Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interesting op-ed piece about schizophrenia

In today's Los Angeles times there is a rather interesting op-ed piece that deals with the hardships of schizophrenia written by the sister of a schizophrenic. She talks about her brother's delusions, the fact he hears voices and threatened to kill their father and had to call the Sheriff's department on their own son to have him taken into custody.

It talks about his having to live in Santa Barbara County on SSI that is less than $845/month. He is always broke and living in poverty. Their parents bought the brother a mobile home in a trailer park. Next year the trailer park is requiring all of the tenants to buy the land under their mobile homes. The sister wonders what the brother will do or where he will live.

The last line of the piece states:

And What will happen when the last bit of my mother's estate runs out and my sister and I have nothing left to give him when he's broke Who is responsible? Who is responsible for them all?

This has got me to thinking. It has been pretty well known for years that the prevalence of schizophrenia in the general population of most countries runs about 1%. Back in the 1970s it was felt that autism was a much rarer disorder with a prevalence of about 1 in 2500. Now according to the most recent studies done by the CDC it is about 1 in 110 so very close to what schizophrenia is now.

There is now a point of contention of whether or not autism is just as prevalent in all age groups or is much more prevalent among persons born in or after 1990. Most persons in the neurodiversity movement don't believe there has been a genuine increase in autism that the numbers have always been the same and it has always been a high stable rate. If this is the case, then this means there are about as many autistic adults as adults with schizophrenia and what will happen when parents are not around to help their autistic children as adults after they die is an interesting question. This is aside from the fact that since autism exists in the person from early child on unlike schizophrenia which usually does not have an age of onset until about age 19 or 20 would be more costly since services for many would be needed throughout their lives and the parents of schizophrenia would at least get a break during their offspring's childhood.

If there is an equivalent neurodiversity movement for schizophrenia to the one for autism that is so salient in the blogosphere, they would certainly find this article offensive. They would not want to hear anything bad about schizophrenia or the hardships concurrent in it. They would be aghast that the sister could wallow in such self-pity as to complain in a piece published by a major metropolitan newspaper.

I seem to remember one neurodiversity blogger, Mike Stanton stated that schizophrenia was not autism and the comparisons were not apt when someone tried to make that comparison to counter his neurodiversity beliefs. Mike Stanton also engages in censorship placing me in moderation when I made a polite comment on his blog taking issue and showing inconsistencies to his neurodiversity logic.

I also found this article interesting as I had a good friend with schizophrenia for many years (one of the few friends I have had in recent years) but apparently he had a breakdown and may have stopped taking his medications and was just impossible to deal with. Our friendship is now over and it is sad indeed.

Though autism and schizophrenia are different disorders they are probably at least second cousins in that the so-called negative aspects of schizophrenia-the impaired ability to relate to people and make friends, the problems with theory of mind etc.-are strikingly similar to autism in some respects. Though I can't remember the exact articles there have been structural magnetic resonance imaging scans that have found cerebellar abnormalities that are similar in schizophrenics to the ones found in autism. So I do have somewhat of an interest in schizophrenia.

I can say the same thing for autistic persons to neurodiversity. Who will care? Who will be responsible for them all? Neurodiversity's response is that these problems don't exist, they find the fact that autism is viewed as a costly affliction offensive. They question a lot of the statistics in a "don't confuse me with the facts" response. They use Bill Gates and Stephen Spielberg and Vernon Smith as "autistics" who make great contributions to the economy and therefore balance out those who don't, so that in fact the costs are nothing more than a zero sum game according to neurodiversity logic.

But in spite of the disingenuous spin that ND puts on this along with everything else, the question still remains as Marcia Meier put it about her schizophrenic brother: Who is responsible, who is responsible for them all?

Our government finances the research of Morton Gernsbacher . She is also allowed to review grants for research for autism speaks and peer reviews the research of other scientists for journals. She has claimed autism is not harmful. Autism speaks finances the work of Laurent Mottron who made that same claim in a piece that he coauthored with Gernsbacher and Michelle Dawson.

Our government has appointed Ari Ne'eman who claims that autism is not even a medical disability and finding a cure for autism would be morally reprehensible to the highest disability public policy position in government.

It won't be easy sleeping at night knowing that these individuals are responsible for them all but I guess I will have to do my best.

Well an interesting op ed piece, hope you enjoy reading it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another article on neurodiversity

I see that yet another article on the ND movement has been published in the latest issue of autism asperger's digest. Your humble blogger and Age of autism staffer Jake Crosby are given token mention as anti neurodiversity bloggers. Though the article is entitled Neurodiversity: A Balanced Opinion, author Nick Dubin's opinion is anything but balanced. He most clearly embraces neurodiversity and is opposed to a cure for autism. Interestingly enough Dr. Dubin did not find out he was on the spectrum until age 27 and then five years later obtained a doctoral degree in psychology. Most of the stuff in the article is very old news for anyone who has followed the ND movement for any length of time, but I still linked to it on here as it might make an interesting read for some persons.

Of note the article mentions William Stillman, a self-diagnosed autistic with no credentials who apparently can get $100 an hour for a phone consult and when questioning how smart a person on the spectrum is Stillman states, 'presume intelligence'.

More interesting is the statement about Michael John Carley.

Dubin States:

Carley serves as a true role model for people of all ages on the spectrum. His character and actions exude tolerance and respect and his efforts to serve as a bridge of understanding to those who are not on the spectrum are admirable

Though it is probable that Dubin wrote the article before Carley made his recent controversial statements regarding his views of Asperger's being taken out of the DSM and not wanting to be associated with autistics who were head bangers or who wore diapers as adults one can laugh at the irony of this. I think some of my ND opponents will agree with me on this point.

Again, old stuff for most of us, but something that might be worth a cursory read in any event.

Ransom notes article in disabilities studies quarterly

In my previous post I blogged about Ari Ne'eman's article in the latest issue of Disabilities studies quarterly and the problems with a lot of Ne'eman's contentions in his piece. This was not the only proneurodiversity article in the current issue. There have been several pro neurodiversity articles published including an article with an interesting take about the ransom notes campain a couple of years ago. For those who don't remember the New York University child study center had an ad campaign which talked about how we have your son, he has autism we will make sure he does not take care of himself or interact socially as long as he lives, etc.

The neurodiversity movement, lead by Ari Ne'eman took umbrage to this and lead a successful campaign to have these advertisements expunged. I was also offended by the ransom notes but for a different reason than Ne'eman. I believe the NYU study center was engaged in deceptive advertsing claiming there was an easy release from the abyss of autism, which as regular gadfly readers know, I don't buy into. Ne'eman and his pals took offense because they felt it was making autism look bad. I in turn was offended by ASAN and other disability groups campaign because I do not believe eliminating the ransom notes advertising did anything to better the lives of persons with autism. Persons with autism in many cases still can't speak, they are most likely largely unemployed and have to be in special education schools or classes because of bad behavior. It does nothing to eliminate the hardships of autism. I do not believe bothering about the ransom notes campaign was time well spent. It made no difference in the lives of an autistic person or lead them to make friends, find employment, be able to perform tasks, etc.

