Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kevin Leitch and Simon Baron-Cohen endorse neurodiversity: BFD!

In the better late than never and the old news is good news department. I see that neurodiversity blogger, Kevin Leitch has given Simon Baron-Cohen's recent endorsement of ND a shout out. Most familiar with the issues of ND already know that Simon Baron-Cohen, though acknowledging some forms of autism can be problematic, has neurodiverse leanings. Kevin Leitch has also stated that those of us who write anti-neurodiversity posts on blogs are misrepresenting what it means, but neglects to go into any specifics. My gut reaction on reading this is Big Fucking Deal! But I suppose I should elaborate more than just my gut and try to use my brain (such as it is particularly from the point of view of my numerous detractors). We should also elaborate on how much credibility an endorsement from either of these parties has.

Kevin Leitch, is a web designer, who designed and owned the autism hub, a collection of pro neurodiversity blogs whose original motto was, "We don't need no stinkin' cure". Being opposed to a cure for autism was basically the gist of this collection of blogs in the beginning. Leitch himself elaborated on this in an interview a few years back on episode 43 of for those who are interested, they can find it on the web and listen to what Mr. Leitch had to say. He is also the father of a daughter with autism who at least at the time of the interview was virtually nonverbal. Leitch went on to say that not needing a cure was different than not wanting a cure and that if his daughter indicated that she desired a cure and there was one he would give it to her. It does not take rocket science to ponder how much common sense Mr. Leitch has, considering he would expect a nonverbal child to state that she desires a cure. Just as Laurent Mottron and Michelle Dawson have accepted a nearly half million dollar grant from autism speaks. SBC has accepted donations from the now defunct cure autism now and his one time postdoctoral fellow, Matthew Belmonte operated in part on a grant provided by CAN. Also, Mr. Leitch has an assistant blogger on his blog, some character that goes by the moniker, "Sullivan". Sullivan has written on the blog how Ari Ne'eman has never said that autism was not a disability. Gadfly has debunked that notion in the past and Mr. Sullivan made rather pathetic attempts at damage control, going on to say that neurodiversity has always acknowledged that autism is a disability.

Leitch's shoutout of Baron-Cohen's recent blurb is particularly ironic in this regard as Baron-Cohen has written an essay questioning whether or not certain forms of autism should be regarded as disabilities. Cohen goes on to compare autism with left-handedness, trivializing this condition. A left-handed person is not impaired in their abilities to accomplish things and get things done. Cohen also compares the inability of spouses to get along and neighbors inability to get along with the social impairments of autism. Of course, bad marriages can be ended and people can move their residences, but someone can't remove their autism so the analogy fails. Baron-Cohen shows his lack of understanding of genetic principles by suggesting that though autistics don't often have children, autism has still remained in the populace so must have some sort of genetic advantage. Of course the most likely reason for this is De Novo mutations rather than evolutionary advantage.

The article goes on with analogies such as autistics might be considered disabled because they spend more time with math than with people and analogies are given that Michael Jordan is fine motor impaired because he does not do needle work and other absurd analogies. It does not touch upon the problems that those with high functioning autism have in finding social relationships, impaired ability to acquire skills and behaviors that make them employable, etc.

Without going into the rest of the rather pedantically written essay, which the interested reader can go to the link and read themselves, I will sum it up to say, that if Baron-Cohen had autism at a severity level of mine, he would not have been able attend graduate school, to become a professor, write and publish his books, marry and have his three children. If such were the case I think it likely he would consider high functioning autism a disability. I believe I would be considered high functioning by most standards.

We also must look at the august list of persons who SBC acknowledges in having contributed to the essay. We can certainly judge SBC by the company he keeps or has kept in the past. Liane Wiley and David Andrews especially are conducive to a rolling of the intraocular muscles. One individual has suggested that autism is something to be celebrated. The other is one of the most cruel and vicious hatemongers in the ND movement. Who engages in a diatribe of profanity with anyone who dares disagree with him. Has a bigoted, condescending and ableist attitude towards your humble blogger, whom he has mocked for being too impaired to have the same academic performance that he himself had. He also has never been in a special education school in his life by his own admission and added the comment that because I was in special ed, that made him glad that he was never in it. In regards to David Andrews, Clay Adams, Phil Gluyas, Kim Wombles and Dave Seidel and probably other individuals in the ND movement who have spent time mocking me and ridiculing me, one of Baron-Cohen's statements regarding ND is particularly ironic:

Stigmatizing anyone, whether they have autism or any other characteristic, is wrong, since the point about these labels is not to pick out the person in order to make their lives worse, but to help others understand their special needs and qualities.

So, yeah, Kev, if you happen to read this, your credibility is zero and I say big fucking deal to your endorsement and Baron-Cohen's endorsement of neurodiversity. I can only hope that if a cure is found in your and your daughter's lifetime you won't listen to Alex Plank's dictum that most autistics don't want to be cured and then come to that conclusion when you ask your daughter if she wants a cure and she does not answer you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is neurodiversity's suggestion for Adam Koumoutseas?

I see from reading a very interesting article that the 23-year-old profoundly autistic Adam Koumoutseas has been criminally charged with assault and battery for pounding his mother's head on a pavement. Ari Ne'eman, lead neurodiversity spokesman has stated that curing persons such as Adam is morally reprehensible and has crusaded against finding a cure for an individual such as this. Adam's father has stated that his son is incapable of understanding his actions and is hoping that his son will not have to stand trial. Adam is currently being assessed as to whether or not he is competent to stand trial. If it is decided that Adam is to be prosecuted it is likely his family will present a diminished capacity defense. Ne'eman has stated in his previous writings that there should be no diminished capacity defense of persons on the spectrum in criminal matters if autistics are to be equal with NT's and have to shoulder equal responsibility and if we are to assert that autism is not in fact a disorder but a legitimate way of being. In spite of this, Ne'eman and his organization, ASAN, have not really been consistent in their thinking and actions given that one of their crusades was to have the criminal charges dropped against Zach Price who was charged with assaulting one of his teachers.

His mother was taken to the hospital with life threatening injuries but was reported to be in stable condition. A police sergeant on the scene tried to question Mr. Koumoutseas but only heard unintelligible sounds from the man. A court appointed psychologist who evaluated the man stated that it was almost impossible for him to express himself in words.

I am curious as to what ASAN's solution is to this individual's situation. Will they just claim if the man's autism had been accommodated properly the assault on his mother would have never taken place? How could this individual's autism be accommodated for in such a manner? Is the solution (which would be inconsistent with acceptance and accommodation) be to throw the book at this individual, prosecute him and if convicted sentence him to years of incarceration? This would seem to be the solution that Ne'eman suggests in his Equality Demands Responsibility essay. Or would the third alternative be to forget about what was written in this essay and have ASAN take on the crusade of freeing this young man and saying the charges should be dropped? Ari Ne'eman has been appointed to a disabilities council by the Obama administration on which he serves at taxpayer expense. He also has a seat on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee where as far as I can tell he has not offered any constructive solutions for any of the problems that befall persons on the spectrum, but has rather spent his time there making rude comments to one individual because he took umbrage to his cost analyses showing how expensive autism is to society.

It is also possible that ND, and ASAN will make no comment at all about this case as it might show some flaws in their theories, philosophies and what they try to say. However, one can't help wondering about a person who is given money at taxpayer expense and by extension the organizations such as ASAN and others that he represent can remain silent and have a do nothing attitude about an issue like this.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The bullied brain:another form of "neurodiversity"

As most readers of the gadfly blog know, those who oppose a cure for autism being invented believe that autism and what most rational people would consider other types of deficiencies or even defects in the brain of an individual that would impair them in life are just natural variations involving alternative forms of brain wiring.

For this reason, they will be interested to know there is a new form of neurodiversity being researched, namely the effects of bullying on the developing brain. The new science seems to be showing evidence that bullying causes hormonal changes that can produce damage (or change for neurodiversitites) in the brain. It can reduce the growth of neurons, connectivity in the brain, etc.

For example, neuroscientist Martin Teicher conducted brain scans on a variety of adolescents. The ones who had been bullied, were shown to have abnormalities in the corpus callosum, which connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain. There was evidence that the neurons in the corpus callosum had reduced myelin, the white matter of the brain which provides a sheath on the axons of neurons and facilitates transmission of impulses between nerve cells-which would influence functioning of the brain.

Another study suggested that bullied boys have much higher levels of the hormone cortisol than nonbullied controls. It has been suggested this can produce alterations in the hippocampus, the brain structure that controls short term memories. Experiments in bullied rats showed changes to the hippocampus and effects on memory.

