Monday, December 12, 2011

Amazingly LBRB's Sullivan actually gets something right

One of the most well-known and widely read autism blogs is Kevin Leitch's creation ,Left Brain/Right Brain. For good reason, I've sometimes referred to them as Left Brain/Right Brain/No Brain. The blog's main author, Matt Carey (AKA "Sullivan"), appears to have a track record for not doing his homework and getting things wrong. As has been seen in the past, "Sullivan" has gotten his facts wrong about special education. When autism's Gadfly exposed Ari Ne'eman for being less than truthful when he claimed that he never said that autism was not a disability Sully made some pathetic attempts at damage control along with factual errors. He also made numerous factual errors about a Newsweek article that featured Ne'eman and the proactive stance against this article that was undertaken by a number of persons who wish to cure autism and don't believe in neurodiverse bull.

Well I'm happy to report actually for once he got something right. Ari and the autistic self advocacy network are apparently requesting that person's with autism be reviewers for federal research grants. They apparently only want people who have their warped ideology:

As a result, we’re issuing a call for resumes from Autistic adults and other people with disabilities who believe in the civil rights/social model approach to disability and want to ensure that self-advocates are represented in grantmaking. Please include any areas of expertise within your resume.

You can note the bolded part which is certainly bigoted and discriminatory. Apparently I don't qualify because I don't agree with ASAN's belief in the social model of disability. They only want people with their own warped ideology and not everyone's perspective.

Aside from this Gadfly wonders why it is necessary to have autistic reviewers and what this accomplishes. Steven Jobs was a very intelligent and talented individual who made great technological contributions to society, yet he was never appointed to a board that reviewed research grants to study cancer. I doubt that just because a person gets an infection that there is a call for them to be research reviewers on antibiotics.

Yet, in the world of autism this does not appear to be the case. Stephen Shore, a man with extremely mild autism, has been a reviewer of federal grants in the past. Though he has a doctorate in education, he has no formal background in science and has limited knowledge of the scientific issues of autism. Even worse, John Robison, a man whose claims to having autism are dubious, at least to me, has also been a reviewer of federal research grants. Robison, dropped out of school in the tenth grade, yet gets to review grants along with M.D.s and Ph.Ds. He has admitted that he is not a disabled person, so Gadfly wonders why he even qualifies for a diagnosis.

In light of this, I was pleasantly surprised to see this comment from "Sullivan":

I applaud ASAN for actively working to pull autistics into the research grant approvals. But, I am very curious as to how people respond to this sentence:

“As a result, we’re issuing a call for resumes from Autistic adults and other people with disabilities who believe in the civil rights/social model approach to disability and want to ensure that self-advocates are represented in grantmaking. ”

This is a place where I think ASAN tripped up. “...who believe in the civil rights/social model approach to disability…” shouldn’t be there.

Autistics of various beliefs should be recruited and represented

Thanks Sullivan for finally getting something right, and for having the tolerance, unlike ASAN, to be willing to go to bat for people who have beliefs that don't necessarily agree with yours. You are curious as to how people will respond, this is my response.

However, perfect records are indeed rare, and in a sense it is regrettable that yours for not getting it right is no longer intact.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Neurodiversity Plays the Murder Card once again

Persons who believe in the philosophy known as neurodiversity, that autism is not a disease or devastating disorder or in some cases state it is not even a disability, are full of nastiness and dirty tricks. They insult people they disagree with, calling them Nazis, they insult the mothers of autistic people who desire a cure, and even essentially bring back the Bettelheim era, claiming the person's disability comes from a mother who taught them to hate themselves. They even stoop to making fun of the person's disability in some instances.

One of the dirtiest tricks they play is the murder card. From time to time autistic children are murdered by their parents. In one recent instance a woman smothered her 6 month old child, believing the child was autistic and claiming she could not bear the thought of having an autistic child because of the costs to society and the inconvenience to herself. Without fail, whenever that happens, those of us who want a cure and/or state the truth about what a devastating disability autism is or present figures about the monetary costs of this disability are blamed for these murders. We are told these murders would not happen if everyone felt the same way neurodiversitites did and we just accepted autism as a natural variation of genetics and brain wiring.

Autism self-advocacy network stalwart Paula C. Durbin-Westby does not fail to disappoint. On a blog ironically titled The thinking person's guide to autism she writes a propaganda laden post at how terrible we are and how it is all our fault that these kids are murdered. She trots out some of the most ludicrous arguments imaginable, including quoting the post Joseph of the Natural variation blog wrote more than four years ago which was a pathetic attempt at debunking the costs of autism to society. He quoted employment statistics that he could not give the source to when I asked him, but assuring me he did not make it up. He also gave Vernon Smith and Bill Gates as examples of autistic persons. I have shown that Vernon Smith has no diagnosis of an ASD, but rather diagnosed himself by taking an AQ test, a nonstandardized instrument that in no way can be used to give a legitimate diagnosis. I have covered the problems with diagnosing Bill Gates in a variety of places, so I won't repeat those arguments here.

All I want to say to members of the neurodiversity movement and the autistic self advocacy network is that you're hurting your own cause by using such nasty propaganda tactics. You're only making yourselves look like the nasty people that you are. You accomplish nothing. It is an absolute disgrace that you have to insult people and use murder to bolster your positions because you have no facts to back up your deranged philosophy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eric Courchesne's new paper: an answer to my problem's etiology?

Lately, the new paper by Eric Courchesne and company has been receiving a fair amount of media attention. It deals with the count of neurons in a small number of postmortem autistic brains. The neuroskeptic has written a pretty decent take of it on his blog. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the paper online anywhere where it is not behind a paywall. UCLA biomed was not open when I went there yesterday in the morning. I hope to someday read the primary source.

In brief, the research group found a far greater number of neurons in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain than in the normal control brains. There were some other abnormalities found in the autistic brains as well, but none in the nonautistic brains. This was a very small sample aged 2-16.

This finding may strengthen some of the research findings previously reported. These are the areas that contain some of the mirror neurons. Regular readers of this blog will recall, I'm interested in mirror neurons and have written about them previously. There is a good deal of research that suggests that mirror neurons may somehow be implicated in the etiology of autism. Either a paucity of MN's or problems with connections could be involved. Though this study obviously would not suggest the former, the latter could be a possible scenario as the excess number of brain cells might have difficulty making connections to various other parts of the brain that would ensure good functioning.

These neurons are only formed during the prenatal period and no new ones grow in the brain after this. This suggests that the brain abnormalities in autism only develop in the womb and not after birth. This suggests evidence against the Age of Autism folks and others who believe that vaccines or some other exposure in the environment after birth caused the autism. I'm sure they have some sort of alternative explanation though. Of course it doesn't rule out some sort of environmental insult during pregnancy.

Nearly my entire life (more than five and a half decades now) I have wondered about the etiology of my problems. One of the first suggestions, as some Gadfly readers will remember was castration anxiety in my youth during the psychoanalytic heyday. One doctor speculated that roseola that I contracted at age one and a half was responsible. But no definitive answers as I don't buy those first two. This study does make some sense in giving some explanations for my disability. One of these areas is Broca's area which is implicated in the motor mechanics of speech. Person's who develop strokes in this area lose their ability to speak. This might be why I stopped speaking at age two and a half. These also comprise the motor areas, so they could account for my handwriting and fine motor coordination problems. However, they don't account for the twiddling (self-stimulatory) behaviors. Of course, even if this were the case with me as an individual, it does not explain why I would have grown all those extra neurons while still in the womb.

It was Courchesne who more than twenty years ago, found abnormalities in parts of the cerebellar vermis in autistics on MRI scans. Shortly after that I was his research subject in a few studies he did. I wrote an article about that

I also wrote a blog posts about some of these experiences.

When I met Courchesne, I was curious as to why some persons with autism (not including myself) had intact motor systems and if they had cerebellar impairments why they would not have ataxia or other motor problems. He stated the reason was that if damage to the cerebellum occurred early enough (during fetal development) there would be no motor impairments. So, if this is true, this might mean analogies between the excess of prefrontal neurons and the lack of connections might not be analogous to aphasias that occur when people have strokes in Broca's area.

So, there is still stuff that is left unanswered and I guess I will never know the etiology of these problems and what areas in my brain don't work correctly.

If I can ever get my hands on the actual paper, perhaps I will write a follow-up blog post.

Addendum: My sister, who's a faculty member of a university and has a subscription to various journals had access to the complete paper and I read the .pdf file. Though I have read the entire paper now, I have nothing more, unfortunately to add to my commentary at this time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My disability case: The end of the line

I heard from that second lawfirm I hoped would take my SSDI case to district court. They turned me down. This means that my nearly four and a half year pursuit of this matter is over. Though it is disappointing, it is somewhat of a relief not to have this issue hanging over my head anymore. I have not had autism's gadfly for even four years, which means this issue goes back to before this blog existed.

