Monday, May 17, 2010

Return of the autism hub

In the no news is good news department or the "I had Excedrin headache number 64, took my Excedrin, went to bed, had a pleasant dream and woke up and found it too good to be true department" I have just this moment noticed the autism hub is back. I should have known the hiatus would be ephemeral. Gadfly gave his take on these people who wear black hats in a previous post.

Some of the same blogs have been kept, such as Estee Klar who states that those of us with autism should take joy in having a handicap and horrific disability. Also, Left brain right brain, the blog that was basically the progenitor of this hideous hub has been kept.

Among blogs on the science side, are the autism crisis blog. So Michelle Dawson who can state that science is not politics and say that it is fine that she and the people she works with can accept a half a million dollar grant from an organization which she has stated in the past ideally wishes a short future for those with autism.

They also have an archive. They apparently have added the blog of the deceased hatemonger "Alyric" who took joy in making abusive and condescending comments to your humble blogger, particularly about his special education experiences, as if she had any knowledge of being developmentally disabled that was not an abstraction. For those with a wave of nostalgia the archives of autism diva's blog has been kept though it has apparently been close to three years since she has posted anything.

Saliently lacking is The New Republic blog of "Socrates" who apparently from my limited knowledge of the situation was considered somewhat of a trouble maker in the hub's blogosphere and was apparently a factor in Dave Seidel's and "Hollywood Jaded's" "bailout" as administrators of the old hub.

Another blog missing from the list is the Whose Planet is it Anyway blog of "The autistic bitch from hell" I guess she still has her blog so I won't be deprived from reading about how autistics who want a cure for their condition should be taken out and shot or strangled to death and turned into cat food . The rumor mill has it that "the autistic bitch from hell" is in fact the nom de plume of one Meg Evans. I will emphasize that I am not certain that these two individuals are the same person. I just know what I read in the preceding link. The discerning reader can follow the link and judge for themselves.

Meg Evans is an individual high up in the board of directors of ASAN. An organization that claims to be in favor of civil rights and dignity for persons with autism. As most who follow this blog know, ASAN's leader, Ari Ne'eman, has an appointment to the national council on disabilities pending in the U.S. Senate, even though gadfly has provided overwhelming evidence that in fact Mr. Ne'eman does not even believe that he himself has a disability or that autism is a disability, yet has presented himself as a stakeholder. He has also been appointed to the IACC, who coordinates the funding of biologic research in autism, though he has stated he opposed biologic research with the aim of curing autism. Ms. Evans claims to have been diagnosed as autistic as a child, yet is a lawyer who graduated from Case Western Reserve Law school, was able to get married and have two children. One has to wonder if in fact the ABFH and Ms. Evans are one in the same that the government should be appointing a leader from an organization to various posts who has in his organization as executive board of directors someone who has such a flippant attitude towards the lives of autistics whose philosophy she does not happen to agree with.

Most notable of all is the exclusion of the comet's corner blog whose author Clay Adams is one of the most vicious and cruel hatemongers in the ND movement and who seems to have a morbid obsession with your humble blogger, constantly belittling him, making fun of him and writing libelous statements about him. The blog has been taken over by new administrators who one hopes don't have the callous attitude that Dave Seidel and his cronies had towards autistic people who really do suffer from their condition, have been veterans of special education and who can't get married or hold down a job unlike many of the members past and present of the hub himself included.

They also give some other information in various parts of the new hub that I will let the interested reader find for themselves. One statement that intrigued this blogger:

The Hub will continue to carefully review and bring some of the best autism blogging from around the web, to visitors and other Autism Hub bloggers – you know, the kind of blogging that is respectful of autistic people insightful, sometimes scientific, but always thought-provoking and mindful of the Hub’s stated mission:-------

Well the rest of the statement is about their baloney of promoting rights and diversity to make themselves look more acceptable than they were in the good old days when their motto was "We don't want no stinkin' cure". Of course I have to laugh at this highlighted statement. Does this mean that such August blogs as The New Republic, Comet's Corner and Whose planet is it anyway, won't be continued on the new hub? Not necessarily, as they have another statement saying that though not all of the old blogs were included that even if they did not make the first cut, persons whose blogs were not included can resubmit their blogs to the hub for the consideration. It is not impossible that these blogs will be back on the hub. It can also be noted that they have stated the hub is under anonymous administrators and has been financed by "an anonymous benefactor with no financial interest in autism". One must wonder about these anonymous people, who this benefactor is who spends money on this cult of hatred and propaganda and why he/she wishes to remain anonymous. Apparently, the new administrators wish to be anonymous, so people whose blog posts go over the line won't have to be accountable to persons whose libelous statements might actually put them in legal jeopardy as administrators of the new hub.

