Monday, March 16, 2015

Autism daily newscast publishes Gadfly

Here's an article I wrote  about neurodiversity for the autism daily newscast.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

84% of ASAN's 2013 revenue goes for overhead

I've waited awhile for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network's 2013 form 990, the mandatory IRS tax form that non-profits are required to fill out and make available to the general public.  I've finally found a website that has the info.  We see that in 2013 ASAN made $452,643 in revenue.  Out of that amount $378,264 went to pay, salaries, rent and other overhead costs including Ari Ne'eman's $71,000 annual salary.  He again raised his salary, this time by about 10%.  Of course this is a far more modest increase than that of the 2011-2012 period, where Ne'eman raised his own salary 62% in one year from $40,000 to $65,000.  In spite of the fact that ASAN had a net fundraising loss in 2012 of nearly $15,000.  We see that nearly half of their revenue covered salaries, benefits and payroll taxes.  We see that they had just under $75,000 in revenue minus expenses.  It is unclear where this money is going, whether it is sitting in the bank as reserves.

In terms of ASAN's service accomplishments, they cite research making medical care more accessible to persons on the spectrum.  Far less was spent on this than on Ne'eman's salary.

They spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars on outreach and advocacy and educating people on the disabilities movement in regards to autism.  I wonder how much of this was in travel expenses to go to Autism Speaks walks and harass parents who were walking trying to raise money to try to help their kids.

The neurodiversity movement has often criticized Autism Speaks for a small percentage of money that goes to help families or services.  On the day6 radio show that Ne'eman and I were recently on, he comments on the small percentage of money that NIMH spends for adult research and services for families rather than on scientific research.

I realize I'm not an accountant on any kind of tax expert, but I'm curious as to what ASAN has accomplished or done in 2013 to help those on the spectrum.  Perhaps they are the pot calling the kettle black.  Well I linked to their 2013 statement above in case anyone's interested.

Addendum:  One thing I neglected to mention in this post is that I'm curious as to how ASAN spent $378,000 plus on overhead out of a little over $450,000 in revenue but managed to spend a quarter of a million dollars on outreach and advocacy and  nearly $50,000 on their health care program.  Perhaps there's overlap between these and the overhead expenses, I don't know.  As I said before, I'm not a tax specialist of any sort, but I'm rather curious.  It's tempting to contact the IRS and ask them to investigate this, but I doubt they'd do it and not sure it's worth my while.  But I'll keep Gadfly readers posted of any future developments.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

MTV bites neurodiversity in the ass

Since my profile, which included my anti-neurodiversity activities, was published in Newsweek, neurodiversity has begun to become the topic du jour in the autism world.  In what I suspect was in response to Erika Hayasaki's article about me, The Daily Beast published an article about neurodiversity.  This article was very sympathetic to the ND movement and did not even make an attempt at faux balance.  The Canadian public radio show Day 6 interviewed both Ari Ne'eman and myself (along with a few other guests) about the subject of neurodiversity.  Autism Daily Newscast has called for articles from those on the spectrum about neurodiversity. 

Interestingly enough, MTV got into the act and also wrote a pro-neurodiversity article with no effort at balance.  This article also highlighted the #autismspeaks10 war that some of neurodiversity's more bellicose members created on twitter.  Mysteriously, the article was taken down from MTV's website provoking the ire of a variety of members of neurodiversity.  Article author Robin Lempel offered the explanation that she had tried to contact Autism Speaks to provide balance for the article and had been unable to do so. 

Part of the problem was that neurodiversity activist Amy Sequenzia basically demanded that MTV publish quotes and comments she made for the article verbatim with no editing whatsoever.  MTV neglected to do this.   This apparently made Ms. Sequenzia very angry. She also made the questionable claim that 97% of Autism Speaks money goes only to pay salaries. Yet, she seems to have no objection to the fact that Ari Ne'eman increased his own salary for running ASAN by 62% in one year and that his $65,000 annual salary in 2012 was nearly 20% of all of ASAN's assets. Not to mention of course other salaries ASAN pays and the costs of their rent and overhead with the very limited assets that they have, which, as far as I can tell, goes to nothing to help autistic people.  Perhaps this made MTV rather angry and this was one reason they decided not to keep the article on their website.

