Friday, January 30, 2009

autism isn't harmful?

I wonder if most persons who have an autistic child or in fact a number of persons with autism themselves who might, for various reasons, not be inclined or be able to write about autism on the internet would regard autism as not being harmful. I also wonder whether autism researchers, such as my friend Matthew Belmonte, who has a brother who has never spoken would regard autism as harmless. Apparently, Laurent Mottron, Morton Gernsbacher and Michelle Dawson (her again)question the premise that autism is harmful. In the article I just linked to, they question this premise based on a variety of cognitive tests that research subjects in their lab and other labs have received. They seem to think that because the persons with autism whom they and various other researchers have tested have a superior score on the block design and other types of tests somehow shows that autism is not a harmful disability.

One of the reasons I have linked to this article is because I was having a dialogue with one of my favorite individuals in the ND movement, someone who calls herself "alyric". As part of the dialogue I had noted that Michelle Dawson and her colleagues had pointed out in a journal article they did not believe autism was harmful. Alyric expressed disbelief and challenged me to produce documentation of the article, which I promptly did. Alyric claims that she is a big fan of Michelle's, so I am absolutely shocked that Alyric would be so ignorant of the published work that her idol and those she collaborates with have produced. I am equally shocked that Michelle Dawson would claim to have such great respect for this person who is unaware of her publications, but I suppose that is neither here nor there.

The article goes on to imply that Nicholas Tessla, who was celibate, had autism. It gives a quote from Tessla questioning how many inventions came from married men. Interestingly enough,Thomas Edison one of the most prolific inventors of all time was married. So perhaps Mottron, et. al. should not be implying that Tessla was autistic or even that his autistic celibacy was a gift resulting in the ability to invent.

It then ends with an autistic woman stealing Larry Arnold's well-known metaphor about the one-eyed man being king in the country of the blind. The authors imply that autism would not be harmful if society changed.

I must respectfully disagree. I believe my autism that has impaired my ability to make a living, caused fine motor and perceptual problems (incidentally, I am one of those rare autistics who does poorly on the block design test), inability to have friendships and romantic relationships, causes me to self-stimulate throughout the day and not get things done (except some posts on this blog with a bit of effort), my phobias are harmful. Harold Doherty I am sure, regards the problems of his son Connor harmful. Josh Greenfield has written about his severely autistic son in a few books and how harmful he thought the boy's constant screaming, tantrums, inability to talk or take care of himself was. I wonder if the mother of Ashley Brock (the little girl whose autism caused her to drown because she was too impaired to be aware of the danger water posed for her) would regard autism as harmless. I really don't think so. I must respectfully disagree with Dr. Mottron and his two co-authors. It would be nice if society could be more accepting, I agree, but that is only a small part of the problem. Contrary to what those in the ND movement believe about me, I am not opposed to human rights for persons with disabilities. However, societal acceptance and the lack of rights (alleged or otherwise) do not constitute a lot of the problems that persons with autism have.

I wonder if those persons at autism speaks who review grant proposals for research have read Dr. Mottron's piece. Since they provide funding to his laboratory, I can either conclude that they have not read the above article that I have linked to or they are asleep at the switch, indeed incompetent in regards to whom they decide to fund. I suspect there are many parents who try to raise money for autism speaks, through walks, solicitations of donations from their friends, etc. who would disagree with Dr. Mottron's view that autism is not harmful. I wonder how they would feel about this man receiving funding with their money. In their case, I suspect many of these parents have never read Dr. Mottron's treatise and never will. I wonder how the powers that be at autism speaks can explain themselves to these good people who have so much frustration over their child's disability. These people I suspect long for a cure, or at least a way that the behaviors and problems that their children have can be mitigated in order to not be harmful. I wonder what these people would think of Dr. Mottron's essay.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another article on Wechsler and Raven's with autism

For those interested in the research by Michelle Dawson and her group on assessing intelligence in autistics on the Raven's versus the Wechsler, I have just found out that one of the IMFAR abstracts that dealt with the issue of the Raven's in autistics has actually been published online. The article is here Though I may have beaten this issue to death somewhat lately, I was interested to find out that this was not just a conference abstract but an article that was actually available online, and I have just read the entire article and found it interesting. Testing was done on a group of autistic children and children with other disorders as well as typical controls. The autistic group scored higher on the Raven's than on the Wechsler. However, the high scores were just specific to the lower functioning group (lower functioning being defined as having a full scale IQ of less than 85) who scored about 20 IQ points higher on the Raven's than on the Wechsler. There was no difference between the two tests in the group of higher functioning autistics. I won't comment further but I just thought that everyone who, like myself, has an interest in the work the Mottron lab has done on intelligence in the Ravens versus Wechsler might like to read this article.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some corrections on my postings about Michelle Dawson

I have been reading some stuff posted by Michelle Dawson on the leftbrain/rightbrain and on her TMOB board and I would like to offer some corrections and errors on my part that Michelle points out.