Of course, the hiatus of the hub, did mean the dagger did pierce the figurative skin, even though it was not put entirely through the heart. We can only hope there will be more daggers and with ND attempting to become more mainstream, with more continued exposure of Ari Ne'eman and other stellar individuals in this movement, people will see the hatred, the lies and propaganda espoused and next time the saber will not miss its mark.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

mirror neuron minutae revisited

Regular readers of autism's gadfly will remember last year I wrote a piece about mirror neurons. I discussed the work of one of my idols, Marco Iacoboni and his wife Mirella Dapretto who have done work showing that certain areas of the brain that have been shown not only to be involved in motor responses but in the learning of motor responses and the firing when other people are doing them might be involved in the etiology of autism

Recently, a researcher named Ilan Dinstein along with several coauthors has published work refuting the mirror neuron hypothesis in autism. Though this is just one study, out of many replicated studies showing dysfunction in the mirror neuron systems. The media has picked this up and in some instances implied that it refutes the mirror neuron hypothesis of autism. It is Dinstein's contention that the previous mirror neuron studies in autism have not assessed for selectivity of cortical activity in mirror system areas for particular movements. For example a different set of mirror neurons may respond differently to a thumbs down movement seen and/or executed than a thumbs up movement. Their results showed that the autistic subjects had the same cortical responses during observation and execution of the movements. They observed repeated versus nonrepeated movements, showing that the autistics had the same responses as the controls on motor fatigue, i.e., the mirror neurons programmed for a certain type of movement getting used to the image of thumbs up, thumbs down or a hawaian hang loose hand sign. Dr. Dapretto's work, however, was a little different in that she observed reactions to various facial expressions. It is possible that hand movements are mediated differently than facial responses. In other studies Dinstein and colleagues assert that movement selectivity was not controlled for and this confounded the results.

Again, Dinstein's work has one of the same problems so rampant in autism research in that the current research techniques are not suitable for lower functioning autistics with IQ's of less than 100 due to movement in an MRI scanner and lack of compliance. The subjects were also older than those in Dapretto's work, average age of 27, whereas Dapretto used all children, so this might limit comparison. One possibility is that even if autism's etiology in higher functioning persons is due to mirror neuron dysfunction that they might develop compensatory functions in adulthood. Apparently the autistics and the controls were not matched on IQ. Also they were not matched on gender. All of the autistic subjects were male, half the controls female, and men and women certainly have different brain physiologies and possibly responses.

To summarize Dinstein and his coauthors argue that the entire mirror neuron areas in the frontal and parietal lobes were measured in other studies (If I am not misunderstanding this, anyone can correct me in comments if i am wrong and I will edit the post) They measured specific brain areas as well as the habituation of repeated exposure to these specific which they claim is necessary to show whether or not mirror neurons are an issue in autism. The results, they claim suggest that there is no mirror neuron impairment in autism. It seemed to me that Dinstein was implying that artifacts could have contributed to some of the positive findings of mirror neurons in autism, such as autistics imitating the movement more slowly than healthy controls. Also, the fact that they did not select for areas of particular movements in the prior studies suggest that other areas than mirror neurons could have been recruited such as visual areas and working memory. But Iacoboni is apparently standing by his work and stating that the results don’t prove what the researchers say they do, because their trick of focusing on fatigued neurons will miss some mirror neurons. Furthermore, he says, simply testing brain activity involved in identifying and mimicking movements does not accurately model the brain activity underlying complex social tasks.

On a more personal note, when I read Dinstein's study, it elicited an emotional response for me. I don't know whether to believe Iacaboni/Dapretto or Dinstein. Of course, if I am not mistaken there is a lot of evidence in the literature that suggests that mirror neurons may play an etiologic role in autism and Dr. Dinstein's study has not yet been replicated by an independent investigator. For almost all of my life I have wanted to know what caused my problems. Of course there were the various theories I have heard throughout my life. I first heard in the 1960s it was in part because I saw my sister naked when she was born nearly 3 years after I was and I noticed she did not have something I had and I was worried mine would be cut off. This was one of the standard beliefs during the Bettelheim era of the 1950s and 1960s, which, as I have written before, I am an actual veteran of, unlike most persons in the autism blogosphere. I then heard about the cerebellar things that Courchesne wrote about, but that did not seem to tell me a whole lot. Then there was the mirror neuron stuff which was very intriguing. But my pipe dream of knowing exactly what has caused this horrible disability in myself will most likely not be fulfilled. I was even more frustrated to read the stuff that Michelle Dawson and Morton Gernsbacher write about how autistics brains are not damaged variations of neurotypical brains.