The article has an interesting take. First of all, it extols the social model of disability over the medical model, the belief that Ne'eman and others have is that the medical aspects of autism are not as impairing to the individual as sociological barriers or false expectations that prevent them from doing the things in life that typical persons take for granted.

It starts off with an interesting quote from well-known neurodiversity blogger "the autistic bitch from hell" she states:

From day one, the consistent message put forth by Autism Speaks has been that autistic people are tragically defective burdens on society and that a child would be better off dead than autistic. Ms. Wright describes the most notable accomplishment of Autism Speaks in these words: "We produced a movie, Autism Every Day, and it was accepted into Sundance for a special screening... [I]n this movie a father talks about hoping that a little boy would go into the pond on his property and drown." ("ABFH," 2007a)

This complaint from ABFH about the lack of respect for the lives of autistic people is interesting in light of another post she wrote about previously to her 2007 post griping about autism speaks disregard of autistic lives.

She stated on the subject of pro-cure autistics such as myself:

Make no mistake about it, these slimeballs know exactly what they're doing. They're very well aware that they are still autistic and that there is no such thing as a cure. They gulp down anti-anxiety meds by the bucketful to ensure that they won't jeopardize their endorsement contract by having an inconvenient twitch or tic in public. For them, it's all about the money. They don't care how much harm they're doing to vulnerable families. They ought to be lined up against a wall and shot, but in lieu thereof, they can all kiss my autistic ass.

Later in the same post ABFH states about autistics she does not agree with:

This group can also be excused from kissing my bodacious booty. I wouldn't let their nasty keyboard-pecking beaks anywhere near me. About the only thing I'd do with them is wring their scrawny feathery necks and turn them into cat food.

One wonders about the totally inconsistent statements ABFH makes about the value of lives of autistic people. One explaination is that she believes that the persons autism speaks refers to will grow up to be neurodiversity proponents, yet the lives of pro-cure autistics such as myself are worthless and we should be shot or strangled to death and turned into cat food. Though ABFH complains about her perception that autism speaks claims that autistic children would be better of dead than autistic, it would seem to me she is making the claim that autistics whom she does not agree with, particularly those like myself who wish a cure are better off dead than alive.

The article goes on to make the analogies for the social model of disability in that we don't consider ourselves disabled because we can't run 70 miles per hour or fly but the invention of trains and airplanes helped us overcome those barriers and in the same vein the social model of disability by this specious reasoning can save the day for those with autism.

In the same vein it could be argued that people should have protested persons such as the Wright Brothers who were doing research to invent airplanes or persons who invented trains they way that they protest autism speaks. After all the invention of planes and trains degrade our humanity and our beautiful running ability and our humaness that would just reduce us to the lower form of life of birds if we were able to have flight.

The author of this article also invokes the "do no harm" part of the Hippocratic oath claiming that somehow the doctors behind the ransom notes campaign violated theirs.

Of course no mention is made of Laurent Mottron who has claimed that autism is harmless, that autism is merely a difference and posthumously diagnosis Niklos Tesla with autism or at least autistic traits, therefore trivializing autism. Also, his questionable claims when applying for research grants that got him half a million dollars funding by autism speaks and additional funding by the Canadian government. Except for the fact that French doctors may not required to take this oath as are their American counterparts, neurodiversity does not seem to mind that Mottron may be violating his oath.

Author Joseph Kras also objects to the fact that autistic people were not consulted when the Ransom notes campaign was instituted. He also claims that they do not provide a fair picture of their subjects which they are ethically obligated to do.

Conversely could it be claimed that just consulting Ari Ne'eman and his colleagues, most of them either students in major colleges, some with advanced degrees, virtually all of the board of ASAN having Asperger's syndrome and not autism with a speech delay proper as I had are really consulting autistic people as a whole or if these people as well as other neurodiversity proponents are really representative of autistic people.

Is Ari Ne'eman ethically obligated to admit that at least 99.9999% of the autistic populace, myself included, will never function at his level, be able to get a high paying job in disabilities policy making at the highest level of government at age 22, will be able to think of being a Rhoades Scholar or going to law school in a major university. Perhaps Kras and Ari Ne'eman can question their own ethics before they question Harold Koplewicz and others behind the failed ransom notes campaign.

I see some real problems in this article as well as the previous article in the DQS issue by Ari Ne'eman which I blogged about earlier. I am not sure if gadfly will take the time to read the other articles and comment on those. These are the only two I have read so far, but I suspect most of these other articles are bullpucky also, I may or may not report on them. Normally I had not planned on blogging so much but this is a very interesting time in the history of neurodiversity and as I have said before: We don't need no stinkin' neurodiversity!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Interesting essay by Ari Ne'eman

I see that lead neurodiversity proponent and ASAN president Ari Ne'eman has published a new essay One which the autism society of america newsletter the advocate solicited and then apparently rejected for some reason. Ne'eman starts out by saying that autistics have not been consulted on matters pertaining to autism. This is in spite of Stephen Shore's appointment to the IACC as well as his involvement (and John Robison's as well) in reviewing research grants. As well as Ne'eman being allowed to testify before the IACC when he was one of the people who protested the combating autism act out of which it grew. Ne'eman writes:

The object of autism advocacy should not be a world without autistic people — it should be a world in which autistic people can enjoy the same rights, opportunities and quality of life as any of our neurotypical peers.

As far as I know Ne'eman has not elaborated on what those rights are and on how they can be achieved without curation. There is no way that an autistic person can have a better quality of life without the medical intervention which currently does not exist and that research funding is attempting to find that Ne'eman wants eliminated.

Ne'eman then gives his take on Lovaas and ABA:

Even a cursory glance at the magazine of the Autism Society of America reveals many such examples, with advertisements for vaccine recovery and Applied Behavioral Analysis, whose initial aversive-heavy experiments claimed to bring half of all children subjected to its methods to "indistinguishability from peers." These programs lack the research foundation they claim. For example, Ivar Lovaas' promise of recovery through ABA was based on the theory and methods used with "feminine boys" at-risk for homosexuality (Rekers & Lovaas 1974). That fact alone should give anyone pause. Meanwhile, those who peddle these pseudo-scientific treatments collect hundreds of thousands of un-reimbursable dollars from families justifiably desperate for a way to secure opportunities for their children

It seems strange for him to say this now in light of the fact that ASAN has been a proponent for "positive behavior supports" This is in spite of the fact that Lovaas' provides no evidence for efficacy of positive behavioral supports and was not able to get any of his published results without aversives.

Ne'eman and ASAN have also been advocates for full funding of the IDEA, which in large part, as far as autistic children are concerned, ABA is one of the predominant treatments that parents seek funding for under this law and the bulk of litigation against school districts entails parents attempting to pay for these therapies.

For anyone who regularly reads Michelle Dawson's TMOB comment board it would appear that Dawson and ASAN are at loggerheads over statements that Dawson has made that were critical of ABA.