Perhaps this is the reason that so many persons in the neurodiversity movement are such bullies. Just as father Flannigan in the movie "Boys town" stated that there was no such thing as a bad boy, they assert there is no such thing as a bad or defective brain only a different one. In fact neurological differences are essential to survival of the species and autistic genes have produced every invention from the spear to the cell phone. Bill Gates success and Einstein's theory of relatively are due to autistic traits or even autism. So by being such bullies and insulting people, they are only ensuring survival of the human race by perpetuating yet another unique form of "neurodiversity".

Sunday, November 28, 2010

autism and Rome

I see that paragon of virtue of our tax dollars at work, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee is having yet another meeting. As far as their value to helping persons with autism I can't help but being reminded of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Phil Gluyas running for Australian parliament?

I see the rumor mill has it that neurodiversity extremist, 21st century Bruno Bettelheim who called my mother a witch, and nice enough to give gadfly one of his annual most horrid autistic adult awards is rumored to be running for parliament in Australia. He was also author of the now defunct blog "Mitchell's gadfly" where he would pathetically attempt to refute every post I had written and would constantly insult your humble blogger. This blog also seemed to be a safe haven for every wingnut on the internet who had some sort of grievance against me and these people would add posts insulting and belittling me and members of my family. In addition to the preceding that I have already mentioned, Gluyas has threatened to get this blog closed down as well as John Best's blog. As far as I know he is suing John Best for some sort of offense but I am not sure what. In addition to his most horrid autistic adult award, he also gives some sort of award for best medical professional who has made contributions to the autism community. His last award was given to psychologist Nick Dubin whom most gadfly readers will remember has been charged with downloading child pornography from the internet. Gluyas has refused to retract the award.

One wonders what the chances are of this august gentleman being elected to a seat in the Australian parliament. Well here in the good old U.S.A. which a few years ago passed the combating autism act we have Ari Ne'eman and John Robison who craft autism public policy and decide which research gets funded at taxpayer expense as well as funding of Morton Gernsbacher's research. So I suppose it is possible that a certain legislative district in Australia has no more common sense than this country in regards to autism policy. If the outcome of this election is known I will update readers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

my sister's book wins an award

Well I had a nice thanksgiving dinner with my parents, aunt, cousin, cousin-in-law and some other friends of mine and my parents and I can reflect on some positives in my life in that I am comfortable, not living in poverty, and still have supportive parents still alive. I hope all gadfly readers had a good thanksgiving.

A few regular readers of autism's gadfly may remember a post I wrote more than a year and a half ago plugging a book about complexity that my sister wrote and published. Well there is some more good news about Melanie's book. The phi beta kappa society has wisely decided to give her book an award. Our entire family is proud of Melanie.

Simon Baron Cohen and Temple Grandin (and perhaps Steve Silberman also) would have a field day about this autistic man's father, a pioneer in the field of computer engineering going back to the early 1950's and his sister, a Ph.D. computer scientist and artificial intelligence researcher. Maybe this proves how useful autism genes are to society, no matter that dad and sis got the good from the genes and I got the brunt of them.

However, it is my mother's family who has a history of mental illness and learning disabilities and autism, so it is possible the genes from that side of the family contributed to my disease (that's right, disease, Laurent and Ari).

Simon Baron-Cohen has speculated that the rise in autism may be partially because of assortive mating and the rise of the computer boon that engineers are more likely to meet and marry each other. I seem to remember I wrote a post about this on gadfly some time ago, but am having some trouble locating that post. If I do, I will go back in and edit this post.

The point was is that Baron-Cohen wanted to do a study of how many male engineers were meeting and marrying female engineers, given that at one time it was not possible for these nerdy engineers to meet and marry and reproduce, creating all of these autistic genes and people. I wondered how SBC could explain the fact that my father, an engineer, and most the engineers and computer people he worked with in the 1950's and 1960s, during the computer's nascence were all married and none of their wives were engineers. Obviously these nerds were able to meet women and get married and this might be a flaw in this theory, as well as in Steve Silberman's theories and forthcoming book where it is quite possible that he will touch upon these issues.

Well happy thanksgiving and kudos to my sister for winning that award.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

problems with my blog and "senator Fiorina"

Some of you may have noted that my blog archive is at the very bottom of my page rather than closer to the top where it should be. Unfortunately, I was trying to add some more quotes to the quotes section on the home page of the blog and adjust the spacing and somehow I pushed all my stuff down to the bottom of the page. Upon looking at the code, I noted that there were an excessive amount of break statements which added a zillion extra lines and I did not save a template of the original blog. I inquired on blogger's help section as how to access the html in my blog and found out.

Unfortunately, when I click design and edit html only a CSS file loads and not the file containing the HTML code of this blog, even after clicking in the box expand widget templates the file will not load for some reason. Therefore I can't change it back. Otherwise I could go in and edit the file and resolve this problem. Also, on the WYSIWYG editing page, there seems to be no way to place the side bars to the right. I apologize for any inconvenience to anyone who may want to find and access the archives on this blog, but I guess you will have to scroll to the bottom of the page until I can find a way to solve this problem. Any suggestions in comments or email as to how I can solve the problem are appreciated.

Senator Barbara Boxer ,who has been one of the two senators in my state since 1993, has declared victory in her race against Carly Fiorina and is claiming re-election to a fourth term. However, Fiorina has refused to concede the race saying that a margin of a few thousand votes or so is too close to call. Gadfly would agree with this; however, the left leaning media have declared Barbara Boxer the winner. I voted for Fiorina as I saw it as a vote against Ari Ne'eman's confirmation to the NDC which Boxer was a part of. Also a vote against federal funding of Morton "autism is harmless" Gernsbacher's research.

Many members of the neurodiversity community seem to have very liberal political beliefs from what I have read in their blogs. However, one would think they would be enamored of Ms. Fiorina who has stated her desire to overturn Roe vs. Wade and her opposition to abortions except in cases of rape, incest and endangerment of the mother's life. If this happened, the ND argument that autism speaks and other groups seeking a cure for autism's goal of trying to find a way to deliberately abort autistic fetuses would become almost completely moot (excepting the illegal coat hanger abortions that occurred prior to Roe V. Wade). They would not be able to cry about eugenics. Even though we could still have illegal abortions, it might be much harder to obtain genetic testing for fetuses if all that could be done was to abort it. Somehow I suspect most californian ND's supported Boxer due to her appointment of Ne'eman and her liberalism. I also suspect most female ND's of child bearing age believe they have a right to an abortion as a form of birth control. However, they would not give the same right to a mother of an autistic fetus. With the exception of Frank Klein who stated he was for legalized abortion of non-autistic fetuses, I have yet to hear an ND comment on where they stand on the issue concerning nonautistics. I suspect most of them value the child's disability over the child's humanity. I suppose I could have voted for a libertarian or green or other minor party candidate against Boxer, but Fiorina had the greatest chance of winning. If the media or anyone else declares Boxer the winner hopefully Ms. Fiorina will demand a recount against such a narrow margin.

It is my belief that a vote for any politician who would support Ari Ne'eman being able to craft autism policy at taxpayer expense and would support the research of neurodiversity rogue Morton Gernsbacher is a vote for children becoming crippled and sick, not being able to speak, and being in danger of accidentally drowning or running out in traffic and being hit by a car and being killed. Therefore I will await 2012 where all those who feel as I do will cast their vote for any candidate besides Obama or any other incumbent senator who voted to confirm Ne'eman.

Addendum: The latest word is that Fiorina has conceded the election to Boxer

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Look there's a kid in a cage" redux department

I see there is yet another interesting story about an autistic kid in a cage. Along with "retard", calling the special education bus a "tard cart", "look there's a kid in a cage" is yet another cliched insult among those who bully autistic children who attend special schools. I have previously written about my personal experiences with this slight going back to my childhood in the 1960s. I also used this line in my short story, Mr. Twiddle which I wrote quite a few years ago. Also used this line in my unpublished novel "The School of Hard Knocks".

Stories about autistic or other developmentally disabled kids in a cage fascinate me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shallow brooks are noisy

There is an old saw that some will remember- still waters run deep. When I think of the parents, persons with autism who will neither be participating in the silly moratorium on facebook and twitter posting nor the equally silly autistics speaking day who suffer from autism of a loved one or themselves, but who don't have time for internet wars because they are too busy trying to care for their loved ones or they are too impaired to go online and refute neurodiversity's baloney, I think of this old saying.

I also think of the corollary, shallow brooks are noisy. Neurodiversity's latest gimmick is the autistics speaking day. They are going to make a lot of noise today, but will there be substance? Neurodiversity has nothing of substance to say, gets very minimal media attention and has nothing but superficiality imbibed in it. Most of what they say is just nastiness and meaness to those who want a better life for themselves or their children. Or advertising how offended they are by anyone intimating the autism is some sort of affliction or burden on society. I think the corollary of still waters run deep-shallow brooks are noisy- describes neurodiversity in a nutshell.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No comment, Ari, Michelle, Kev, Sullivan and Kim?