It is true that I did work with some success with my limitations. However, considering how tough I had it, I felt that I should have qualified for this help. As I have stated in previous posts, this was not a handout. I did put more than $40,000 into social security. I tried like hell for more than 27 years to avoid this fate. Because I had some success in getting a few licks in against this figurative 800 lb gorilla I am being punished (or at least that is part of the reason). The government believes that people like me should fend for ourselves. It would seem that effort is punished and decadence and sloth are rewarded. Even the idea that autism is an advantage in the workplace rather than a liability gets credence from the government who funds rogue scientist Morton Gernsbacher and autism speaks has funded her partner in crime Laurent Mottron in the past.

However, I take solace in the fact that even though I'm 56 years old my life is not over and it might not be too late to accomplish something. Maybe even a miracle will happen and I'll be able to make some money again. Previously,I wrote about my bad experiences with the state department of rehabilitation It was quite a long time ago, but I felt pretty hopeless in those days, but I was able to get out and find some work in spite of these mishaps.

So this issue finally comes to an end and I can get on with the next chapter of my life whatever that may be.

I'll just have to remember that you never know what is around the next corner.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dr. Mottron is at it again but where's the beef?

Many people probably remember the well-known television commercial that aired regularly in 1984 for Wendy's hamburgers where the old woman asks, "where's the beef?" This expression certainly rings true in 2011 where we see that rogue autism researcher Laurent Mottron is at it again, claiming that being autistic is an advantage and not a flaw that needs to be corrected. He claims that autistics can make significant contributions to society in "the right environment" but largely fails to elaborate on what this could be, except alluding to Michelle Dawson and others with autism who work in his lab.

Dr. Mottron's research has focused on differences between autistics and typicals in detecting sounds, embedded figures, superiority in such things as musical pitch and ability to perform on the block design test on the Wechsler IQ test. How these skills could possibly relate to being able to perform in a scientific milieu is unclear to me. This hits hard with me personally as I wished to be an autism brain researcher in the hopes of finding what in the brain causes autism but was too impaired to do it.

The rationale given by autism speaks for awarding nearly half a million bucks in funding to this man stated that these strengths he studied could be applied to employment and other issues. In fact Dr. Mottron states:

Too often, employers don’t realize what autistics are capable of, and assign them repetitive, almost menial tasks,” said Mottron. “But I believe that most are willing and capable of making sophisticated contributions to society, if they have the right environment.”

I believe if an autistic person is capable of doing well in any field of endeavor, whether it be medical transcription, computer programming or plumbing, they could demonstrate this capability and the employer would be happy to employ them and not assign them menial tasks. Dr. Mottron also does not account for the behavioral problems of autism which would certainly be a weakness. If an autistic person lost their temper or groped women in the workplace (two reasons I know of for two others on the spectrum besides myself to have been terminated from jobs), they would not care what this person was capable of. Whatever strengths Dr. Mottron alleges autistics have would be cancelled out by the weaknesses in behavior or social skills, resulting in a zero sum or negative outcome in terms of job capability.

Of course, Dr. Mottron, in the media reported articles on his recent commentary in the medical journal, Nature, neglects to mention that a lot of his research mainly focuses on extremely high functioning autistic individuals and not on nonverbal lower functioning autistic individuals who have behavioral problems that might preclude them from being research subjects in an fMRI scanner.

Another problem is that we must question the interpretations of some of the data of Dr. Mottron and his colleagues. In fact as recently pointed out by MJ of the autism jabberwocky blog Dr. Mottron and his colleagues may either be ignorant of even the most rudimentary skills of interpreting statistical data or disingenuously represent data from at least one of their studies into something that it is not.

MJ wrote:

So when the second paper says this in the results section -"The Asperger adults demonstrated an advantage of RPM over Wechsler FSIQ that was significantly greater than that of the non-Asperger adult controls, Mann-Whitney U=366.5, p<.01"That statement is completely unsupported by the data. In pure numerical terms, the difference might seem to be larger, but in terms of actual increased of intelligence that statement is very much in doubt.Another quibble with the results is the use of averages (means) to represent the group rather than a median. If you have a set of non-linear values such as these percentiles, if really isn't valid to take an average because it is going to misrepresent where the middle of the group is. That goes double when the data is badly skewed, as is the case of the Asperger adults' Raven's test in the second paper. In that case the "average" was 74 but the standard deviation is 50(!). For that to happen, the bulk of the data has to be well below the 74th percentile which means the median value would be significantly lower.

So, in the Mottron group's recent paper on superiority of those with Asperger's syndrome on the Raven's matrices test we see that the mean score was 74th percentile but the standard deviation was nearly 50 (not quite 50 as MJ stated but very close). This means the data did not follow a normally distributed bell curve but were rather heavily skewed to one side or were bimodally distributed making the mean value of 74th percentile meaningless.

A simpler explanation may be in order. To use an analogy, let's say there were 100 people on an island. if 45 of them were 8 feet tall, 45 of them were 4 feet tall and 10 of them were 6 feet tall, you would be technically correct in stating that the average height of the islanders was six feet. But it would certainly be misleading to say that the islanders were typically 6 feet tall.

I have to wonder if other data from the Mottron group is interpreted in a similar fashion. Perhaps there is a much smaller sub group of autistics that has extremely superior skills in embedded figures, detecting pitch, etc. and another sub group that has greatly inferior skills with a few just in the middle. I admit I don't know the answer to that, but knowing about how different autistics can be from one another and the way the Mottron group interpreted their data in at least one study we can't really rule that out as a possibility.

So to date, there is questionable evidence that all or even a large subset of autistics has these superior skills that will allegedly help them achieve educational goals and job placement. To the best of my knowledge, Mottron has never given any evidence of correlations or relationships to these skills enabling success or answered why the negatives of behavioral and poor social skills would not cancel these out. Again I must ask you, Dr. Mottron, where's the beef?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shallow brooks are noisy redux department

Today is autistics speaking day, which MJ of the autism jabberwocky blog
has commented on. I'm not sure whether or not MJ's percentages of higher functioning who are capable of communicating versus lower functioning unable to communicate are accurate. A significant portion of the reported increase in prevalence, I suspect, is because of increased awareness that autism can exist in persons of normal or above average intelligence. However, that may be neither here nor there. MJ does make some excellent points in this post about how the number of autistics unable to communicate or who may not have the inclination or education or both to write blog posts are not being represented.

Another problem is that one of the dirty tricks of the neurodiversity movement is to have members log on using different identities to give the impression that more persons with autism share their view than anyone would have thought and preach Alex Plank's dictum that "most autistics don't want to be cured'.
some time ago, I wrote about one of these unsavory characters doing this as did Elyse Bruce of the Midnight in Chicago blog before me.

This is aside from the demographic issues that I've written in the past about ND being heavily female skewed (Coreen Becker, who originated the autism speaking day, is just one example) and the other problems of these people claiming they represent all of us.

Exactly one year ago today,I wrote a blog post entitled "shallow brooks are noisy" to comment on when this event first started. This is still true today. Ms. Becker and other neurodiversity proponents at best have nothing to say that is not superficial that has not been said ad nauseum. At worst they are preaching nothing but hate mongering and propaganda how autism is a gift and Bill Gates and Einstein were autistic, so autistics can do just fine and there are no worries.

Well, let me have my say on this auspicious day. I hate having this disability and having accomplished so little at age 56. I hate not being to have good fine motor coordination, not being able to support myself and being given the runaround by various government agencies. I hate my unpopularity with others, the celibacy that goes with this. I hate that Iwas a chronic bedwetter until age 13. I long for a cure, but I realize I am a discontented child crying for toasted snow as the Arab proverb goes.

Last year I pointed out to Ms. Becker that indeed still waters run deep and she and her friends are some noisy shallow brooks. She replied to me that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This may be true. The majority of neurodiversity proponents are probably know nothing college kids who have too much time on their hands and spend it protesting. As MJ pointed out, others more severely afflicted aren't in a position to refute what these people say. But what about their parents? One problem is that parents of autistic children are often busy trying to find treatments. They are busy litigating in court for treatments they feel they are entitled to under IDEA or whatever government benefits they need to make life easier. Though I don't know first hand, I believe that having a child like this is far more time consuming than a typical child, though I know some people might not like hearing the sad truth. So, the parents don't have the time to tell their side of the story either in many cases, one disadvantage they have over the unencumbered neurodiversitites. Ergo, they don't have time to lobby government officials, organize protests against ASAN akin to the protests organized against Autism Speaks, etc.