First off I would like to change my statement in the post about whether or not Michelle's work has been replicated. I am still not clear on whether or not Hayashi is a replication of Michelle's work or not. I have to concede I only read the abstract. I have not read the whole study. Based on reading the abstract it would seem that this was not in fact a replication but a different kind of study. I will have to read the entire study before making that definite determination. I should have said so in my previous post, I did not, I regrettably made that error. Michelle claims that I have misrepresented what the study is but she has not commented on whether or not Hayashi used the Wechsler as well as the Raven's. I would like to say I should have phrased my post on this subject better, and conceded that reading the abstract is not the same as reading the study. That is true as Michelle pointed out. I will attempt to locate the entire study that Joseph referred me to and will write in this post whether or not I was wrong.

Also, I apparently did not understand that the digit span test was not included in the newer edition of the Wechsler that Michelle used in her study. The references I cited were dated and apparently the Wechsler had not been revised at that time, so that is the explanation for the digit span not being used. I did not understand this, I apologize for that. However, I would still be curious as to how the percentiles stack up if the older version of the WISC were used with the digit span as autistics have been shown to score high on this test so I believe it to be a relevant issue as if the older Wechsler were given and a comparison with the Raven's were made it might provide some more significant information.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Autism Bitch from Hell: Neurodiversity Propagandist

I see that one of my favorite hatemongers and propagandists in the neurodiversity movement, someone who calls themselves the autism bitch from hell is at it again Her latest post is another propaganda effort with the tired cliche constantly purported by neurodiversity. She writes: Autism Speaks has never come close to being an anti-vaccine group. Its agenda consists of one thing only: Genetic research to develop a prenatal test to be used for routine abortion of autistic children.

What is so absurd about this statement is that they fund the work of my friend Matthew Belmonte who does fMRI research as well as event related potential research. They also fund the work of a Dr. Pineda who does work in neurofeedback mirror neuron studies and mu wave suppression, no relation to genetics at all.

In addition to this, they lobby for insurance bills in order to get insurance companies to pay for treatments such as ABA and speech therapy, again nothing to do with genetics.

This new attempt at propaganda by this person who is too cowardly to sign their own name to their posts is truly pathetic. One can't help wondering if the reason ABFH posts anonymously is that she is perhaps afraid of a libel suit from AS, as they certainly would be on solid legal ground if they chose to pursue legal action against the ABFH for her nasty and defamatory statements.

One only has to look at the grants section of the AS website to see how full of shit this person is. We see that AS funds the work of a UCLA scientist named Deanna Greene who studies socially driven attention in autistic children using fMRI imaging. We see they fund a kathleen meyer who studies sibling imitation intervention treatments. And the list goes on and on. We can see that there are many things that AS funds that have nothing to do with genetics, let alone the stupidity and the nastiness of claiming they are deliberately trying to find a way to abort autistic fetuses.

Last but certainly not least they fund one of the idols of neurodiversity, Dr. Lauren Mottron who employs postdoctoral fellow Luc Keita who receives funding from AS. This lab also employs neurodiversity sidekick michelle dawson. ABFH recently wrote a post about Michael John Carley being a traitor, but she does not seem to feel the same way about michelle dawson who continues to work in the Mottron lab which solicits AS funding and won't resign in protest.

However, there is one thing that ABFH does get right in her diatribe. The fact that autism speaks is now trying to cowtow to the mercury militia to get in their good graces. Actually, I feel that autism speaks should change their name to money talks based on their behavior. They have Sally Bernard on their board of directors who from what I have heard has a worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 million dollars. She is one of the founders of the mercury causes autism group SAFEMINDS and was one of the authors of the first journal article to claim that autism was a form of mercury poisoning. The anti-vax camp has tons of money and power behind it. Autism speaks certainly covets that additional capital. Also it is possible that Bob and Suzanne Wright are trying to overcome the rift with their daughter Katie, a militant anti-vax activist who constantly writes articles on the age of autism webpage, which endorses an "autism epidemic caused by vaccine point of view".

ABFH goes on to say they have no hope of AS redeeming themselves in the eyes of the ND movement. This is probably true also, as ND is a weak and puny little movement, that looks much bigger than it really is because of the internet. They don't have the capital of the mercury militia. This is probably why they complain about no autistics on the board. They just want to get into that capital and want to try to change AS into an ND type organization. As they don't have the capital of Sallie Bernard and JB Handley they will have no hope of doing that.

