Ex UK Apprentice candidate and outspoken opinion blogger Katie Hopkins has enraged the Autism community with her latest dabble into blogging.
Ms Hopkins, writing for the Huffington Post yesterday in a blog entitled “why must everything be a medical condition“, attempts to voice her concerns over over-diagnosis of ADHD and Autism, stating:
“In many cases, medication seems to be more about making life easier for the parent than relieving symptoms for the benefit of the child. Given this very modern phenomenon for ADHD, I would argue that for some children a lack of exercise, poor diet and absence of parental control is also an issue.”
Autism advocate and campaigner Anna Kennedy OBE, has written a response which she shared with Autism Daily Newscast, informing Ms Hopkins of some facts she seemed to have missed in her opinion piece. She writes:
In responding to Ms Hopkins article in the Huffington Post entitled “Why Must Everything Be a Medical Condition”, it is first necessary for me to clarify some of the misunderstandings that are contained in the said article. If I were to summarise Ms Hopkins difficulties it would be that seems to conflate a medical diagnosis with the legal definition of disability and special educational needs.
In Ms Hopkins c 330 words at no time does she mention the work disability. This is significant since within the UK an individual can only ask for additional assistance if they have a disability which complies with the definition given in section 6 the Equality Act 2010 (often referred to as a statutory disability), namely it:
It is a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.
- substantial’ is more than minor or trivial – e.g. it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed
- ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more – e.g. a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection
For the avoidance of doubt, a medical diagnosis is not needed in the determination of whether a person has a statutory disability.
Within many real world situations a disabled person can ask for reasonable (generally mean they are not excessively costly or complex) adjustments to be made to remove the disadvantage they are subject to because of their disability. For example, an employee with a visual impairment could ask for their employer to make printed material they are required to read available in a larger font. Furthermore, the statute makes unlawful other forms of discrimination such as harassment that result from their disability.
Having read Ms Hopkins article, it is not clear to me that she doesn’t appreciate that any accommodations made must be related to the effect their disability has on them. It is noted that Ms Hopkins advises disabled people to be more “accepting” of their “problem” and they should agree “to do something about it”. That said, the Equality Act 2010 acknowledges that disabled people need the assistance of employers etc. to remove the barriers they face to social inclusion. This has to make sense as the removal of such barriers will invariably not be within their power.
With regards to special educational needs (“SEN”), in the UK the definition is contained in The Education Act 1996 and it is clear the existence or otherwise of SEN is not dependent on having a “diagnosis and medication”. Rather SEN broadly refers to the relative difficulty a child has in successfully engaging in the curriculum. Indeed it is perfectly possible that a child could have a “diagnosis and medication” but not have special educational needs, for example if they had epilepsy or Asperger’s syndrome. For the avoidance of doubt, it is also worth pointing out that the vast majority of children with SEN are not educated in special schools.
Finally it is worth making Ms Hopkins aware that in the latest version of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders, Asperger’s syndrome is not recognised, so it is difficult to see how the said diagnostic manual is causing a “shock waves of diagnosis and treatment that reach far beyond patients in direct need”.
Anna and Sean Kennedy