Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gadfly's new years ramblings

Hello to all regular readers (counting on the fingers of one hand with the pinky amputated :)) of autism's gadfly. I would like to start off wishing my friends and foes alike in the autism blogosphere a happy and prosperous new year and hope everyone will have a fruitful 2009.

Now that this is the last day of 2008, I would like to contemplate the year past. This has been a rather interesting year for yours truly. Autism's gadfly is almost one year old as I started this blog sometime in January 2008, though I don't recall the exact date, so in that regard 2008 was a unique year with a turning point for me. I blogged prior to this on Jonathan's Journals which was a page on my Jonathan's stories site . There was no commenting and it did not have the same look as blogger blogs so I decided to get a separate site for my blogging. Also, at the beginning of 2008 I wrote an article urging people to reject neurodiversity. This created some angry responses from those who believe in this (in my opinion) flawed philosophy. Soon after this, I moved my blogging here and have had interesting exchanges with these people since. This blog is rather unique in that unlike other blogs it does not preach to the choir in comments and gets mostly negative responses from neurodiversity people. Canadian blogger Harold Doherty, who, for good reason, shares the contempt that I have for the neurodiversity movement, gave my article a shout-out. He then wrote a piece later endorsing autism's gadfly. I appreciate this in light of the fact that he is a big booster of ABA and I have been somewhat critical of this approach to treating and educating children with autism. I think Harold was thankful for my perspective on the ND though as this movement really trivializes the very serious behavioral and cognitive impairments of his son connor. This goes for other parents as well. I have continued to write blog posts against neurodiversity in this blog. I have wanted to devote more time to other topics, but the outrageous behavior of so many in this movement has prompted me to write perhaps a bit more about them than I should. Then an article in New York magazine came out about this movement and I was given a brief mention and had a bit of my article quoted. Kathleen Seidel has taken credit for my mention. She also states that she told the author of this piece about John Best and Lenny Schaffer, two other neurodiversity detractors and they were mentioned in the article. Though neurodiversity provides some aggravation for me, I will try not to worry about them too much. I remember the Arab proverb the dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.

2008 has been a watershed year for me in another way in that this is the first year since 1979 that I have not attempted to work and make a living. As some people who read my writings know, though I worked sporadically (probably working for longer periods than I was unemployed) from about September of 1979 to my last failed attempt in late June 2007. The problems in the workforce became so severe I was forced to retire. I have not given up hope of maybe someday being able to work again, but it won't be easy especially in this economy.

Another landmark of my 2008 was taking some courses in web design at santa monica college. I took an introductory web class where we learned some frontpage and html. Then I took another class in XHTML and I learned how to build some web pages by hand coding. Tim Boucher who built my jonathans stories web page became too busy with his other projects to offer me the uncompensated technical assistance that he was so generous in doing for me over the years. (thanks for your help, Tim, if you happen to read this). I was plugging my novel in progress "The School of Hard Knocks" on the national radio show, studio 360, and Tim heard the show and built the page for me. I then managed to learn enough about XHTML and FTPing documents to web pages that I can now post my own articles and links on my web page. This may seem like a small accomplishment, but I am still grateful for it. I also, last fall, took a course in scripting, part javascript and part with I have not currently enrolled in any more courses but I might again at some point and hope to maybe learn more about web development and perhaps other things.

I have shelved "The school of hard knocks". The nonfiction book that I have written a first draft of and have worked on and off on has also been gathering mothballs. However, one of the ten chapters, my article about Gates, Einstein and Jefferson, is on my jonathans-stories site which I don't think I need to link to and the interested reader can find. I also have written some other excerpts from the book here on autism's gadfly and perhaps other places on my web site as well. I have been working on a novel about an autistic poker player and some of his adventures on and off for a while and i am hoping with some research to do some more work on it at some point.

My disability has made it quite difficult for me to apply myself and do the things I want to do, so though I can't help but having some hope (as irrational as that may be) the prognosis for the future may not be good and I can't help being a bit depressed.