Is Ms. Becker correct with her squeaky wheel analogy? I don't know. I realize that autism speaks has listened to their concerns. One example is the affirmative action in recruiting a high school dropout on their scientific advisory board along with the M.D.'s and Ph.Ds. The young activists may have successfully pushed for other changes. But we still have the combating autism act, we still have scientific research in genetics and neuroscience hoping to find a cure or treatments that will lead to a better life for these people and their parents. Let's hope another proverb rings true: The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Interesting article on tough job market for autistics

I see that U.S. News and World Report has published an interesting article on employment problems for those with autism. It rightly points out that this is the time supportive services from the pie-in-the-sky promises but shit-from-the-sewer delivery from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act end and the autistic person has to go out and face the cruel world. The article states: people with autism were only about half as likely to be working as people with disabilities in general (33 percent compared with 59 percent). If true, this means that having autism is a worse disability than most are in terms of employability. Of course, I am skeptical about statistics that are casually bandied around. The article interviews a professor named Scott Standifer who makes a statement that Ari Ne'eman should read: "We forget how important social relationships are in maintaining employment." For those who may not have read previous blog entries I have written, Ari Ne'eman is an individual in his early 20's who is an autism self-advocate who has never had paid employment of any kind who says that social pleasantry should be eliminated in the workplace as a criteria for evaluating new hires and job evaluations.

After this though, the article goes on to state that the lunch break is one of the more difficult things for persons with autism and the mandatory social requirement. I think of all the times in the days years ago, when I worked outside my home and usually ate lunch alone at a restaurant or bought something off a roach coach and was never required to socialize with anyone, so this is rather silly. The last 9 years or so that I worked I worked at home, so this was not an issue. Finding a job you can do at home may make some of the social problems we face easier. I realize this is probably not a feasible option for most on the spectrum, as it was for me for a time.

The article offers an opium-induced dream: Families of people with autism as well as employers and co-workers can all help to make the employment experience a positive one for these individuals. This is never going to happen. The sad truth is the world does not accommodate autistics and their families for their own convenience, regardless of what neurodiversity advocates think will happen. Though I have been out of the workforce for a while, this must ring even more true with nearly 10% unemployment nationwide.

Without going into the further specifics, (the interested individual can read the above-linked article) some rather pat solutions are given as well as certain jobs that autistics are supposedly good at.

The article is of interest to me as an individual on the spectrum with nearly 28 years experience of utter hell attempting to make a living with a fair amount of success. Though I'm retired now at a relatively young age, I will never forget those struggles. I now had to stoop to applying for disability which I probably won't get. I have contacted a new lawyer and have yet to hear from them and the deadline for filing a suit in federal court expires soon. It's probably not worth contacting any other attorneys and I'm probably going to have to drop the case, so it goes.

I wish there was a quick fix way of helping persons on the spectrum find and keep jobs but unfortunately there is none.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

is more than 100 grand to teach job interview skills to autistics worth it?

I see that everybody's favorite autism funding organization, autism speaks, has awarded nearly two million in grants to various research projects designed to help mitigate some of the challenges in life that those of us on the spectrum have. One common complaint of many affected by autism is the lack of funding for studies involving problems in adulthood. So one study in particular caught my eye.

Lindee Morgan, a psychologist in Florida, plans to study a social skills training protocol that deals with job interview techniques. On reading the last paragraph about the rationale of the study, it is unclear to me whether or not the study's purpose is to actually help autistics with their interviewing skills so they can more easily obtain employment:

Because this experimental treatment targets the job interview context, one aim is to evaluate whether ISC increases in targeted social communication skills, changes in adaptive behavior, and quality of life variables. Further positive changes in mental health status as a result of ISC will also be explored.

On reading this pedantically written paragraph, it is unclear to me what the purpose or rationale of this study is, period.

As has been previously mentioned, with the exception of the funding of Alex Plank's trashy autism talk TV videos and John Robison pocketing some of the cash from this endeavor, not a single person with autism, to the best of my knowledge, has ever had a paid job at autism speaks in any capacity. Gadfly wonders why more than one hundred grand could not be spent to employ some persons with autism in this stellar organization that claims to care so much about us rather than on this study with questionable and vague aims from reading the grant material on AS' website.

I concede that my expertise in most areas is limited to nonexistent. One subject I do have extensive knowledge in with nearly 28 years of actual experience, is interviewing and applying for jobs as an individual with an ASD. Though I managed to get some jobs where I was extensively interviewed, I often had a hard time due to body language, lack of eye contact and other issues. Also, the fact I had a bachelors degree in psychology and not pursuing a career in this area was also a liability that prospective employers sometimes commented on. My problems are probably not as overt on first blush as numerous others on the spectrum are. So, I was briefly able to "pass" for "a normal person".

At some jobs, the interview was not so important as assessing my ability to type for various data entry and other types of jobs where nimble fingers were an asset. In spite of my poor fine motor coordination in handwriting, I can type more than 80 words a minute and this helped. When I became more experienced in medical transcription and applied for jobs in that field, prospective employers scarcely interviewed me. They gave me tests, as someone's skill in MT is rather easy to assess to see whether or not they could make the cut before hiring them.

Upon being hired, getting the job was only half the battle. Keeping it was another story. After my problems (as said before not perceivable as first blush) came to the fore, such as funny movements, loud voice, inability to get along with some people, I was terminated from some jobs. Also, in spite of the testing process, my inability to later concentrate on the work and avoid making an excessive amount of careless errors cost me other jobs. My ability, or lack of it, in the interview process was certainly not a major factor in my employment problems.

I concede I can't speak for others on the spectrum completely but I suspect the situation is at least somewhat similar, if not identical, for many of them. Assuming this treatment successfully teaches them how to interview for a job, will they be able to keep a job after the interview? What about training for a job, such as teaching someone computer programming skills, plumbing, etc. I suspect that a number of the subjects involved in this study have no marketable skills or at least paid experience in any sort of profession that is in high demand. Therefore, they will be forced to look for unskilled work, such as a picker in a warehouse (my first job after college) or a ditch digger, etc, or any other minimum wage job you can think of.

I know from my experience that ironically enough, the unskilled jobs are sometimes the most difficult ones for a person on the spectrum to keep. After all, with more than 9% unemployment nationwide, including people who come to this country illegally from Mexico or other countries, the pool of unskilled labor is quite high and if an employer does not like someone due to behavior or poor work performance, they are easily replaced with someone else.

I wonder, for these reasons, if spending more than one hundred grand on a study to teach autistics job interview skills is money well spent. I am inclined to think not. Of course, there may be something that I am missing in this assessment.

Somehow, when I think of an organization that would give a man a half a million dollar grant who states that autism does not have the scientific status of a disease and that autistics are not dysfunctional only different and has a certain tenth grade dropout on their scientific advisory board, I am at least somewhat inclined to think this is another example of money poorly spent and a bad funding decision.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Lawyer dumped me

I thought I would update the few readers who have followed my posts about my long and ongoing efforts to get on disability.

My lawyer dumped me. The next step after losing an administrative law hearing and having the appeal of that decision denied is taking the case to federal district court. My attorney was working solely on a 25% contingency, meaning that if he could not win the case for me he could not make any money. He did not believe I had a strong enough case where I had a decent likelihood of winning, so he decided not to file my case in federal court.

There is a two month deadline for filing in federal court and I could still do it if I can find a lawyer who will take my case on contingency. I don't know what the chances are realistically of being able to win in federal court or an appeal to the 9th circuit court or the likelihood of the U.S. supreme court hearing my case in that event. I am not sure it is worth pursuing any further. I plan to consult with some loved ones and someone else with some expertise in this issue and then decide.

I will probably keep readers posted on updates, if any, or write "an end of the line" post if I decide not to look for another attorney or I can't find one in time to file.

So it goes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

John Robison's interesting theory on male/female sex ratios in autism

I see that one of my favorite scientific reviewers of both public sector research grant proposals for autism research and proposals by people seeking funding from autism speaks is at it again. John Elder Robison is curious as to why the ratio of autistic males to autistic females is so high.

As regular readers of my blog know,i discussed this in a recent blog post.

Robison in the past has made questionable statements about causes of increases in autism prevalence, for example suggesting that a good portion of the increase could come from the rare condition chronic disintegrative disorder. He has also suggested studying geek success as a legitimate scientific endeavor to help ameliorate the problems of autistic persons.

When I find it inconceivable that Mr. R can't top himself in his brilliant theories and suggestions to help understand and help those with autism, he never ceases to amaze me with what has to be his most astute observation ever. On speculating as to why the ratio of autistic males to autistic females is so high Mr. Robison writes:

One explanation is that some parents have a son with autism and stop having children. So the girls that might even the male/female ratio are never born. I think that explanation may be true today, but what about the ages before modern birth control?

