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?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autism will be celebrated by Ari Ne'eman and other neurodiversity extremists

I see there is going to be a new event this august featuring Ari Ne'eman as the keynote speaker in which autism will be celebrated. It will be held in Syracuse, New York, home to Jim Sinclair, one of the founders of the ND movement. This event is apparently an appetizer to that unsavory conclave of neurodiversity hatemongers, autreat, which will be held in Pennsylvania the following week.

The event starts out with the definition of neurodiversity: Neurodiversity is a concept and social movement that advocates for viewing autism as a variation of human wiring, rather than a disease. Other than using the word disease rather than disability, this unabashed definition is actually close to what neurodiversity is about, rather than what other disingenuous or confused persons try to present it as, such as a crusade for human rights. Of course, it is unclear what the difference is between disability and disease, except that neurodiversity proponents offer the social model of disability by claiming that autism would not be disabling if society accommodated those with autism or the mothers of persons with autism who wish a cure weren't such god awful ogres who taught their children to hate themselves or gave them self-fulfilling prophecies as some of the more unsavory characters in the ND movement assert. Of course, I still think Diane Sawyer's definition, a beautiful way of justifying heartbreak is as of yet the most spot on definition to date.

The description of the event goes on: neurodiversity activists reject the idea that autism should be cured, advocating instead for celebrating autistic forms of communication and self-expression,and for promoting support systems that allow autistic people to live as autistic people.

This is the type of stuff that is so insulting to those of us who suffer from this disability every day. I know this is a rehash of things I have said for years, but i get tired of reading this stuff. I remember how John Best would make angry rants when people would say that autism should be celebrated. Where here is another example of something that may cause Best to lose his temper.

These are the type of people that Obama and the senate and the rest of the government support, including the funding of neurodiversity rogue Morton Gernsbacher at taxpayer expense.

Hopefully the day will come when the end of autism and disability and disease can and will be celebrated.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Interesting article about grand dame of neurodiversity

Here is a rather interesting piece about Kathleen Seidel, the grand dame of neurodiversity, and her obsession with now disgraced doctor son medical science team Mark and David Geier. Ms. Seidel is married to a man who finds humor in the fact that someone would mock and ridicule someone with a disability, when one of the more cruel neurodiversity hatemongers was harassing me and ridiculing my disability and engaging in unauthorized use of my photos on the internet. Mr. Kathleen Seidel was the one time administrator of web of hateful neurodiversity blogs called "the autism hub". In response to my email saying I did not believe he should link to blogs that made fun of disabled people and made unauthorized use of their photos, his response was to cc an email he wrote to this perpetrator with the words "very funny". I wish i had saved the email as normally I have reservations about publishing privately sent email. In this instance, I regret that this might be an exception to the rule. But you can take my word for it, Mr. Kathleen Seidel, did in fact find it amusing that someone would make fun of me and by extension all persons with developmental disabilities.

Mr. Kathleen Seidel, when I wrote a blog post in which I questioned the wisdom of his wife, (whom I thought at the time owned the autism hub) for allowing a post from hateful persons who compared parents who supported autism speaks and wanted a cure for their children to members of the Ku Klux Klan who are forced to raise black children, responded that his wife had no control over the hub. When I asked him to explain to me why the hub would link to a blog that posted something like this, he said that he did not care what I thought of blogs on the hub and he did not have to justify anything to me. Perhaps, Mr. Kathleen Seidel supports this sort of bigotry as possibly does his wife, as a husband and wife will usually (though admittedly not always) agree on matters such as this.

Though I don't have a high personal opinion of the Geiers and I don't agree with everything that is said in this article, it does make some valid points about Ms. Seidel and the ND movement and is worth reading.