Though 2008 was a bad year in some respects, it was a relatively good year(as good as I could have) in some others. I am going to look forward to 2009 and perhaps I can see if perhaps I can't have some interesting adventures with this blog, in other writings and perhaps even some web related stuff and maybe some other matters as well. At the end of Gone with the Wind Scarlet O'hara said tomorrow will be another day. Well I suppose tomorrow will be another year and perhaps I can make some progress. Again, a happy new year to all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Jersey: The special education largess state?

California is the golden state, Florida the sunshine state and Texas the Lone star state, New Jersey is the Garden State. Perhaps New Jersey should change its name from the Garden State to the special education largess state. It would appear that this state has a pretty excessive amount of spending on the education, speech therapy, etc. of children with autism, according to an article in today's new york times . The article states that the costs of educating an autistic child range from $30,000 to $150,000 a year with the cost of educating a typical child in New Jersey approximately $10,000 a year. The costs of educating an autistic child in New Jersey are even more expensive than educating children with other disabilities such as mental retardation without autism. Half of autistic children receive out of district placements whereas about 22% with mental retardation are placed out of district. The out of district placements are far more expensive. The students often receive expensive speech and occupational therapy costing from $65 to $90/hour.

Some school districts that have enough classified students to have their own programs end up attracting more autistic students such as the Cherry Hill school district in South Jersey. "When Districts have good programs they become magnets" Charles Lange, director of special services, for the Cherry Hill district, was quoted as saying in the article.

The article quotes the costs of educating one severely autistic child as $200,000 a year placement in a residential school.

The 1 in 150 prevalence figure that is oftcited for autism comes from the study that the CDC did two years ago. They studied several states and this figure was not universal for each state but was an average of several states with Alabama being well below the average and New Jersey being well above the average of 1 in 150 in autism prevalence.

Those who believe there has been a real autism increase due to some environmental factor cite the differences in pollutants between alabama and new jersey as the cause but provide no real evidence. As far as I know, no one has shown that vaccination rates are higher in New Jersey than in other states.

Those who may not believe the increase is real would argue that perhaps due to services or more money being spent on special education students in New Jersey, that the state is attractive to those out of state who will move to New Jersey seeking services. The findings of the CDC study argued against this showing that the majority of children with autism in New Jersey were born in the state.

However, the CDC study does not control for differences in service level of various school districts within the state and persons within the state moving to another district and obtaining a coveted autism diagnosis due to the huge amount of money some school districts in this state are willing to spend on special education students. Perhaps, this largess is an explanation for the high prevalence of autism in New Jersey.

One must question what all of this spending on special education accomplishes. As I have written before there are no adult outcomes published from the children who supposedly achieved normal functioning in Lovaas (1987). What good does speech therapy and occupational therapy do? How do these children fare as adults? As far as I know, there are no employment figures showing reduced unemployment among autistics or a casual relationship or even a correlation between special education spending, early intervention and improved outcomes of autistic children. Various researchers such as Peter Szatzmari and Eaves and Ho have shown that in some cases autistic children end up having very good outcomes regardless of what intervention is done. If someone improved while getting special education services there may not even be a casual relationship.

One also must remember the questionable cost-benefit analyses of Jacobsen et al based on Lovaas 1987, which erroneously assumes that interest rates and the rate of inflation will remain stable for decades. Also, the cost-benefit analyses don't take into consideration that punishments such as hitting children and electric shocks were the effective ingredient in Lovaas (1987) In states such as California, where I live, aversives have been outlawed, so the findings of Lovaas 1987 would not be applicable to the type of ABA these states would do without aversives.

Regular readers of autism's gadfly will also recall that I wrote a piece about half of special ed students failing the high school exit exam .

