Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Another media mention for Gadfly

In the "another day another crumb" department, I've recently found out that your humble blogger and his essay, Neurodiversity, Just say No, has been mentioned in Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree The mention appears in the second paragraph, page 281 of the book in case anyone is interested or gives a shit.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Who's claiming there's a link between autism and violence?

I've been away from blogging for a while because I've been busy with a house move during the worst time of the year (at least for me) as well as having less to blog about.  I thought due to tragic events of the last week, a blog post was warranted.

In light of the Newtown shootings and some credible evidence that Adam Lanza was somewhere on the autism spectrum, there has been a flurry of persons denying there's a link between violence and autism.  The autism society, autism speaks, the autistic self-advocacy network and Michael John Carley of GRASP have all issued statements disavowing a connection between autism and violence in general and Lanza's Asperger's (alleged or otherwise) and the Newtown shootings in particular.

I am curious what exactly these disavowals are in response to.  Has any credible autism expert, media pundit, etc. ever claimed there was in fact a link between autism and violence or even that Lanza's possible Asperger's was the causal factor in the murders of those innocent children?  If so, who said this ever, let alone in light of the Connecticut killings?  I'm wondering who these people are responding to, if anyone.  

Of course, there are isolated cases of some persons diagnosed with Asperger's  committing arson and sexually related crimes and the neurodiversity movement's spin on the case studies cited by Murray et al. and Barry-Walsh et. al. in the literature.  As regular readers of the Gadfly blog know, I've written about this previously. Neurodiversity advocate Paula Durbin-Westby has cited some instances in which a child teased another child saying "if blank gets a gun she'll come shoot you." She also noted a facebook page called Asperger's prevention Campaign that stated that after they got 50 likes they'd find an autistic child and set them on fire. Facebook has since deleted this page. If this page happened to start right after the Lanza shootings or before, Durbin-Westby does not mention this.

I'm not sure who (if anybody) diagnosed Lanza with Asperger's but from various reports from his brother, friends of his mother and his parents' divorce records, there is credible evidence that Lanza was in fact diagnosed with Asperger's by a legitimate clinician.  This is unlike the case of Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Stephen Spielberg--those paragons of virtue from the point of view of the neurodiversity movement that cause them to state that it's okay to be autistic and no cure is needed or in fact would be a bad thing.  Larry Arnold, my old friend from the ND movement, has stated on my facebook page that Lanza was in fact never diagnosed with Asperger's and it's all speculation.  I'm waiting for Larry to come up with some documentation for that with bated breath.  Once again, I'm appalled that neurodiversity does not want to take the bad with the good.  They can have their cake and eat it too by claiming autism is a gift because all of these celebrities allegedly had it, but they don't want to include people like Adam Lanza or George Sodini in  their brethren. I've written about this elsewhere also 

No, I don't think one kid teasing another kid and some wingnuts who can easily log onto facebook represent credible sources. Are these people who are proclaiming there is no link between autism and violence actually responding to someone or is this just hysterics in light of the tragic event and the possibly irrational fear that because Lanza allegedly had Asperger's this will give all people (myself included) with an autism spectrum disorder a "bum rap".  If there is anyone (I mean credible person) in the media or elsewhere who has attempted to link autism and violence or claim that Lanza's Asperger's caused these kids to be killed before these people disavowed a link between autism and violence, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

In the meantime, I guess we can paraphrase that old saw from the NRA and say that autism doesn't murder people.  People murder people. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gadfly's musings on the election results

Obama has been re-elected.  As far as a presidential administration's policies and actions on autism and what it means for autistic people, had it been Romney we'd be singing the Who song with the lyrics, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss."  In this case I guess we'll be saying the cliche, "same shit different day."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

ASAN supporters think autism is awesome

The autism self-advocacy network is at it again demonstrating in Washington, D.C. against autism speaks. Their gripes are nothing new. They are pissed that there are no autistics on the board of autism speaks.  They are forgetting John Robison's appointment to their scientific advisory committee in spite of the fact he's a high school dropout with no knowledge of science.They are pissed that so much of autism speaks' money goes to scientific research and not to so-called community funded services.  Also, their claim (with no evidence whatsoever) that autism speaks primarily engages in "preventative research".  This is in spite of funding of brainwave studies and even the half million grant the Mottron group received to study how well autistics can find an embedded figure and other extremely useful projects such as the studies showing that autistics have different reactions to optical illusions than neurotypicals.

The above-linked article also lauds ASAN's efforts to find jobs for persons with autism.  I'm not sure what this is comprised of other than ASAN's partnership with Freddie Mac to help secure internships(which may or may not be paid employment) for extremely high functioning people with autism who live in the Washington, D.C. area.  Again, as I've mentioned in a previous blog post, it's interesting neurodiversity proponents would partner with a company that has cost the federal government about 170 billion bucks and probably was a major factor in creating the worst economy we've had since the great depression.

What was new was that some of ASAN's supporters were waving placards declaring that autism is awesome and that autistic people are perfect the way they are.

I'm not sure what is so awesome and perfect about being fired from multiple jobs, not being able to make a living, not being able to find a significant other, having motor coordination problems, and being a bedwetter as a child (as apparently a number of  persons on the spectrum seem to be from the traffic my post on bedwetting has received).  However, I have it good compared to most persons on the spectrum.  There are others who can't speak, who self-injure themselves, have intellectual impairments and die in accidental drownings and traffic deaths.  I'm not sure what is so great about autism.  I wish these ASAN supporters would be more specific.   It is quite clear to me what is bad about autism.  I don't see anything great or awesome about it. 

The article also quotes one ASAN supporter as stating:

The only people [who] can really speak to the autistic experience are autistic people. It is important that people understand what we want and need,”

Again, ASAN seems to want to speak for all autistic persons.  I wish they'd let me speak for myself at least once in a while.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gadfly mentioned in New York Magazine

There's an interesting article that just came out in New York magazine.  A well-written article, it makes a number of valid points about the number of people being diagnosed with Asperger's for trivial reasons as well as self-diagnosis.

About four months ago or so, I was contacted by the author, Ben Wallace, who was interested in interviewing me.  He asked me about my opinion of Simon Baron-Cohen and I explained why I was not exactly enamored of a number of the good professor's ideas.  These included his notion that because autism has stayed in the population in spite of the fact that most autistics never have children suggests autism has some sort of genetic evolutionary advantage.    Also, his offensive (at least to me) essay in which he wrote that high functioning autism should not be regarded as a disability.

In addition to his one sentence mention of my belief  that Baron-Cohen does not understand the rudiments of genetics, he also wrote about the stories of Craig Newmark's and Bram Cohen's self-diagnosis which I originally wrote about in my blog.
Unfortunately, no context was really given for my observations of professor Baron-Cohen's possible ignorance of genetic principles.  So, I will briefly present it here.  Genetic mutations can occur spontaneously for a variety of reasons without being inherited.  There is at least some research that suggests that a number of mutations associated with autism are de novo, i.e. can occur spontaneously.  Thus, these are not inherited so autism could conceivably stay in the population without either autistics producing their own offspring or due to an evolutionary advantage.

I suppose I'm being a bit irrational about my enthusiasm about a one sentence mention in a national magazine, but I guess it may be part of my autism. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Picking Temple Grandin's Brain: Anything new?

That most famous of autism icons, Temple Grandin, (whom I like to call Temperamental Grandiose just for fun), is in the news once again . A research group in Utah has done a variety of studies on her brain in addition to giving her various tests. They used three controls who were matched for age, sex and hand dominance to draw a comparison between Grandin's brain and a typical brain.