It is a shame that ABFH has to stoop to such ridiculous propaganda and anyone willing to check the facts will see how absurd her claims are.

Addendum: I see that ABFH has changed the wording in her post from it's agenda consists of only one thing to its ultimate goal. This was her response to my comment on her blog and this post, since obviously they don't do one thing at AS. By using ultimate goal she can just claim they are more interested in that than in anything else, but it is still baloney as one can see from looking at the AS site and what it funds, certainly its ultimate goal is to find a cure for autism and to help kids in the now with academic and other issues.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

more lies and hatred from neurodiversity

Well it seems once again some hatemongers and dishonest people from the ND movement are using me as a punching bag to use the Freudian defense mechanism of displacement due to their own hatred of themselves. Out of the clear blue sky someone mentioned me as someone who is a collaborator and traitor of some sort and added the nice personal insult that I was somehow not clever enough to make money at what I was doing unlike someone else who the post was originally about, but this person who, i did not know about until the other day seems to be thoroughly intoxicated with hatred and bitterness:

Totally agree with that, and suggest that the SECOND most notorious collaborator is Jonathon Mitchell, who fortunately, doesn't have the wit to make any money at selling out as MJC has.

This person goes on with more of a barrage of insults and an outright lie:

You're "number two" all right, a whole pile of it!
The "Quisling" part comes in because he's best buds with JBJr and Doherty, and for his anti-autistic comments on LB/RB.

AND, the mere fact that he's inept and ineffective doesn't take anything away from his status as a traitor.

And then there is the topper of not only stooping to bringing my mother into the mix but stating something that is an outright deliberate lie and fabrication on his part:

He admitted on his blog that he learned his attitude about autism being a "horrible tragedy" at his mother's knee, and refuses to consider any other point of view.

Before going on with the rest of the blog post. Let me say this now, this is an outright lie on clay adam's part. I never admitted on my blog that I learned about autism being a horrible tragedy from my mother. This person who calls themselves Ivar one time asked about my mother and her attitudes. I sort of knew what he was leading up to and should have rejected this comment but I chose to take the moral high road and answer him telling him my mother was still alive and had a similar attitude about a cure that I did. Then Ivar made a comment which I rejected stating that I had learned this from my mother's knee. I never in any way shape or form said that I had learned any of this from my parents. Clay Adams is an out and out liar. But many in the ND movement are not above the fray of ethical or honest behavior it would seem. I learned to hate autism and wish for a cure, from having to suffer from years of rejection, years of having to be addicted to self-stimulatory behaviors and not being able to attend regular school or make a living or have any sort of a near normal life that many if not most of the neurodiversity proponents enjoy and take for granted and a multitude of other disabilities and problems that are too lengthy to mention in this already long post.

Adams then goes on to imply that anyone who disagrees with the neurodiversity philosophy is not welcome to comment about it on another blog other than their own, engaging in the well known censorship that neurodiversity has seemed to advocate since its inception:

Jon M. doesn't just stay on his blog, but takes it on the road to infest other people's blogs.

Then, David Andrews, someone who says they are autistic and has a masters degree in educational psychology somehow weighs in on my character Andrews main claim to fame is helping to encourage Simon Baron Cohen write that absolutely inane article claiming that high functioning autism should not be considered a disability. Andrews also seems to enjoy engaging in abusive insults:

I get the feeling that Jon Mitchell hasn't really learned much from his degree studies. Nor from life, really. Like... so he wanted to go into brain research but his autism has kept him from that? BOLLOCKS!Other people's reaction to the diagnosis, or his own behaviour (regardless of the autism), may have done. His unwillingness to learn, too. They fuck your chances of getting on pretty badly. Other people's prejudices are one of the biggest pbstacles for autistics or any other 'differents'. Pity he can't see that... I guess he didn't listen too well in his social psychology lectures.

I in turn made the correct response that andrews just happened to decide he was autistic well into adulthood, never went to special schools, was able to get married and never had problems of the magnitude that I have had in my life so he can't possibly judge me, he responded with all of these great words of wisdom:

Oh dear, Jonny boy, what an ignorant assuming piece of shit you really are, eh?"David, it does not matter whether i listened in my social psych classes or not." Yes, it does. You'd know more about the influence of other people's prejudices and their effects on the everyday lives of those subjected to them. Dipshit."I am not an M.ED. pending or distinguished, but I have learned about autism from the inside out, the real world, unlike you, who just learned from books," Learned from real life, inside out. There sems to have been as suspicion of autism when I was younger, but not much was done about it. Very nearly ended up in a special school but - if you are a product of special education - I'm glad I didn't fucking go! LoL!