Also, an article appeared in the atlantic journal constitution some years ago by Andrew Mollison (sorry could not find it online or would link it but did read it when it came out in 2002) Showed that since the inception of the IDEA that disabled students were failing to make overall gains in test scores and that almost a third of them ended up as high school drop outs. Mollison further reported that only 28% of states reported average scores of the disabled children improved in any way. The then time assistant secretary of the u.s. department of education, Robert Pasternack, stated that the longer the amount of time a student spent in special ed, the bigger the gap in test scores between them and the regular ed. students.

Given the above facts one has to wonder whether all of the money the state of New Jersey spends on special ed is money well spent. One also wonders if New Jersey is not a haven for special educators, speech therapists, etc. looking for a quick buck at the expense of children diagnosed as autistic and whether this diagnosis does indeed follow the dollar sign in New Jersey. Perhaps this huge spending on special education that the state of New Jersey engages in are part of special education being one of the great autism ripoffs, that I hope to write about someday in Autism's gadfly. Of course, doing the requisite research is hard for me due to my disability. I have started to do it and then I came across this very fascinating article in the New York times and it was the inspiration for this blog piece. Perhaps a study should be done showing how many ABA therapists, speech and occupational therapists have moved to New Jersey from other states.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More cattle manure from Temple

I have just encountered a rather interesting article about temple Grandin online. It would seem that perhaps Grandin has spent a tad too much time at her livestock job once again and is recycling the waste products that the denizens of her slaughter houses produce. Grandin makes the unsubstantiated claim that reported cases of severe autism have gone up while the higher functioning cases and Asperger's have been stable. The 2003 California report produced by the state regional center seems to contradict that fact. They have found great increases in the reported IQs on average of their clients, suggesting that perhaps the reported rise in autism cases is at least partly due to greater awareness that people of normal and above average intelligence can have autism. She then goes on to say that it is the quirky and odd children who get tormented by school bullies but not the overtly handicapped children. Apparently she never went to the schools I went to, where as an overtly handicapped autistic child I was severely tormented. The article reports that Temple speaks from personal experience as she was diagnosed with Asperger's. This is in spite of the fact that what mainly differentiates Asperger's from high functioning autism is the fact there is no speech delay in the former but there is in the latter. The article goes on to state that Temple had a speech delay and could not talk until she was 3. I don't know if Grandin told the reporter that she was diagnosed as asperger's or whether this is misreporting and/or ignorance on the reporter's part.

Next Grandin is quoted as saying that "everyone with autism is detail oriented" as if she knows every single autistic person. Stereotypes like the ones she used to make about all autistics being visual thinkers are common for her. She seems to think all autistics fall into her unique mode of being when she has only met a fraction of all of the autistics in the world.

Grandin once more goes into her tired cliches of channeling obsessions into careers, saying if a kid wants to draw trains let him do so as it might lead to a career in graphic design or a career in the railroad industry. It is such juicy irony that she would pick the railroad industry after all the mishaps of Darius McCollum who was obsessed with trains and became an expert on the New York Transit system after befriending some of the people who worked there during his childhood. Instead of a job as a train driver, McCollum has spent a good portion of his life cooling his heels in prison for taking trains for joyrides due to his obsession. Grandin then pulls a rabbit out of neurodiversity's hat, claiming that kids who have the potential to be computer programmers end up being dishwashers because society tells them they can't do it.

Grandin goes on to say that the problems of autistic children could be mitigated in school if all school children were forced to wear uniforms, then the autistic people who don't wear fashionable clothes would have an easier time of things. She claims that in some countries such as the Phillipines she has seen first hand how school uniforms help autistic children. Welcome to the military! thanks Temperamental. I wonder how American school children who would certainly be culturally different than children in third world nations would feel about this. What if they found out they were forced to wear uniforms because of autistic children. I can't help thinking the retribution that would take place against autistic children in schools would make the bullying they currently have to endure look like a love fest.

Grandin then continues to branch out her expertise from livestock facility design into the economic state of the U.S. currently, talking about the recession and the bailout making the bizarre claim that the wall street bankers should have been engineers and how they failed to see the big picture.