There is perhaps another reason that has been overlooked so far by everyone who has written about MTV's ephemeral neurodiversity piece.  MTV may  indirectly be in a partnership with autism speaks in the same manner as build-a-bear, Lindt chocolates and all of the other organizations that members of the neurodiversity movement have urged the public to boycott.  The Night of Too Many Stars which helped raise funds for Autism Speaks aired on the Comedy Channel.  The Comedy Channel's parent company is Viacom, interestingly the same organization that owns MTV.  Perhaps this is why they wanted a balanced article and a response from autism speaks.  Perhaps Autism Speaks fundraisers have helped generate revenue for Viacom along with its subsidiaries the Comedy Channel and MTV.

Since many members of the neurodiversity movement have urged boycotts of build a bear, Lindt Chocolate, Sesame Street and other organizations that have supported autism speaks, I wonder why in the world would they want MTV to write an article about them when it is owned by a parent company who has subsidiaries which fully support AS?

Of course, one could also ask the question of why when Google partnered with autism speaks on the genome project, why various neurodiversity proponents did not urge a boycott of Google.  I wonder how many members of neurodiversity have given up looking at you tube, using gmail accounts, and stopped blogging on blogger which is owned by Google.  I suspect not very many and I have not seen neurodiversity urge a boycott of Google.  Or why they thought it was okay for Laurent Mottron and Michelle Dawson to receive their nearly half million dollar grant from AS.  Or why it was okay for Wrongplanet.net and Autism Talk TV to obtain support from autism speaks.  In fairness to some Wrong Planet denizens though, I will concede that some of them posted frustration over Alex Plank's choice to jump on the AS bandwagon.

All I can say to  members of the ND movement is perhaps you should watch your actions and be careful of associating with organizations that support autism speaks if all you want to do is rant and rave on twitter and other social media outlets how bad they are.  Perhaps you can stop being so nasty, mean and insulting.  If you guys aren't more careful, perhaps it can come around and bite you in the ass. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

New Radio interview

Here's a link to a radio show I was on.  Ari Ne'eman and Sue Rubin were on also.  Corine Becker and Harold Doherty were more minor guests. Apparently I was interviewed before Ne'eman so he got to comment on what I said rather than vice-versa.  In that sense, the show may not have been completely balanced.  It's interesting that Ari Ne'eman hopes that neurodiversity will give me an opportunity to achieve what I want in life when I'm more than twice his age and even if there were a cure or ND were something real and not a bunch of baloney, a man nearly 60 wouldn't be able to go back in time and be able to do well in college, get a meaningful career, have meaningful social relationships and all the other stuff I missed out on when I was younger.  Well guess I won't comment further. here's the link if anyone is interested in listening: radio interview

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

autism live interview about my novel

Here's the portion of the Autism Live interview where I discuss "The Mu Rhythm Bluff".  There might be more than just this segment and the previous segment, but not sure, guess you'll have to type Jonathan Mitchell autism live into the you  tube search engine to find the whole things.  Or you can watch the entire February 24 episode of Autism Live but it's a two hour show and they have other things other than me.  Well here's this portion of the interview



My interview on autism live on the subject of neurodiversity

Today I did an interview on the web TV show Autism Live about my take on the neurodiversity movement.  I realize that I'm not the most articulate interviewee in the world, with the stammering and the 'you knows', but I guess that's part of my autism.  I did give it my best shot.  I'll  write about my interview about my book, "The Mu Rhythm Bluff" in the next post.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Is Specialisterne for real?


