Jonathan Mitchell (writer)
1955 (age 62–63)|
Los Angeles, California
|Education||Bachelor's Degree in Psychology|
|Autism rights movement|
Jonathan Mitchell is an American autistic author and blogger who advocates for a cure for autism. He is a controversial figure among autistic bloggers because of his opposition to the neurodiversity movement, his view of autism as a disability, and his desire for a cure. He writes stories, blog posts, and books as a hobby. Mitchell is also interested in the neuroscience of autism.
Mitchell was born in 1955. As a toddler, he smeared feces and threw tantrums, and was also interested in watching his parents' record player repeatedly spin around and lining blocks across the floor. His parents took him to a psychoanalyst, who blamed his mother. Mitchell's parents considered but decided against institutionalization. At 12, a psychologist diagnosed Mitchell with autism. He attended mainstream and special education schools, where he faced expulsion for behavioral problems and was bullied by other students. He claims to have worked in the past doing jobs such as data entry but was fired too many times for being too loud and making too many mistakes. Mitchell resides in Los Angeles and has a degree in psychology. He is supported by his parents.
Views on autism and neurodiversity
Mitchell has described autism as having caused loneliness, difficulty in relating to people, inability to concentrate, unemployment, and poor motor control. He has claimed that compared with other disadvantaged groups, such as those about race or sexual orientation, his deficits are social in nature, and that he has attempted to join support groups but always ended up lonely. However, Mitchell has described "twiddling", or twirling shoelaces on his fingers, as part of his creative process.
He describes neurodiversity as a "tempting escape valve", saying that "most persons with an autism-spectrum disorder have never expressed their opinions on someone's blog and never will" and states that neurodiversity has no solution for low-functioning autistics. In one essay, Mitchell says it is unlikely that Bill Gates has Asperger syndrome, citing Gates' successful social relationships and business accomplishments. He also has written that parents' expectation of savant abilities legitimizes aid workers' fees and encourages false hope. Mitchell describes Temple Grandin as making generalizations, saying that he doesn't have a visual imagination and that her generalizations trivialize his suffering.
Criticism and opposition
Several other autism bloggers criticize or insult Mitchell based on his pro-cure stance. When Newsweek announced that they would profile Mitchell, his critics emailed the journalist, urging her not to write about him. Mitchell has claimed to face insults and outright hostility from members of the neurodiversity movement, who have compared him to a "Jew that sympathized with Nazis". His father has described him as going overboard when he responds to hostility but says he cannot blame him for wanting a cure. Writing for the Huffington Post, Neil Greenspan states that Mitchell's critics, while seeking acceptance for their views, have not respected Mitchell's. He says Mitchell would likely not demand that others seek treatment.
Mitchell writes as a hobby. He has written three novels, twenty-five short stories, and runs a blog called Autism's Gadfly. He is described as one of the most controversial voices in the autism blogosphere for wanting a cure, discussing the need to consider the long-term effects of autism. He was interviewed on Studio 360 on the subject of one of his novels, The School of Hard Knocks. Another novel of his is The Mu Rhythm Bluff, which is about an autistic man that undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation. In a critique of the book, neurobiology professor Manuel Casanova wrote that he was impressed by Mitchell's scientific knowledge. Many of his short stories center on autistic themes. One of his stories "Guess Who Isn't Coming to Lunch" has a character named Arthur who is based on Jerry Newport, an autistic savant. In the story, Arthur is an autistic savant who was specialized in numerical calculations and history. Lawrence Osborne describes his writing as having "a kind of solipsistic detachment that strikes an odd tone, both wooden and agonizing at the same time."
Mitchell is also interested in the neuroscience of autism. In order to understand how his brain works, he has taken neuroscience classes and has volunteered for MRI research studies. Additionally, to help with future research for a treatment or a cure, he has also volunteered to donate his brain to science. One researcher that Mitchell has served as a subject for was Eric Courchesne. Courchesne's lab performed two MRI scans on him, finding a smaller cerebellar vermis along with other smaller parts of the cerebellum. He has exchanged emails with neurologist Marco Iacoboni with questions about mirror neurons. Mitchell is also interested in Casanova's work. Casanova has described Mitchell's critiques as more thorough than those of his colleagues.
- Hayasaki, Erika. "The Debate Over an Autism Cure Turns Hostile". Newsweek. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
- Andersen, Kurt (28 March 2008). "On the Spectrum". Studio 360. Public Radio International. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
- Hamilton, Jon. "Shortage of Brain Tissue Hinders Autism Research". NPR. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
- Osborne, Lawrence (2002). American Normal : The Hidden World of Asperger Syndrome. New York: Copernicus. pp. 114–115, 155, 158–159. ISBN 978-0-387-95307-6.
- Solomon, Andrew. "The Autism Rights Movement". New York Magazine. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
- Mitchell, Jonathan. "Autism: Still Waiting". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
- Natcharian, Lisa. "Bill Gates, Asperger's Syndrome, and your gifted child". MassLive. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
- Baker, Anthony (29 November 2007). Autism and representation (Reprint ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-415-80627-5.
- Greenspan, Neil (29 May 2015). "Neurodiversity Proponents Strongly Object to Viewpoint Diversity". The Huffington Post. AOL Lifestyle. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
- Mitchell, Jonathan. "My Experiences as Eric Courchesne's Research Subject". Retrieved 28 February 2016.
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