Nick Dubin's arrest for a pedophilia-related crime has generated a significant amount of buzz in some parts of the autism blogosphere as well as on various facebook pages of some persons with whom I am acquainted with, who, to the best of my knowledge, don't have blogger type blogs that they write.

I have been told repeatedly by various individuals who advocate a certain movement called "neurodiversity" that this movement is about dignity, respect and human rights for persons with autism (and perhaps other 'neurologic differences'). One Michelle Dawson is in the forefront of this. In fact, at the time, I first started writing autism's gadfly as well as my article 'neurodiversity just say no' that was the immediate predecessor and greatest influence of my decision to start this blog, Michelle Dawson has stated that because I was an opponent of neurodiversity this meant I was an opponent of human rights for autistic persons.

Ari Ne'eman and ASAN have stated that their autism advocacy is about civil and human rights for autistic persons. Yet they seem to devote most of their time demonstrating against Autism speaks or Ari Ne'eman making insulting and juvenile comments in his role as the newest public member of the IACC.

One of the leading neurodiversity blogs is the well-known left brain/right brain blog whose posts are authored by Kevin Leitch and another individual who calls themselves "Sullivan". This blog seems to devote nearly all of their posts to the question of whether or not vaccines and/or mercury cause autism, an issue that has been dealt upon ad nauseum, with neither side brooking any quarters in their beliefs.

Kim Wombles is an individual that writes the countering age of autism blog and seems to get some sort of bizarre humor posing as some elderly hick Appalachian woman as an alter ego in another blog she authors. In spite of claiming that she believes that persons should be treated with dignity and respect she has referred to Harold Doherty as "an asshat". She condescendingly referred to Jake Crosby as "the puppy" because of his youthful age. Last but not least, she was nice enough to give your humble blogger a plug on one of her facebook pages where she seemed to think it was funny that someone would make fun of me and my disability and also seems to have some sort of schaudenfreude as far as my disability and celibacy are concerned.

We now have evidence that it is quite probable that Dr. Dubin, a psychologist and educator who had regular contact with autistic children, is a pedophile. There is also a strong possibility that the reason Dr. Dubin chose his profession is that he was looking for children to molest and chose disabled ones as they are the most vulnerable, many of them not able to speak and report what happened to their parents or others or because of prejudice they would not have credibility making allegations against the good doctor.

Outside of the right not to be murdered, it would seem the right of disabled children not to be sexually molested would be about the most important of human rights that these august individuals would be crusading for. You would think that they would comment on this latest news story.

Reading Michelle Dawson's TMOB comment board on a regular basis as well as her blog posts, I see no comment by this crusader for human rights of autistic persons. ASAN is also strangely silent. Ari Ne'eman is not organizing some sort of protest against professionals who evidence suggests are pedophiles and trying to protect autistic children from them the way he does with autism speaks. Kevin Leitch, "Sullivan" and Kim Wombles seem to have no comment on the issue. I wonder why that is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Neurodiversity activist busted for child porn!

In a newly breaking story Nick Dubin, a clinical psychologist allegedly diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome has been arrested for online child pornography of children having sex acts with adults!

As regular readers of autism's gadfly will remember, Dr. Dubin,
wrote a favorable article about the ND movement Dr. Dubin, praised GRASP president Michael John Carley, who has insulted severely autistic persons by saying he does not want to be associated with head bangers and diaper wearers.

What is frightening is that Dubin is a licensed psychologist who up until now, worked with and had access to children. ironically enough, he specialized in the issues of bullying and autism. He has admitted to authorities that he knew the material on his computer was illegal. Dubin has been charged and is out on bail. In the meantime, pending the outcome of his trial, he has been barred from using a computer or having contact with minor children.

Dubin, who claims to have an ASD, yet was not diagnosed until age 27 has written about neurodiversity:

In theory, there doesn’t seem to be a chink in the armor of neurodiversity’s philosophy. Who would argue with the notion that society should take responsibility for how it treats some of its most vulnerable but creative citizens? Or that people with autism have inherent gifts and should be respected by others?

Well perhaps one chink is that there is credible evidence that at least one of its adherents is a pedophile, very possibly not above actually having sexual encounters with small children. I realize that Dr. Dubin has not been charged with an actual sex act and as far as his charge on possession of online child porn, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. However, this story does indeed give food for thought and perhaps one could rethink the neurodiversity movement and the apparently ever increasing unsavoriness of its adherents.

Mr. Robison goes to Washington

I see that looking at John Elder Robison's facebook page, that he is on his way to Washington, D.C. to review 106 research proposals for autism related things and he gets to help pick who does and who does not get funded at taxpayer expense.

So, the taxpayers are funding decisions being made by someone who at one time claimed no cure was needed for certain autism spectrum disorders, who has seriously suggested studying geek success as a solution to helping persons with autism, and keeps company with founder Alex Plank, who has blanketly stated that most autistics don't want to be cured and has autism=good as the slogan for his website.

In addition to being a scientific advisor in the public sector, Robison is also on the scientific advisory board of autism speaks, possibly to placate some noisy neurodiversity advocates, who insist that persons on the spectrum be appointed to positions of power in autism speaks. upon looking at Robison along with his fellow advisory board members one cannot but help noticing the incongruity of Robison, a high school dropout, being included amongst all these Ph.D. and M.D. scientists. Apparently notoriety and commercial success as an author trumps scientific acumen as a qualification for making scientific decisions in both the public and private sectors. Likewise it also trumps federal law as someone who repeatedly engages in dialogue and activity undermining the noble cause of finding a way to prevent and cure autism as has been passed by the combating autism act.

Of greatest concern to this blogger is the possibility that Robison may go to Washington hat in hand and ask for some taxpayer dollars for his own personal use and be given a handout by the federal government. We have seen Robison has done this in his capacity as an advisory board member of autism speaks. Apparently Autism Speaks has no scruples about this Robin Hood in reverse stuff. Neither Robison nor AS see any ethical lapse or conflict of interest in such things.

With the federal government's track record, Gadfly can't help thinking that history could repeat itself.

Along with Ari Ne'eman's participation in crafting autism public policy at taxpayer expense we see another fine example of our tax dollars at work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ari Ne'eman disenfranchises pro-cure and nonverbal autistics yet again

I see that once again, neurodiversity spokesman, Ari Ne'eman is
shooting his mouth off yet again yet again, claiming that the "autistic community" takes offense at eradicating autism. I have to wonder, yet again, does the "autistic community" include me? Does it include Jake Crosby, Stephanie Keil, Oliver Canby, JediKnight, Tom McKean, Sue Rubin and numerous others on the spectrum who have expressed desire for a cure? How about Connor Doherty who may not be in a position to speak for himself. What about Sean Lapin, Dov Shestack, John Belmonte and many other autistic persons who have limited to nonexistent speech who are incapable of rebutting Ne'eman's nonsense and asking him to butt out and speak for himself and and not for other autistics.

Ne'eman also stated in this diatribe at Harvard that autism should be looked upon as a disability and not a disease, yet neglects to explain the difference between a disability and a disease.

As has been meticulously documented in numerous posts on autism's gadfly, Ne'eman has repeatedly stated that he does not believe that autism is a disability in spite of claiming he never said anything to that effect. We have to wonder why he is now backpedaling and now stating autism should be looked upon as a disability. Could there be political reasons?

Ari Ne'eman and ASAN, I resent you trying to speak for all autistic persons. Almost all of us, myself included, are lower functioning (or more impaired for those who express distaste at the low functioning high functioning dichotomy) than you are. There are others who can't speak and say that they would like autism eradicated. There are others, besides me, who have expressed a desire for a cure. Their numbers seem to be ever growing.

Remember, Ari, nothing about us without us.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

interesting petition from Ari Ne'eman and ASAN

I see that Ari Ne'eman (as well as I presume the rest of the members of the autistic self advocacy network) have taken umbrage at republican senatorial candidate Sharron Angle's controversial remarks about autism and insurance mandates, where she implies that some persons may be faking autism. ASAN is now circulating an online petition urging Angle to apologize for her remarks.

It seems to this blogger the majority of ASAN's advocacy activities are aimed at telling the world how easily offended they are and just trying to claim people should not be offensive rather than actually doing something to help disabled people function better in the world or fighting for abuse such as what happens at Judge Rotenberg center. The Ransom notes campaign from a couple of years ago is the most well-known of these examples. If everyone spent as much time crusading anytime a remark that they found offensive was said, no one would get any work done during the day and the world's activities would grind to a halt.

Since Ari Ne'eman and ASAN insist that Angle apologize for remarks that they don't like how about if they apologize to me for remarks and activities that I find offensive.