Thorne Sorkil’s organization, Specialisterne (meaning specialist in Danish) trains and employs individuals to be computer software testers.  What is unique about the employees is that they are mostly persons on the autism spectrum.  Sorkil, a former IT worker in Denmark, has an autistic son who I think is now about eighteen.  He found that his son could draw maps with great detail.  He also had calendar savant skills.  Sorkil met a number of individuals on the autism spectrum through various support groups who all related the stories of being unable to find and/or hold down a job.  Studies, such as Michelle Dawson’s, had suggested that the intelligence of persons with autism had been underestimated and they had good fluid intelligence.  Also autistics were believed to have good attention to details (as Thorkil’s son did).  A study by Patricia Howlin had showed that as many as 30% of autistics have specialized skills and talents.  This was a higher estimate than Bernard Rimland’s survey showing merely 10% of autistics have savant skills of some sort.  This inspired him to start Specialisterne where persons on the autism spectrum do IT work.

The concept really hit home for me.  As most regular readers of my blog know, during the approximately twenty-eight years I was in the workforce I had tremendous problems at jobs.  These included conflicts with employees and supervisors and often not being able to do the work without errors.  An organization that can effectively employ autistic people and provide them with a good income was something that interested me.
His organization has received widespread media attention from the new york times as well as Forbes magazine .  Is this organization the salvation for unemployed autistic people or could it be not all the media has cracked it up to be?

One of the media’s talking points in their stories of this organization was that autistics not only had good attention to details but had superior accuracy.  I know this was not true for myself.  This made me skeptical of Specialisterne’s legitimacy and whether or not they were really helpful to persons on the spectrum.

Other dubious assertions were using Michelle Dawson’s research to show that autistic people could effectively work as software testers.  The control group in her study was not neurotypical, but had average Wechsler IQ’s of 70th percentile.  A group in the 70th percentile is not typical of anything.  No other researcher had replicated the magnitude of the differences in autistics between the Wechsler test and RPM’s her study found.  Sven Boelte found a difference between RPM and Wechsler but it was not of the magnitude of Dawson’s and was only limited to lower functioning autistics and not persons with higher functioning autism and asperger’s who are whom Specialisterne employs.  Kim Bodner also failed to find an effect for high functioning autistics.  The attention to details, as measured by embedded figures test seemed to be debunked by psychologist Sarah White, particularly for higher functioning persons.  Darold Treffert wrote in Islands of Genius that Howlin’s 30 percent figure was likely a very liberal definition of savantism and an overestimate.  

The biggest eyeroll of all was reading that Specialisterne was largely subsidized by the socialist government of Denmark.  When he set up shop in the u.s.a. in the state of Delaware, he received grants of $800,000.

All of these made me question whether or not these were real jobs and they were geniunely helping those with autism.

This is why I was interested when a couple of days ago I received a comment to a a post  I wrote over two and a half years ago where I discussed these very issues.  From a woman named Katja Worm who said she was from Denmark and had been a former employee of specialisterne said:

Hello, my name is Katja Worm. I'm an 35 year old woman and a former employee at Specialisterne in Denmark.
I just wanna say you're right about everything you wrote in your blog. I share your opinion. I really do.
You can't run a business by using this method. And you can't demand an amount in that size, and just believe that the government and the social services will pay it. It's not gonna Work in a long run. You have to make Money by yourself from selling a product or something like that. And they're not doing something like that at Specialisterne. They have some contact with other Companies, but the Company is staying in business by getting Money from the government. It's not okay. It's a scam.
During that same time, I was working there, it didn't seem like anyone got a real job.
All we were doing was sitting and playing with a cell phone and talk to a psychologist. It doesn't have anything to do with creating a career in the business World. The employees were not affective at all. They were only doing one assigntment which took them all day to finish.
The employees didn't get any professional training in social skills either. They were allowed to show their autistic behaviour in public by sitting and do rocking and spinning movements with their body, which is a classical sign of autism. If they're showing this strange behaviour at a Work place, it's no Wonder, if they can't keep a job.

Ms. Worm didn’t leave a link of any kind.  She just posted as anonymous.  I have no way of verifying if her claims are real but it is food for thought.  Is Thorne Sorkil an emperor with no clothes?