In a fit of frustration, I did sort of a silly thing ( I do and say silly things because of my disability sometimes) and I wrote Dr. Iacaboni an email asking him if he would make a statement on his twitter and facebook pages (which I read from time to time) about Dinstein's study and what the implications were for the result of his own work. I wrote to him about my frustration and anger and how I wish I could find out exactly what was wrong with me and how frustrated I was with Gernsbacher and some others. I told him that I would understand if he did not wish to answer me.

He wrote me a very nice reply back stating that there were numerous methodological problems in Dinstein's work but that given that it was nearing the end of the academic year he was busier than he usually was assisting students in graduating from graduate school and other things, but that he was revamping the website of their lab and was going to add a blog where he would go by a blow by blow of the problems with the current study and that he would tweet about it soon. He also gave me some advice on how I could work on my attitude.

I enjoyed very much receiving a reply from this well known and eminent neuroscientist and stellar individual whose book "mirroring people" I read last year.

Of course I am too low functioning and my knowledge of science and research methodology is probably too limited to determine which of the two are correct. Of course there is the old saying about killing the messenger. I guess I can't be angry at either Iacoboni or Dinstein for disagreeing and not being able to give me some real answers as to what the etiology of my handicaps are.

I guess I will have to live and make do without some real answers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

autism hub: RIP???

I see that the website linking a collection of blogs written by hatemongers and/or desperate parents of relatively severe autistic children (Kristina Chew, Susan Senator and "CASDOK" belonging to this group) who have been exploited by this movement and engage in denial and reaction formation as to the state of their children, has taken a hiatus indefinitely. Could this mean the beginning of the end of the hub in particular and (wishful thinking) the neurodiversity movement in general? Socrates of the new republic blog has written about this and I will defer to this oversexed yet wise blogger who is far more knowledgeable than myself about the internal politics of the possibly defunct hub of which he was a member in good standing as to the explanations and the specifics. The most celebrated anti-neurodiversity blogger, John Best has given his take on the matter.

The neurodiversity movement started from modest beginnings going back to Jim Sinclair's ANI and Judith Singer's diatribes about how Asperger's should not be considered a disability. Thanks in part to the internet and the possible influence of Ari Ne'eman's family and the vulnerability of certain parents they have grown by leaps and bounds over the past 15 years or so. Could it be that they have gotten too big for their britches?

As the movement has flourished, they have actually become somewhat mainstream. They conned autism speaks into giving them half a million dollars using Laurent Mottron and Michelle Dawson as their front man/woman. They conned the Obama administration into appointing Ari Ne'eman to the national disability council though when the guys who wear the white hats fought back against the black hats, this appointment was held up. Then they turned around and conned Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelieus into appointing him to the IACC. This was in spite of the fact that they lobbied against the combating autism act when it was being debated in congress which the IACC grew out of. The IACC has as its goals funding of scientific research with the intent of curing and preventing autism, goals that Ne'eman and the rest of his disciples have adamantly opposed.

However, one must remember the fall and decline of the Roman Empire. When neurodiversity grew by leaps and bounds and as more people joined, there was discord. Different persons had different takes. The personality clashes overrode the political agreement. The autism hub in large part by linking to these blogs contributed to the perverse message of the propagandists but with growth, there was lack of harmony. Perhaps that is what contributed to the demise of the hub, I really don't know. Again, I will defer to Socrates or perhaps another insider who might care to blog about it.

Of course the sad part is that the blogs are still there and this will make it harder for me to access the information I need to write about these people, but I will have to do my best. The hub was one of the first websites I would log onto after waking up in the morning after my orange juice and shower and a cursory read of the L.A. times. I had become an addict. Hopefully I won't go through withdrawal, but I will miss the hub with a certain nostalgia. Of course my guess it will come back with a different administrator other than Dave Seidel and my quasi neighbor Hollywood jaded. It makes me think of the song by the Who with the lyrics Meet the New Boss, same as the old boss. I suspect it will come back and nothing will change, but only time will tell.