I know more about autism than you'll ever fucking know, tosspot! LoL And yes, I was able to get married... not all that rare, actually! And I was diagnosed by two psychiatrists in the UK as an adult back in 1997. Get your fucking facts straight, and contend with being an idiot. My god... this is why you only have a Bachelor's degree.Now we know the REAL Jonathan Mitchell, don't we? Hates anyone on the spectrum who did a shitload better than he feels he did.Self-sorrowing arsehole.

i think all you deserve is insults when you can't get your bloody facts right. and i can tell you now, you were way out of bloody line.pity you didn't learn to get your facts right when you did your degree. plus, on insults and abuse, you're nobody to wonder you can't get ends here, this does.

One has to wonder about what "latrine lips" Andrews says about the suspicion of autism. Why wasn't anything done? Perhaps it was because his autism was nowhere nearly as severe as mine. If he never had to go to special ed schools, he was able to get married and have a daughter. He could not possibly know what life is like for a typical autistic person. He knows nothing about autism from the inside out. As far as my only getting a bachelors, then according to Andrews convoluted logic, then why was he only able to get a masters and not a doctorate. Something must be terribly wrong with him also. He has to personally attack me, the fact that I am currently unemployed and all of the other things and Clay Adams has to bring my mother into the mix and intentionally lie about what I said on my blog. Andrews parents certainly would have done something if his autism was significant enough to warrant a diagnosis when he was younger which he did not receive. Andrews by his own admission was not diagnosed until 1997 which would have been when he was over 30. So I stand by my statement that the problems of autistics are really an abstraction to him. Furthermore, as far as I can tell Andrews was diagnosed with asperger's not autism, whereas I had a speech delay as a child so his condition is really different from mine and the others who have autism.

If I am as truly inept and ineffective as Clay Adams claims, then I wonder why I managed to get noticed by him and clearly get under his skin so much. Perhaps I have been effective and adept in putting at least one misguided member of the ND movement in their place who has to respond with such blatantly hostility and lies about what I said in my blog.

I truly feel sorry for Clay Adams and David Andrews. I feel sorry for Andrews' daughter that she has a father who would stoop to such nastiness and obscene language. I feel sorry for any potential client/patient in Finland that Andrews would see.

The entire exchange can be read here

I am thankful though, in my blogging to expose neurodiversity as the terrible philosophy that it is that these two individuals can allow us to judge the entire ND movement by the delightful company they keep.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jake Crosby redux Department

Well I see that Jake Crosby, who has Asperger's, has written another essay published on the age of autism web page. I wrote about Jake on another gadfly post back in September. This time he does not write as much unfavorable about the ND movement as he did in his last essay. Hopefully at some point we will see a third essay from Jake where he will write more negative things about the neurodiversity movement. Both of his essays which are linked to this post are worth checking out.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Michelle Dawson's research: Intelligent Autistics or Neurodiversity Propaganda?

One of the tenets of the neurodiversity movement is that autism is not at all a disease or horrific handicap, but just an alternative form of brainwiring. Some members of the ND movement concede that autism is a disability. However, on closer scrutiny, it would seem that they differ between the medical model of disability versus the social model of disability. This implies that if only society would change and be more accepting of autistics and/or accommodate their unique way of being, they would not be failures or have poor outcomes.

Until recently, any scientific evidence for this tenet of ND seemed to be saliently lacking. About a year and a half ago, some cognitive scientists in Canada published a study which suggests that intelligence in autism has been underestimated due to the fact they are given the wrong test, namely the Wechsler IQ test. Another test, the Raven’s progressive matrices, they say, is a more valid test. Some autistics who did poorly on the Wechsler scored substantially higher, in some instances much higher, on the Raven’s matrices. Two groups of autistics (one children’s group and an adult group) were compared with two non-autistic control groups. It was found that the difference in the test scores of the controls between the Wechsler and on the Raven’s was negligible.
In my own particular case, I am not sure if I have ever taken the Raven’s matrices or how well I would do on this test. The Wechsler is composed of two different tests, verbal and performance. Each of these two tests in turn is composed of six subtests which I have varying abilities in. I score above average on vocabulary, superior in general knowledge, arithmetic and a test of abstract reasoning called similarities. On the comprehension subtest which has to do with social skills I do not do as well. On some of the subtests of the performance test I score about average on a few others I score in the severely retarded range. Interestingly, one of the subtests I do poorly in is the block design test in which many autistics excel in. As part of my brain damage I have perceptual motor problems which impair my fine motor coordination, handwriting and ability to put together puzzles.
The study, has one of neurodiversity/autism hub’s own bloggers as the lead author, Michelle Dawson. The results of the study has prompted a few neurodiversity proponents to give this study a shout-out claiming that autistics are not really stupid or retarded (in the cases of autistics who score in the retarded range on certain tests of intelligence) .
Autism Diva writes:
So they test a "retarded" autistic using the wrong tests and then expect them to be retarded for the rest of their lives, shove them in the retarded bin and forget about them, not find their talents and use them so they can be "successful" in a different way.
Alyric writes:
One of the participants scored the bottom of the bottom on every test except for the Raven at which he excelled. No question this person was and is severely impaired absolutely no question about it. But what are we to do with the equally undeniable fact that this person also excelled on the premier test of fluid intelligence? There’s a very big question mark, right there along with all the particularly autistic people, maybe people like you.