I believe that Grandin presents some dangerous propaganda with her simple quick fixes not only for autistic children but even the U.S. Economy.

Recently an anonymous poster in another blog post i made commented on how the same autistics who can get the name recognition, e.g. temple, donna williams, stephen shore, lianne willey, etc. are constantly recycled (apparently in the same manner of the waste products of the cattle that Grandin works with). Though I am an agnostic and practially an atheist I will say metaphorically, God protect us from recycled autistics like Temple.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Neurodiversity members should contact autism speaks about no asd board members

As many people with more than a cursory interest in autism know, autism speaks has recently appointed two new members to their board of directors. If I remember correctly, one of these two board members is the parent of an autistic child. Neither of these two board members is autistic themselves. This has generated some controversy in the autism blogosphere as it asks the interesting question of why autism speaks has never had an autistic board member. It is felt by some that they largely ignore the people they serve by not having one of those people on their board of directors. Some of these people have answered the question themselves. For example David Andrews has stated that it is because AS's goal is to eradicate autistic people. Other people have given similar answers. In what is a great irony, the neurodiversity movement, the main detractors of autism speaks, have complained about the name of this organization and states that it does not speak for autism. Yet, these individuals with their omnescience, propose to get inside the heads of the AS leadership and speak for them without consulting to them personally about what the answer is to this question.

The controversy continues unabated. Two bloggers who are parents of autistic children, Lisa Jo Rudy and Kristina Chew have posted this question on their blogs. The latest to enter the fray is another parent of an autistic child and special education teacher and published author Mike Stanton, who asks, "Will Autism speaks ever speak for us?" Apparently he is asking is there some way we can get neurodiversity members involved in autism speaks, take over their hard earned capital and use it for our own purposes which totally disagrees with AS. These marriages of convenience do happen. After all, Anna Nicole Smith had a billion reasons for marrying that oil tycoon who was 61 years her senior. My friend from Norway, Ivar, (not Ivar Lovaas but an ND with the same first name) says that he posted something to autism's gadfly about how he felt money should not influence policy towards autism. Apparently his post got lost somehow as I never saw it. Well Ivar, if you read this, it is the sad truth. In the United States, we do not have the socialist policies that Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweeden embrace We have a capitalistic society here and those who manage to get on top, have power and can run the show. That may or may not be fair but that is just the way it is.

Though in the days when I was employed and had more money I donated money to CAN and NAAR on occasions before AS was created, I have never donated money to AS and probably would not for a variety of reasons even if I could afford to. I have never worked for autism speaks and have no involvement with them. I have no idea why none of their board members has autism but I realize it is an interesting question. I am just curious about the motives of those who usually ask this question.

In light of these facts I must ask the members of the neurodiversity crowd a question in response to their question about why there are no board members with autism at AS. Why haven't any of you called autism speaks or emailed them and asked them why they have no members with autism on their board. Perhaps they will give you an answer. Why can't their side of the story be told?

During the time when Zach Lassiter was claiming that AS was trying to prevent him from selling a t-shirt with a critical message about them emblazoned on it, I questioned the validity of the claim. It seemed far fetched to me that a multimillion dollar charitable organization would take time to harass a small time t-shirt entrepeneur. I called autism speaks and they referred me to a woman named Dana Marnand sp?? who is their communications director. I was told that Zazzle who marketed Zach's t shirts felt that Zach was violating their terms of service and Zazzle unilaterally decided to discontinue Zach's t-shirt advertisement on their web site and autism speaks had nothing to do with it. When I challenged the various members of ND who were using this as an excuse to bash autism speaks to prove me wrong they were not able to do so. It turned out that neurodiversity's cause celebre of the month was completely bogus.

I also emailed the research department at Autism Speaks, complaining about the fact that they fund the Lauren Mottron lab who employs Michelle Dawson, an anti-cure propagandist. They responded that research grants were carefully reviewed. Though I was not happy with their response they did give me a response and were polite and helpful.