More importantly, could these personality conflicts be the tip of an iceberg. To date there has been a relative dearth of coverage of the ND movement in the popular media. This could change on a dime given their success in conning one of the largest private sector autism charitable foundations as well as the federal government. It would be a twist in the knickers of most parents if they had heard of the neurodiversity movement, if they had seen the bullying and the hateful rhetoric of its adherents towards the parents of these children. As the ND movement grows, the hub's demise (whether temporary or permanent) might be chump change in the grand scheme of things. When persons who have given money to autism speaks hear about the things that Laurent, Morton and Michelle have said, they might boycott the walks in unison, depleting the treasury of AS who won't be able to give Geraldine another 600 grand plus in compensation for a given year. They might actually have to terminate Laurent's funding. Morton might get her funding terminated by the federal government and no longer be able to review articles for peer review. Michelle might have to beg Canada post to give her the old job she had back.

When people hear about what Ne'eman says, there will be a backlash of people writing their congressman and senators. They might even find out about Stephen Shore's closet anti-cure philosophy. neurodiversity might be forced out of the IACC or perhaps the IACC won't be reauthorized by congress when that comes up.

Or ND might sabotage itself. They might not even need to have ignorant and apathetic parents of these kids who want to help their kids fight back against these people. The personality conflicts might do it for them. This all might mean the beginning of the end of ND.

Of course I realize that the discontented child cries for toasted snow as the old Arab proverb goes, but a guy can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

neurodiversity hatemongers dish it out can't take it

In the people throwing stones from houses made out of fragile glass department, I just read an interesting post from well known neurodiversity blogger Amanda Baggs. She talks about how two stellar individuals from the neurodiversity movement, Kowalski, and Sadder but wiser girl have closed down their blogs due to bullying. Amanda neglects to go into the specifics, but implies there was stalking and death threats. I am also reminded of Kevin Leitch, owner of the left brain/right brain blog who closed LB/RB for a brief time, when the infamous John Best spent time being his daughter's sockpuppet with a "daddy please cure me" thing, who is another example of an ND blogger who did something similar but not cited by Amanda.

We have to wonder if the old cliche hate begets hate applies here. The first time I had heard of Sadder but Wiser girl, she was writing about how much dissatisfaction she had with your humble blogger's beliefs that autism should be cured, nonverbal autistics should be able to speak. She also went on to compare me to a Jew who helped the Nazis during the holocaust and claimed I was the type who would gladly jump in a crematorium. Kowalski, one half of the Kowalski and Turner duo, wrote a blog post about how parents who support autism speaks and want a cure for autism are like members of the Ku Klux Klan who are forced to raise black children. Sadder but Wiser girl commented how much she agreed with K &T on this point, so in addition to believing that I am like a Jew who helps the nazis, she also believes that parents of autistic children who support autism speaks and want a cure for their children are like KKK members forced to raise black children. Though Amanda is quite vague about the specifics, we have to wonder if whatever bullying these two August bloggers have received, alleged or otherwise, was maybe due to such harsh criticism of individuals who either want a better life or want to improve the life of their children.

Amanda certainly knows about bullying. She is one of the owners of the web page who implied that the now defunct organization Cure Autism Now only had as their goal the development of a prenatal test so that autistic fetuses could be aborted with her nasty cartoon with the autistic fetus in a trashcan with the letters CAN written on it and the caption, "The real meaning of autism prevention". Amanda has billed her organization as the real voice of autism.

Neurodiversity complaining about bullying is absurd as the majority of them are incredible bullies themselves. In addition to SBWG's comments about me, I have had my parents insulted, I have been mocked and ridiculed and libeled. One nasty blogger even went so far as to write a libelous post claiming I was at an autism dinner and looked up Portia Iversen's dress and became so enamored, I immediately became a traitor to the autistic rights movement. I have had people use me as a sock puppet and forge my name to saying certain things. I have been cussed out and ridiculed by one stellar individual who also said that I should become the homosexual bed partner of another anti-ND blogger and go to a state where homosexuals can legally marry. Phil Gluyas also created a blog Mitchell's gadfly, just directed to me where he and his friends would constantly insult me. When he realized he could not shut me up, he finally closed down Mitchell's gadfly.

I am proud to say in spite of all this abuse I have endured, I have not closed down autism's gadfly. I am proud to be one of the few voices on the internet to speak out against this ugly cult called neurodiversity.

It seems as if neurodiversity wants to dish it out they should be able to take it. Just shows what a pathetic movement they really are.