Alyric then goes on to state that perhaps if the special ed system had the results of Dawson’s findings, I would have been able to be mainstreamed as a child and that I should be grateful for Dawson’s research because it could help people like me and possibly autistics could function normally or at least better in society based on Dawson’s findings. Since my scores on the Wechsler are so different than those of Dawson’s research subjects it shows that she (Alyric) does not understand my situation.
Joseph writes: I can tell you for a fact that Michelle’s work is being cited by parents in situations where the school system is underestimating the cognitive potential of autistic children. I won’t give details but it is.
The researchers themselves also give implications of their findings to the media:
Lauren Mottron writes:
If we label those children as below-normal in intelligence that is how they’re treated. The challenge is to coax that spark into the kind of intelligence that manifests itself in practice.
Dawson herself writes:
I hope this paper will have the practical effect of making it less likely that autisics will be written off, as autistics are so routinely written off by autism advocates in Canada and elsewhere.
Let us look at the aspects of the study itself: One of the questions is, are the subjects truly representative of autistics who might be classified as intellectually retarded? First off, Dawson excluded any autistic who had a known genetic problem and only included persons with idiopathic autism whose only diagnosis would be autism rather than asperger’s. This means that persons with fragile X, tuberous sclerosis, etc. were excluded. This could mean as many as 10% of all persons diagnosed as autistic, most of whom might actually fall in that retarded range. Also, the group of autistic children is comprised of 35 males and 3 females- a 12 to 1 ratio. The adult group of 11 males and 2 females is a 6:1 ratio. The ratio of males to females in the general population of autistics is 4:1. As noted by Boyd in his critique of Lovaas (1987) sexual inequivalencies in autism research are relevant because there is research showing that female autistics as a group are often substantially more severely autistic than males. Therefore, it would appear that Dawson’s sample excluded a substantial number of subjects who might be classified as low functioning.
The composition of the control groups is also interesting. In the children it is mostly males. The adult control group consists entirely of males. The study says they were recruited from an advertisement in a local newspaper. I wonder if it is possible that this newspaper is Dr. Mottron’s favorite French Canadian porno rag. If there is any reason for excluding females in one of the control groups and having very few in the others it is not given. Therefore, the comparisons between autistic subjects and controls is not representative of either group. as it is questionable how people picked at random from a newspaper ad would be exclusively males.
The scores on the Wechsler are not reported in a traditional sense, i.e. below 70 being retarded above 100 being above average, but rather as percentiles. Individual scores are not given on the Wechsler IQ or any of the subtests. The autistic adult group on the average scored at about the 50th percentile on the Wecshler, so clearly as an average range they were not retarded at all, so applying the statements of the study to the adult group is certainly misleading. The group of autistic children’s average percentile was 31st in the verbal portion of the Wechsler and 26th in the performance. When expressed as percentiles it would seem that this is a disparity between 50th percentile, but, as Dawson states herself in the study, this is in the low average range rather than a retarded average. The percentile in the verbal IQ this might mean an IQ in the low 90s on average as opposed to an average IQ of 100, so on average, this was clearly a higher functioning sample than one who would be composed of many members testing at a level of mental retardation. The stated average percentile of 31st is also misleading when looking at Dawson’s graph of the average of the subtests in the verbal portion of the Wechsler. The Verbal Wechsler is composed of six subtests. For some reason Dawson either excluded the digit span test from the graph or it was not given to the subjects. On two of the other five subtests we see that the average score in the comprehension subtest is below 20th percentile and the vocabulary is also on the low side. Yet on the other three subtests, which measure academic skills, similarities, general knowledge and arithmetic, we see that the average percentile is around 40th, showing that as a group these autistics were nearly average in IQ if we just included the results of these tests. In the block design test, the average was 60th percentile with other subtests of the performance section of the Wechsler being substantially lower. I have mostly focused on the verbal section rather than the performance section because I feel it is more relevant for assessing the children’s academic potential. Also the very low average on the comprehension test is relevant to this discussion but more about that later.
When we look at Dawson’s graph on figure 3 of the study we see that 10 of the 38 children scored 50 or more percentile points on the Raven’s than on the Wechsler, only about 25%. Five of the 38 children had scores that were as high or higher on the Wechsler than on the Raven’s matrices. The remaining 23 children scored higher on their Raven’s percentile than the Wechsler, but in a number of cases it was only fractionally higher, e.g. 30th percentile as opposed to 25th percentile or 70th percentile as opposed to 65th percentile, showing no significant increase in intelligence in one test versus another. It is possible those children could have had a headache or not been feeling well the day they took the Wechsler, than on the day they took the Raven’s and this could account for the small disparity in some of the cases.
As I said before, even if Dawson wants to claim that the Raven’s as a measure of fluid intelligence shows that autistics have the potential for good outcomes outside of negative societal constraints, she will have the explain the poor results on the comprehension subtest as it applies to society. The low average on this test indicates that these autistics would do poorly in social situations, not know what appropriate action to take in certain instances and would apply to them negatively in school and job and other situations. For this reason the results of the comprehension subtest in some aspects may be more valid an indicator of their functioning level than either the Raven’s or Wechsler as a whole.