One of the findings was an increased brain volume in comparisons to controls.  However, this is probably nothing new as Courchesne's group and I think a variety of other researchers has found enlarged brains in those with autism.

Grandin's lateral ventricles, which hold the brain's cerebrospinal fluid, are skewed, the left one being much larger than the right.

Her amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for anger and rage responses and suppressing sexual desire, is enlarged in both hemispheres.  (I wonder if this might explain her stated desire for celibacy :)) 

The researchers also found a higher volume of white matter on the left side of her brain as well as enhanced white matter connections in various parts of her brain.

Among the most interesting of the findings (at least to me) were weak and compromised connections in the left frontal gyrus, which includes Broca's area for speech.  She was also found to have impaired connections in the right fusiform gyrus which is the area for face recognition.  This has relevance as one of the symptoms of autism (which occurred in both Grandin and myself) is a speech delay or language impairment prior to age 36 months.  Also, many autistics, myself included, have problems recognizing others' faces. 

I remember reading someplace else (I'm not sure if it was Thinking in Pictures or an article she wrote) that many years ago, Grandin had an MRI scan showing abnormalities of certain parts of the cerebellar vermis that I had when I underwent a scan by Eric Courchesne's research group many years ago.  These were not mentioned in this study.  

The knowledgeable neuroscience blogger, The Neurocritic, has given his take on the study . He writes about another talented autistic savant, a 63-year-old man with extraordinary musical abilities, perfect pitch,  as well as in several languages and art.  Similarly to Grandin, he also had an enlarged amygdala on both sides of his brain.  Unlike Grandin, he was not terribly successful educationally and professionally and was only able to obtain employment as a dishwasher.  So, one has to wonder how the similarities in brain findings of the opposite sex, though like in age (Grandin was also 63 at the time of her scans) relate to someone who had different gifts than Grandin but was not able to utilize his gifts in order to garner gainful employment.

Interestingly, one study showed a positive correlation of increased amygdala size and greater sized social networkings in neurotypical college students. Neurocritic also mentions another study in which researchers suggested there was a correlation between amygdala size and number of Facebook friends college students had. 

The increase in amygdala size among autistics is nothing new, as the Neurocritic cites two studies in the above-linked blog post where researchers found this in other persons with autism (most likely Joe Blow regular auties without Grandin's and the dishwasher's savant skills).

Brain studies have shown enlarged amygdala's in persons with anxiety disorders and even right wing political beliefs.  So what to make of Grandin's enlarged area of this brain nucleus?

Impairments in Broca's area have also been found in mirror neuron studies of autism as well as Courchesne's now year-old study showing the increased number of neurons in this area.

  Fewer and smaller neurons in regular non-savant autistics in the fusiform gyrus in autistics were found in yet another study. 

Also, the fact that three controls may not be enough to tell us anything may be germane. 

Anything new here elucidating on the autistic brain or Grandin's so-called savant skills?  I don't think so. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

John Robison's interesting autism employment proposals

As regular readers of this blog know, I've been unemployed for about five and a half years.  I had to leave the workplace because my autistic disability made it so difficult.  Therefore, I was intrigued to read some interesting ideas of John Robison's on how to solve or at least mitigate this problem.

Robinson proposes giving employers tax credits for hiring persons with disabilities.  I'm not sure if this is just ASD's or all disabilities.  He calls this a work disability credit.  It entails giving employers between a 30 to 60% tax credit for hiring a disabled person depending on how extensively the person is disabled.  Interestingly, he ties this in with Social Security Disability stating that the person unable to work and on SSDI could be evaluated for this program and be eligible for the work disability credit instead.

I see a number of problems with this.  Robison, unlike myself, has never had to apply for disability.  I doubt very much he has any understanding of what the process entails.  What would be the eligibility criteria for evaluating people for this program?  Would it be identical to SSDI evaluations?  If the answer is yes, then merely having a legitimate diagnosis of autism or Asperger's wouldn't qualify people for these tax credits.  They would have to prove they were incapable of performing any type of "substantial and gainful" employment, meaning a job that pays like about $1000 a month or more.

Proving one can't perform substantial and gainful employment is no easy task.  At the time I applied for disability I had worked with the limitations albeit with great difficulties, so I didn't have a terribly good case and after a four and a half year fight, I was unable to collect.  I was also told that if I couldn't be a medical transcriptionist, that I could perform work as a janitor or a washing machine loader in a dry cleaners by the person who testified against me for the government at my administrative law hearing.  I know this is not the case, but I have no way of proving it in an administrative hearing or any other type of court of law.  

In the case of other persons, the government does turn down probably close to 70% of people who apply for Disability.  If you want to continue the fight, you have to retain a lawyer who, if they successfully get you the Disability money, keeps 25% of what you would have gotten retroactively.

My lawyer would not take my case to federal district court as he felt I had little chance of winning.  Another law firm also declined to take my case and I gave up.  Not long after that, I found  out my lawyer had another autistic client whose case he lost in district court.   One friend on the spectrum applied for it when he had never worked and was denied.  Another person with autism I know was able to get it but it took her and her mother seven years of litigation.  They had to give their attorney 25% retroactively. So, there is no guarantee the person would be able to get the credit, in fact the odds would be stacked against them.  Also, how would the prospective employer feel about sharing the employment credit with an attorney? 

So basically what Robison is proposing is another system in which tax dollars are used for litigation and people have to be frustrated in having to duke it out in the courts with the government whether or not they'd be eligible for this tax credit.  Also, since Robison's plan does not involve a flat percentage but rather a sliding scale, a fight could take place for someone rated at 30% who feels the only way they can get a job is to be rated at 60%.  So with all the years that SSDI litigation goes on would be exacerbated with Robison's plan.

Also, would the employer want this tax credit if the autistic person's behavior were too appalling (at least from their point of view) to employ them?

What does this do about the problem that most persons on the spectrum would not have the ability to receive the training to do skilled work?  How would they be more marketable if  the only jobs they could get were menial ones?

Robison claims this would prevent employers from sending the jobs overseas to let's say India where labor costs are substantially cheaper  But he presents no cost-benefit analysis to show this might be the case.

Another issue I have with Robison's plan is he claims that this would help the self-esteem of those on the spectrum (or possibly other disabilities).  I don't believe this would be the case.  I don't understand what the difference is between someone having to collect disability and work when they have to take a way back door entrance.  Also, the stigma and resentment among fellow non-handicaped employees that those on the spectrum would receive because they are being subsidized.  I can certainly speak for myself if no one else on the spectrum.  This plan, if this were the only way I could be employed, would certainly not raise my self-esteem.

This is also assuming Robison's proposal could get through congress.  This is iffy as the deficit is already incredibly large due to all the wars and other things the federal goverment spends money on.

In summary, Robison's plan would jam the courts, raise taxes and/or increase the deficit, not address the issues of autistics lack of social and employment skills, and probably do nothing to raise at least a number of autistic person's self-esteem.  Is this plan workable or feasible?  I don't believe so.

Again, I want to emphasize there is no simple, quick fix solution to the employment problems of autistics without a cure or some sort of treatment which currently does not exist. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Melanie Yergeau violates my human rights as well as others with autism

I was interested to read a post on Harold Doherty's blog about an article in the Michigan Daily written about neurodiversity activist and ASAN member Melanie Yergeau.

The article in question starts off with the very offensive title Autism as an identity, not a disease.