That's an interesting idea, however, I do have one question. Previously in his post Robison conceded that there is a 50/50 chance of a baby being born either a boy or a girl. So I wonder why parents could not have a daughter as their first born with autism and then stop having other children after their daughter is born? In that case the ratio of autistic females to males would be 4:1 or higher.

If Robison's theory were to have any credibility it would mean that at least four times as many boys are born than girls. If that were true there would be plenty of typical males who would have trouble finding mates the way autistics do and not as many babies would be born and over population would not be such a problem. Yet he contradicts this notion previously in the post by saying just as many males are born as females.

I would be very interested in hearing Robison's explanation as to why this theory would only apply to first born sons rather than first born daughters, must be a doozy.

I can't think of how well I'll sleep at night, as a former taxpayer, knowing that someone who is so brilliant is reviewing government research grants to decide what sort of autism research is funded at my expense.

The persons who donated money to autism speaks with autistic children who will never make a six figure income, get married or write a best selling memoir will certainly be secure in knowing that an individual that thinks things through so clearly is working so hard to see the right research is funded by this stellar organization.

The rumor mill has it that now that the combating autism act will be renewed after the formality of Obama signing the bill into law that Mr. Robison will be the third public member on the spectrum, alongside Stephen Shore and Ari Ne'eman on the IACC. I wonder what other brilliant suggestions he will make in this capacity. I'm wondering if he can possibly top this one, that would seem quite a formidable task.

He concludes the post by saying:

It would be very interesting to see a study that addressed this question. Perhaps a grad student somewhere will read this, and bring a research proposal to our next review meeting . . . .

Stranger things have happened.

Yes, I do agree with Robison here. Stranger things have happened. Like a certain high school dropout I know getting to review scientific grant proposals along with all of these M.D. and Ph.D. scientists.

Addendum: I see that autism speaks has posted Mr. R's post on their blog they have certainly once again shown their credibility as a fund raising organization.

Friday, September 23, 2011

SSDI appeal turned down

I got a letter from the social security office today notifying me that my appeal for SSDI has been turned down. I have 60 days to file in federal district court to contest the decision. I am not sure if it is worth doing or asking my lawyer to do it. It means waiting another three years for a court date on top of the more than four years i have been pursuing this matter now. I have written about it previously.

I wonder if the government believes that I'm a welfare bum who won't take responsibility for my life because of the writings of one neurodiversity activist who is also an ASAN supporter .

I know that in spite of the Obama administration's support for ASAN by appointing Ari Ne'eman to two different government posts, that these people are wrong about me. I tried like hell to work for nearly three decades and went through utter hell the whole time. I never groveled at the feet of any bureaucrat. In spite of what this individual may have convinced the government, autism is truly a disease and the reason most autistic people can't work is because they are physically impaired.

I know I am not the only one and many others have been turned down for SSDI or SSI. It is a shame that the government expects us to fend for ourselves and they agree with the mindset of a few deranged neurodiversity activists.

I may or may not keep readers posted of any further developments.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Combating autism act reauthorization: Countdown to Armageddon

In another ten days, if the combating autism reauthorization act does not pass, the law will sunset and will no longer exist. This is it, folks, countdown to Armageddon.

If this act does not pass, the IACC will cease to exist and it's six public members won't have a platform to stand on. Lynn Redwood will no longer be able to pontificate at taxpayer expense that Mercury is the cause of autism and thimerosal is the most likely culprit. Never mind that study after study has refuted what she said. For another ten days, the government will still pay for her pontification as well as paying for the IOM's study and conclusions that there is not a snowball's chance in hell that mercury and thimerosal caused an autism epidemic. The state of California paid for Schecter's and Grether's study, showing no relationship between thimerosal and autism after this substance was phased out of vaccines. They could have read gadfly's controversial piece on the subject and saved the taxpayers of the u.s.a. and California some hard earned dough.

The law stated that one person on the spectrum must serve as a public member. Though the law stated that the objective was to ultimately cure autism, we have two anti-cure autistics, Stephen Shore and Ari Ne'eman who are barely affected by their autism, if at all. To date, no pro cure autistic has been appointed a public member of the IACC. In fact Ari Ne'eman is opposed to this act, yet serves on the governmental board this law authorized, what irony! Only ten more days to Armageddon. Ne'eman won't be able to recommend that autistics can be employed if only social pleasantry is eliminated as a criteria for hiring and evaluating people's job performances. In fact he might have more time on his hands and perhaps he can get his first paid job. For another ten days the government will also have to finance his lecturing an economist on the evils of committing eugenics by daring to come up with a cost analysis study showing the expense of autism to society, then we have the countdown to Armageddon. Ari will be able to publicly laugh, declaring victory, but privately crying boo hoo, that his power as a public member of the IACC that he so covets has been taken away from him.

It's coming down to the wire, the tension is building. Only ten more days, will congress pass this law or won't it? Will Barack Obama sign it? Perhaps he will ponder a veto once it comes across his desk. After all, how can Mr. Obama sign such legislation stating that he wants to combat autism in good conscience. After all, his administration has appointed an individual to two government posts relating to autism who has made it clear that he believes curing autism would be morally reprehensible. Of course, there is the alternative way of combating autism. Some of us can be strangled to death and turned into cat food, or alternatively we can be taken out, lined up against the wall and be shot. after all, this was a policy recommendation of one of mr. Ne'eman's most ardent supporters since Mr. Ne'eman has not repudiated the statement or this individual, Gadfly wonders if he feels this way or if Mr. Obama who appointed him to these posts does too. After all, in this same post, this individual stated that those of us who have autism and want a cure are only standing in the way of noble self-advocates because we are a bunch of welfare bums who won't look for work or take responsibility for our lives, so taking this recommendation would save the taxpayers money. it would take a two-thirds vote of both houses of congress to override an Obama veto in the event that it happened. Would this happen? If not, we have ten days countdown to Armageddon.

Whether or not this law is reauthorized, the status quo won't be changed in other aspects. John Robison, a high school dropout with no training or knowledge in autism and science, will still be able to review government grant proposals at taxpayer expense. Now the government has an autistic person who states he is a stakeholder though tacitly admitting he has no disability of any kind. Thanks to Robison's federal appointment, or whatever it is, we are no longer disenfranchised. Hallelujah! praise the lord!

Morton Gernsbacher, a woman who does not believe autism is a disease, will still get funding from the Center for Disease Control to carry out her research. She will be able to get this funding even though she trivializes a serious disability by claiming Richard Borcherds and Vernon Smith are autistic. I have dealt with the problems of Gernsbacher's argument elsewhere. My tax dollars will still go to this woman who writes essays with so many factual errors, rather than giving it to me in the form of disability that i have been trying to get for more than four years so i can buy a new car to replace my 16 year old Honda accord.

Well folks, ten more days until the countdown to possible Armageddon if this law is not renewed.

Addendum: Word is out from the autism society of america that the house has passed the combating autism act. I am not sure, but I think it has to be passed by the senate also, then signed into law by Obama in the next 9-10 days.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

having an interest in science but not the ability

In the better late than never department so typical of your humble gadfly, I’ve decided to comment on something John Robison said in his interview with Steve Silberman which caught my eye.
John Robison has been chosen as a member of the scientific advisory board of autism speaks as well as a reviewer for government research grants. When Silberman asked him if others with autism should be included in these roles Robison responded:

Yes. I have argued for having more autistic people on the boards, but it’s not obvious to me who those people would be. I don’t have a lot of personal knowledge of autistic people with an interest in science. Most of the people in the autism community who are critical of the policies of these various groups are not people with any real interest in science, or at least they don’t express the interest in their writing that I can see. Without an interest in science, they don’t have an obvious fit with the boards.

In the comments section, Michelle Dawson seemed to take umbrage at Robison’s remarks. She is an individual with autism who has published journal articles and has obviously taken a great interest in science of autism. In fact she has taken such a strong interest in science, we have seen that she is not above accepting charity from persons who she says "make her sick" and from an organization she claims ideally wishes a short future for autistic persons in order to carry out her scientific endeavors.

I was struck by this because I think of my own interest in the science of autism.

I have on occasion written posts dealing with scientific issues and I know Robison reads this blog. However, I have not written on these issues frequently. One of the reasons is that though I have an interest in scientific issues in autism, my disability has impaired me from pursuing them as vigorously as I could and obtaining the needed expertise to write decent blog posts on the subject.

I did not realize that I had an organic impairment in my brain until adolescence when the individual who was my psychologist at the time discussed these issues with me.