Even assuming I am somehow mistaken and what I believe to be Dawson's questionable science is sound, the question is, how can the knowledge that autistics do well on tests of fluid intelligence be applied so that they can have better outcomes, how can the educational situation be modified so that the autistics will receive a better education with this knowledge that we have? As is typical, the neurodiversity movement fails miserably in addressing this issue.

Neurodiversity seems fond of spreading stereotypes and urban legends about persons with autism that have no basis in reality. I believe their claim that the results of Dawson’s research showing that autistic people who function at a retarded level have the potential to perform normally is one of them and yet another of the pieces of propaganda that they stoop to in order to promote their misguided agenda.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dr. Hertz-Piccioto: Perhaps special education is the artifact you are looking for

A recent study that has just been published by Dr. Irva Hertz-Piccioto is making headlines in the media and is getting a fair amount of coverage in the autism blogosphere. It is another attempt by the MIND institute to show that the increases in autism admissions to the state of California regional centers are not due to increased awareness, loosening of diagnostic criteria or people immigrating to the state of California to get their superior autism services. It is not so dissimilar to the study that her colleague Bob Byrd came out with several years ago. I must concede I have not read the study, which just came out in a journal called Epidemiology recently so perhaps I can't totally comment on the design of the study. However it appears that neurologist Stephen Novella has read this study and is commenting on it in his blog.

Though Dr. Hertz-Piccioto has stated to the media that it is time to start looking for something in the environment, she does not appear to use the word environment in the actual study itself. She apparently uses the word artifacts. What artifacts might these be? Since Dr. Hertz-Piccioto is a professional epidemiologist, if there has been an increase in something in the environment that took place starting in the late 1980s to the present, then I suggest she look for it, study it, show how it relates to autism and publish it in a peer reviewed journal. Some of the candidates that she mentions to the media are pesticides and heavy metals. Both of those seem farfetched to me, since most of the biggest increases in the California prevalence numbers have come from urban areas rather than rural areas. It seems more likely that exposure to pesticides would be a problem in rural areas, so if anything it would seem there is a negative correlation between autism increases and pesticides. Also in light of Margaret Bauman's published study on the differences in the type of symptoms and neurologic brain impairments between autism and mercury poisoning as well as other heavy metals this seems to be farfetched also. The CHARGE study and the MARBLES study have been going on in California for many years. As far as I know they have not isolated anything in the environment that is shown to be associated with autism increases.

One of the people who founded the MIND institute almost entirely on the state of California Taxpayer's dime is Rick Rollens. This is a man who insists that his son, an extremely low functioning autistic, was somehow poisoned by vaccines and has a known association and friendship with SAFEMINDS and possibly other vaccine groups. Also the head of the MIND institute Robert Hedron, when I heard him speak at the ASA national convention in Florida last summer quoted the 1 in 10,000 prevalence of autism as a 1994 figure. Actually it only comes from one study done by Darrold Treffert that was published in 1970. I wrote about this in another gadfly post it would seem that it is possible the MIND institute is quite biased and has serious conflicts of interest in that at least one of the persons who helped create it has some sort of relationship with people who are litigating against vaccine companies on the premise that their children's autism were caused by vaccines. They are basing part of their evidence on a supposed temporal relationship between vaccines and a great increase in autism numbers. I do not know if Rick Rollens is one of the actual litigants, but he is mentioned in David Kirby's book evidence of harm as having an association with these people. I have met Mr. Rollens who angrily insisted that his son's autism was caused by vaccines. As a California taxpayer with autism, the MIND institute's studies and ready access to the media are troublesome to me.