It starts off with the usual neurodiverse spiel that all the stuff about autism being a bad thing is wrong.  Ms. Yergeau is a college English professor.  Also mentioned is the fact Ms. Yergeau is married.  Though the article alleges that she was in special education programs during her childhood, for some reason, she wasn't diagnosed with autism until age 22.  What her diagnosis was as a child I'm not sure.

In the article, the autistic English professor alleges that during the time she was in college, she was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital.  The article neglects to give even an alleged reason for professor Yergeau's commitment.  I'm pretty sure that in most jurisdictions involuntary commitment can only be done without due process for a period of a few days.  Legally, it can only be done if there is medical evidence that the individual in question poses a danger to themselves or others.  I'm curious to what the reason was for her incarceration.  A link is given to a blog post she wrote on this subject.  Interestingly, it appears to have been deleted for some reason.   Elyse Bruce, author of the Midnight in Chicago blog, recently wrote a post on the subject of Melanie's psych hold in which she too seems to question the credibility of Yergeau's statements. Apparently a number of MY's allies seemed to have been alleging the only reason for her hold was autism and not her being a danger to herself or others. As Ms. Bruce correctly points out, mental health professionals who violate this law and place holds on people for trivial reasons can be subject to losing their licenses or accreditation or opening themselves up to lawsuits. So, I have to wonder about the validity of anything Ms. Yergeau says. I guess the reason for her alleged hold will remain a mystery for the time being.

In addition to stating that autism is not an illness but an alternative way of being, she makes the following statement culled from the article:

To the members of ASAN, atypical neurological difference ought to be embraced and celebrated. Society needs to change, rather than the individuals, the members say. Having autism is a difference, to be sure, but it’s not inferior to any other notion of mental development, no less valued than the color of one’s skin or one’s sex.  
So, in other words, Ms. Yergeau thinks it's a good thing that I'm crippled and sick, that I can't work, can't get things done during the day and have to spend a good portion of my time twiddling (self-stimulation).  She takes joy in my fine motor and handwriting impairment and my lack of social contacts and celibacy.  She takes joy in my suffering as a bedwetter as a child, in my attendance of special ed schools and all of the suffering that's occurred in my life.

However, I have it good compared to most of those on the spectrum.  Ms. Yergeau goes even further in celebrating and taking joy in the fact that possibly a third or more of all autistics may be almost completely nonverbal.  The fact that severely autistic children bite themselves and bang their heads into walls.  Not to mention the problems with elopements and accidental deaths that occur from drowning and other causes. 

Despite this fact, Yergeau has taken upon herself to speak for all of us:

Autistic people don’t consider autism to be a disease. So why should the rest of the world?

So, all autistic people don't consider autism to be a disease?  Ms. Yergeau, if you happen to read this, why didn't you consult me?  As an autistic person, I certainly disagree.  I very much consider autism to be a disease.

About the only good thing I can say about this article is it does not repeat the oft cited dictum that the definition of neurodiversity is the pursuit of human rights for those on the autistic spectrum and that those of us who wish a cure and oppose neurodiversity are trying to violate the autistic's human rights.  I'm thankful the author gives a more honest approach and correctly states that neurodiversity is more about claiming autism is just a different way of being rather than a disease, illness or even disability as Ari Ne'eman once said.

However, what about my human rights?  What about my right to have my own opinion and not having someone with the low credibility that Ms. Yergeau has put words in my mouth.  What about my right to obtain a cure if one is available?  What about my right to publicly express my opinion and not have these hate mongers harass me or write libelous things about me?  What about my right not to have persons, like Yergenau, who are so mildly affected they can get married and be college professors trivialize my disability as well as others even more severely afflicted than I am?   

Ms. Yergeau, you're violating my human rights as well as at least some other persons on the autism spectrum and I don't like it. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

autism reversal? Interesting science from Switzerland

I was interested to recently read about research that the media is implying could lead the way to finding drugs that can reverse or maybe cure autism.The above-linked article states that genetic mutations for certain proteins called neuroligins can cause autism.  These are proteins that are necessary for synaptic transmission between neurons, or, to put it more simply, communication between brain cells.  If this communication is disrupted, various problems could result.  These might be described as autism.

The researchers inserted so-called "knock in" mutated genes in mice that lead to various motor impairments and lack of social behavior which could be considered an animal model for autism.  They also used "knock out" mice (mice who have had the gene for neuroligin-3 knocked out) as well.  The brains had abnormal synaptic connections and an excessive number of glutamate (a neurotransmitter-substance that communicates between brain cells) receptor 

What was most interesting is that when the researchers inserted neuroligin proteins in the brain, they were able to reverse this process and the brains of the mice normalized and their autistic symptoms disappeared.  Roche pharmaceuticals, who apparently hopes to develop a drug to conquer autism, collaborated with these researchers in Switzerland.

Intrigued by this research, I emailed Peter Scheiffele, one of the authors of this study, asking him to send me a .pdf file.  Dr. Scheiffele kindly sent me a copy of his study.   
My lack of training as a scientist limited my understanding of  the paper, but I believe I got the gist of it.  Though it might hold promise for some persons with autism at some point, it seems to me the media may be hyping this study prematurely.

Various genes have been implicated in autism.  Most cases of autism are probably polygenetic, i.e. involving interactions of several genes rather than just one.  Also, environmental factors may contribute as well, interacting with the genes.  The neuroligin mutation is just a single genetic mutation existing on the X chromosome and not on any of the other chromosomes.  Genes on autosomes (the non sex chromosomes) have been found to be implicated in autism, so the neuroligin mutations are probably just a small percentage of possible casual factors for autism.  Also, the authors only studied the neuroligin-3 protein (NL3).  neuroligin-4 (NL4) has also been implicated in autism.  There may be a number of X chromosome linked( including Fragile X) etiologies for autism.  Females have two X chromosomes and males have one (their second sex chromosome is the Y chromosome) so this may be one of the reasons there's a 4:1 ratio of male autistics to females.  If all autisms were caused by an X-linked mutation, it's likely the ratio of males to females would be much higher or autistic females would be nonexistent.  Hemophilia and pattern baldness are examples of x-linked genetic conditions that are probably nearly non-existent in females.  So, it is unlikely this research could be applied to all forms of autism.

The authors stated that in their mice models synaptic transmission was altered in in somatosensory cortex and hippocampus.  They went on to say that the subcellular localization in living creatures of the NL3 protein was unknown.

For reasons not entirely clear to me, they only focused on the cerebellum and not on any other areas of the brain.  Their rationale was that this was because one study had shown cerebellar activation was altered in autistic individuals and cerebellar lesions in animal models resulted in changes reminiscent of autism.  This is in spite of the fact that other areas of the brain, i.e. the frontal lobes and limbic system (including the amygdala) have also been implicated in autism.   

Whether or not these mice who normally are incapable of speaking and modeling language, fine motor and other possible symptoms of autism are a valid animal model is questionable to me.

In addition to finding glutamatergic synapses altered, they also found GABAergic synapses were altered.  GABA (along with norepinephrine) is one of the neurotransmitters that are used in cerebellar purkinje cells, which have been implicated in some autopsies of postmortem autistic brains (granular cells not being found to be as affected if I'm remembering correctly).  Interestingly, GABA is the neurotransmitter implicated in the lack of inhibition that Dr. Manuel Casanova has found in his work showing abnormal minicolumns in the postmortem brains of some autistic adults. 

They also found increased synaptic connections in the wiring of the cerebellar network.   
The rats were tested in a climbing ladder task and the mice with the NLG knock out mice were impaired.