Not long after this, while in community college in the mid 1970s, I took an interest in this and I took a course in physiological psychology as well. After this, I tried to read whatever I could about the brain and later about autism. I read some more physiological psychology textbooks and purchased A.R. Luria’s The working brain. I wanted to major in psychobiology after I transferred to UCLA but had to settle for an undergraduate psychology degree due to getting C minuses in a couple of science courses. There was also the question of whether doing stereotactic surgery on animals would be too difficult for me. I had no idea at the time that MRI scans would be invented. I was crushed when one of the psychiatrists who evaluated me for autism noted that at age 21 I had essentially never had a job (or at least no job where taxes and social security were withhold). He took it upon himself to give me some vocational counseling. He asked me what I wanted to be. When I told him I wanted to be a brain researcher he stated, "You’re going to have to settle for something less than what you want to be." He suggested "manual labor" as an alternative career whatever that means. I never dreamed the irony that would take place more than three decades later when I would read Morton Gernsbacher’s extremely offensive piece with the multiple factual errors which I wrote about previously where she talks about autistics participating as researchers and the cavalier attitude she takes towards individuals such as myself who are too impaired to be scientists.

After college I continued to try to read about the brain and science in order to figure out what the defect was that had made my life so difficult. I read articles in various journals, such as the autopsy studies done by Williams et. al. that found problems in the cerebella of autistics, as well as postmortem reports done by Edward Ritvo and Margaret Bauman and Tom Kemper. It was very hard for me to concentrate and learn much more. My constant desire for twiddling (self-stimulation) coupled by my executive functioning problems made this a formidable task and I was unable to achieve the expertise in science and autism which I coveted.

A few years later, I read the study that Eric Courchesne had published in the New England journal of medicine on the smaller size of lobules VI-VII of the cerebellar vermis. I wanted to be his research subject. I got my wish and talked shop with him. I asked him a variety of questions and he seemed somewhat impressed with my limited knowledge. I wrote about this elsewhere as well.

All of this had been consummated by the spring of 1989, still some years before either Michelle Dawson or John Robison would take any interest in autism or receive their respective diagnoses.

In addition to having my autism and the constant desire to twiddle (self-stimulate) be disorganized and have a hard time applying myself, I was sidetracked in other ways as well. There were various times that I worked 40 hours or more a week. I also took an interest in learning computer programming. I became interested in fiction reading and writing and wanted to be a novelist. I succeeded in writing two (albeit non-publishable) novels. This, exacerbated by my disability, made it difficult to pursue my interest in science that Robison does not seem to think I have. He apparently has never read my essay which I linked to above. I also took an interest in more leisurely pursuits including poker, horse race wagering, tennis and skiing. I wanted to have a happy life with good times in spite of my disability.

Other things took place as well, the amount of research done on autism skyrocketed. It was hard to keep up. An ugly cult of vicious hatemongers called neurodiversity came to the fore. These despicable people appear to believe that persons with autism are better off being crippled and sick than being a healthy individual. I felt that I had to do research and work in order to outwit these people. The results are my article urging people to reject this philosophy as well as multiple posts on this blog. I will let readers judge how much I have succeeded in opposing these people.

Over the years, I have never forgotten my interest in the science of autism and the brain that could have the potential to find out what causes these problems and how they could be mitigated or cured. I hope to one day read more books and study more journal articles, but in sum, my disability and other things in my life have made that pursuit difficult if not impossible. Even though I lack abilities because of my disability, I still have the interest.

Does Robison believe I would be a poor fit on a scientific advisory board? I am not sure of the answer to that.

Is Robison himself a good fit? He is a high school dropout serving on the autism speaks advisory board where everyone else has an M.D. or Ph.D. He has made questionable statements on what has caused a rise in prevalence. He has suggested geek success as a legitimate scientific endeavor, which I took him to task on. He has shown ignorance rather than erudition in these statements.

The reason Robison gives for certain autistics not being a good fit is their dearth of writing on scientific subjects. What of Robison himself? How much has he written about the science of autism anywhere? In his books or in his blog posts?

As far as I can discern, with the exception of writing about his experiences in some TMS studies that Lindsay Oberman was doing and the post where he suggested geek success and one other thing as scientific endeavors, Robison has never written any commentary on the science of autism, how science could be advanced to help autistic people or suggestions how research could be pursued or funded. It seemed he was more interested in making money for himself and helping out his son through autism speaks’ largess than he was in using that money to help others much less fortunate than himself or ways in which science could help mitigate the hardships of autism. If someone can point me to where Robison has contributed to or written anything about the science of autism other than the aforementioned examples, I would be gratified if they would comment on this blog post or send me an email.

Perhaps most germane of all is the question of whether the person who wants to influence the direction of research is a legitimate stakeholder of any sort. Is he a person who himself is afflicted with autism or is he the parent of one? Though Robison has a son who he says is on the spectrum, it would appear his son is minimally affected if at all. On his own autism another statement he makes in the interview particularly stands out:

Even though I’m not a disabled person by any means today, I would say that the social challenge is a characteristic of disability that I have not been able to overcome. I’ve only been able to circumvent it a bit and do my best with it. That’s OK, but if you ask me what the hardest thing for me is about autism, that’s absolutely it.

We seem to have a tacit admission on Robison’s part that he has no disability whatsoever. Claiming he has social challenges that he was able to circumvent a bit seems a stretch for a man able to marry now three times, have a son, start all those successful businesses and write a best selling memoir. If Robison is not disabled by his ASD then why does he merit a diagnosis at all, let alone presenting himself as a stakeholder at government expense as well as the expense to those who donated time and money to autism speaks?

As far as being a good fit for scientific advisory boards it would seem that Robison is the squarest of pegs trying to be placed into the roundest holes by any standards.

I hope that perhaps someday, if I continue to blog, that I can write more frequently on scientific issues in autism as well as a higher quality of posts that I have written in the past. However, my disability, (but not lack of interest), may preclude me from doing so.

Why can’t we have pro-cure autistics who are actually affected by this disability as stakeholders in both governmental funding (given that the government has declared curation and prevention as public policy decisions vis-a-vis the combating autism act) as well as organizations such as autism speaks who claim that their goal is the curation and prevention of autism?
Would I be a better fit on a scientific advisory board than Robison? I don’t know the answer to that question. However, I don’t think I would be any worse and don’t see how I could be.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

interesting piece from Gernsbacher and friends

I see there is an interesting new article from Morton Gernsbacher and two of her friends. This article deals with a rather unoriginal and cliched topic, the lack of visibility of autistic adults. This is nothing new in fact I wrote a piece dealing with this issue about eight years ago, in which I bemoaned the fact that the existence of autistic adults is largely ignored. In addition to Gernsbacher, one of the authors is Bev Harp, a well-known neurodiversity ideologue and at least one time part of that unsavory clique of neurodiversity bloggers called "the autism hub". The third author is one Jennifer L. Stevensonwho apparently until recently was a graduate student at the university of Wisconsin who studied under Gernsbacher.

Though Gernsbacher(and by extension one of her grad students)is not one of my favorite people, she and the other two authors do bring up some valid points about how autistic adults and some of the problems we have is largely ignored and how the problems of childhood are portrayed by the media. They neglect to bring up the fact that perhaps one reason adults are ignored is that no one wants to acknowledge the poor prognosis that most of us will have. This is especially true for neurodiversity proponents such as Gernsbacher and company.

They trivialize what is a very bad disability by claiming that terms such as "suffering from" is belittling language. Yes, I suffer from autism, it is not belittling I really do have this disability and suffer from it every day. Only one of the three authors (Ms. Harp) alleges to have autism and she apparently is someone extremely high functioning who was able to enroll in a social work graduate program, so certainly the fact that many of us do suffer tremendously from this brain disease is certainly an abstraction to these individuals.

They write:

Autistic children are further mythologized to lack awareness of their situations and surroundings; indeed, the very idea that they might be embarrassed or offended by being used as pawns in pity-driven fundraising campaigns is often dismissed by the very parents who consider themselves autism "advocates." Children, therefore, present the face of choice for virtually all autism support societies and most autism charities.

I am indeed impressed by the omniscience of Gernsbacher, Stevenson and Harp in knowing that autistic children (every one of them) is embarrassed by the use of their images in "pity-driven" fundraising. No, it is not possible that these people are trying to get help for their severely sick and crippled kids. It does not matter that the neurodiversity movement used the murder of Katie McCarron and the dumb remarks made by Allison Singer about driving off a bridge with her kid as pawns in their crusade to express their hatred and lies and propaganda, claiming that those of us who wish a cure for ourselves or our offspring are somehow responsible for murder.

They go on to cite Brugha's flawed study for proof that there are equal numbers of autistic adults to autistic children. I believe it is possible that autistic adults exist in the same numbers of persons born in more recent birth years, but admittedly definitive proof is lacking and may not be feasible to acquire. One must remember the old cliche about looking for a needle in a haystack.