I find it offensive that they would state that curing autism is morally reprehensible. That they would spend time on the Zacqhery Price case after saying that no criminal should get a free pass because of autism. I am offended that they would claim they never said that autism was not a disability and after I produced Ne'eman's essay they would make a pathetic attempt at damage control and edit the essay, then admit it was a mistake to phrase things in the essay the way they did, then delete it from their site altogether. I find it offensive that Ne'eman, (a 21-year-old kid at the time) had never worked in a job of any sort and would claim that the solution for reducing employment among autistics was to eliminate social pleasantry as a criteria for hiring and a good job evaluation. This is particularly offensive after I have been fired something like 20 times, forced to resign from other jobs in more marginal situations and tried to make a living more years than Ne'eman has been alive. I find it offensive that they would accept donations from the "autistic bitch from hell" who has stated that persons with autism whose views she does not agree with should be put to death and turned into cat food. There is speculation that ABFH is in reality Meg Evans, one of the top executives of ASAN. I find it offensive that they would accept donations from a vicious and cruel hatemonger like Clay Adams who can only try to win an argument with me by bringing back the Bettelheim era and stating my mother was responsible for all the problems in my life and making up bigoted statements mocking my disability and by extension all disabled people whom ASAN claims they want to have dignity. As well as calling both me and my mother names just because he does not like the fact I take Ne'eman to task. Ne'eman may not know about this since it happened before he was born but in 1980 the Ku Klux Klan endorsed Ronald Reagan's presidential candidacy and Reagan renounced the endorsement and refused to accept money from them. I wonder why Ne'eman and ASAN don't do the same thing where ABFH and Clay Adams are concerned.

I find it offensive that they would imply that there is a possibility that parents of autistic children who donate money to autism speaks are morally complicit with murder. I find it offensive that they would imply that genetic research is used to find a way to abort autistic fetuses.

I don't know how to do an online petition and I don't know how many signatures I would get. But the various statements and actions of Ne'eman and his colleagues are just as offensive to me as Angle's statements about autism are to those who took umbrage at her remarks. I suspect there are others besides me who find a lot of Ne'eman's and ASAN's remarks offensive.

I suggest that ASAN write a public apology to me ( and anyone else they may have offended) on their websites before they start circulating petitions claiming someone who makes remarks offensive to them should apologize. After all, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sebelius: pot calling kettle black

Nevada's republican candidate for the U.S. Senate has recently been mired in controversy for statements she has made about the new autism insurance mandates, using air quotes to describe autism and implying that perhaps these people don't deserve coverage or that autism is a trivial condition.

Interestingly, secretary of health and human services Kathleen Sebelius has given her take on the matter Sebelius states:

It is my understanding that Sharron Angle believes that there is a hoax, under the guise of autism, where you would include requests for treatments that may not even be required," said Sebelius, who was in Nevada promoting health care reform with Harry Reid.
Sebelius pounded Angle's comments as "insulting" to parents and kids, adding: "I don't know if there is anyplace in the country where the differences in the candidates are more stark than here."

Autism's gadfly has questioned the value of these insurance mandates in the past, particularly covering ABA, an experimental treatment where the research has used punishment in order to get the results, in spite of the fact that these punishments have been outlawed in California, where I live and possibly other jurisdictions, as well as the fact there have been no published adult outcomes though the federal government has funded this research to assess adult outcomes.

Of greater concern, at least to this blogger, is is the strong statement by autism speaks is that these insurance mandates will make the difference between an autistic child having friends and not having friends.

Aside from the problems of these insurance mandates and their dubious value it seems odd to your humble blogger that Sebelius would be making these statements in light of the fact she has appointed one Ari Ne'eman to the Interagency autism coordinating committee. Gadfly questions the constitutionality of the IACC and the fact that these appointments by the secretary of HHS would seem to violate the principles of checks and balances between the executive branch and legislative branch that this country was founded upon in that these appointments don't require confirmation by the senate and Sebelius is accountable to no one in making a controversial appointment. Speaking of quotes, air or otherwise, check out one statement by Sebelius appointee:

The belief was that anyone society labeled"disabled" could only go so far. Sadly, these misconceptions had the potential to become self-fulfilling prophecies. When the expectation is that people of a certain type can only reach so far, they are not provided with the same challenges and opportunities that educators give mainstreamed students....

Also another statement:

We should recognize what diversity of neurology has contributed to the human race and what it can bring to the future. Difference is not disability and someday, I hope, the world will recognize that those who think in different ways should be welcomed.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that after Ne'eman steadfastly denied that he had ever said autism was not a disability, Gadfly called Ne'eman out on these statements. He subsequently edited the essay changing the difference is not disability statement to difference only becomes disability when not accommodated for. Apparently dissatisfied with this rather pathetic attempt at damage control, Ne'eman and his ASAN cronies deleted the essay altogether from their web page.

Another interesting statement from Ms. Sebelius' appointee:

But if we are to demand equal legitimacy, if we are to assert that a “cure” is not only unnecessary and undesirable but also morally reprehensible

Again, note the irony of the c word in quotes.

Ms. Sebelius, I can't speak for whether some found Ms. Angle's comments insulting. On the other hand, I find your appointment of Ari Ne'eman to a taxpayer funded body that mandates autism policy utterly offensive. I find it strange that you would make these comments critical of Ms. Angle as if you really give a shit about persons on the spectrum, when you appoint someone who does not tell the truth about saying autism is not a disability and claiming that curing people of this affliction, which I presume mandated insurance would pay for if such cure existed, would be morally reprehensible. It would indeed seem your statements are hypocritical and you are a very black pot calling a kettle the same color.

Monday, September 20, 2010

full text of my l.a. mag article

here is the full text of my l.a. magazine article in case anyone is interested.

John Robison wants to study "geek success"

A controversy at one time extant in the autism blogosphere was the lack of autistic representation in the leadership of that well known organization autism speaks. Recently best selling memoirist, John Elder Robison was appointed to a scientific advisory board of AS. He has expressed an interest in scientific research that will help mitigate the problems of autism spectrum disorders.

For a while, it would seem that Robison was more interested in garnering AS funds for his own personal use than he was in reviewing science or suggesting ways that persons on the spectrum could be helped by science.

As of recently this seems to have changed. Robison has apparently been attempting to make a couple of suggestions for directions into which autism science should go. One of the interesting ones is to study geek success. Why would Bill Gates be able to become a billionaire in spite of having autism or autistic traits and why would college professors like Vernon Smith and Richard Borcherds have success in spite of being on the spectrum. when other persons with similar traits are on social security disability? Robison's brilliant suggestion is to study these traits and see how they can be applied to persons less fortunate. The criteria for specifying whether these persons are autistic is Simon Baron-Cohen's AQ test.

Though Robison mentions Bill Gates he neglects to mention any other specific examples of autism success stories. I believe that I have debunked the notion of Bill Gates' autism in my undiagnosing essay which Robison has apparently never read, so I won't go into this further. I am sure the interested reader can find my essay and read the section on Gates and judge for themselves.

One of the problems Robison neglects to mention about the AQ test, is that it is a self-administered test meant for adults with normal or above average intelligence. Not for persons with intellectual disabilities. (Though recently newer versions have been devised for children but it is different than the adult test) As far as I know, it has never been standardized in any way and just an informal test. It is also not something meant for a legitimate clinical diagnosis which even Baron-Cohen himself has acknowledged. Professor Vernon Smith who neurodiversity proponents (and perhaps Robison) give as an example of an accomplished ASD'er just decided at age 78, based on this self-administered test that he was on the spectrum without bothering to get any kind of diagnosis.

Richard Borcherds is another example mentioned, here is what Baron-Cohen stated in his book The essential difference on the alleged AS:

One might question whether Richard Borcherds really merits a diagnosis at all, given how well adapted he is. Certainly he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood, as his symptoms are not interfering with his daily functioning. In the jargon of the diagnostic criteria, he is not "suffering any impairment in his daily life"........

Of course, perhaps Robison and his friends (like Alex Plank) in the ND movement can actually find a legitimate geek success who is on the spectrum. All we have to do is isolate that person and find out what makes them so successful, then we can find out what went wrong in the non-geek who is on social security disability and not making a six or seven figure income as a computer scientist or college professor. This can be done in intellectually impaired autistics who can't speak as well. After all, they have more in common with Bill Gates, Vernon Smith and Richard Borcherds and perhaps some geek who legitimately has an ASD than they realize. Wow, what a major breakthrough that will be. Instead of being handicapped all autistic people will have this potential to be successful because of these traits.

I can't wait for Robison's next brilliant suggestion.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Darius McCollum arrested yet again

We see, that the well known person, Darius McCollum, who is obsessed with trains and has a propensity to steal them has been busted yet again. McCollum has alleged that he has Asperger's syndrome. As a boy, he was obsessed by trains, particularly the New York transit system. He would hang out with the New York MTA workers who took a liking to him and showed him the ropes and ended up knowing more about the system than anyone else. But he had a compulsion to take the subway trains for joy rides and though he knew what he was doing was wrong. He has been arrested now 27 times in the last three decades, so averaging close to one arrest per year. Apparently, not being able to find a train, he took a bus for a joyride.