As mentioned before, the next phase of the experiment was to reinsert the neuroligin proteins into the mice brains.  These mice's brains were apparently restored to their normal synaptic functioning levels and the excess synapses were pruned.  Whether this can ever be used as a legitimate autism treatment or prevention I don't know.

What was noteworthy was that the abnormal synaptic pathophysiology of the NLG affected mice paralleled what has been found in fragile x mice and a mutation called Tsc2 which I'd never heard of.

At the end of the article the authors implied this research showed that the structural differences in the brains of persons with autism could be reversed after the brain has completely developed.

I tried my best to give a take on this study with my limited education and knowledge, I apologize in advance for whatever factual errors or other problems there might be in this post; however, I do have an intense interest in this research, though perhaps a lack of ability to fully grasp it. 

I can't help hoping that research like this might someday be used to treat, prevent and even perhaps cure autism at some point in time, but I can't help thinking the ballyhoo of this study is just more media hype. 

Addendum:  I've now downloaded the FTP program I'd used in the past on Windows XP on Windows 7 and figured out how to use it.  I uploaded the .pdf of the paper to my stories website and tried to link to it on this post.  However, it did not seem to load for some reason, not sure why.  I'll see if I can provide a link to the paper at some point.

Friday, September 7, 2012

genuine lawsuit or more neurodiverse mischief?

I was interested to read a post on the well known neurodiversity blog, left brain/right brain.  This post discusses a certain lawsuit against a certain antineurodiversity blogger from New Hampshire. Those who have followed both the pro and anti neurodiversity blogs over the years can mostly likely surmise who this person is.

The individual in question is allegedly being sued for a post he wrote over a year ago.  He stated that the organization now suing him was peddling "horseshit" and he called them "Jackasses".  It seems strange that an organization, based on what it must cost to sue someone, would litigate for such a trivial reason and wait a year to file a suit. They allegedly stated that this blogger's post had a detrimental effect on their business, which seems far fetched, at least to me.  Seems unlikely this suit would go very far, though I admit i'm not a lawyer or legal expert.  LB/RB's blogger-in-chief, Matt Carey stated that he was conflicted about the lawsuit, but did not come right out and say how frivolous it was.  There was also a dig at the unpopular (from the point of view of ND) blogger that had no relevance to the topic in question.

In a post written two days ago the blogger in question stated that he had not yet been served with the suit.  I wonder what the probability is that someone would write on the internet that they were suing someone before a subpoena was handed down.  This, to me, makes it very suspect.

Though Carey stated he was conflicted, some of the regulars of his blog seemed to have a celebratory attitude, including one of ND's most unsavory characters who has spent time harassing me and writing libelous things about your humble blogger on the internet (now deleted into the phantom zone).

I still remember Zach Lassiter's bogus story about autism speaks trying to put his t-shirt company out of business and Alex Plank, writing it up on the front page of wrong planet without doing any fact checking.  Plank ironically enough solicited and received donations for his Autism Talk TV project from AS.

I also remember how the neurodiversity movement lied about this blogger claiming that he threatened Ari Ne'eman with death when all he did was write an inflammatory post stating that he wished ari ne'eman could be tried criminally and executed and asked Newsweek to "Kill Ari Ne'eman" referring to killing a favorable article they wrote about him. 

I have to wonder if this is a real lawsuit or if this isn't just more lies and mischief from the neurodiversity movement who are just making the story up and posting it on the internet to stir trouble.  

The blogger in question stated that he would provide updates, so I guess I'll just have to repeat the old cliche, "time will tell'. 

Addendum:  The latest news is that the lawsuit appears to be real although the blogger in question has not yet been served.  Although he does not believe he's done anything wrong, he's offered to settle the suit in order to avoid  the trouble or hassle or costs or all of the above that defending the suit would incur.  Gadfly suspects neurodiversity will have a field day with this and will use this to claim proof of his guilt and mislead people who don't understand about settling to the avoid costs of litigation or other problems when fighting a trivial lawsuit.   I guess there will be more on this topic and I will add to it when and if appropriate.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do Jobs programs for autistic adults work?

Recently, autism specialist Julie Lounds Taylor studied the question of whether or not programs to help adults with autism find and keep jobs are indeed effective.

The full study  is available online for anyone who cares to read it.

Essentially what she and her coauthors did was to comb the literature looking for published studies demonstrating outcomes of autistic adults who were in various job placement and/or training programs.  It would appear that a number of these were on the more severe end and not as high functioning as someone like myself and others who might have trouble in the workplace, as they were in supported employment programs.

They found five studies that showed promising results for those on the spectrum enrolled in these programs.  One problem was that all but one were in countries outside the U.S.A.  So their relevance for those of us in America may be questionable.

The studies were deemed to be of poor quality for a variety of reasons:  No long term follow-up.  Lack of random assignment of autistics who took part in the program versus the controls, and in one study involving supported employment no control group.

There was no proof that these programs were not effective, only that the empirical evidence in the studies evaluating them was weak.

As I've written in previous posts, I am skeptical that there are any quick fix solutions to helping those on the spectrum find and keep jobs.  I'm at the milder end and after many years of struggle, I finally had to capitulate and retire at the relatively young age of 51.

I've previously written  about my bad experiences with voc rehab. I've also written about ASTEP, run by neurodiversity rogue Michael John Carley who has stated in his book, Aspergers from the inside out, that no autistics want to be cured and did not even bother to consult me.

Last but not least,  I've written about autism speaks' hypocrisy in claiming to have an interest in helping us, yet never having employed a person on the spectrum in their organization.

I applaud Dr. Lounds Taylor for taking an interest in this topic and publishing this study.  It seems no one else really cares about helping us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Sullivan's" odd views on neurodiversity, respect, human rights and dignity

I see that the well-known pro-neurodiversity blogger, Matt Carey (AKA "Sullivan"), is at it again  trotting out an abstract of a paper which I doubt he's even bothered to read to bolster the strawman argument he repeatedly makes that those of us who oppose neurodiversity are opposed to dignity and human rights for persons with autism.

The paper deals with the views of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities who want dignity and respect in research that involves them.  Though the abstract of the article does not mention either autism nor neurodiversity, Carey vis-a-vis some sort of possibly convoluted logic which I'm not nearly sophisticated enough to understand ties this publication into one of his pet topics, i.e. neurodiversity equals respect and dignity and human rights.

We can see from wikipedia's definition that they give a different meaning from Carey: Neurodiversity is a "controversial concept [that] ... regards atypical neurological development as a normal human difference"

Carey states:

Call it “human rights and dignity” and it isn’t a controversial concept. It may not be always followed but it isn’t controversial. Call it “neurodiversity” and somehow it’s a big deal.  

Mr. Carey, I realize a prestigious blogger and public member of the IACC probably won't take the time to read my piddling gadfly blog.  However, I wonder how you can equate claiming that the atypical neurologic development is not an impairment, but rather a human normal difference to dignity and respect?

Also, the on-line behavior of  those involved in neurodiversity seems to involve denying anyone with an autism spectrum disorder or possibly other neurologic or psychiatric impairment a cure if one is available and they so desire one.  The motto of Kevin Leitch who created the autism hub and in fact is Mr. Carey's predecessor as the main author of the blog that Carey now writes for was "We don't need no stinkin' cure".  Well, in response, I say, "We don't need no stinkin' neurodiversity."  That is not about human or civil rights.  I want a cure for autism.  I believe that autism is a disability, defect and disease and not a normal human difference or variation.  Does this mean I am opposed to civil rights for others or dignity or respect as both Michelle Dawson and Mr. Carey have stated?  Not at all.  I am all for human rights, dignity and respect.  Can the same thing be said of neurodiversity proponents?  Continue reading this post for the answer to that.   