Perhaps there is another artifact that caused this great rise in autism numbers though, namely special education. Just as there were large increases in autism in the early 1990s when more vaccines were added to the mandatory schedule, the IDEA (formerly the education for all handicapped act) was passed and was amended including autism as a disability in 1991. Coincidence? Perhaps so, but one must keep in mind that there are several studies that now refute the autism vaccine connection. To the best of my knowledge there are no studies refuting changes in special education legislation, making it easier for those with an autism diagnosis to obtain services as being responsible for the rise in autism diagnoses. Also, the Shannon Carter decision by the supreme court in 1994 paved the way for taxpayer money being able to legally pay for uncredentialed personnel to work with autistic children. This decision was a precedence for the decision in the Malkowitz case which paved the way for uncredentialed people to administer Lovaas ABA.

Though, as far as I know, as I said before, no studies refute the special education hypothesis, there is one peer reviewed publication by James Gurney in Minnesota suggesting a temporal relationship between changes in special education law both Minnesota state law and federal law and increases in autism prevalence in this state.

Gurney's study, the lack of evidence for vaccines or any other environmental cause of autism prevalence increases, I feel, suggest that perhaps it is time that Hertz-Piccioto and other epidemiologists perhaps change their focus and look for this as at least a partially responsible culprit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More of SB's BS

Well I see pop psychology icon Simon Baron-Cohen is at it again. In a recent article He states his concern about the development of a prenatal test for autism, claiming that it is not very far off in the distant future and claiming there is some relationship between math skills and autism and that if we had a prenatal test and autistic fetuses were aborted we might be depriving the world of math skills or certain gifts. Previously I wrote about SB's nonsense in my essay about autism genetics and whether my suffering is necessary to society. In this piece he states that there is an increased incidence among autistics in the relatives of mathematicians than in the general population. I know that Baron-Cohen did some sort of study about autism being more prevalent in the family of engineers than in the general population but I am not aware of any empirical evidence that included mathematicians that he has produced. Interestingly enough my father is an engineer. However, on my mother's side of the family there is a family history of depression ADHD and possibly other things connected to autism. Also, my mother feels that her uncle was probably autistic based on his family history, though a child born prior to 1900 would not have had a diagnosis, so it is very possible at least some of the genes for my autism may come from mom's side of the family.

Also, I wonder about physicists which is a profession somewhat related to mathematics, computers and engineering in terms of aptitude. If Baron-Cohen's reasoning is true, then physicists must also be included under this rubric. I wonder how SBC would explain the fact that my brother-in-law is a Ph.D. physicist, his father is a physicist as his his younger brother. I am fairly certain there is no family history of autism in my brother-in-law's family and thankfully neither of my nephews has autism. SBC certainly has some explaining to do in this regard if he feels that preserving autism is necessary to society because of these genes.

Further, Baron-Cohen, does not explain the fact that in the majority of cases autism is a disorder involving multiplex genetic etiology, the interaction of many different genes on may different chromosomes being associated with autism. Most of these genes are autosomal, i.e. not the X or Y sex genes. Autism is also X-linked for example Fragile X may account for like 5% of all cases of diagnosed autism. Also one must consider based on the fact that the concordance rate for autism is not 100% in identical twins as well as the fact that the concordance is higher in fraternal twins than in siblings who share exactly the same genetic makeup that there must be something else operating other than genetics in the etiology of autism. It is true we have a prenatal test for Down's syndrome which involves an abnormality of one chromosome but due to the fact that autism is not exclusively genetic, involves many different types of genotypes producing a similar though maybe not an entirely identical phenotype it is not an apt comparison. Therefore, I really question his five year timeline that he presents in the article.

It is possible that at some point in time a prenatal test will be developed for Fragile X before other types of genetic disorders that could cause autism. But considering the severity of most persons with Fragile X, if Fragile X fetuses are aborted, would this be aborting math skills? Again, there is no basis for SB's reasoning.

From my correspondence with autism researcher Matthew Belmonte, who at one time was a postdoctoral fellow working in SBC's lab, I think Baron-Cohen has read my essay in which I questioned the premises that he makes about genetics as well as Temple Grandin. I did not seem to change his mind.