Personally, I am skeptical that McCollum actually has any sort of ASD. He was able to get married (though now divorced or separated) and the fact that he was able to relate to the NYC MTA employees and they took a liking to him makes his diagnosis suspect at least to me. There is no question, however, he has some very severe OCD issues. I feel, however, that his circumstances are highly relevant to the thrust of this blog, as I will point out below.
when McCollum was arrested last, autism's gadfly gave his take on the matter
I inquired as to whether the neurodiversity movement would actually give a shit about this person. "Jypsy" pointed out to me that there had been some effort to assist Mr. McCollum and she had personally been involved in these matters with the persons who were interested and were trying to help defray some of his legal costs. I found the relevant info online and I emailed the people who were involved to get their take. They were happy that I took an interest and told me McCollum was in North Carolina, staying at his mother's and gave me his phone number. Intrigued I called the number and a person alleging to be McCollum answered the phone and we chatted for a bit. He told me he had tried very hard to stop his compulsion and had taken various SSRI medications used to treat OCD issues but nothing had helped. He seemed resigned to the fact that this was a lifelong issue and there was nothing he could do.

His lawyers tried to use Asperger's as a legal defense without success.

I was still in correspondence with Ari Ne'eman back a couple of years ago and asked him if ASAN was planning to do anything to help McCollum and he stated that McCollum was not an issue they were pursuing.

This was before I had read Ne'eman's interesting essay where he talks about how curing autism would be morally reprehensible and he was claiming that autism should never be used as a defense against criminal behavior under any circumstance. In spite of this fact, Ne'eman later claimed that Zaqhuery Price, who assaulted some teachers in a special ed school should have the charges against him dropped.

When I pointed out these inconsistencies in my post, various members of the ND community pointed out to me because this was an 11-year-old boy and the teachers somehow were to blame because they did not accommodate his disability properly that this should be some sort of exception to Ne'eman's rule.

I wonder how they feel about McCollum, a 45-year-old man, particularly in light of the fact that he may have an ASD (assuming gadfly's skepticism is incorrect). Would Ari Ne'eman and Socrates throw the book at this guy and lock him up in a cell and throw away the key? Would they claim that curing McCollum of his compulsion would be morally reprehensible and that he should go on stealing trains, yet say that he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law? Or would ASAN and ND claim that this behavior should be accepted? Or would they claim that society had somehow failed to accommodate McCollum and that if society learned how to utilize the strengths of autistics and ended discrimination against autistics, then McCollum would not steal trains? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

three identities for female neurodiversity activist?

As regular readers of autism's gadfly know, the neurodiversity movement in general and the autistic self advocacy network in particular are full of dirty tricks such as playing the murder card. The internet, however, gives a dirty trickster the opportunity to play their tricks, using multiple identities and pretending to be other people.

I have just read an interesting post on the midnight in Chicago blog concerning three well known female neurodiversity activists. I believe this post deserves a shout out on autism's gadfly as there is apparently some controversy that these individuals could be an actual holy trinity of one person.

The post describes Meg Evans, a well known neurodiversity activist who is an attorney, married to a man named Brian K. White with two children, lives in Ohio and works in the publishing industry. She is the secretary of ASAN, just below Ari Ne'eman and Scott Robertson in chain of command.
The post also talks about another female neurodiversity activist named Bonnie Ventura who also goes by the moniker Ventura 33 and has been a moderator of Aspies for Freedom and has a fan fiction site where stories are published by various authors and are given a star trek bent. She also has a website named Aspergerian pride. I gave Ms. Ventura consent to publish one of my stories, but more about that later.

By a strange coincidence Bonnie Ventura has a few things in common with Ms. Evans. She also is married and has two children and lives in Ohio, and works in the publishing industry. Like Ms. Evans she was considered to be autistic early in her childhood. Of course coincidences do happen.

The author of the blog post goes on to claim that web pages that Bonnie Ventura hosts have as their registered owner a Meg Evans. More interesting is that Meg Evans' husband, Brian White has a webpage which has a link about his wife, Meg. On Meg's page, she states you can check out her fanfiction site and then it gives a link that goes directly to Bonnie Ventura's site. It would appear indeed that Meg Evans and Bonnie Ventura are in fact the same person, if not, there is a very strange coincidence.

Many are also familiar with the rumor that the identity of apparently retired neurodiversity blogger "the autistic bitch from hell" is in fact Meg Evans. Allegedly the autistic bitch from hell wrote a post on one of Kim Womble's blogs and inadvertently signed her name Meg Evans, though I have never seen irrefutable documentation for such.

So, it would seem there is a strong possibility that we do in fact have a holy trinity, Meg Evans, Bonnie Ventura, and the "autistic bitch from hell" being the same individual.

The "autistic bitch from hell" has, in the past, made rather controversial statements first alleging that the only thing on Autism Speaks' agenda was finding a prenatal test so that autistic fetuses could be aborted. Also, she once stated that autistics who don't happen to agree with her on certain things should be taken out and shot or strangled to death and turned into cat food.

The reason this blog post interested me so much is that I had some positive experiences with Bonnie Ventura more than two and a half years ago, just before I started this blog. Before I started autism's gadfly I wrote an article which I posted on my previous blog, Jonathan's Journal, urging individuals to reject neurodiversity. Later I modified this piece somewhat and put it as one of 9 articles in the nonfiction section of my website. Someone calling himself "Robert Montgomery" alleged in a comment on Harold Doherty's blog that I was a fraud because I could not have gone to a special education school in the 1960s, as there was no special education until the education for all handicapped act was passed in 1975 and made the strong statement about me that like all "house autistics" I lied about my past. I was able to document my former alma mater had been established in 1948, making him eat his words.

Not long after this I got an email from a Ventura 33 stating that she had grown up in Los Angeles in the 1960s and had problems with elopement in her regular education school and that there was some talk in fact of a special education placement for her and recommending such to her parents, though like probably the majority of NDs, she never attended a special education school. She stated because of this she believed me and I should not pay attention to a "loud mouth" like Robert Montgomery and that I should not judge all persons in the ND movement just by persons like him. She also asked if she could publish my short story "Mr. Twiddle" which she had enjoyed on her web page and sort of modify it into a star trek type genre. I consented.

I probably would not have consented now in light of the evidence that I have seen that Bonnie Ventura may in fact be "the autistic bitch from hell". Are all these three people the same individual. I don't know for sure, but there are some strange coincidences. Of course, as I said before, this was particularly interesting based on the experiences I had with Ventura33 in the past.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Los Angeles Magazine autism slide show

Here are some photos from the September issue of Los Angeles magazine which is partially devoted to covering autism in Los Angeles. These include some photos of your overweight but humble blogger. Also I was working on the computer at the time the photographer came over so I was wearing my reading glasses which I don't always wear. Don't know if and when the short article by me they published will be online but I will keep Gadfly readers posted of future developments.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Will autism speaks get my brain?

I still remember at one of the autism society of america conferences I attended, I met with a representative from the autism tissue program, which is a program affiliated with that Microsoft of autism research, autism speaks,that collects postmortem brains of autistic persons for analysis.

I signed some paperwork, gladly donating my brain to science in the event of my inevitable passing, whenever that would be. They also gave me a stickie to decorate my refrigerator, which is still a prominent ornament I see everytime I get some food out.

To date, genetic studies have been of limited value in clarifying the etiology of autism. The genotypes which can lead to similar though not necessarily identical phenotypes are probably too heterogeneous and the sample sizes that can be obtained to date have not been large enough to show many unifying genetic etiologies. For obvious reasons, there are no really good animal models of autism, though research similar to the type Harry Harlow did on rhesus monkeys might produce such a model if a scientist ever wants to pursue that line of work. Also Jocelyne Bachevalier has done some interesting work on lesioning the amygdala and possibly other parts of the limbic system in monkeys for a putative animal model of autism, but there are also obvious inherent limitations in this work. MRI scans and fMRI scans are also most likely quite limited in what they can tell us about anomalies in autistic brains.

Autopsies might be our ace in the hole for being able to get to the bottom of the underlying causes of autism and help in finding more advanced treatments, prevention or even a cure. One problem with this is that autistic persons live out their natural lives and the oldest persons diagnosed with autism might be like 75 years old now (though I suppose an older person could be diagnosed retrospectively), so there is a dearth of available brains. For this reason probably not much more than a few dozen autistic brains have been autopsied. I wrote an essay arguing that we needed to locate autism's so called "hidden horde" if possible so we could have as many post mortem brains available for autopsy as possible. Of course the problem with so many different types of "autism" being out there, even if we could get more brains they might not provide elucidation on the etiology. If enough brains were obtained, though we might get a general idea of what was wrong in a significant subset of at least some autistic persons.