He also states that people are mistaken that neurodiversity is a concept only involving high functioning autism and they are mistaken about his son's functioning level.  I don't know how high-functioning Carey's son is, yet I've never heard any pro-neurodiversity arguments from someone on the spectrum who was not high functioning.  In fact, it would appear the majority of them are far higher functioning than anyone else who has autism.  They can marry, have children, have good jobs, go to graduate school and pursue ph.d's, etc.  I would be curious if Mr. Carey's son/daughter holds the same point of view as he does or if Carey has even inquired.  If his offspring is too low functioning to understand or answer, then I don't understand how Carey can speak for him. 

How about dignity and respect?  What of the ND who emailed brain researcher Matthew Belmonte calling him a nazi?  What about those who have called me Goebels, Mitchell-shite, and have written libelous posts about me and spent time harassing me.  What of one ND who stated that parents of children don't give a fuck about their autistic kids and wish they would drop dead.  What of your fellow IACC public member Noah Britton who has equated parents who wish a cure for their autistic children and support autism speaks with members of the Ku Klux Klan?  Do proponents of the neurodiversity movement treat people with dignity and respect?  No, I don't think so.

No, Mr. Carey, human rights and dignity are not controversial topics.  I don't see how you or anyone else can deny whether or not autism is a disability and a disease or whether or not it's a normal human variation isn't a controversial opinion.  I don't comprehend how stating that persons who can't speak, can't dress themselves, let alone work and who engage in self-injurious behavior should not only be denied a cure if one were available, but also be labeled racists if their parents desire a cure for them is not controversial.  Again, Mr. Carey, your convoluted logic is way too sophisticated for me to follow.     

The fact this individual is a member of a publicly funded body that gives recommendations to the federal govermnent regarding autism policy concerns me deeply.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Autism Speaks' hypocrisy in workplace problems II

As regular readers of autism's gadfly may remember, a few years ago I wrote a post regarding the fact that autism speaks would boast about how important it was to give autistic people job opportunities and showing videos of person's with autism in various jobs.  This was in spite of the fact that to the best of my knowledge they have never had any paid employees in their organization whatsoever.  Not even a minimum wage janitor or file clerk assisted by a job coach and accommodated for.  I realize they have this person, Kerry Magroo, (sp?) who blogs for them occasionally who is referred to as "a staffer".  It is unclear whether this individual is a paid employee of AS or not.   It seems that AS is at it again with their nonstop demagoguery.  They've even recycled giving PR to the jobs for autistics which they had nothing to do with the creation of which I wrote about in hypocrisy I.  They've now publicized some department of labor grants to help train disabled people for jobs that they had nothing to do with.  This is for all disabilities and not just autism.  So I have to wonder if autistic people don't have it worse than other disabilities due to the poor social skills which make them less employable.  Legally, these are not accommodable under ADA as I've written in recent previous posts.

In yet another PSA, AS bandies about statistics about how grave the problem is.  They cite that nine out of ten autistics is not employed regardless of IQ or functioning level.  I myself am not currently in the top 10%.  They also project that 500,000 autistic children will become adults in the next decade.  AS neglects to cite any source for these figures and where they come from I have no idea.

AS also states:
A comprehensive Employment Tool Kit is in development to help adults with autism find and keep a job in the current competitive labor market, as well as help employers recognize the abilities and strengths of individuals with autism. 

I'd be interested in exactly what this comprises of and who developed it and how they can possibly help autistic people find and keep jobs, particularly in a bad economy.  I'm also curious as to whether or not these alleged strengths and abilities of autistic people is based on the research of Laurent Mottron to whom autism speaks awarded a nearly half million dollar grant.  Dr. Mottron has written that autistic people are assigned menial tasks in jobs when they are capable of much better, but offers no evidence for this allegation.  He apparently bases this on the abilities of autistic people to find embedded figures and superior memory and musical pitch abilities or their superior scores on the Raven's matrices versus the Wechsler.

Another project AS is engaged in is an employment think tank.  These individuals seem to have about as much ability to think and common sense as the authors of that ironically named neurodiversity blog, The Thinking Person's guide to autism.  They cite Specialisterne, the company in Denmark which exclusively employs ASD software testers.  A google search has shown a variety of articles alleging that Specialisterne only stayed in business because of generous subsides from the Danish government, though I have not been able to find a definitive source.  Founder, Thorkil Sonne, in one interview did deny his company received government subsidies.  So it's unclear how well this model could work in a less socialist country such as the U.S.  Another company in Illinois, Aspiritech, has a similar approach to Specialisterne but is apparently subsidized by grants and as far as I know has yet to turn a profit. 

One of the most dubious considerations (at least to me) is that somehow neurotypical co-workers can be trained to work with autistic employees.  AS is dreaming if they think that's going to happen.  If they're so sure of this, then I am curious why they don't implement this strategy in their own organization.

Once again, I wish that Autism Speaks would  either start employing autistic people in their organization or stop spreading propaganda and demagoguery that they don't really believe in.   


Friday, July 13, 2012

What accommodations will autistic stakeholders suggest?

I just read an interesting post on a blog called harpocrates speaks in which the author criticizes some individuals from the age of autism blog who question the legitimacy of the autistic stakeholders who are public members of the IACC.  This was in response to an individual claiming that autistic people who were dependent on the government for services had no right to refuse a cure should there be one.  This position causes outrage among the neurodiverse autistics who state they would refuse a cure if one is ever found.  This individual was responding to a comparison of wheelchair bound people asking for access rather than a cure.  Left brain right brain blogger and IACC member Matt Carey, who is apparently against curing autism but feels the taxpayers should spend billions of dollars on special education for his offspring as well as other kids,also weighed in

Harpocrates does make a couple of valid points.  There is no cure available and that a number of things the age of autism crowd touts as a cure or at least treatment are likely of questionable value if not outright quackery.

My question is, exactly what accommodations will neurodiversity extremist IACC members Noah Britton and Scott Robertson suggest that is anywhere near analogous to wheelchair access?

One reader, Liv's parents, suggested spending more taxpayer money on living arrangements so low functioning autistics won't bash their parents heads in.  Apparently it's okay for the disabled person to bash a staff member's head on concrete but not their parents' heads. 

In private emailings with Ari Ne'eman, he's suggested vocational training,though has no real proof it would enable the asd person to work in the same manner as wheelchair access would help someone with no or impaired legs get around.  He also suggested eliminating social pleasantry as a hiring criteria in the workplace.  This is certainly not realistic.  ASAN has written on their website that the law requires employers to accommodate persons with autism.  They neglect to mention that the law only requires reasonable accommodations (whatever that means).  The law specifically states that anything that would provide a financial burden to the employer such as having to pay for a job coach out of their own pocket, a proofreader to check for errors, an aide to help control behavior, etc. is something employers don't legally have to provide.  Contrary to what Ne'eman (and by extension likely IACC member Scott Robertson) believe,there is at least one legal precedent that refutes their position.  in one court case, Jakubowsky vs. Christ Hospital, the sixth federal circuit court of appeals ruled that accepting an autistic persons' behavior was not a reasonable accommodation and the claimant lost.  He attempted to appeal to the supreme court, but they refused to hear the case.  So, it would appear there is no way autism could be feasibly accommodated for in the workplace in the same way that giving access to a wheelchair user could.