Next Ne'eman goes on with the old fear mongering neurodiversity lie about genetic research leading to abortions:

What do we really want? Is it autism prevention? Given that research has shown that the autism spectrum is predominantly genetic in origin, the most likely form of prevention would be that of eugenic abortion, similar to what we have seen with the 92 percent rate of selective abortion in the Down syndrome community (Mansfield, et. Al. 1998)

It should not be necessary to comment on the apples and oranges comparison of autism and Down's syndrome but here goes anyhow. Down's syndrome involves an abnormality in one chromosome. The genetic etiologies of the multitude of phenotypes which are termed autism are quite varied and many different abnormalities on genes and chromosomes have been found. There is also the fact that interactions with the environment cause these as well so a prenatal test for autism is not likely on the horizon for a long time. By the time enough about the genetics of autism is thoroughly understand well enough to abort an autistic fetus it is very possible that the DNA could actually be altered so that the child will be typical rather than be sick and crippled by autism. Down's syndrome (at least at one time) was a very different condition from autism, with the chance of them being much more severely impaired than many with autism, also a propensity to develop congenital heart problems and die very early. The study (Mansfield) that Ne'eman cites only reports on various papers that show rates of pregnancy terminations in the 1980s and 1990s. Ne'eman offers no evidence that Down's fetuses are still aborted at the same rates.

Most interesting of all is that many ND's are politically left of center such as Obama supporter autistic bitch from hell. My chronic adversary and harasser Clay Adams seems to have left of center politics. There are probably many other examples. It is likely these individuals support Roe vs. Wade and would have no qualms about allowing a parent to abort a fetus that was conceived due to improper birth control or parents who just happened to change their mind and not want a child. It would seem members of neurodiversity value a child's disability over his humanity.

Ne'eman talks about giving autistics a chance to hold down a job, but naturally offers no solutions, other than claiming there is an alternative to finding a cure or doing scientific research to find better treatments. His solutions are to say social unpleasantries should be overlooked in the workplace but how realistic is that? Like Clay says, wish in one hand shit in the other and see which one fills up first.

Ne'eman goes on to cite a study which shows that autistic people when making monetary decisions involving risk are less likely to be affected by risk and certain social cues. Ne'eman shouts this study out as showing that autistics have strengths that can be capitalized upon in real world situations. However, he neglects to mention that these were high functioning autistics who were matched with normal controls on IQs whose intelligence was well above average (verbal IQ 112, performance IQ 109). These persons also had similar v IQ's and p IQ's unlike the 40 point discrepancy in myself and possibly discrepancies in many other individuals. Can we really assume the results of this study can be applied to all autistics as Ne'eman implies.

Also, what Ne'eman neglects to mention is that though the results of this study suggested that the autistic subjects might be less influenced by question framing biases and had more attention to detail that there was a flip-side. That also it suggested impaired emotions and impaired ability to deal with social situations. So in reality the autistic strengths were offset by the autism weaknesses which, assuming this study could be applied to any real world phenomenon, that it would produce a zero sum result in terms of autistic functioning. Ne'eman only mentions the authors findings of strengths in the study but neglects to note the autistic weaknesses that the study demonstrated.

The old neurodiversity line about autistics being able to do just fine without a cure is extolled:

The oft-cited concept of "recovery" from autism is not only scientifically unsupported but also dangerous in that it removes the very supports that made progress possible for many people with autism. Moreover, by equating developmental progress with a change in the fundamental character of our brains, the recovery concept denies the natural growth and skill acquisition that occurs for all individuals, regardless of disability. It is unreasonable to assume that autistics will be the same at age 30 as at age 3.

No I was not the same at age 30 as age 3. However, at age 30 I still had very bad impairments( which I still have at age 54). Of course this excludes people like John Belmonte over the age 30 and unable to talk or Sean Lapin or Noah Greenfeld, both well over the age of 30 and nonverbal severely autistic with Noah being under institutional care.

Ne'eman then spits out the old neurodiversity bullcrap about how none of us are independent in that we don't hunt for our own food or build our own homes etc. However, there is a difference between dependence and interdependence. In interdependence the lawyer who can't build his own home or hunt his food makes money so that he can pay for these without the aid of the state. The home builder who needs a lawyer pays a lot of money taking Abe Lincoln's old advice about a fool for a client. This is different than autistics who collect SSI being dependent on the state. So basically Ne'eman is saying it is just fine that autistics are impaired and can't do for themselves, not the mention of the humiliation of having to be dependent on parents or on the state, etc.

Ne'eman goes on to speak about his position on whether or not autism is a disability:

It should be stressed: none of this is meant to deny the very real fact that autism is a disability. It is only to point out that disability is as much a social as a medical phenomenon and that the "cure" approach is not the best way forward for securing people's quality of life.

Certainly a different statement from his previous "difference is not disability" statement that he wrote in a previous essay which was later edited to something else after gadfly called him out on it. Of course he still gives himself some leeway in claiming that autism is just as much a social disability as a medical one. Naturally Ne'eman provides no alternative to a cure for securing people's quality of life. He promotes the status quo for example by lobbying for full funding of IDEA. I don't think that even the most rabid proponent of special education for improving the quality of life for those on the spectrum would claim that it would do the same thing or even close to a cure.

Ne'eman goes on to make this statement on autism being a disability which would contradict the first:

Second, we should in every instance consider the fact that it is often social barriers rather than disability itself that pose the problems we face.

No, my handwriting impairment, my phobias, my inability to perform the quality of work expected of me to hold down a job and my social problems that prevent me from having friends are not a social barrier. The same goes for my self-stimulatory behaviors and inability to get things done. They are strictly impairments in and off themselves. Naturally Ne'eman gives no solutions to ameliorating these social barriers except a rather absurd comparison of anxiety to autism. Previously Ne'eman (who as far as I know has never had paid employment of any kind in his life) suggests eliminating social pleasantry as a criterion for hiring. So we are to expect employers to keep employees who run amok in the work place who throw tantrums or who cuss the boss out?

Ne'eman gives augmented communication as a solution for nonverbal autistics neglecting to provide evidence or studies that it works for every nonverbal autistic or even the majority of cases.

Ne'eman ends his essay by taking the usual shot at autism speaks and claiming that the cure philosophy has failed us.

Ne'eman still gave the Isabelle Souleries study funded by autism speaks a shoutout, claiming it proved that autistics aptitudes are underestimated.

On a final note of this lengthy blog post I will concede the search for a cure has not yet produced fruitful results. That does not mean it won't at some point in time. Even if a cure is not possible in the foreseeable future perhaps science can provide better treatments at some point in time.

In light of his inevitable appointment to the national disabilities commission I will look forward to seeing whether or not Mr. Ne'eman can actually produce these results in autistics that he claims possible without a cure. After his appointment is confirmed by the senate he will certainly be in a position to do so. Whether or not Ne'eman can produce his promised results only time will tell.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

special education: Sullivan gets it wrong again

As is par for the course for him/her, left brain, right brain blogger Sullivan is writing about special education and gets his/her facts wrong again I have also written about Sullivan's errors and misconstruing the facts on whether or not Ari Ne'eman has said that autism is a disability. Also, he was one of the persons who fabricated the neurodiversity lie that John Best had actually threatened Ari Ne'eman with death. Also his post where he tried to refute Age of autism blogger Jake Crosby and got nearly all of his "facts" wrong. I won't bother to link to these gadfly posts but I am sure the interested reader will be able to find them.