Interestingly enough, Matthew Belmonte also got a grant from CAN while working in this lab. In one correspondence I had with SBC he seemed to think that some persons with autism should be cured if their autism was severe enough and he said that he supported CAN and their research funding.

As many people know, SBC has also written an essay questioning whether or not high functioning autism is really a disability. He consulted with alleged autistic David Andrews on this essay and others whose functioning level would be much greater than mine. I resent SBC claiming that what I have is not necessarily a disability. If he had an autism spectrum disorder that is as severe as mine is, he never would have been able to get married, go to graduate school, get his doctorate or write or publish his books or have a platform for the exposure of his warped and uninformed opinions.

To sum up, it seems quite improbable that there will be a post-natal test that can reliably tell whether or not a person will become autistic anytime in the foreseeable future. It is most likely many decades off. Also, for the reasons I have given above it is unlikely it would affect math skills or any other positive traits, even in the unlikely event that even a portion of most types of autism could be detected in utero.

I am sick and tired of SB's BS but I suspect I will have to hear more of it in the future, but hopefully someday I can apply myself better and find as good factual information as possible to dispute it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

vaccine debate not over says David Kirby

David Kirby, who became renowned for his book, Evidence of Harm, which tried to suggest that thimerosal, a preservative in vaccines was responsible for causing autism and a huge increase in autism prevalence in the 1990s is at it again. He has written an article on the Huffington Post stating that the IACC which came about when congress passed the combating autism act has made recommendations that millions of dollars be funded to see if a link between vaccines and autism can be found. This includes a controlled study of some sort comparing autism rates between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Though I suppose there are some children who don't get vaccinated at all nowadays, they might be few and far between due to most states having laws requiring children receive a variety of vaccinations for school attendance.

One thing that I am rather surprised at is the lack of commentary by members of the autism hub and others in the neurodiversity movement, since they seem to not only object to the lack of scientific evidence showing that vaccines cause autism but apparently are offended that anyone would imply that autistic people are somehow "toxic" in some way, but leave such bizarre reasoning to the neurodiverse. Since they don't seem to want to write about the problems with this, I suppose the onus falls on me, another disbeliever of the vaccines cause autism hypothesis.

As regular readers of autism's gadfly know, I have written about what a joke the combating autism act and the IACC are. Though the combating autism act was written and designed to cure and prevent autism, the law stated that one of the members of the IACC must be autistic themselves. The person who was given this honor was published autistic author, prolific conference presenter and fast rising autistic superstar Stephen Shore--The Barack Obama of autism that everyone seems to like. However, Steve is opposed to a cure for autism yet is allowed to serve on the IACC. In addition, vaccine causes autism boosters Mark Blaxill and Lynn Redwood also serve on the IACC. This is likely the reason that vaccine research has been given top priority in spite of all of the evidence against it, with study after study refuting the connection and all of the believers, including Blaxill and Redwood claiming there is a government coverup or some other kind of conspiracy to withhold the truth from the people.

Blaxill in one of his emails to me claimed that SAFEMINDS and other organizations had nowhere near the resources of the government to prove vaccines cause autism, so they could not fund studies to refute all the government studies. This is in spite of the fact that his fellow SAFEMINDS board member Sallie Bernard may have a net worth in the neighborhood of like 300 million dollars.

I have also written about how hypocritical I believe ASAN and other neurodiversity sympathizers are to have attempted to hijack this law that they have made plain that they are opposed to for their own self-serving agendas.

I was wondering if any of these fat cats, educated journalists, and others who are boosting the vaccine hypothesis would be willing to read my article showing the lack of correlation between thimerosal and autism prevalence increases between 1970 and 1990. I believe this article also refutes vaccines in general rather than thimerosal in particular hypothesis. Until anyone at all can refute what I wrote in my article and show where my reasoning is wrong, I will stand by my assertion that I have shown there is no way in the world that vaccines can account for huge rises in autism that took place in this time frame.

If this vaccine stuff is funded this means millions of dollars that could go to more constructive research, such as funding my friend Matthew Belmonte, funding more postmortem autopsies of autistic brains, more MRI scans and more genetic studies to pin down the genetic etiology of autism. Also some environmental studies of something other than vaccines could be funded. This would mean a greater probability of autism being cured or preventable sooner rather than later. If more money is spent on vaccine research on top of all the money that has been flushed down the toilet already, it means our knowledge of the etiology of autism and ways that it could be cured or prevented will remain in the stone age.

It would seem that the federal government, the combating autism act and the IACC have made a mockery of the noble goal of preventing and curing autism once again. Perhaps before the government flushes more money down the toilet they could consult with your humble blogger or show where his reasoning is wrong first.