As far as I know, Ari Ne'eman during his brief tenure as an IACC public member, never suggested any accommodations.  His legacy was of accusing an economist who did a study showing the expense of autism of being a eugenicist.

I realize that Noah Britton and Scott Robertson have been newly appointed to the IACC so in all fairness I should give them time to see if they can suggest any legitimate accommodations for ASDers. that is not an apples versus hurricane comparison to wheelchair users.  There is no evidence that suggests to me that this will be the case--that either Britton or Robertson will have anything constructive to offer.  Noah Britton apparently just wants to compare people who wish to cure their autistic children to the Ku Klux Klan as I've written earlier and that people who wish to cure autism, just want to selectively eliminate autism from the population.  If there are any suggestions a member of the IACC or any other neurodiversity member has for accommodations as an alternative to an nonexistent cure, I'm interested in hearing them and they are welcome to comment in the comments section.   

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Thousands" of persons with Asperger's who don't want a cure have Noah Britton. Who will represent the autistic people who wish to be cured?

The newly reconstituted IACC (Interagency autism coordinating committee), the panel of members from the federal government and general public with a stake in autism, who advise the government on how to direct research and advise the government on autism policy, had a full committee meeting a couple of days ago.

Back in April, I wrote a post discussing three of the newly appointed members of this august committee and my dissatisfaction with these individuals being selected for posts advising the government on how to deal with autism spectrum disorders. 

There was another individual whom I was not familiar with at the time, Noah Britton, who, in retrospect, I wish I had commented on in the above-linked post.

If you go to approximately the 27 minute mark of the above-linked video, you'll see this guy giving his introduction to the committee as a newly appointed member.  He states that he became a member of the IACC to represent "The thousands of people" with Aspergers who wish not to be cured and have the right to say no.  While everyone else in the room is extremely well dressed, Mr. Britton attended the meeting wearing a raunchy white t-shirt with the crude lettering My Body, My choice emblazoned on the front.

A perusal using Google shows us that Mr. Britton has compared autism speaks to the Ku Klux Klan running the NAACP and not letting any black people in.  Mr. Britton apparently is not familiar with the half million dollar research grant awarded to the Mottron group of whom Michelle Dawson is part of.  He is also apparently unaware of their funding of autism talk TV run by anti-curebie Alex Plank.  To the best of my knowledge, Autism Speaks has never funded any endeavors that a pro-cure autistic has been involved in.

I am curious as to where Mr. Britton comes up with his "thousands of people" figure, particularly given he uses it just for Asperger's and not for autism.  As far as I can tell, he's just conjured this figure out of thin air.  He also wants to represent one small segment of the autism community--those with Asperger's, and not represent other ASD's that are not Asperger's.  It would seem a decent committee member would want to represent the interest of all persons with autism and not just his own.

I'm also not sure where Noah gets the idea that assuming a cure for autism is ever found in his lifetime that anyone is proposing to force him (or any other adult past the age of consent) to undergo it.  Perhaps he'd like the government to legislate that persons with Asperger's under the age of 18 can have a choice independent of their parents assuming such cure is found, I don't know.  I am also curious as to what his stance is on curing those on the spectrum who are not Asperger's.

Well, Mr. Britton, if you ever happen to read this post here's an inflammatory analogy to match your KKK-NAACP one: I believe appointing you to a government post dealing with autism is like appointing a member of the mafia to serve on their city's police commission.  If any reader thinks lowly of me for stooping to Britton's level, so be it.  Tit for tat.  

Though I don't expect a cure to be found in my lifetime (particularly at my relatively advanced age), I do long for one and I wish those who are interested in autism would pursue one and someday, the autism society, autism speaks and the IACC can say, we can disband, we don't need to have these organizations anymore.

To date, five persons on the spectrum have been public members of the IACC.  Every single one of them has been opposed to curing autism.  Only one pro-cure autistic, as far as I know, has been nominated as a public member, he was not appointed. Not a single one of us has ever been appointed.  So the score remains five to zero, though the IACC states they want balanced points of views.  They seem heavily skewed towards neurodiversity, though the law states the committee was created for the purpose of combating autism.  I'm wondering what is the sense of that?   

Though I won't bandy about statistics in the same manner as Britton, I will say there are a good number of persons on the spectrum  I know of who wish they could be cured.  Myself, Jake Crosby, Oliver Canby, Chris Charette, Sue Rubin, Marty Murphy, Tom Mckean, Roger Kulp, just to name a few.  It's likely there are thousands of others who feel the same way, who have to struggle every day with this horrible disability.  However, many of these individuals are incapable of speaking or writing blog posts or even telling the IACC how much they hate this disability and wish a cure.

If I had my way, the combating autism act would be jettisoned and consequently the IACC abolished, but it does bother me the federal government has such a cavalier attitude toward those of us who wish a cure.    

Now we know who at least one of the public member IACC represents.  I wonder if there will ever be anyone to represent us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can accommodations in the workplace help autistics?

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a post discussing the problems of disclosure in the workplace for those of us on the spectrum.  One reader responded in the comments section that in his country, Canada, employers are required to make accommodations for person's with disabilities if it does not cause undue hardship to the employer.  The Americans with Disabilities Act here in the United States provides similar legislation.

Since the reason for disclosure is inevitably accommodations that could enable a person with autism or any other disability do their job, I thought I'd elaborate more on what I'd written way back and discuss whether or not accommodations would be helpful and other issues along those lines.   

As regular readers of this blog know, I've been fired from multiple jobs in my life and have not worked in more than five and a half years.  Some persons I know have suggested that accommodations are the answer to my problem and that under the ADA, employers are obligated to accommodate my disability.  How helpful are accommodations for autistics?  Is it feasible to apply the ADA to their cases? Has legal recourse among autistics been successful?

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees that enable them to do their job without economic hardship to the employer.  Businesses with less than 15 employees are exempt.

I'm curious exactly what are specific examples of accommodations that were actually granted and/or were upheld in courts of law if a disabilities group litigated against an employer or reported them to the EEOC, the body that enforces the ADA.  A Google search turned up a variety of examples.  Adding ramps for wheelchair bound employees, allowing the blind to use braille or speech generating readers, allowing deaf people to use sign language interpreters.  A disabled secretary with severe asthma or problems with legs who could not climb stairs.  They would give the duty requiring her to climb stairs in a two story office building to the able bodied person and have her do another duty such as filing.  Are ASD's disabilities that could be accommodated or is this an apples versus hurricanes comparison?

Some autistics may be overly sensitive to light or loud noises (I don't fall in this category).  These are easily modifiable factors, the person could be moved into another office where there is less sound or the lights dimmed.

However, autistics have social problems, e.g. inability to get along with coworkers, loud voices, poor social skills.  In some cases (though not all) it might even be as drastic as sexually accosting a coworker.  Ari Ne'eman, an individual in his early 20s who has never worked a day in his life, has stated that eliminating social pleasantry as a criteria for hiring or allowing persons to keep their jobs should be a criteria.  This is something that would cause an undue hardship to the employer and other employees.  Certainly this is not something they are required to do under the ADA.

What about making excessive errors or poor hygiene (reasons I've been fired).  This is something that cannot be overlooked and would cause undue economic hardships for the employer.  Could reasonable accommodations be made.  One soloution is to let the autistic person who makes excessive errors go more slowly or review the work.  But this would cost the employer money and cause an undue hardship.  Other aspects of autism such as lack of executive functioning, inability to follow directions may also impair the autistic.  It is unlikely there are any reasonable accommodations for these that would not be an undue burden on the employer. 