Though of late i have been lax in reading more of the recent literature in autism, many years ago I did read the studies with the first autopsy reports in autism including a study by Williams et al which did not find abnormalities in four brains, but did allude to some cerebellar problems in at least a couple of the autistic brains. Then came the study at UCLA by Ritvo et. al. who found reduced Purkinje cell counts in the cerebella of some deceased autistics. They only looked for Purkinje cells and did not look for granule cells or other types of neurons which may have limited the studies potential for usefulness. Last but certainly not least I read the studies by Bauman and Kemper showing the various problems with the cerebellum and limbic systems in autism. Later, I seem to recall that David Amaral of the MIND institute did some studies of postmortem autistic brains that showed differences in the amygdalas between autistics and normal controls (no offense intended Larry Arnold).

About 9 years ago, Margaret Bauman was in town and gave a lecture to our support group. I knew that because of new techniques developed that the etiology of Parkinson's disease had been discovered, damage to the nigrostriatal bundle, the main dopaminergic pathway of the brain. I asked her if enough brains were available for autopsy in autism if some day we might have the same understanding of autism's etiology as exists in Parkinson's. She seemed to believe that the answer was yes.

Later I worried about how autism speaks would be able to obtain my brain when I passed away. Though my parents are both still living, the likelihood I will outlive them is not low. I don't have a terribly close relationship with my sister who lives about a thousand miles away from me. So, who would know that I willed my brain to science and that it would be imperative to get it out of my skull and preserve it in formaldehyde so it won't spoil immediately. I knew that though I had good intentions, I might never be able to carry them out posthumously. Of course one thing I did not have to worry about is having my feelings hurt if Socrates or some other members of the neuroperversity (a tip of the gadfly hat to Billy "Lurker" Cresp for that term) movement called me a traitor and a "house aspie" for having the temerity to donate my brain to an autism speaks affiliated project, as I would be dead and it would not matter.

Slowly I started to become disillusioned with AS.

I learned that they donated half a million dollars to a rogue scientist who stated that their goal of curing autism was nonsensical and also stated that autism was not harmful and was not a disorder but merely a difference.

They implied their insurance lobbying would make a difference between autistic children having friends and not having friends without providing any proof.

They put on a dog and pony show talking about how important it was to employ autistic persons yet did not employ a single autistic person in their organization or do anything to actually help a person with autism find a job.
Last but certainly not least it would seem AS engages in cronyism.

I was a bit distressed about the logistical problems of autism speaks being able to get my postmortem brain, but maybe it does not matter after all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gadfly published in Los Angeles Magazine!

Just a month short of my 55th birthday I have sold my first nonfiction article to a major magazine. Los Angeles magazine has done a feature about autism in their latest issue. In a short article on page 139 of the magazine I attempt to take to task the neurodiversity movement and try to explain as tactfully as I can why I believe they are wrong about not needing a cure for autism. It shows a photo of me in my bedroom with my dresser drawers slightly ajar in typical lack of executive functioning autistic fashion.

The other day they wrote me saying that they were interested in putting additional photos of me on their web page as well as a bit more information about me and asked me a couple of questions which I answered. So, I don't think the article or anything more about me is on the web yet, but I will either edit or put an addendum to this post when that happens. In the meantime I hope that friends and foes alike will go to their local newsstand and if available buy a copy of the magazine and check out the magazine and the article. To avoid confusion, in case the August issue is still on some stands, it is in the September 2010 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

autism talk tv: the saga gets uglier

I have just discovered a somewhat dated thread on the web page which has the slogan "autism=good" in the title bar of the browser when one logs onto this stellar website.

It goes on with the members of wrongplanet questioning why Alex Plank would go hat in hand to autism speaks, an organization who has described autism as a global health crisis and clearly does not share the "autism is good" philosophy of WP, why Alex Plank and his friend Jack "Cubby" Robison would solicit (and be given) funding by AS for their autism talk TV show.

John Robison has some choice words in defense of Alex Plank and his son Jack:

My joining the Autism Speaks science board was a gamble. I know many of you criticized me, but I believe I am succeeding in what I set out to do. I am able to advocate for research that helps people on the spectrum, and I can speak against research I oppose. Any of you, of course, can do the same thing, but I can do so as an insider, where my vote counts. Yours doesn't. At least not yet.

Gadfly wonders what it is that Robison set out to do. He certainly succeeded in getting autism speaks to donate to a cause that involved his own son for a very questionable activity and a very questionable organization which would, at least on the surface not share the philosophy of AS and the relatives of autistic children who donated money and went on walks who most likely would not agree with wrong planet's "autism=good" message. If he has made contributions in the scientific realm, he has neglected to write about it on his blog or anywhere else that I know of.

Robison ends with a statement that in my opinion would make Marie Antoinette and her "let them eat cake" statement seem philantrophic by comparison:

In my opinion, this whole tempest over a few thousand dollars of underwriting support is just ridiculous. If Autism Speaks is so bad, do you want to pony up the money to fund Autism Talk TV instead? Alex would not need sponsors if you guys were donors

Of course one wonders if Robison feels this way and it is just a few thousand dollars why a successful businessman and a best selling memoirist could not have ponied up the cash himself, particularly when his own son is one of the two principals. The answer of whether or not he contributed follows. Certain posters on wrong planet correctly pointed out to Robison that they were on disability, living in poverty and did not have the money to contribute.

Robison writes:

So why attack Alex over this?

Why attack Autism Speaks for a gesture that brings something interesting and useful to our community?

First of all, it is only Robison's opinion that these videos are useful or even interesting in any manner, except that they show how corrupt and unethical both autism speaks and the neurodiversity movement are. I certainly do not share Robison's opinion.

Why attack Alex? Because, Alex has done nothing but criticize autism speaks. He has a certain constituency on wrongplanet that have donated money to the website who don't like autism speaks. He has libeled the organization by implying they are deliberately trying to develop a prenatal test to abort autistic fetuses. He libeled them by printing the false story that Zach Lassiter's t-shirt business was closed down by autism speaks using intimidation tactics. Then later goes on to make flattering statements about AS that have no factual basis coincidentally right after he received funding from this organization that he clearly despises and forsook his principles over.

I attack autism speaks, because they have parents who have children who will never function the way Robison or Plank do and they participated in walks in good faith believing the money would be funded to do something to help their kids function better rather than having a person who has a slogan autism=good travelling around the country at their expense making videos which so far only seem to extol the virtues of autism and do nothing to present the uglier side.

Robison continues:

We're studying new therapies to help adults with social skills, and many other things. We have some really exciting work going to help autistic people who have severe speech difficulties. You can read about all that on my blogs.

I can't really recall Robison ever writing anything about this on his "look me in the eye" blog. If anyone can point to me where he has ever written anything about his work with autism speaks which entails studying social skills or speech therapy for autistics or any science I would be interested in knowing about it.

So far autism talk tv has aired seven videos, it is only on the last two or so that we see the oil and water mix of autism speaks and wrong planet logos on the credits. But apparently Robison has partially picked up the tab for at least the first few videos:

I paid for them to go with my personal funds, so if anything, I personally sponsored those first videos but we did not say that when we put the credits together. Autism Speaks will reimburse some of my costs with their underwriting grant.

So we see that Robison did have the ability to pay for his son's( and son's friend's) extracurricular activities. Yet, after accepting an unpaid position on the board of autistic speaks, after making scads of money in successful businesses and having a book on the new york times best seller list and likely being paid at least a six figure advance for his forthcoming book, he then goes hat in hand and accepts money from this organization for his own personal use. The words cronyism and conflict of interest come to mind.

Though I have had many differences with "Socrates" of the new republic blog. He makes some valid points that perhaps Plank and Robison, junior could add episodes of kids in special education schools or very low functioning kids in group homes in one of their autism talk tv episodes. I will await with bated breath to see if these two kids will do anything in their autism speaks subsidized activities that does not have an "autism is beautiful" message behind it.

So we see that autism speaks is an organization that funds scientists with a neurodiversity perspective who claim autism is harmless, they fund a public relations campaign showing how great it is to employ autistic people yet, don't have one paid employee with autism in their organization and have never contributed to the employment of a single person on the spectrum as far as I know, they fund the insurance reform efforts in various states, running public service announcements claiming this work is the difference between autistic children having friends and not having friends and neglect to provide any evidence that this is the case. It is this blogger's opinion that the funding of autism talk tv and giving John Robison free money is possibly an all time low.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Marc Sirkin's lame excuse for Alex Plank

In my previous posts in the last few posts, I have wondered about why in the world an organization that claims they are funding research in the hopes of mitigating or possibly curing the horrible affliction called autism would fund videos done by Alex Plank. In fact, yesterday, I emailed Mr. Marc Sirkin who is apparently in charge of media matters for autism speaks, Peter Bell, vice-president of autism speaks who apparently has developed a friendship between Plank, Robison, Sr. and Robison, jr. and to the contact address for autism speaks itself, asking why they would fund such an endeavor.