They go on to cite the dismal prospects of most autistic adults (both future and present), certainly ironic in light of decrying the use of pity in fundraising.

Most concerning of all to this blogger, is their comments about autism in the workplace. They talk of "Jack", an autistic man whom they state is an efficient computer technician. In spite of Jack's skill in a rather marketable profession, he "loses out" on various jobs due to inappropriate attire, inability to look people in the eye and reticence in interviews.

They write the concerning statement:

Employers lack the knowledge and resources to support an employee like Jack. They have, after all, like the rest of contemporary society, been inundated with rhetoric asserting that autistic children must either be cured or suffer a lifetime as unemployable burdens. Rarely has the alternative—a capable autistic adult needing appropriate workplace supports—been presented. Scarce resources will not be directed toward such an unidentified need.

As someone who spent many years struggling in the workplace and suffering from these problems first-hand, I believe I have some knowledge about this and I wonder how capable Jack truly is and assuming so, if there are any supports that will be helpful to him or make a difference in his employability. I am certain this is not the case for myself. That part of my problem was an inability to do a job as competently as a nonhandicapped person due to my own disability. I am certainly skeptical that Gernsbacher and colleagues really have valid answers.

I seem to remember Bev Harp had some sort of job, prior to studying social work, but what of Gernsbacher and Stevenson? Do they have the knowledge to support someone like Jack? Gernsbacher's professions have been high school teacher and then college professor. She has lived in a lifetime in an ivory tower with essentially no practical business experience. From looking at Stevenson's website, she is an extremely young (probably no older than 30) graduate student who as recently as 2002 was a college undergraduate. As far as I can tell she has no real work or world experience outside of academic psychology. They claim that no cure is needed for Jack and if employers would somehow accommodate his disability he would be fine. Based on my own experiences in the workplace I am certainly skeptical of this. I don't believe inappropriate attire would make a difference for a computer tech. If he were highly skilled reticence in interviews would make no difference. In the days when I was applying for work as a medical transcriptionist, I was rarely asked extensive interview questions, but prospective employers were interested in assessing my skill for the job. While it is true, that some employers might have prejudices against Jack due to some quirks, if he were truly a competent computer tech, he would be able to work someplace. I did keep a number of transcription jobs for fair amounts of time. Though I suffered some discrimination in the workplace, competence was certainly an issue in my case.

They also speak of an autistic woman named "Jill" who loses jobs due to making "animal noises" in meetings with clients. They go on to claim that the employer should completely overlook Jill's behavior, no matter how disruptive it is. Of course, we have heard this before from Ari Ne'eman, who at 21 years of age and never having had paid employment in his life stated that social pleasantry should be eliminated as a criteria for evaluating people for hiring or ability to do a good job. It is quite clear that these three authors (certainly Gernsbacher and Stevenson) are equally naive about the minutiae in the workplace as Ne'eman.

While I am somewhat gratified these three have brought attention to the lack of visibility of autistic adults, I don't believe it is helpful for them to claim people who want to help themselves or their children are invoking in pity as if it were a bad thing. I think it is even less helpful for them to propose simplistic quick fixes in the workplace for adults with autism, when they themselves have so little experience in the real working world.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

autistics may have marriage and employment problems after all

Some persons may remember a previous post that I wrote about neurodiversity potpourri some time ago. I wrote about how Joseph of the natural variation blog was claiming that the study from last year with the questionable methodology that showed that the prevalence among autistic adults in the UK was 1% showed also that autistics were half as likely to marry as nonhandicapped people and that they were also employed in exactly the same manner as nonautistics. The "autistic bitch from hell" applauded Joseph and also implied that there was generally nothing wrong with autistics employability, as well as the coin-flip probability of marriage as compared to nonhandicapped people espoused by Joseph.

The autism jabberwocky blog has a new post up suggesting that this study's methodology may be extremely flawed.

It would appear that a high unemployment rate as well as a low probability of ever getting married is certainly a possible scenario for autistic people after all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ari Ne'eman goes into the employment agency business

I see that Ari Ne'eman and ASAN have gone into a new line and apparently started a job service for those on the spectrum. According to this article, in May, several large corporations have approached ASAN trying to recruit autistic employees. Before this ASAN has been tapped for persons in government and public policy positions. These jobs apparently want college educated persons in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

A perusal of ASAN's website shows they fail to mention any information that was in this article. This seems odd, as I would think they would want to widely advertise this service if it had a chance of securing employment for those on the spectrum.

For those who complain that Ne'eman and company are only interested in the high functioning end of the spectrum, they also state that they are contemplating a job service for those with autism who do not have college degrees.

They state for parents that by the time their children reach employment age these services will likely be expanded.

The article neglects to specifically name which corporations these are so Gadfly can attempt to verify this information. I am also skeptical that large corporations would go out of their way to recruit persons with autism in the worst economic times since the great depression, particularly the young 20 somethings who are usually affiliated with ASAN who have little to no actual job experience and dubious qualifications for jobs in computer technology, biology etc., the article specifically mentions.

I am also wondering why ASAN would be contacted, given their low media profile, as compared to autism speaks or the autism society of America. I particularly question this as autism speaks has made an effort to encourage persons to employ autistics with their autism in the workplace public service announcements, yet has never employed any persons with autism in their organization nor, as far as I know contributed to the employment of a single autistic person, excepting this $25,000 grant they gave one vocational group. It would seem more likely that autism speaks would be contacted rather than the lesser known ASAN and AS would jump at an opportunity like this.

I also wonder what industries in the Washington, D.C. area would employ computer technology people or biology persons.

For these reasons, I wonder if these jobs really do exist.

If I can find out more details about this or any further developments occur, I'll let readers know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

scientific proof autism more common in males?

As most persons who are interested in autism know, the literature suggests that autism is far more common in boys than in girls. Ratios for males to females have generally been reported to be around 4:1. Ratios as high as 10:1 have been reported for the higher functioning types of autism.

In spite of this fact, it would seem there is parity between the sexes or possibly even a greater number of females than males among autistic persons who are proponents of that deranged philosophy called neurodiversity. They sometimes claim to speak for all or most autistics stating "we don't want to be cured". Or Alex Plank's statement that "autistics don't want to be cured". It begs the question how they can speak for most or all autistics.

Numerous females involved in the neurodiversity movement have claimed the numbers are artifacts, i.e. that girls are underdiagnosed as autistic due to certain types of societal constructs. Brenda Myles of autism asperger publishing company fame has claimed that some autistic girls are merely thought to be "drama queens" and don't get a diagnosis.

I always thought that one possibility that would show that they were wrong was the fact that females have an extra x chromosome and thus could receive some protection against an x-linked disease or at least be less susceptible to it. I think Michael Wigler's research has suggested this line of thought. I will concede that my knowledge in the science of this area is limited.

Of course, if autism were an exclusively x-linked disorder, then the ratios of males to females would be far higher than 4 to 1 or even 10 to 1 as they are in x-linked conditions such as hemophilia or pattern baldness. Also in some cases it is known that autism is caused by autosomal dominance, such as tuberous sclerosis and the sex chromosomes are not involved.

Recently, there has been some research done which may provide empirical evidence refuting what the militant female neurodiversitites have been saying for years, and providing further evidence that they don't represent the vast majority of spectrumites in any sort of demographic.

Valerie Hu and colleagues at George Washington University have discovered a gene, retinoic acid–related orphan receptor-alpha (RORA), that interacts with sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone in the brain that could explain the sex ratios of autistics.

RORA controls production of enzymes that convert testosterone into estrogen and the excess of testosterone in the brain may either cause autism or make a male more vulnerable to it. whereas estrogen may provide females protection against autism.

This does not explain why some females do get autism, though and why when they do get autism their autism is often more severe than that in a male.

Of course, this research could not only be the beginning of refuting one of the tenets of the neurodiversity propagandists and hatemongers but also perhaps giving us a breakthrough into the cause of autism. Only time will tell (cliche, I know).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Will research into mathematical ability be the salvation of autistics?

Gadfly has just read a shout-out by neurodiversity ideologue Michelle Dawson. Apparently, some researchers at Stanford University have received a research grant funded by the NIH to study mathematical skills in high functioning autistic children. Naturally, Dawson neglects to state that these are all high functioning individuals in the study. she quotes the studies objectives:

"The long-term goal of our research is to better understand mathematical, analytic and logical reasoning abilities, and their neurobiological bases, in children and adults with autism. Our proposed studies will provide the first and most detailed analysis of mathematical skills and problem solving abilities in children with autism. Characterizing potentially intact cognitive abilities and areas of relative strength in children with autism is profoundly important not only for defining and more fully characterizing the nature of autism but also for facilitating academic and professional success." (emphasis added)

In reading the source further from which Ms. Dawson quotes the researchers state about autism:

However, its altered developmental trajectory can also lead to cognitive strengths, particularly in the domains of mathematical and analytical problem solving.

