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.