Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #326
The Intact Mind and Why It Matters
Sunday, May 26, 2024
4:00 PM–4:50 PM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 108 AB
Area: AUT; Domain: Theory
Chair: Yanerys Leon (University of Miami)
CE Instructor: Yanerys Leon, Ph.D.
Presenting Author: AMY LUTZ (University of Pennsylvania)

In her 2006 memoir Strange Son, Cure Autism Now co-founder Portia Iversen described the “intact mind” she believed was buried within even the most cognitively impaired autistic individuals, like her son Dov. But the sentiment itself was not new. Emerging largely out of psychoanalytic theory dating back to the mid 20th century, the intact mind was amplified in parent memoirs even as biomedical discourse consolidated in the 1970s around a very different depiction of autism: as a biologically based, intractable neurodevelopmental disorder. With as many as 1 out of every 36 American children now affected, according to the CDC, discourse originally unique to autism has come to inform current debates at the heart of intellectual and developmental disability practice and policy in the United States – including ongoing battles over 14(c) subminimum wage programs, guardianship, and facilitated communication.

Instruction Level: Basic
Target Audience:

Honestly, I think everyone needs to understand the intact mind – from researchers, clinicians and providers, to policy makers, to families, to the general public.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) define the "intact mind" assumption in autism; (2) understand the psychoanalytic roots of this concept; and (3) recognize the ways in which the intact mind is foundational to much contemporary policy and practice affecting those with profound autism and other severe intellectual and developmental disability
AMY LUTZ (University of Pennsylvania)
Amy S.F. Lutz, PhD is a historian of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Vice-President of the National Council on Severe Autism (NCSA), and the parent of a profoundly autistic son, Jonah, 24. She has written about profound autism for many platforms, including The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, Spectrum, and Slate. Her most recent book is Chasing the Intact Mind: How the Severely Autistic and Intellectually Disabled Were Excluded from the Debates that Affect Them Most (2023); she is also the author of We Walk: Life with Severe Autism (2020) and Each Day I Like It Better: Autism, ECT, and the Treatment of Our Most Impaired Children (2014). She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and whichever of her five kids happen to be home at the time.



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