Sullivan starts out by complaining about the Obama administrations promise to provide 40% federal funding of special education spending not being fulfilled. As Sullivan chooses to remain anonymous I don't know whether this person is an American citizen. Assuming they are, they have an appalling ignorance of the most rudimentary knowledge of how our government works. The president does not unilaterally have the power to spend money or to authorize the spending of money, this is done by the U.S. Congress and the Senate. They are the ones who generate the pursestrings.

Sullivan subsequently states that:

The IDEA made a commitment that the U.S. Federal Government would pay 40% of the costs of special education. In reality, the government typically pays about 17%.

This shows how little Sullivan actually understands about the law. There was never a commitment or promise to fully fund IDEA. The law states the federal government would pay a maximum of 40%. Anyone with the least rudimentary math skills will realize that a maximum of 40% funding can equal zero. In other words the federal government is under no legal obligation whatsoever to spend a dime on special education. At the time the education for all handicapped act was passed in 1975 which later was reauthorized to become the individuals with disabilities education act was passed it was only civil rights legislation and was never intended to be a funded mandate.

From Wikipedia:

When originally passed in 1975, congress established a maximum funding level for the program of 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure of American students. This was a rough proxy for the estimated additional cost of educating a student with disabilities. Some have construed this as promise that the federal government would fund that amount spending.

Sullivan is among the persons who have either misconstrued or deliberately lied about the law. In all fairness to Sullivan, this is something that is not unique to him/her, but something that has been done by multitude of persons who promote this law and are oftentimes financial beneficiaries of it, such as teachers, attorneys and ABA therapists. When the IDEA was passed there was no intention to make it anything other than civil rights legislation and not a federally funded mandate.

For those who want to split hairs, it is true the law was reauthorized in 2004 to give congress some leeway to obtain the 40% mark, but there was no actual promise or commitment. The website which I have linked to above puts it well:

Although the new law stops short of guaranteeing that the federal government will pay 40 percent of the costs of special education, it authorizes significant additional spending that, if appropriated, will bring the federal contribution to special education to the 40 percent mark by 2011. Congress opted to address the funding issue through this “glide path” rather than making special education funding an entitlement or mandatory.

So we see in reality that the 40% commitment promise is merely a myth.

There is no evidence at all that high special education spending is helpful to those on the spectrum or ever will be. Particularly salient in this regard is the funding by school districts of Lovaas style ABA in spite of the questionable science behind the study as well as Lovaas' neglect to publish adult outcomes of his subjects in spite of receiving significant federal funding to do so. Sometimes the costs of special education are exorbitant and involve residential schools at costs annually per student in the six figures. Not to mention the costs in attorney's fees to both parties and the aggravation that parents and school districts go through as well as this law encouraging adversarial relationships between parents of disabled children and school districts.

In a previous gadfly post I wrote about approximately one half of special ed students failing the high school exit exam in California as opposed to a more than 90% pass rate among their nonhandicapped peers.

Sullivan is typical of neurodiversity proponents in that he wishes to maintain the status quo in terms of progress for those with developmental disabilities as have Ari Ne'eman and ASAN. They both want to increase funding for a law that has been an abysmal failure rather than encouraging scientific research to come up with better treatments or possibly a cure for autism.

Also in the future when writing blog posts I suggest Sullivan does their homework first.

Astrid's spin on neurodiversity

I see a blogger named Astrid has put an absolutely phony baloney spin on what ND represents. She states:

Neurodiversity” has never been a unified movement. It is an ideology of acceptance and respect for human and civil rights regardless of neurotype. Neurodiversity as an ideology has nothing to do with how well someone can live a “productive” life by neurotypical standards if provided with certain accommodations.

I will state that I agree with the first sentence. Neurodiversity involves different individuals with different takes on a variety of fronts and there is no general consensus, though there are many similar ideas involved. Though as one of my readers, Marius Filip, who lived in Romania (a communist nation at one time) aptly put it, communists are not united either. A Maoist is not a Stalinist or a Trotsky, etc. Though ND's consistently hide behind the smokescreen of civil and human rights, there is no evidence for this. ASAN only campaigns against perceived slights against autistics, such as the ransom notes campaign or derogatory use of the R word in movies in spite of Rahm Emanuel's use of this word and Ari Ne'eman's lack of response, most likely due to his anxiousness to grab that post in Obama's administration that he is up for appointment for. They care not about the right of an autistic not to be segregated from peers as they support full funding of the IDEA which ensures that parents will send their kids to special ed schools and ABA treatments for which no evidence exists of efficacy, particularly in adult outcomes which have never been reported in the literature. In fact the campaign to turn autism from a medical disease into a civil rights crusade is nothing but a smokescreen.

In terms of how productive a life an individual can live by societal acceptance, Astrid ignores Larry Arnold's statement about the social model of disabilities which basically says when barriers are removed autistics can do just fine. She ignores David Andrews statements about influences society has on performance, as well as Ari Ne'eman's same statements. Not to mention the despicable "no myths" video when Ari said it was a myth that autism was no tragedy and there was no hope. Not to mention Ne'eman's difference does not equal disability statement which was later changed to difference only becomes disability when not accommodated for.

Astrid goes on with these incredible statements:

It has nothing to do with whether we are the next step in evolution, somehow superior to neurotypicals, whether autism causes us to possess strengths, or whether it is a disability. It has nothing to do with whether certain current or future treatments for autistic symptoms are necessary or desirable. It has nothing to do with forbidding any research on autism.

Astrid apparently has not read the various things on the internet about the alleged autism of Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Steven Spielberg, etc. and how their "autism" enhances their superiority and how this is a justification against curing autism. She has not read Frank Klein's old website where he stated that autism equaled genius and greatness in spite of the fact he himself was on the dole and apparently incapable of holding down a minimum wage job. Astrid has apparently not read the statements of Judy Singer (originator of the term neurodiversity) in which she states that Asperger's is not a disability, nor Ari Ne'eman's (current spokesman for ND movement if anyone is) about how difference is not disability. She apparently does not know about Ari Ne'eman lobbying the federal government to put a moratorium on genetic research. She has not read the autistic bitch from hell's propaganda that the only thing on autism speaks agenda is to find a prenatal test so autistic fetuses can be aborted. One wonders what cave Astrid has been holing herself up in that she has not seen all of the protests against autism speaks and all the hatred and anger that this organization receives because it funds autism research. Astrid is apparently unaware of the statement by autism researcher Kate Plaisted Grant in response to the recent study showing improved social behavior among high functioning autistics with oxytocin treatment:
This recognition of difference, rather than illness or deficit, views autism as a way of thinking that allows greater understanding of certain aspects of the world than many neurotypicals are capable of, and that society benefits greatly from the contribution of these skills,"

Astrid goes on to say:

In fact, if the so-called “neurodiversity movement” truly was what MJ and other people outside of, and even within the “movement” see it as, I would not have considered myself a part of it.