Though my email still remains unanswered by any of these three entities it seems that Mr. Sirkin has responded here. He gives what in Gadfly's view is a rather vague statement that somehow these videos are improving the dialogue among various members of the autism community and that a video that he prominently displays on the blog post in which an interview is conducted with a journalist of a major magazine which helps trivialize this disability and which the journalist for this magazine makes sweeping statements without bothering to do his homework and implies that the creation of a significant software company and the well-known Craig's list were due to attributes of the autism spectrum. He states that the financing of these videos are somehow helping in this mission to achieve the goal of addressing autism which he (unlike Alex Plank and other ND's) calls an "urgent health crisis". How any of these autism talk TV videos, particularly the latest one featuring the previously mentioned journalist are helping in this regard is unclear to gadfly. I am wondering how the headbanging, finger chewing nonverbal autistic children of certain parents who contributed money to autism speaks and participated in their walks are being helped by Plank's videos. Another salient point is that Sirkin makes is the panned (apparently macro) statement of Plank's that autism speaks is in no way influencing the content of the videos as if this has any significance or is relevant to anything. Of course Plank's
singing a completely different tune and praising the organization which previously was anathema to him goes unmentioned in Sirkin's response.

John Robison's interesting duties as member of scientific advisory board of AS

As most in the autism blogosphere know John Elder Robison has been appointed as a member of the scientific advisory board of autism speaks, his apparent sole qualification for this position being that he wrote a best selling memoir about his life with Asperger's syndrome. In his book Robison claimed that a cure for Asperger's was not needed He went further than saying that he desired no cure for himself but that also no cure was needed for anyone else with condition-the fact they might be too impaired to make $100K a year as an engineer, be successful business people in automechanic enterprises, be able to write memoirs that appeared in the New York Times bestseller lists was beside the point.

Robison later claimed that this did not mean he did not care for others on the spectrum who happened to be less fortunate than he was. He claimed he was interested in reviewing scientific research proposals for autism speaks that would help in ameliorating the more disabling aspects of autism. The start of Robison's affiliation with AS was not propitious being he immediatelystuck his foot in his mouth implying that he might know more about what was best for autistic children than their own parents, which naturally Harold Doherty of the autism in New Brunswick blog and MJ of the autismjabberwocky blog took umbrage to.

I have yet to see how Robison in his capacity so far with AS has contributed to the betterment of autistic person's lives or made constructive suggestions on which science should be funded or how science should be done by autism speaks which might make it possible to ameliorate some of the more disabling aspects of autism which he stated was his goal in spite of stating that a cure for at least some ASD's was not necessary for anyone at all in his book.

It would seem however that based on Sirken's post and lame excuse for Plank and company that Robison has gone out of his scope in concentrating on the science of autism speaks and has instead chosen to spend more time pursuing media endeavors rather than science and in a case when his own son is one of the two principals involved. He apparently urged autism speaks to fund Alex Plank's endeavor which they agreed to do.

I have left a comment on autism speaks blog. In case they mod it out and don't approve it. I will reproduce it here:

Hello, Mr. Sirkin. The funding of autism speaks of this young man’s media endeavors when he has libeled your organization, implying your main goal is to develop a prenatal test when there are severely autistic persons who bang their heads and can’t speak. Others who are higher functioning such as myself who can’t hold down a job is a slap in the face, to all of the good people who donated money to your organization and participated in your walks as a matter of blind faith, so that this horrible disability could be mitigated or possibly cured.

No, Mr. Sirkin, your excuse does not cut it with me. If Peter Bell or anyone else from autism speaks responds to gadfly concerning this outrage, I will keep the readers updated.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do Bram Cohen and Craig Newmark have Asperger's?

One of the many items in neurodiversity's bag of dirty tricks is to trivialize autism by alleging that various historical figures have autism or Asperger's syndrome. Therefore, they claim that these people can serve as role models and that anyone diagnosed on the spectrum has the potential to do just fine. Also, the argument against doing scientific research to find a cure for autism is supposedly bolstered by claiming we are depriving the world of the next Albert Einstein or Bill Gates.

Most people who have read my writings know that about six years ago or so I wrote a fairly lengthy article (originally a book chapter in a book I was working on at one time) in which I attempted to debunk the diagnoses of autism for Bill Gates, Albert Einstein and Thomas Jefferson, three of neurodiversity's favorite role models.

Nobel prize winning economist Vernon Smith is also lauded as an example of a spectrumite whose gifts allowed him to make great contributions to society. However, upon a less superficial examination, we find that Smith's basis for claiming he has Asperger's at age 78 came from a self-administered autism quotient test and no clinical diagnosis.

Award winning mathematician Richard Borcherds is also touted by the neurodiversity ideologues of having Asperger's syndrome. We find that on further examination, the truth that the ND movement wishes to suppress is that Borcherds sought a diagnosis from psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen who would not give him one. Cohen wrote in book The essential difference:

One might question whether Richard Borcherds really merits a diagnosis at all, given how well adapted he is. Certainly he is not currently severe enough in his symptoms to warrant a diagnosis in adulthood, as his symptoms are not interfering with his daily functioning. In the jargon of the diagnostic criteria, he is not "suffering any impairment in his daily life"........

In my previous post, I discussed the autism speaks funded Talk TV video that was produced by Wrongplanet creator Alex Plank and Jack "Cubby" Robison. They interviewed Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman who stated that he was planning to write a book which in part would extol the gifts of the autistic spectrum to society. Two examples that Silberman used in the interview was the creation of Bram Cohen's computer program, Bittorrent which is a computer program that makes it easier to download large files and Craig Newmark's creation of the well known website Craig's list. Both of these individuals are given as examples of successful persons with Asperger's syndrome.

In a private email to Mr. Silberman, I bemoaned the fact that my disability is often trivialized by stories such as these and I felt he should note this. In a nice reply to me he explained that he agreed autism could cause problems for those who have it and that I had a one-sided idea of the book he planned to write. When he felt I was implying in my last post that he had commercial motivations for granting his interview to Plank and Robison, he posted a comment on my blog claiming that was not the case and that the book had not even reached the proposal stage yet and that he was just beginning to do research on it.

Well perhaps since he seems to plan using Cohen and Newmark as examples of persons on the spectrum who have made great contributions to society I'll try to be helpful to Mr. Silberman in doing his homework.

According to an article in business week about Cohen's alleged Asperger's
. He was someone who was able to go to college, get married and have a child and set up a very successful software venture. The notion that he has Asperger's syndrome came about when he was out with his girlfriend Jenna and Jenna's young daughter at a restaurant and they were talking about empathy and Cohen's lack of it. Jenna, who had worked with autistic children, suggested that Cohen have Asperger's syndrome. The article goes on to state that Cohen never sought a professional diagnosis of Asperger's.

yet another article questions whether or not Cohen really does have Asperger's. Some of the commenters on this article take umbrage (as do I) that Cohen would trivialize ASD's by claiming that he has one without bothering to obtain a clinical diagnosis.

Craig Newmark has also written about Asperger's However he just states the symptoms are familiar to him and he gives no indication that he was actually diagnosed or any evidence that he indeed has this condition. One of the most telling sentences:

However, psychologist friends berate me when I indulge my (mostly suppressed) hypochondria in this area.

It would seem that once again neurodiversity gets it wrong on two more of their role models. I also can't help thinking that after Mr. Silberman does some more research, his book may be shorter than he actually anticipated.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Alex Plank: The Sycophantic Saga continues

I have been following a rather interesting thread on that aptly named website that has banned your humble blogger from commenting, Wrongplanet. Though Alan Griswold was the exception to the rule of ND's who criticized Dr. Laurent Mottron for holding out his hat to collect money from the organization whose goal he claims is nonsensical and his statement that autism is a harmless condition and no ND's to the best of my knowledge have taken Michelle Dawson to task for accepting money from the organization she so clearly despises, there do seem to be some denizens of Plank's own website that have taken him to task for his consumption of cooked crow and accepting money from the organization he so clearly has opposed and maligned in the past. Ironically enough Plank once wrote a tongue-in-cheek April's fool joke essay about how he had taken over autism speaks-the likelihood that this represented wishful thinking on his part. As my former psychoanalyst would have said, the shoe appears to be on the other foot with wrongplanet not being above accepting donations from autism speaks and perhaps changing their tune in terms of their attitudes towards autism speaks, details to follow.