If the members of the ND movement who ask this question are really interested in an answer why don't they just contact AS and ask them and find out what their answer is for themselves. Or maybe they don't want an answer to this question. Maybe they just want to use this as an excuse to vent their anger. Perhaps this is a thinly veiled marriage proposal, hoping that somehow they can acquire the millions of dollars of ready made capital so they can more easily pursue their own agenda. If neither one of those scenarios are true why don't these people just ask AS why they have appointed no board members with autism. I suspect they would get an answer of some sort. Even if they don't it won't hurt to ask What is the harm in asking? Or maybe ND has some ulterior motive for asking this question on the internet without contacting autism speaks and getting their side of the story?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lisa Jo Rudy's strange choices for the autism speaks board

Lately, there has been some controversy concerning the fact that not a single person on the autism spectrum is on the board of autism speaks or has no position of power there. Ordinarily I would agree that this is a legitimate beef. It would be good if someone on the spectrum could add some input and I feel at least some persons on the spectrum (myself included at the risk of sounding arrogant) who are in favor of AS's stated goal of curing and preventing autism might make good candidates for board members. Besides myself, some possible choices would be this lady who calls herself Droopy, who is nonverbal, but is very articulate using a keyboard. Another good possible choice would be Tom Mckean. Also Marty Murphy is another possible candidate.

However Lisa Jo Rudy of the autism about blog seems to have some other persons in mind. She suggests Temple Grandin, Stephen Shore, Ari Neeman, John Michael Carley and Michelle Dawson. Not a single one of these five persons is in favor of curing autism yet for some reason that is beyond my comprehension Rudy seems to feel that these five should be considered for an organization who is in favor of curation and prevention when all of them have publicly stated they are adamantly opposed to this notion. Two of the five have asperger's rather than autism and would not even have been diagnosable as autistic during their childhood based on the diagnostic criteria that was extant during that time. Shore already serves on the IACC for some strange reason I can't fathom when he is against a cure for autism yet the IACC was created out of the combating autism act which states curation and prevention are goals.

Michelle Dawson, works in the laboratory of Laurent Mottron which receives funding from autism speaks in spite of the fact that in some of her writings she makes it quite plain how much she despises this organization, yet she continues to work in this lab and has not resigned in protest.

Should members of the Ku Klux Klan be appointed to serve as board members of the NAACP. How about if the DNC just to be fair puts five republicans on their board of directors, after all the fact that they are all democrats must be unfair to the republicans.

It seems to me that most if not all of the people who complain about no autistics on the board of autism speaks are those with a neurodiversity agenda who are opposed to a cure and prevention and seem concerned that research funded by AS will someday lead to selective abortions of autistic fetuses.

Could these people have an ulterior motive for serving on this board. It seems there is a pattern among at least some persons in the ND movement to attempt to hijack the capital of others who have worked hard to earn it. Bob Wright worked very hard to acquire the capital for AS so his grandson might have a slim chance of a decent life that the ND people want to seem to deny his grandson in the unlikely event a cure or at least some other treatment from AS's scientific research were found in our lifetime. Ditto for the persons who donated money to AS and organized the walks and walked so that their children and relatives could have a chance of a better life but have been called eugenecists by people who seem to think they should serve on their board. Michelle Dawson has advocated that scientists who do not agree with the agenda of AS apply for research grants there. Ari Neeman and others in the ASAN have urged persons to request things from the IACC which grew out of the combating autism act a law which they made very plain that they did not like and which they attempted to prevent congress from passing. Yet they want to take advantage of this law they don't like.

It is quite possible that the ND movement just wants to take over the large capital of AS, as they are a movement whose numbers are too small to raise sufficient capital to start their own organization and fund raising efforts.

