I'm definitely leaving any and all cognitive research related to autism behind after 2010. I'm shifting back towards creative writing and, hopefully, new media rhetoric. I'm hoping to find a university where I can work on my poetry, scripts, and novels.
Research is interesting, but the public conflict isn't. (If you wanted to be hated, be a major league umpire or an autism researcher.)
The "autism debates" are both political and belief driven, only tangentially based on any real understanding of the sciences involved. The "reporters" covering science often either misunderstand or twist research results. Researchers do use a strange language. I admit that it confounds the public.
I've tried, too many times, to explain that I could rarely, if ever, prove anything. The best I can do as a researcher is disprove other potential causes. Research, statistically, simply finds "Other potential causes for X are less likely than hypothesis A." We actually cannot prove that A is true, only that it seems to correlate with X in some way. Correlation can be later found connected to other variables. Science is not about certainty.
While I like the uncertain nature of science, and the fact that great scientists are only certain of what is not possible, the public thinks scientists look for precise laws, perfect causes. Laws are extremely rare... especially in matters of human biology or behavior.
I admit, I'm not a fan of psychology unless neurology is primary. I like things with biological, physical evidence. Observational, symptom-driven research lacks the concrete nature of other sciences I do admire.
Autism lacks a real definition, which certainly doesn't help. And yes, I believe the shifting definitions and criteria, along with better (?) training of diagnosticians is increasing the autism diagnoses we count. Without etiological certainty, "autism" itself is a matter of belief and interpretation. That's not good.
I've had a parent tell me: "My child wasn't properly diagnosed until his third psychologist. The other two weren't any good."
Either only 1:3 psychologists really know what autism is, or this parent was searching for a particular diagnosis. Either one is possible... which frustrates me. If the parent is right, psychology is a disaster. If the first two psychologists are correct, our diagnostic methods are horrible.
It doesn't matter which is true. Clearly, there's a mess in the field that needs to be addressed and the new DSM-V will make matters worse, I fear, not better. I was told I should study the DSM-V from a "rhetorical perspective." No thanks. It's a subjective manual created by a political process. Only a few conditions in the DSM have specific, demonstrable, etiologies. Everything else is too fuzzy. (Just consider the debates over homosexuality and the DSM during previous decades. Not exactly pure science.)
Creative writing might have debates and discussions, but far less violent, vitriolic hate for individuals and groups. Whatever comes next, I won't be accused of being paid by "Big Pharma" or some mythical Illuminati to write comedies. (Okay, I might be -- anything is possible.)