Of course Plank tries to rationalize his actions to the wrong planet denizens. However, he does not seem clever enough to come up with anything original but rather utilizes the excuses of his predecessors who partook of the forbidden fruit of the autism speaks trough. His statement that autism speaks does not influence the content means he is not a sellout, is reminiscent of what one of the more unsavory characters in the ND movement told me justified Michelle Dawson's accepting money from AS for research. This means that the DNC should accept money from republicans even if the republicans are not influencing policy.

He also makes the fallacious statement that autism speaks has a person on the autism speaks board of directors who is on the spectrum. Of course it is possible that Plank may be stretching the truth a bit in that he means that his partner's father, Robison, sr. is on a scientific advisory board of autism speaks which is not the same thing as the board of directors. Robison also certainly has no understanding of what 99.999% of autistic persons in the world go through as these experiences are clearly an abstraction to him.

Plank also steals Michael John Carley's thunder by claiming that autism speaks is changing and is starting to support autistic persons. He claims this person whose post he is responding to can call him on the phone to get the details privately yet does not want to release this info publicly on wrongplanet. Interesting that he is saying autism speaks does not influence the material in his videos, but I am wondering if the underwriting of his expenses in making the videos have influenced these statements of praise for this organization which he previously had nothing but bad things to say about, including implying that they were engaging in eugenics of autistic persons. Why would Plank insist on just confiding this to a friend in a phone call, why not tell the entire world in the thread of these details if they have any veracity?

Plank also seems to imply that his accepting funding for his videos means that anyone else with an ND perspective who is an ND proponent can now have a say in how the organization they detest so much will spend their money. Well, wrong planet members, I have this bridge in Brooklyn and......

Last but not least John Robison himself steps on the soapbox. I will paste the part of his statement that I find particularly offensive and dissect it:

When I joined the Autism Speaks board earlier this year I made the point that they should be working with other groups, and this affiliation with Alex is one such example. Many of you have been quick to criticize Autism Speaks for not having autistic people working for them . . . I held out Alex and Jack for video production, and you criticize them them for taking up the offer. Well, Jack and Alex are on the spectrum, and they are going to help Autism Speaks with video production. That's the kind of inclusion you asked for, and I think it deserves support, not ridicule.

First of all, John Robison, it is misleading for you to say you are on the board of autism speaks. You only serve on one of their scientific advisory committees and not on the board of directors itself. You are just trying to give credence to Plank's phony statement.

No, John, this is not the inclusion that I asked for. I suspect it is not the inclusion anyone else asked for either. I have criticized autism speaks' autism in the workplace dog and pony show on multiple occasions. Giving your son and his friend money to have a good time going around the country making videos of various people is not giving an unemployed autistic person who needs to make a living a job. The two are totally different. No, I do not believe that autism speaks should work with people whose goals are completely different from theirs and who in fact are working against the noble goal of trying to cure autism and prevent newborn children from becoming autistic (no not abortions) or who are at least using science to try to mitigate this horrible disability while cure and/or prevention are still not possible. Some may find this inflammatory, but autism speaks should no less be involved with neurodiversity than the local police department or FBI should be involved with the Mafia. There is no justification for including the evil ND's in their game plan.

I realize that autism speaks (including board member Jon Shestack) have made justifications for Mottron's funding claiming he was doing work that might help nonverbal autistics or help autistics achieve more educational potential or help with parenting and employment.

I am still trying to understand what possible justification there is for AS to be funding these videos and these kids in their early 20s who are barely affected by their autism if at all who come from affluent backgrounds and can find ways to pay for the videos themselves. In fact, if John Robison thinks these videos are so important and he has made money from his book (his second book coming out soon as well) and his various entrepreneurial endeavors then why he can't pick up the tab for these videos since his own son is one of the people involved? This way the money AS is spending on these videos could go for really important things like helping autistic people find jobs or finding friends or lovers or doing scientific research to help autistic people function better if not cure them or prevent autism in the first place.

I don't understand how these videos are helping autism speaks as Robison claims they are. In fact I don't understand how they are helping anyone except for Alex Plank, "Cubby" Robison and Steve Silberman plug his future book.

Well again I guess in spite of my now five and a half decades on this planet there are some things I will never understand.

I have also been told there may be some problems in commenting in autism gadfly by one of my readers. I am not sure what is causing this and I have checked it out and it seems to be okay. However, if anyone has trouble commenting or deserving comments on this thread don't get published I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Autism speaks picks up part of tab for Alex Plank videos

As regular readers of autism's gadfly know, I have written about how neurodiversity idealogues Laurent Mottron and Michelle Dawson have been awarded half a million dollars in funding from autism speaks in spite of the fact they are opposed to the idea that autism is a disorder or disease and this is the basis of autism speaks fundraisers.

Below you can view one in a series of videos made by neurodiversitite Alex Plank and Jack "Cubby" Robison.

You notice this video deals with Wired Magazine writer Steve Silberman, author of the infamous "geek syndrome" article that appeared in that magazine nine years ago or so stating his ambition to write a book detailing the great achievements of those with asperger's throughout history and how many scientific discoveries were made by those on the spectrum.

You can check out the credits in the beginning and at the end of the video and you will notice the logo for Plank's website You also note the logo of another famous autism organization.

Checking with Cubby Robison's father, John Robison, I wondered if autism speaks had funded this video given their name appears in the credits. The answer would seem to be in part yes, they underwrote some of the travel expenses and possibly some other things for Plank's and Robison's video.

We have seen in the past that Plank has wrongly accused autism speaks of intimidating a blogger and getting a website to stop the sale of his t-shirts. Two years after the fact Plank still has this false story on his website and has never offered a retraction or apology.

Alex Plank has some choice words about autism speaks apparently

He states:

Actually, most autistics feel that these nonprofits are doing a disservice to those living with Autism by running campaigns that dehumanize people with the condition and painting an inaccurate picture of what Autism is like. For example, Autism Speaks, the largest Autism organization in terms of financial capital, has no autistic employees and no board members with the condition. They disallow autistic individuals from speaking at their conferences with the rationale that "it wouldn't be appropriate." While a lot of the research they fund may be conducted by good scientists who are unaware of the organization's political slant, Autism Speaks' end-game is establishing prenatal screening. Any good that comes from this research is consequently undermined by the negative messages they send.

In addition to being impressed by Alex's omniscience in knowing what most autistic people think, I am intrigued by the old neurodiversity fear mongering maligning autism speaks by claiming they are trying to establish prenatal screening to abort autistic fetuses when there is no evidence to suggest this whatsoever. I have to wonder why autism speaks would pick up the tab for a person who has treated them in this manner and makes the nasty inflammatory statements that Plank has made about their organization and even written libelous things about them in the past.

It is embarrassing to admit that Robison asked me if I would consider participating in an interview. For a brief moment I said I would consider it though they would have to come here to Los Angeles to interview me. I now realize it was a mistake on my part to consider it for even a moment.

There are autistic people who can't speak and who self-injure themselves and when most of us are unemployed and autism speaks talks about the importance of employing persons with autism in their autism in the workplace dog and pony show in spite of the fact there is not a single example of a person with autism as far as I know who has obtained a job due to any action of autism speaks. There is the fact that many of us can't find romantic relationships, can't get things done during the day, have phobias and have trouble functioning. Gadfly wonders about the priorities of autism speaks and why these videos would be financed in any way shape or form. What would parents such as the well known KGAccount who makes videos of her very low functioning son who will likely never function at a level of an Alex Plank or Jack Robison think if they were donating to AS and participating in walks for the organization if they found out their money was being spent on videos putting such a positive spin on Asperger's. I can only wonder what in the world autism speaks is thinking or why they would consider this money well spent.

I guess there are just some things in this world I will never understand.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ivar Lovaas RIP

This story is bound to generate some additional media coverage in the next few days. It is probably still too new as a news item to have gotten much coverage yet. I was intrigued when I was checking the stats of this blog and some persons had entered "ivar lovaas obituary or "ivar lovaas died" as search words and were lead to this blog. I checked it out myself intermittenly and thought it was just an idol rumor, then finally came up with the previously linked to story.

Of course ABA will likely still live on as a treatment of choice for many years or even decades after Dr. Lovaas is buried and/or cremated. I wonder if any of the obituaries or news items will mention the controversies over the aversives that Lovaas used in the past and how dependent his 1987 study was on the use of aversives. I have been involved in autism-related matters long enough to remember the controversy over the shocks, spankings and food deprivation that most of the current generation of autism afficianados has forgotten that are linked to Dr. Lovaas.

Though I have had my differences with Michelle Dawson in the past, she was certainly spot on in her "The Misbehavior of Behaviorists" essay when she talked about how the science behind ABA was falsely advertised as doable without aversives in California and other jurisdictions where they have been outlawed.

As a person on the spectrum I realize I have to watch my social skills and remember it is in poor taste to speak ill about the deceased, so I guess I won't comment further. I still wonder if any of the multitude of obituary pieces that are bound to come out in a day or two will mention the past controversies.