Then my dear Astrid, perhaps you should reconsider your position as a neurodiversitite. Perhaps you really are not a believer in neurodiversity if you don't agree with any of these positions that have been so pervasive within the ND movement. I concede I don't know what all your exact positions are on these issues, assuming you are being honest (certainly a dubious assumption where any ND proponent is concerned) then perhaps you really don't believe in neurodiversity and in actuality you should consider the company you are keeping. For it is clear to this blogger you are out of the neurodiversity mainstream if you do not agree with these positions.

Similarly, if I, exercising my relatively “high-functioning” autistic privilege, erase your child through the reasoning I use to base autistic acceptance on, point it out. Do not use my, or anyone else’s, erasure of your child as a reason to discard the entire ideology of acceptance, or to decide that it is not for your child. The conditional nature of some pro-neurodiversity arguments may not suit your child, but this means these arguments are exclusionist, rather than that your child does not have the same rights we do.

Has Astrid ever been in special ed? Is she nonverbal or incontinent or have the same sort of problems of Sam Best, Connor Doherty or Dov Shestack? How can she speak for these people? Certainly John Best, Jon Shestack and Harold Doherty are not abandoning the idea of acceptance for their child, quite the opposite. They just don't believe that someone should speak of autism from an insider's point of view when these people (including Astrid) have nothing in common with their children.

As I have stated in my essay, neurodiversity just say no, most ND's (Astrid herself is a prime example of this) are very unrepresentative of autistics at large. They are predominantly high functioning women, though the ratio of high functioning autistic males to females is at least 10 to 1 as has been reported in the literature. The majority of them probably never spent a day in their life in a special ed school as I have or have had the same challenges in life that I and most other diagnosed persons on the spectrum have had. So, no, we can disregard what they say about autism if they are talking about autistics other than themselves.

Astrid attempts to put up the traditional neurodiversity smokescreen and extols the bullpuckey arguments that ND's always give to their movement and she does a damn lousy job of it. She also completely disregards the hatred of individuals like Clay Adams and Phil Gluyas who like to be abusive and insult people's parents. She ignores Kowalski and Turner who have stated that parents of autistics who want to cure their children are like members of the KKK forced to raise black children. She ignores the statements of the autistic bitch from hell that autistics with whom she does not agree with should be lined up against the wall and shot or strangled to death and turned into cat food She ignores Sadder but Wiser girl's statements that autistics who wish to be cured of their condition are like Jews who aide the Nazi's during world war II and would gladly jump into the crematorium themselves.

It is pathetic that ND has to stoop to such nonsense to justify themselves and does such a lousy job of it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Google's double standard re neurodiversity

That 21st century Bruno Bettelheim, Clay Adams, who claims that autistic persons who don't like their autism and wish to be cured do so, because they were influenced by domineering mothers is at it again. Apparently not being able to think of anything original to write about me let alone any actual arguments against any of my criticisms of neurodiversity and it's various proponents has taken some old satirical and mocking songs directed towards your humble blogger and reprinted them from various places he has written them before in a blog post.

Adams, who claims to have obtained an autism diagnosis in his 50's was able to serve in the navy, get married and hold down jobs where he made enough money to support at least one or two children. He apparently was also able to retire at a somewhat younger age than other social security recipients from having made astute investments. Adams has claimed that the only reason I am too impaired to serve in the military or get married is because of attitudes that my mother foisted upon me it was not due to a neurologic impairment. His pal Harry Williams (AKA Socrates) has agreed to this belief in the comments section claiming none of my disabilities comes from autism.

This hits home with me because unlike I suspect the vast majority of persons in the autism blogosphere, particularly members of the infamous autism hub I actually lived through the Bettelheim era, where I underwent psychoanalysis and my mother (and I guess to a lesser extent my dad) were blamed for my problems by my former therapist. I have already had to live through this era in my youth, now Mr. Adams has been attempting to get me to live through it again.

Normally I would just ignore Clay Adams' slights as he clearly is out to get attention and I should not be giving him the attention he craves so much. However, some new issues have come up.

In his post mocking me Mr. Adams ripped off a photo from my blog which is a violation of the DMCA federal law. we see that in the past Mr. Adams has had no qualms of ripping off other people's material and infringing on copyrights I flagged his blog and filed a DMCA complaint with google. It has been more than two days and they still have not acted upon it and have not deleted my photograph from Adams' blog. I also sent email to hub administrator Dave Seidel suggesting that if my photo were not taken down that I might file a complaint with google against him and the hub and I might also contact the hub's ISP. I only received a somewhat sarcastic reply from Mr. Seidel which I won't print here.

In the past when John Best of the hating autism blog has engaged in unauthorized use of photos of Phil Gluyas and David Andrews and possibly other individuals these persons filed DMCA complaints with google and the photos were taken down in less than 24 hours.

Also, I can just imagine the ire that would be directed at any equivalent autism hub that had a pro biomed chelation philosophy that hosted John Best's blog the way Seidel and the hub have endorsed and linked Clay Adams' blog. They constantly complain of Best's sometimes outrageous behavior, personal attacks and his mocking and ridiculing other persons. Yet it is fine with Seidel and the rest of the hub members that Clay Adams can write posts mocking me and ridiculing me and can infringe upon the copyright of my photo. I did point out that Seidel was only hurting himself by an association with this individual.

Even more germane to this whole thing is that now the hating autism blog and it's associated blogs are dead. Google, apparently, without any explanation to Best, deleted all of his blogs. There were likely multiple complaints of John Best's angry and caustic behavior and even possibly the false allegations the ND hub members have made in the past that he threatened Ari Ne'eman with death. For the most part, as I said before, I have chosen to ignore Clay Adam's abusive statements towards my parents, his constantly writing abusive comments to me on this blog which I almost never publish. However, I believe this double standard of Google acting upon DMCA takedowns against John Best, but allowing Clay Adams to slide and use my photograph without my consent on his blog is a double standard. I have no idea why Google does not believe in fair play, why they would act against Best and not act against Adams.

If the NDs think they can shut John Best up however, they are sadly mistaken. He has resurrected his blog at for anyone interested. As I don't approve of a lot of Best's behavior and tactics and I have urged him to tone down some of his rhetoric, it is with some reluctance that I plug his new blog. However, one must remember the addage fight fire with fire. If Seidel and the rest of the hub are willing to link to a blog which takes cheap shots at someone's disability by someone whose own autism diagnosis is dubious at best, then by all means I can have no qualms about publicizing Best's new blog. It is strangely hypocritical of neurodiversity in general and the autism hub and Dave Seidel in particular to claim they are about treating persons on the spectrum with dignity and respect when they link to a blog that tries to bring back the Bettelheim era and also someone who writes satirical songs ridiculing and mocking certain aspects of someone's disability.