The researchers then go on to contradict themselves stating:

Despite its importance, numerical and mathematical reasoning is a grossly understudied cognitive domain in ASD. Here, we propose to initiate the first systematic study of mathematical cognition in children with ASD, focusing initially on children with High Functioning Autism (HFA)

It is true, a small percentage of autistics have mathematical savant skills, but there is no evidence that this is the general case. I do know of the various studies of the raven's matrices done by Dawson and friends in which the control group was not a sample drawn from the general population but a self-selected sample of all males with IQs in the 70th percentile. I have seen that there are some studies showing sex differences in scores on raven's matrices, but i can't recall where. Also Isabelle Souleries study in which she engaged in a non-standard use of the Raven's as a timed test and only used high functioning individuals. No one, as far as I know have replicated their work on the Raven's with the higher functioning autistics. Sven Boelte's work has shown increases in lower functioning (those with IQs less than 85) scores in the Raven's but no effects in higher functioning. Kim Boddner's work (though not yet published but an IMFAR poster) has shown no effect of Raven's versus Weschler in higher functioning autistics.

I also know of the studies involving "attention to detail" whatever that means, superior scores on the embedded figures tests, and superior scores on the block design test of some autistics, though admittedly have not read these studies.

This is similar to the claims that Mottron made to secure his nearly half million dollar grant from autism speaks. That the results of his research would benefit autistics in that they would result in better employment and academic opportunities and better parenting for those with autism. To date, I have seen no evidence to suggest his work has resulted in these benefits for those with autism.

I suspect the Stanford researchers don't have autism themselves, have never spent a day in a special education school and have not been fired from multiple jobs. So, they really don't know what causes autistics to have these problems. Their claim that somehow these math abilities can be harnessed in these kids and help mitigate the problems of autism is offensive to me. Assuming mathematical strengths could be utilized, it is still not going to solve the behavioral and social deficits that exist in autism that would prevent them from achieving their academic potential in a regular education setting or help them with the behavioral and social problems that would impair their ability to get and keep a job.

Since apparently, this question has not yet been studied and as far as I can tell the authors show no evidence that high functioning autistics in general have these abilities, I will only be able to await and see the results of this study and the fruition it will bring.

Gadfly is happy to report though that some good may actually come from this study. Dawson writes:

Wonderful. Maybe I can retire now.

Yes, Michelle, please do. Then we won't have to be exposed to the mammoth chip you have on your shoulder when anyone dares to disagree with you. We won't have to hear about autistics are not write-offs because of the research you and your buddies do and all the other baloney. Also, maybe your buddies, Souleries, Mottron and Gernsbacher can retire along with you, then maybe we can get funding of some sane people who will actually try to mitigate or even cure this horrible disorder.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

yes, let's find a cure

There has been some buzz in the autism blogosphere recently about that dirtiest of four letter words, cu**. (No, I'm not talking about a certain part of the female anatomy). Blogger Harold Doherty has recently written about his desire for a cure. Teenage anti-neurodiversity blogger, Oliver Canby, has stated that autism sucks and how much he wants a cure.

I will write a third post about this, because I suffer everyday from the isolation of autism, the not being able to make a living and the inability to get things done during the day. The fine motor coordination problems that impair my handwriting as well as the irrational fear of birds. I had to attend special education schools for 8 years, as well as an after school tutoring program for a few years. I had to spend recess time at one school to receive tutoring for my handwriting. I was also a chronic bedwetter up until age 13. However, compared to some persons on the spectrum, I have it really good. There are others who engage in self-injurious behaviors, who cannot speak a word, can't dress themselves or take the bus anywhere and will require 24/7 care for the rest of their lives if no way is found to cure them.

I hope that we can get a consensus of pro-cure people in the blogosphere to write posts how much they want a cure for this horrific disability and have more than three.

In terms of finding a cure, we have a formidable uphill battle in that there are limited numbers of autistic brains available for autopsy, no good animal models for autism as well as the fact that autism is a description of many disorders with apparently a combination of genetic and environmental causes, all which make finding a cure or really advanced treatments a difficult task.

In addition to these obvious disadvantages, we also have the public sector and private sector autism organizations who don't give a shit.
Congress created the combating autism act, which had as its goal the curation of autism. It stipulated that at least one person on the autism spectrum must be appointed to the interagency autism coordinating committee, the government body that makes decisions as to how autism research can be best funded. To date, the two autistic members, Stephen Shore and Ari Ne'eman are opposed to curing autism. They are barely affected by their autism if at all. So far not a single pro-cure autistic person has ever been appointed a public member of the IACC.

The government continues to fund rogue, Morton Gernsbacher, who claims that autism is a harmless condition and that severely autistic persons have made great contributions to the arts and sciences.

John Elder Robin Hood-in-reverse also makes funding decisions at taxpayer expense, in spite of saying there is no need for a cure for autism on page five of his book, Look Me In The Eye.

Autism speaks, one of the largest private funding bodies for autism research, has funded Laurent Mottron who states that autism is not a disorder but merely a difference. They also have John Elder Robison on their scientific advisory board. Not only is Robison the only member of that board without an M.D. or Ph.D. degree, he is also the only one who has not graduated high school.

All of these things make the ultimate finding of a cure for autism a more difficult problem than it might be otherwise.

Though I don't expect a cure to be found in my lifetime, I hope that in spite of these things that someday a cure will be found.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New study linking SSRIs and autism

I read with interest about an article that suggests that there may be a causal relationship between the use of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) drugs in pregnant women and the likelihood of their giving birth to a child with autism. Apparently, in a group of women, there seemed to be an increase of about 3% in the risk of her having an autistic offspring than someone who either had no depression or other mental condition or a person with the condition who had not used SSRI drugs. Lead author and Kaiser Permanente epidemiologist Lisa Croen has stated that caution should follow interpretation of the results as they are preliminary and more research will have to be done to see if this could be something contributing to the etiology of autism.

I tried to download the primary source and a commentary on it in the same journal. Unfortunately, they were behind a paywall and I could not obtain them for free. As far as I can tell, no reason how the SSRI could have caused the fetus to become autistic was given.

Though I was unable to read the actual article itself, the story about it interested me for two reasons.

First of all, my maternal grandmother suffered from severe depression well before the days of SSRI drugs. She underwent ECT and ultimately committed suicide at age 49 a couple of years before I was born. I suspect that her genetics may have been a factor in my disability, as well as some ADD traits in a couple of my cousins who are also her grandchildren. Though it sounds like Croen and colleagues did make some attempt to control for genetics of the mental illness, I can't help thinking that it was the mother's depression itself that caused a genetic predisposition to the autism, rather than the ingestion of the drugs being toxic to the fetus.

The second reason the story piqued my interest was that some may remember that Lisa Croen's main claim to fame was her faux pas in publishing some interpretations from CDDS data that suggested to her that the reason for the greatly increased prevalence of autism was due to 100% diagnostic substitution of mental retardation for autism, claiming that there was a corresponding decrease in mental retardation diagnoses to the increase for autism diagnoses. The problem, apparently, with her interpretation was that she did not adjust for age of admission into the CDDS which was very different for persons with retardation than for autism. Mark Blaxill, well-known for his beliefs that vaccines caused his daughter and other children to become autistic, showed that she had misinterpreted her data. Croen later, admitted to the mistake. Whether or not this reduces the credibility of Croen's interpretations of the data in her current study I don't know.

As many persons interested in autism now know, recently there was a study suggesting that the environment may play a greater role than thought in autism. Now that the vaccine hypothesis has been refuted in a variety of studies (regardless of whether or not these studies are in fact tobacco science as some die hard proponents of the vaccines-cause-autism camp state), there is apparently a temporal relationship (though not a casual relationship) in terms of a timeline between the advent of SSRI drugs and increases in autism diagnoses. I have shown elsewhere that there is not a temporal relationship between increases in thimerosal and increases in autistic persons admitted to the CDDS. Whether this is true for all vaccines, which don't contain thimerosal such as the MMR, which could factor into the equation, I don't know.

The temporal relationships between introducing autism as a diagnostic category in 1991 under IDEA and then supreme court decisions favorable to those seeking services for their autistic children and increases in diagnoses have been largely ignored by the public interested in developmental disabilities which sees special education and the IDEA law as a quick fix for their kids problems.

Is it possible that SSRI drugs will be the new factor that those who claim there has actually been an increase in autism will claim is responsible? I don't know. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

U.C. Davis study results may rankle neurodiversitites

Here is a story about a new study coming out of U.C. Davis, suggesting that mothers who consume prenatal vitamins during pregnancy reduce the risk of having an autistic offspring.