When I suggested that as a person on the spectrum who wants a cure for autism that I should be on the board and that if i were running the show the funding the lauren mottron lab receives from AS would be discontinued since they employ Michelle Dawson this nasty neurodiversity hatemonger who calls themselves alyric who is apparently a pal of Dawson's berated me saying that what i was doing was malicious spite and made the nasty and abusive personal attack that my minder did not teach me any manners.

I think it is likely that an AS board member who agreed with the cure philosophy who was autistic would be called a token autistic and a house autistic and would result in the ND anticure movement starting yet another internet war on top of all the others they seem to have a proclivity to start.

Ms. Rudy's suggestions for board members clearly baffle me and I hope that if there is an AS board member on the spectrum they will not be drawn from the ND crowd.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Evil special educators redux department

Well it looks like another delightful special education teacher is at it again. here is an interesting article.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

more interesting stuff about Bill Gates

I have just finished reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. He is a writer who often writes for the New Yorker and he has a rather interesting perspective on success. In his book, he states that success is not necessarily due to innate talents or gifts but rather to both effort and serendipitous opportunity. Neurodiversity proponent Frank Klein once said that autism equals genius and greatness. I would link to Klein's webpage for all those neurodiversity doubting thomases, but his web page seems to have been taken down some time ago. Thomas Edison said that genius was 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Gladwell in large part espouses the latter view. He demonstrates in his book how usually to achieve a great level of proficiency in any given area approximately 10,000 hours of practice is needed. This is in any field of endeavor, including computer programming, fiction writing, basketball playing, etc. This equates to 3 hours of practice a day for 7 days a week for ten years. As some people know, I have written An essay in which I question the autism of Bill Gates and other people. Some persons in the autism community seem to believe that Bill Gates is autistic. I wrote a variety of facts about Gates. Gladwell presented some more interesting facts. When Gates was in the seventh grade, his parents enrolled him in Lakeside School, a very Tony private school in the Seattle area. The parents of the school's students raised enough money to buy a computer terminal at the school. The students at Gates' school started a computer club. This was in the late 1960s during which time very few schools, including universities, had computer clubs yet Bill Gates got to join one at age 13. Time sharing computers were a very new thing and at this age Gates got a jump on just about everyone else. Another parent at Gates school worked at the school had a firm that sold time sharing to companies and was able to get Gates and other students at the school free computer time in exchange for testing software. Gates become obsessed with this machine and would often spend as much as thirty hours a week working on the computer. Gates mother wondered why it was hard for Gates to get up in the morning. In my essay I wrote about Jactatio Capitus, a neurologic condition in which people rock in a manner reminiscent of autistic people, yet it does not impair their functioning the way autism does. It is often caused or exacerbated by sleep deprivation. Then someone who knew Bill Gates got a call from TRW asking for people who had experience programming the type of main frame that he was working on at the time, The supply for such people in those days was short as luck would have it. With the consent of the Lakeside school Gates was able to pursue an independent study program as an adolescent working for TRW on this computer. All of these extraordinary opportunities which would not conceivably be available to more than a handful of people in the entire world in those days gave Bill Gates gobs of free time to practice computer programming and get in the 10,000 hours that Gladwell writes about. Although Gates undoubtedly has some intelligence and talent, serendipitous opportunites quite clearly played a role in Gates being able to acquire computer skills. Gates conceded in an interview with Gladwell that if there were even 50 teenagers in the entire world who had the opportunity to gain the type of training and experience that was offered to him he would have been surprised.

No one can really dispute that at least in large part extraordinary luck played a part in Gates' acquiring the knowledge that he did. Not to mention the fact that he was able to make friends with Paul Allen who also attended the Lakewood school and also acquire the same type of knowledge that Gates did. As my psychoanalyst used to say, "two heads are better than one" so that was all the more strength for the fledgling microsoft when Allen helped Gates with the new startup in the mid 1970s.

To those who claim that Gates is autistic and that his success proves that autistic people can succeed, I saw, read Gladwell and look at these facts.