Though I don't condone a lot of John Best's behavior and tactics it does not mean the neurodiversity movement does not generate a lot of problems for at least some of us who are on the spectrum and their families. It is sort of like saying that because Black people sometimes riot in the streets as they did in my home town of Los Angeles in 1965 and 1992 that racism is not a problem. John Best's son is severely afflicted and barring a miracle he will never be able to refute any of the ND propaganda. Neurodiversity does present problems in that they often trivialize autism by claiming Bill Gates and others have autism. They claim autism is not a tragedy so that persons like myself who are trying to obtain disability who need it will have an even harder time and they try to stifle scientific research that could some day put an end to this miserable tragedy. If ND wants to play hardball by endorsing Clay Adams blog by linking to it on the hub then I see no problem of giving the new hating autism blog a shoutout. It is in this spirit that I publicize the new hating autism blog and look forward to reading more of what John Best has to write.

If anyone from google happens to read this (assuming they don't delete my blog also) perhaps they can explain to me this double standard which shows such huge bias towards neurodiversity.

Addendum: Also for the time being Best's writings can be read on
The latest is that for the time being Best's blogs are back up, so I guess neurodiversity has been foiled. But I am still concerned about Google acting on DMCA takedowns on Best's blog, but not acting against Clay Adams violations of the blogger terms of service

Friday, February 12, 2010

Michael John Carley disses nonAsperger's lower functioning autistics

I have recently read an interesting post on the autism jabberwocky blog about neurodiversitite Michael John Carley. Roger Kulp of the new "smash the spectrum" blog mentions Carley in his post also. It would seem that Mr. Carley, an individual who was able to get married, have two children, support a family and was not diagnosed with an ASD until age 36 and only after one of his sons was diagnosed with an ASD feels that the new changes in the DSM which would eliminate Asperger's and make all ASD's part of a group just called autism are in his words "hard to swallow".

Carley has stated in his book Asperger's from the inside out that there is a universal feeling among persons on the autism spectrum that they don't want to be cured. He seems to want to speak for me in spite of being Asperger's which means he likely never had a speech delay as I had or spent several years in special education as I did. Naturally Carley has no basis for this blanket statement other than various things he has read on wrongplanet or other ND websites. So he spreads the same baloney that Alex Plank spreads. Carley takes pride in his Asperger's diagnosis because he states that Einstein and Jefferson had Asperger's syndrome. As at least some readers of the gadfly blog know I have written an essay which refutes this notion by Carley and other NDs.

Carley apparently does not like the idea of being called autistic because it means he would be classified along with persons who head bang or who are adults in diapers rather than being able to fancy himself another Albert Einstein or Thomas Jefferson.

MJ, author of the autism jabberwocky blog, who, if I am not mistaken, has two twin daughters who are both on the more severe end of the spectrum (I guess if MJ reads this he can correct me if I am wrong), naturally took umbrage at this comment. Carley's beliefs seem to be rather condescending if not somewhat bigoted. MJ pointed out that it would seem strange that this man who at one time made a living as a diplomat working with the United Nations would in fact be so undiplomatic and I agree with his assessment.

Roger Kulp, in the above linked post, pointed out some MRI studies that suggest that on a neurophysiologic level that autism and Asperger's may be more dissimilar disorders than people at first thought. So there may be something to the autism is not Asperger's mantra.

One wonders if other ND's share Carley's sentiments. They claim to be about dignity and human rights. They claim that autism speaks and the autism genetic resource exchange largely exist to deliberately come up with a prenatal test that would enable autistic fetuses to be aborted. Yet Carley does not seem to care about anyone but Shiny Aspies besides himself.

One can only hope that the new changes in the DSM will mean that most neurodiversitites who state they are on the spectrum who have asperger's rather than autism will no longer be able to call themselves autistic and say they are people like me, who had a speech delay as a small child and was probably pretty severely autistic and went to special schools for 8 years etc. I can also hope that perhaps the new DSM might mean the end of the neurodiversity movement. I wrote about this idea in a previous gadfly post but I reckon it is really too much to wish for.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Morton Gernsbacher trivialized my dreams

Now that I have recently once again come out of retirement from being a research subject in autism studies because of my involvement with Dan Kennedy in Ralph Adolphs' lab at Cal tech, I thought I would discuss a somewhat dated op-ed piece written by famed neurodiversity idealogue Morton Gernsbacher.

This was written in April of 2007 when Michelle Dawson's journal article (of which Gernsbacher was one of the secondary authors) comparing autistic individuals scores on the Wechsler IQ test versus Raven's matrices was published. Though Michelle Dawson's highest formal education is a high school diploma, she works with Gernsbacher and Laurent Mottron as an autism researcher. What makes Michelle unique is that she herself has autism and does research in autism. Gernsbacher in this editorial gives a shout-out for the need for more autism researchers with autism and seems to imply that the dearth of autistic autism researchers is not due to an autistic person's impaired ability to get a doctorate and become a scientist but rather because of societal constraints put on those with autism.

This hits home with me as I had the goal of becoming a physiological psychologist or neuroscientist or possibly a neuropsychologist at the time I was a college undergraduate in the 1970s. My lack of fine motor skills which precluded me from doing stereotactic surgery on animals, my mediocre grade point average (which neurodiversity hatemonger David Andrews relishes mocking me over) prevented me from obtaining this goal. It was a huge disappointment in my life that I could not be a brain researcher and find a cure for myself (my ambition at the time albeit admittedly an unrealistic one), my impairments were what prevented me from attaining this goal, not societal constraints.

I agree with some of Gernsbacher's sentiments that it would indeed be nice if there were autistic autism researchers. Of course I would hope that they would do research with the intent of finding the etiology of autistic impairments rather than having a neurodiversity ideology. However, there are numerous flaws in her arguments.

She extols the aptitudes of numerous autistic individuals stating why she feels they might be good candidates as autism researchers. I agree with her characterization of Michelle Dawson as a polished writer and a scrupulous thinker. I have no reason to doubt Michelle Dawson's autism. However, she mentions Amanda Baggs, who as many people know has a questionable diagnosis. She lauds Amanda Bagg's writing style, her voracious reading and analytical skills. Yet one wonders how someone who goes out of their way to post youtube videos showing that she is so impaired that she can't even boil water could possibly be an autism researcher.

She also cites Joseph of the natural variation blog as an autistic critical thinker. Yet Joseph has admitted in the past that he has never had a formal autism assessment and diagnosis, but only that his son's psychiatrist stated that there was a good chance that he had some sort of autism spectrum disorder.

Michelle Dawson has often emphasized the importance of accurate information and has given yours truly scathing criticism for information that she deemed inaccurate. Yet she collaborates with Morton Gernsbacher who is claiming in the above-linked op ed piece that Vernon Smith and Richard Borcherds have autism spectrum disorders and have been officially diagnosed. This is one of the many standard neurodiversity lies and is at the cutting edge of inaccurate information that ND's such as Gernsbacher give.

Vernon Smith only took a self-assessed AQ test and at age 78 announced to the media that he was autistic. He has admitted in his autobiography to never having been diagnosed by a clinician.