Since Michelle Dawson, Ari Ne'eman, Amanda Baggs, and other august members of the neurodiversity movement are opposed to anything that will prevent a fetus from becoming autistic, I suspect this study will rankle their feathers a bit. I guess a pregnant woman taking prenatal vitamins in the hopes that it will reduce the likelihood of their offspring from becoming autistic will become the new eugenics and nazism.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Baron-Cohen IT autism prevelance study: some comments

Another study by the Simon Baron-Cohen research group has been getting some media attention today. I read this media report this morning. Curiosity piqued, I tried to find the primary source for this, but unfortunately it had been behind a pay wall. In the comments section of my previous post, a reader asked me for my take on the study and stated that he/she was able to download it for free. I gave them my take from what I had read in the media reports before reading the actual study. I was wondering if it were still behind the paywall. Skeptical, I tried again, and sure enough, I was able to download the entire study and read it. My comment was short and I feel the study deserves a post all its own.

Baron-Cohen in the past has made the bold statements and strong hypothesis that autism genes are responsible for so-called systemetizers and this is why autism has stayed in the general population in spite of the fact that autistics seldom have children. He seems to have gone further and intimated that my suffering may be necessary to society. I have taken him to task for this elsewhere.

Martine Roelfesema and Simon Baron-Cohen and a few other authors have recently published a study in JADD, suggesting that autism may be much more prevalent in areas of the Netherlands where a concentration of IT companies such as Philips and IBM are based. They surveyed three different metropolitan areas of Holland and found prevalence rates 3-4 times as high in the area with high tech companies than in the other two cities. They suggested that genes responsible for systematization may be responsible for this.

Superficially, this study is interesting and makes good fodder for journalists looking for an intriguing story about autism and its alleged gifts. However, on closer analysis and reading, it would appear the study has some limitations and possible flaws.

While the CDC in the American prevalence studies have found great differences in prevalence in various parts of the country, it would appear that Arizona which has one of the highest prevalence rates does not have industries that would employ so-called systemetizers. I don't know whether this is true in New Jersey or not.

There are also great variations in prevalences in various parts of California according to past CDDS data. Though the Silicone Valley has higher rates than rural parts of California it is substantially lower than in Los Angeles, which would refute Baron-Cohen and company's notion about there being a casual relationship between technology abilities in parents and autistic offspring.

Variations in prevalence in Holland would be far less likely due to differences in income, population density, socioeconomic status as the country is far more homogeneous in its population than the U.S.

Recruitment in the study was voluntary. Only a bit more than half the schools who were asked to survey consented. The response rate was substantially higher for the high prevalence group than the other two areas. Weighting factors that I concede I don't understand were used to supposedly eliminate this bias, but I'm still skeptical. The response rates from special ed schools was much higher than mainstream schools. The age range of kids surveyed was 4-16. In one of the two control communities, the prevalence rate was about the same in the older kids than in the younger kids. In the other two communities it was much higher as later diagnosis was included. This could have influenced the results of the study. The diagnoses were not verified, though this may have been infeasible.

Most germane of all, the Baron-Cohen group did not control for persons moving into the high prevalence area because of the possibility of better services, etc. so this might invalidate the findings. There may be other issues in the study that I will think of and I might go in and edit this post later if I can think of them.

This stuff also interests me, because, as regular readers of my blog know, my father was a pioneer in the computer industry, and I wondered if his genes somehow caused my autism. However, there seems to be a more pertinent history from my mother's family than from my father's, as I had a very depressed maternal grandmother and her brother (my great uncle) was likely to have been an undiagnosed autistic in the very early 1900s. Though neither my sister nor any of my first cousins on my mother's side have autism, there seems to be a high rate of dyslexia and ADHD amongst them, which would be far higher than the occurrence of chance.

Baron-Cohen has also stated (though I can't recall exactly where) that it is possible that males who were good systematizers might have been unable to find a mate at one time and with the advent of the IT revolution and silicone valley this might no longer be a problem and two engineers and programmers would be likely to marry and produce an autistic offspring. This does not jive with the personal experience of my father and the men whom he worked with going back to the early 1950s, before a big computer revolution and increase in autism prevalence. My dad and I'm pretty sure all of these systemetizers he worked with were able to marry and produce children. I'm pretty sure none of their wives were engineers or worked in the IT profession (this includes my mom of course) and with the exception of one individual from England who had a daughter who was either severely retarded or autistic, I don't think any of the other engineers and computer people dad worked with had children that were on the autistic spectrum.

The currently published study is only phase I. They state that phase II of the study which will in part address some of the issues I have discussed in this post are forthcoming. I will await it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Obama throwing stones from a glass house?

In a recent speech president Barack Obama criticizes plans of certain republican legislators to reduce the federal deficit. Interestingly enough, he seems to use those of us with autism as a pawn for his own political purposes. He states:
It’s a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. Who are these 50 million Americans? Many are somebody’s grandparents -- may be one of yours -- who wouldn’t be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some of these kids with disabilities are -- the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.

This from a president whose administration continues to fund the work of neurodiversity rogue Morton Gernsbacher, who has probably funded through the NIMH and other public sector funding bodies work of people who have coauthored articles with Isabelle Souleries and Michelle Dawson, persons who have stated that autism is a harmless condition.

Worse yet, he has appointed Ari Ne'eman, a 22 year old with no experience in anything to two government bodies who make decisions for disabled persons. This person has stated that curing autism would be morally reprehensible. He has implied that parents who support charitable organizations who have stated that they want to cure autism are morally complicit with murder. He has stated that he does not believe that autism and Asperger's are disabilities and was dishonest about that, claiming he never said that autism was not a disability until autism's gadfly documented otherwise, catching Ne'eman's hand in the cookie jar.

Barack Obama, if any politician wants autistics to fend for themselves it is you, with your proneurodiversity, anti-cure, anti autism is a disability actions. For you to criticize congressman Ryan and possibly other conservative republican congresspersons and senators is ridiculous. I would say that you are the pot calling the kettle black, but a number of your supporters, particularly neurodiversity proponents who want people like me to be crippled and sick and to fend for ourselves would call me a racist. Instead I will just state that you are throwing stones from a house made of fragile glass.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Does new genetic study on autism disspell sacred cow beliefs?

Lately much has been made in the media about the new genetic findings that were published recently in the journal neuron, showing that there are many mutations on many different chromosomes that can cause autism. I will qualify this post acknowledging I have not read the actual study but only the media reports, I am not an expert on genetics, so if any of my detractors want to comment on errors of reasoning or to attack me personally or whatever I will begin the post with that caveat.

One of the significant things I have read about the study is that it seems to show that the vast majority of cases of autism come from spontaneous (denovo) mutations and are not inherited. This contradicts the tenets of Temple Grandin who has claimed that eradicating autism would be a disaster and that autism genes have stayed in the population because they provide some sort of adaptive or evolutionary advantage in the way that sickle cell anemia genes have stayed in the population to fight malaria or genes for hemachromatosis have stayed to combat iron deficiencies. She has claimed that autism is responsible for every invention from the spear to the computer to the cell phone. Simon Baron-Cohen has made a similar claim that autism genes provide some sort of evolutionary adaption and this is the reason autism has stayed in the population. He includes this in part of his arguments in stating that high functioning (though it is unclear where the demarcation between high and low functioning are from his writings) autism should not be considered a disability. There are some problems with these arguments I have written about them elsewhere. This study would seem to provide evidence against Grandin's and Baron-Cohen's arguments that autism genes are something good and have stayed in the general population due to adaptive status, but rather autism has stayed in the population because of denovo mutations.

What of the arguments of Mark Blaxill and others who support ageofautism website and philosophy who believe that the cause of most autisms were simply that something (such as vaccines) was introduced into the environment that did not exist previously (at least not in high numbers) and this has caused a huge spike in autism and if we could do research and isolate what this thing is, it would lead to solutions in the etiologies and treatments of this condition? It would seem this research might reduce the credibility of their beliefs, though certainly they will have an explanation and this study or any other won't dissuade them.

The neurodiversity movement has long espoused the dogma that genetic research into autism will result in prenatal testing and widespread abortions of autistic fetuses, possibly as soon as the next five years or less. Will this study, showing in fact how complex and diverse the genetics of autism really are, lead to less credibility of this dogma.

Ari Ne'eman who now has power to recommend policy or even vote on autism policy in two different government positions created at taxpayer expense has called for a ban on all research of this kind. Yet Michael Wigler, one of the principal authors of this study, has claimed that this research at some point may present treatment options for some kinds of autism or perhaps even a cure.

Gadfly wonders if more research along these lines are pursued and published, what will happen to all of these sacred cow beliefs?