Are employers required to hire the disabled person who may have the minimal qualifications over a more qualified non-disabled applicant?  The answer is legally no.  If a job requires someone to type 50 words per minute and the disabled person types 50 words per minute, but they find a non-disabled person who types 75, they can certainly legally hire the nondisabled person if they desire.  In the same vein, employers are not required to accommodate a person on the spectrum, who makes excessive errors, does not do the job fast enough or has social problems that could cause an undue burden on the employer or fellow employees.  If the job involved them being in public view of people, could the self-stimulatory behaviors be bad for business if it freaked the shoppers out if a grocery bagger for example were to engage in this behavior.  This would likely persuade at least some shoppers to go to another supermarket.  Would they be required to accommodate this person?  I'm not sure of the answer to that.  One example I came across is if someone had a disfigured face that could give fellow employees a customer a bad reaction the law does not allow them to discriminate on that basis.  However, would the ASD employee be able to take any recourse with the EEOC or another agency if they were fired for that reason?  I'll try to answer that in the paragraph below.

How feasible is enforcement?  How could the autistic person prove they were discriminated against?  What would stop employers from lying or claiming the person they did not like caused them undue economic hardship even if they hadn't.  Employers would break the law and even in a court case, it would be difficult to prove that they had done so.  In the above noted example, the employer could come up with some excuse if it were illegal for them not to accommodate someone's public self-stimulation.  They would just falsify a productivity study (something that happened to me at one job I was fired from) or find some other excuse to get rid of them.  I realize there may be exceptions to this, but they are likely few and far between.

Have autistics who have been refused accommodations they allege are reasonable been successful in court.  In one instance I was able to locate, the answer is no.  This case is interesting in that the individual involved was a physician diagnosed with Asperger's.  This person was denied accommodations he asked the hospital to give him when he was unable to interact with patients properly or relay instructions or interact on the phone with other medical personnel.  In spite of obtaining a diagnosis of Asperger's,  the doctor was discharged from his hospital residency.  He contended that he could do his job if the staff were aware of his disability and treated him with understanding.  The hospital instead offered him a pathology residency, a specialty where he'd have no patient interaction.  Though this would have been a viable option for him, he declined.  The individual lost at all levels of appeal, including the federal court of appeals (the sixth circuit court) which is just one rung below the supreme court.  The supreme court declined to hear his case.

In another instance an individual with Asperger's was denied a laboratory tech job after disclosing his diagnosis to his about-to-be employer.  With the help of an EEOC attorney, he secured a settlement of $60,000.  I wonder what was accomplished by this.  How far is $60,000 going to take him as far as supporting him over his lifetime.  Will the fact he has a disability and sued a perspective employer motivate others to hire him?  Will he be able to perform his job with another company?  Will anyone else hire him, particularly in a troubled economy?  Though, ASAN and others who believe accommodations are an answer will claim this a victory, these are interesting points to ponder.  These were also extremely high functioning individuals with Asperger's and not autism per se.  How would others unable to graduate from medical school or become lab techs fare?

I'm still trying to locate any instance where an accommodation was successfully used for an autistic person or litigation resulted in them securing employment.  I'll possibly be updating this post if I find something new.  

Are accommodations a viable solution for the employment problems of persons on the spectrum?  I believe the answer is no. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mitsubishi corporation funds neurodiversity activism

I just read an interesting post on the left brain/right brain blog about the Mitsubishi corporation funding an ASAN program for autistic college students.  The sole purpose of this program appears to be training people to engage in neurodiversity activism.

Now a large corporation is also advocating the idea that I (and others) should live our lives as cripples under the guise of the strawman that these people are promoting some sort of human or civil rights for autistic people.

It's distressing to me that Mitsubishi could have such a cavalier attitude toward autistic persons.  They are not funding a program for medical research to live better lives, to be better educated, to help lift those on SSI or without it out of poverty.  They are not funding group homes for autistics or any constructive program.  Only the hate mongering of ASAN aficionados who want to claim all research into autism is for the purpose of prenatal abortions, who want to insult parents who want to help their kids and those of us with autism who wish a cure could be found.

The canary party, a group promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism,has written some talking points protesting this.They allege that self-diagnosis is okay for eligibility in this program.  I must admit, I don't have any documentation for this, nor does the canary party memorandum provide any links documenting this  However, if true, I don't see how this is helping autistic people if someone not diagnosed by a medical professional or psychologist can take place in this program, which apparently has only the goal of promoting a political agenda and not really giving help to anyone.

Mitsubishi is claiming the program will help with employment activities among autistic college students, but as the canary party correctly points out, no mention of employment is spoken about in the guidelines, only training people in neurodiversity activism.

Mitsubishi also, according to the canary party, mentions helping people with disabilities.  After Ari Ne'eman claimed that he never said that autism was not a disability, Autism's gadfly broke the story about Ari's Ne'eman's essay, Difference Is Not Disease, where he put the words "disabled" in quotes and stated that difference is not disability.  After this essay was linked to on autism's gadfly, ASAN engaged in a watergate type coverup, first editing their essay to state difference is only disability when not accommodated for and then deleting the essay from the site altogether.  Also, Gadfly has provided documentation of Ari Ne'eman stating that Asperger's syndrome (which he has) is hardly something anyone would call a disability.

The Canary party does make one statement in their post that is not 100% accurate:

“While the Canary Party fully supports the acceptance of all people with diverse neurological conditions….it cautions that neurodiversity as promoted by ASAN is an ideology that runs counter to the primary goals of every major autism organization in the country.”

They either don't know or are forgetting that autism speaks has funded the research of neurodiversity rogue Laurent Mottron.  The federal government has funded Morton Gernsbacher's research.  The autism society of america endorsed Ari Ne'eman's nomination for the NCD.  Alex Plank, who has stated that autism equals good, was a keynote speaker at last year's autism society of america conference.  Autism speaks has also funded Alex Plank's Autism Talk TV.   

I have to wonder why the canary party has contacted Mitsubishi concerning their funding of an ASAN project, but has not protested projects that autism speaks and the autism society of america has either funded or endorsed that run counter to the philosophy that autism is a horrible disability and health problem that needs a cure.

If anyone who happens to read this who has not already read Matt Carey's endorsement of this program or the canary party's post about this, the addresses of the people you can contact to protest these activities are mentioned in the above-linked sites.  I doubt I'll bother writing to them as this is already a done deal and it would not accomplish anything.

I just wish I knew why all these people are opposed to me and others being able to live a decent life free of disability, including autism speaks and ASA who gives money to people who are at the opposite end of their stated beliefs.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Freezer Failure: Could foul play be involved?

A few days ago, a rather distressing news story, at least to me, came out stating that a freezer containing about 50 postmortem autistic brains had malfunctioned, rendering them useless  for most research studies.  One scientist stated that this could set research back ten years.  However, one-half of 34 of the 50 brains had been preserved in formalin, so they could still be viable to use in some studies.  I'm not sure, but I remember hearing there are various advantages to freezing brains to preserve them rather than preserving them in formalin, such as certain enzymes and cell parts being intact.  Any neuroscientist who may happen to read this can correct me or shed further light on the subject.