Richard Borcherds at age 38 sought a diagnosis from autism psychologist Simon Baron Cohen who would not give him one. Borcherds is married and an award winning mathematician. In Baron Cohen's book "The Essential difference" Borcherds putative autism diagnosis is discussed:

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"........

Gernsbacher goes on to compare autistics to blind and deaf people who do research on themselves. Yet blindness and deafness do not entail the same cognitive impairments and behavioral issues that an autistic person may have which would preclude them from going to graduate school and becoming a scientist or researcher. Even more offensive (at least to this writer) Gernsbacher compares the fact that gay people do research on issues in homosexuality and for this reason becries the dearth of autism researchers. There is a contentious debate on whether or not homosexuality is normal or abnormal or is pathological or just another sex preference that should not regarded as pathological. Most persons would not consider homosexuality in and of itself a disability. Unlike a person with autism, there is no reason a gay person, could not function in society, go to graduate school, become a scientist and a researcher on gay issues just because they have a different sexual preference from a heterosexual. No reasonable person would say the same thing for persons (some who can't even speak) have uncontrollable self-stimulatory behaviors and certainly can't function in society due to an intrinsic disability. Or perhaps this is a tacit admission on Gernsbacher's part that she does not consider autism a disability-something numerous persons involved in the ND movement insist they never do and that they do in fact believe that autism is a disability. If the latter case scenario is true then one has to wonder whether or not they in fact consider homosexuality a disability.

What is interesting is that one putative autism researcher that Gernsbacher neglects to mention in order to bolster her case is Teresa Binstock a woman with Asperger's syndrome who has participated in research studies of biomed persons, persons who insist that there is a true rise in the prevalence of autism as well as the idea that mercury or some other environmental insult is responsible for a huge autism epidemic and that genetic factors are less important or nonexistent. This idea is anathema to most in the ND movement. So one wonders why Gernsbacher fails to mention Binstock.

In fact Generation Rescue (an organization which most in the ND movement have expressed extreme contempt towards) gives this glowing description of Binstock:

In 1997, after a 50+ years of symptoms, Teresa was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome (1). Her intense focus, perserveration, and hyperlexicality have augmented her research.

Sound familiar? Rather ironic if I do say so myself. Given the fact that Gernsbacher has written a piece along with her husband, Hill Goldsmith and Michelle Dawson denying that there has been an epidemic of autism and stating the term "epidemic" is offensive I wonder if Gernsbacher would be happy with someone on the spectrum such as Ms. Binstock who does research trying to disprove her notion.

Gernsbacher shouts out some program that NIH has that encourages students with disabilities to pursue graduate studies and become doctoral level researchers and claims that autistics can take advantage of that. Well, Dr. Gernsbacher, I certainly tried my best, I was not able to cut it because of my disability. I would love to be a brain researcher and find the etiology of the defects (not differences) that cause autism. I would love to be able to find a way to cure it. My disability prevented me from doing that. I am not sure what Binstock's formal education is, but other than this example Gernsbacher neglects to mention a single doctoral level autism researcher (this excludes Michelle Dawson who does not even have an undergraduate college degree) and to the best of my knowledge there are no persons with autism who have Ph.D. degrees who are professional autism researchers, not one. I doubt very much any actually exist. If anyone can cite an example of a Ph.D. psychologist, neuroscientist or other person with autism who does autism research in the comments section of this blog I will certainly stand corrected. (Temple Grandin whose doctorate is in animal science and is not an actual autism researcher does not count). Perhaps the reason there are no autism researchers, Dr. Gernsbacher is that they don't exist and it is impossible for them to exist (at least in any extensive numbers barring a rare occurrence) without the cure you would deny autistic people, only offering acceptance as an alternative.

I believe Gernsbacher should be greatful that there are autistics who offer their services merely as research subjects even if they can't be researchers. The high functioning people who serve as the research subjects do her and other scientists a great service. Their journal articles, their grants and in fact their very livelihood itself would not exist without us. She should take this into consideration.

More importantly in addition to trivializing my failed dreams, Gernsbacher who has claimed that severely autistic people have made great contributions to science yet neglects to document one example, makes a mockery of the extreme hardships that persons on the lower end of the spectrum and their families go through. Not only can these persons not be researchers, they can't even be research subjects in most studies. This is because they would not be cooperative in eye tracking studies or sit still in an MRI scanner long enough for an accurate reading to be obtained or cooperative in a mu wave suppression study involving neurofeedback or some other autism treatment. Instead of complaining about autistics not being able to be researchers Dr. Gernsbacher should be complaining of the infeasibility of being able to assess lower end autistics and perhaps coming up with some sort of methodology to rectify this problem.

Most interesting of all is the following statement from Gernsbacher in her piece in refuting the argument that autistics might not be objective as researchers:

Or perhaps it’s believed that by including autistics as research collaborators, objectivity would be foiled. As I hope my previous APS Presidential columns have illustrated, a lot of research on autistics (and research on other groups) is far from objective. As Graham Richards, former historian of the British Psychology Society, has stated, the “general consensus that the scientist detached from the rest of humanity in some realm of pure objectivity has ceased to be a professional ideal, and it was always in any case an unreasonable one.”

If this preceding statement is true, then is Gernsbacher herself free of influence of neurodiversity bias in her own research as well as that of her frequent collaborators Laurent Mottron and Michelle Dawson (who has stated that science isn't politics)? Will Gernsbacher admit that her possible lack of objectivity as well as Mottron's might be influencing the interpretations of their research results that autism is some sort of gift that should not be cured or even looked upon as a defect?

In addition to considering how she is trivializing one autistic's failed dreams perhaps Dr. Gernsbacher can engage in some self-reflection on her own statements about objectivity in research.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm participating in cal tech emotions lab research

Today I went in for a research study on eye tracking in the Cal Tech emotions lab. They are doing research in high functioning autism and Asperger's syndrome. This involved looking at some faces and being asked to push a key depending on the gender of the face under various circumstances. I did this while wearing an eye tracking device on my head. It was rather cumbersome and uncomfortable for the duration of the experiment but I managed it. Dr. Dan Kennedy, a protege of Eric Courchesne in whose research group I have participated in, in the past is the investigator in the study. I have also written about my experiences with the Courchesne lab elsewhere Now that he has finished his doctoral work under Courchesne at UCSD, he is now a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Ralph Adolphs, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CIT.

It started out last month at an autism conference in Long Beach that I went to. Normally the fare at autism conferences is bland if not drab, mostly behaviorists, special educators or people pushing whatever flavor-of-the-month treatment is extant. Not to mention the Jeff Bradstreets and others who push the very questionable mercury-causes-autism hypothesis. However, this conference was somewhat a metaphorical diamond in the rough. They had Manuel Casanova, who has done autopsies of autistic brains and has demonstrated abnormal minicolumns as a possible etiology of autism. Also among the impressive lineup was a somewhat pregnant Lindsay Oberman who gave her take on mirror neurons and mu wave suppressions. It included Mirella Depratto, wife of mirror neuron maestro Marco Iacabonni,-talking about some of her work. Interesting sidenote, but least relevant to this post Donna Williams was also a scheduled speaker, but she got sick and was not able to show up in person. However, she gave a videotape of her presentation and later there was a question and answer session with her using skype, which I did not attend, leaving the conference before this.

