in the beginning.
    Mark Foreman, thank you for insisting on standards in academic papers, whatever their topic.

    • Thanks, I am glad that someone likes the fact that I wrote a review of something.

      I like to think of myself as a “real” scientist, a theory has to be testable and subjected to test before we act on it. Also when an academic publishes their work they need to be open about the data.

      When research could have negative effects on people then we need to make sure that it is good research, my worry is that Maxine’s work has a bias in it. I would leave the Maxine Aston issue alone if she was willing to discuss the design of her work and show the rest of the world the raw data.

      I would even be happy with sanitised data where she has blacked out names and other details which would expose the identity of an experimental subject.

      It is interesting that I have written to her several times but she choses to ignore me, maybe she is nervous about the idea of having someone question her research. Not everyone likes my research, but if someone wants to argue that I am wrong then I would be perfectly willing to show them data and give them advice on how to have a go at repeating my work.

  15. While I agree that saying uncaring husbands are probably aspies is rather unfounded, I believe she adds much more to the criteria in her books. She honestly does seek to help couples by helping the nt partner understand their spouse. I would be long gone if I didn’t understand my husband better after reading books like The Other Half of Aspergers. Feeling supported helps nt partners support. Unfortunately, it only helps with understanding, it doesn’t fix relationships. I definitely feel that Maxine must have read my mind, not to mention many others, before she “diagnosed” ADD. She’s also not the only one. I have read on ASD Support pages that some doctors say families living with anyone with ASD have something similar to ptsd. I’d have to Google exact quotes but I’ll leave that to those who might be interested. It’s much akin to living with and caring for someone with early stage Alzheimer’s. But that’s not everyone’s experience because everyone with ASD is different. I love my guys, I appreciate that life is harder for them and I appreciate the Aspies who keep on trucking and keep coming up with wonderful inventions and creations for the rest of us.
    I will say that my first question about Putin was “is his IQ even high enough for him to qualify for Aspergers?” I don’t think seeing someone once in a while on tv can qualify anyone to diagnose anyone. Although, when I’ve asked random moms if their child has ASD, I’m always spot on. Remarkably, these women are always smart enough to know I’m not insulting their child. Therapists do say that “ASD moms” gain a sixth sense about these things. Anyway, my son may need to learn how to be a husband or think carefully if that’s really what he wants but that DOES NOT mean he’s broken. It just means he’s different. Same with my husband.

    • The problem with Maxine is that she has refused to be open about how she came up with her ideas, she refuses to enter a discussion about her work. Also through failure to publish first in the peer reviewed literature it makes it very hard to work out if her work has any value.

      I think that it is up to her to prove that her work is good rather than for the rest of the world to blindly accept it.

      In contrast SBC (Simon Baron-Cohen) at the Autism Centre in Cambridge is open about his work and willing to publish it in peer reviewed journal papers which show the data, the way he collects it, how he processes it and what he concludes from it.

      If Maxine was to put her intellectual house in order and show that her work is to be trusted then I would be very happy.

      An unlimited number of people saying that she has an insight or that her work has helped them / their family / their clients does not equate to the rigor of her work being subject to a good and decent peer review.

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