Last but not least was a new kid on the block (at least to me) a young and up and coming brain researcher whom I had never heard of named Dan Kennedy. I had not been keeping up with a lot of the literature as of late so I missed out on reading the intriguing study about the default network that he did with Eric Courchesne. here is the study for your reading pleasure. To summarize there are a variety of areas at the brain that have a high activity at rest, i.e. when a person is not engaging in any task such as solving a mathematical problem or reading something. These areas consist of areas of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate, posterior cingulate, and precuneus. These are interconnected to each either via axons and are collectively known as the resting network or default network. Though the study is rather technical for me and I did not understand all of it, the gist of it was that an experiment was done with autistics versus normal controls in which they engaged in a task called the stroop test in which a research subject is asked to read words that describe colors but printed in a different color for example green written in blue ink. The subject is asked to name the color the word is written in rather than the word itself, in this case saying blue instead of saying green. It has been shown that the natural tendency is to say the word rather than the color of the word, so this is a more challenging test than it might appear to be superficially. When the nonautistic controls did this, their default networks shut down, that is they showed a low metabolic rate as measured in a fMRI scan showing that blood oxygen no longer went to these areas during somewhat challenging mental activity. In the autistic subjects, the default network still remained active. It was speculated that abnormalities in these processes might be part of the etiology of autism.

This is intriguing to me, because I have to wonder if this is why I have had intrusive thoughts and an inability to concentrate on my former medical transcription jobs making abnormal amounts of mistakes. Could it also have something to do with my twiddling (self-stimulatory behavior)? Perhaps in non-autistic people these areas shut down when they are not engaged in a task, and if mine won't turn off, maybe that is why I have difficult doing things and concentrating.

Dr. Kennedy also speculated that because of the high metabolic rates of certain brain areas such as the precuneus and the posterior cingulate cortex they might be more susceptible to damage due to genetic factors, infectious factors or possibly an environmental factor. It seemed to me the way Dr. Kennedy worded this in the study that he was implying that there were known factors in the environment that could cause autism. I certainly questioned this and called him on it. He stated that he meant that for example lead poisoning and mercury poisoning could cause some autistic like behaviors in children brain damaged from these things even if the children were not autistic themselves. I questioned this, because as regular readers of gadfly know, I don't really believe that heavy metal poisoning causes autism. Of course it is speculation and Dr. Kennedy conceded this. He also conceded he did not mean to say that these environmental factors could cause autism itself, just some behaviors that resembled autism such as in lead poisoned or mercury poisoned children.

Before I did the eyetracking study, I was introduced to the group's director, Dr. Ralph Adolphs. I was intrigued because Dr. Adolphs had studied under Antonio Demasio, a very well known eminent neuroscientist formerly at the University of Iowa and now at the University of Southern California. Many years ago I read a journal article that was published in the late 1970's by Dr. Demasio and his colleague, Ralph Maurer which dealt with comparisons of adult syndromes of the frontal lobes and basal ganglia and parallels and similarities to autism. The frontal lobes deal with organization and executive functioning which are often the bane of autistic people. The basal ganglia deals with motor behaviors, though I don't think it is responsible for my twiddling (self-stimulatory behavior) or fine motor coordination problems. Though it was interesting one problem is that adult lesions are probably different from developmental lesions so not sure how apt the comparisons are.

I was then interviewed by Dr. Lynn Paul, a clinical psychologist who works with the group. We took a break for lunch after that during which time Dr. Kennedy and I reminisced over mutual acquaintences of ours who worked in the Courchesne lab such as Matthew Belmonte and Greg Allen.

They wanted me to do some more stuff for them, but it was getting late and I was concerned about driving back in heavy traffic, so I guess this is a saga to be continued. It is also possible that I will have a functional MRI scan done by them at some point but still not sure, and I made a little money which is nice considering my financial situation of late has not been the best. Though I have had two structural MRI scans I have not yet had a functional one, where you do a certain type of task while undergoing a scan. Before I stopped going to the Courchesne group in 1998, Greg Allen attempted one on me, but my head was too big to fit in the apparatus along with all of the computer equipment that was in place in the scanner.

Well this is the beginning of what may be an interesting story and a new chapter in the saga of my life with autism so far. I may or may not write more about my experiences with the cal tech emotions lab stay tuned.

Addendum: The group is looking for research subjects with high functioning autism or asperger's syndrome. They pay $20/hour for the type of study I was involved in and I think $50/hour if you undergo an fMRI scan. They gave me some pamphlets and told them if I knew anyone to let them know they are looking for subjects. I think it is possible they pay out of state travel expenses to people who are not local to southern california but i am not sure, you can contact them at (626) 395-4486 or send the director, Ralph Adolphs email at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rahm Emanuel uses r word: What will Ari Ne'eman and other ND's do?

I see that president Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel has referred to people who he does not agree with as "fucking retarded" Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the mother of a Down's syndrome child, naturally took umbrage to the comment and demanded that the president fire Mr. Emanuel from the administration.

In general, neurodiversity has claimed to be about human rights and dignity for those on the spectrum. This includes not calling persons with developmental disabilities "retards" or using the term "retarded" in a pejorative or insulting manner as Mr. Emanuel has done. Timothy Shriver, head of the special Olympics, has also called Mr. Emanuel to task and subsequently received an apology from the foul mouthed white house chief of staff.

Interestingly enough, it was Ari Ne'eman and his organization ASAN which crusaded against the movie tropic thunder because it had the word "retard" in it in various places.

I will be interested if anyone of the autism hub bloggers will be taking this up as a subject and whether or not they will criticize Emanuel or join former governor Palin in asking for his ouster. It would seem strangely hypocritical and inconsistent if they did not. Of course, the stakes may be too high for them. After all, with Ari Ne'eman's nomination for a post in the national disability council, the neurodiversity movement has a foot in the door in recommending public policy both to the white house and congress in regards to disabilities.

We have already seen evidence of two-facedness and hypocrisy from club ND. Laurent Mottron has accepted a half million dollar grant from an organization whose goal he states is nonsensical and one he clearly does not agree with or like. His factotum, Michelle Dawson, who has stated in the past that the organization that helps in part to pay for her research ideally wishes a short future for persons with autism and has stated the people who raise funds for this organization, "make her sick" justified her refusal to resign from the Mottron group in protest with the statement, "science isn't politics".

We have seen evidence of Mr. Ne'eman's hypocrisy elsewhere.

We now have to wonder whether Ari will ask that his name be withdrawn from consideration for an appointment to the national disabilities council. Will he be urged by his fellow ASAN members and neurodiversitites to do the honorable thing and ask the Obama administration to withdraw his name from consideration as a member of the national disabilities council? Again I won't hold my breath.