As regular readers of the gadfly blog know, I long for a cure for autism and the end of the suffering it causes so many.  I feel that post-mortem autopsies may be our "ace in the hole" as there are probably no good animal models for autism and fMRI scanners probably can only yield limited information in living brains.  Because autistic people, often live out their lives and most persons are diagnosed young, there are only limited amounts of brain tissue available and the recent events may make this problem worse.  

One line of the article quoting lab director Francine Benes was particularly compelling:

Benes said the situation is so unusual - the perfect storm of alarm and thermostat failure and the concentration of samples - that she cannot rule out foul play. She said she has not spoken to law enforcement officials, pending the completion of the internal investigation. 

One wonders who would have motive for tampering with autistic postmortem brains.  Though, I'm not accusing anyone without proof or stating there are any certainties, I can't help thinking of that deranged cult of hatemongers, the neurodiversity movement.  These people are opposed to finding a cure for autism and are opposed to science funding this endeavor.

Normally these brains are distributed between twenty-four freezers.  A month before the malfunction, the brains were all moved into one freezer to make distribution easier.  There is an alarm system that is supposed to go off if the temperature falls below around minus 81 degrees Celsius.  The alarm system failed to go off.  Also, there's an external thermostat that gives the temperature and it read minus 79 degrees Celsius.  The freezers cannot be opened regularly as that might tamper with the expensive equipment used to house the brains.  One day a technician opened the freezer to obtain a sample and the normally cold air didn't whoosh out.  They found that in spite of the external thermometer reading, the temperature was actually about 7 degrees Celsius or about the same as a refrigerator.

I wonder what the probability is that right at the time the brains were moved, the alarm system would not happen to work and the thermometer would malfunction.  There was  a security camera and checkpoints to protect the brain samples.  However, this does not rule out an inside job.

Interestingly enough, this collection of brain tissue was owned by Autism Speaks, the organization that is consistently reviled and scorned by angry members of the ND movement.  Some years ago, I donated my brain to the autism speaks tissue program.  I've written about this elsewhere. This was before AS engaged in a variety of activities that I don't approve of, but more about that below.

Though, as mentioned above, in spite of the fact the neurodiversity movement has expressed contempt for autism speaks, they seem to be odd bedfellows.  At times, their executive staff has attended meetings of GRASP, the organization founded by Michael John Carley.  Without consulting me, Carley stated in his book that no autistics want to be cured of their autism.  They have funded Alex Plank's Autism Talk TV endeavor, though Plank stated that autism speaks' endgame was to develop a plan to find a way to abort autistic fetuses and engage in eugenics.  They also awarded a half million dollar grant to neurodiversity rogue scientist, Laurent Mottron.

Benes has stated that the lab is conducting an internal investigation before going to law enforcement authorities.  I look forward to reading any new developments if any.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

an article those who scorn pro-cure autistics should read

Neurodiversity activisit Alex Plank has stated that most autistics don't want to be cured.  This is in spite of the fact he's not above accepting charity from Autism Speaks, the organization who has stated that their ultimate goal is a cure for autism.

There are apparently at least some other members of the neurodiversity movement who feel this way also.
One immature teenage girl said that I'm like who Jew who helped the nazis during the holocaust.  Two of the most hard core hatemongers in the ND movement, whom I'll decline to name in this post, have stated that my desire for a cure for autism and even my disability comes from a domineering mother who was a witch and a shrew who taught me to hate myself.  These individuals have effectively tried to bring back the Bettelheim era which I lived through as a small child.  Retired neurodiversity blogger, the autistic bitch from hell has stated that all of the multiple persons with autism who receive disability benefits or applied for disability benefits are uncle toms who do so because we don't want to take responsibility for our lives and want to grovel before the feet of bureaucrats who'll pat us on our little incompetent heads.  She states we ought to be lined up against the wall and shot and/or strangled to death and turned into cat food.  ABFH is rumored to be Meg Evans, one of the executives in the autistic self-advocacy network who now have a seat on the IACC and the National Council on Disabilities, even though in the past they've stated they don't believe autism and Asperger's are disabilities.

Here's an article I believe the above-named individuals and others who feel as they do should read.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aiden Bower drowns: ND movement proven wrong again

Here is yet another story of a defenseless autistic child drowning.  Although this appears to be commonplace, the neurodiversity movement insists that no one is ever killed from autism so there is no comparison to cancer and similar diseases.  They consistently play the murder card, claiming that those of us who don't like autism and wish a cure were available are responsible for the murder of autistic children whenever a deranged parent kills their autistic offspring.  However, it's only the rarest of occasions they mourn for the numerous autistic children who have died in accidental drownings or been run over by cars or trains.  Ari Ne'eman and ASAN have lobbied against restraints or wandering codes because it's a violation of autistic persons' human rights and civil rights.  Those of us who want a cure, and are fed up with the hatemongering and bullying of the NDs, according to them, are against human rights for autistics.  What about Aiden Bower's right to have been alive and grown up into adulthood?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is neurodiversity's 92% figure accurate?

One of the main tenets of the neurodiversity movement is that the desire to cure autism and research in that direction will result in prenatal testing and wide scale abortion of autistic fetuses.  They allege the goal of Autism Speaks, The Simon's Foundation and others is to use this to deliberately eliminate autistic people from the human race.  Amanda Baggs and her friends on autistics.org have a tasteless cartoon showing an aborted fetus in a trashcan with the initials CAN embolded on it, indicating that Cure Autism Now, Autism's Speaks predecessor, had this goal in mind.  For this reason, ASAN's leader and Obama appointee Ari Ne'eman has called for a moratorium on all genetic research in autism. 

They cite a figure claiming that 92% of all fetuses with Down's syndrome are subsequently aborted.  Where does this figure come from and how truly accurate is it?  The main source for this statistic seems to be a study  from King's college in London done by Mansfield et. al using figures from the 1980s.  A few other studies have shown similar conclusions with percentages ranging from 80-92%.

According to one source I found,  there have been regional variations in some of the other studies done trying to answer this question.  The various studies have limitations in that they are done in just small areas in various parts of the world and may not be generalizable to all woman pregnant with Down's fetuses in the U.S.A. 

However, the 80-92% rate was not all Down's fetuses but just those who actually underwent prenatal screening.  The 80-92% rate is clearly a selective sample of woman who underwent testing because they would contemplated aborting the trisomy 21 child in the first place.

Bristol Palin, whose youngest brother has Down's, at one time also cited the same figure that activists in the neurodiversity movement use.  She recently corrected the record thanks to Amy Julia Becker, the mother of a Down's daughter who states:

I  just read Bristol’s post about babies who are born with DS being one of the 8%. I love the poem she includes, and I think her point is an important one. Still, I’ve learned recently that it’s an inaccurate number. It’s widely cited by many people, but it’s based on a single study from a single hospital in the 1980′s. Overall, it seems that about 70% of babies prenatally diagnosed with DS are aborted, and that the abortion rates vary greatly from region to region across the US. Moreover, lots of women don’t seek prenatal diagnosis, whether out of ignorance or because they don’t want to risk an amnio or because they don’t think the information is necessary. So out of all babies conceived with DS, 50% are actually born.

So, this figure that ND activists routinely trot out to bolster their crusade against a cure for autism is questionable.  I don't know the exact rate of all Down's syndromes babies that are actually aborted.  However, it's clear that it's not the 90 percent or more who just get the prenatal testing.  This is clearly a misrepresentation on Ne'eman's part and those who think as he does.

This is aside from the fact that autism is not Down's syndrome and they are two different conditions that prospective parents would likely take different attitudes toward.  I doubt there is any way that the ND movement can extrapolate  the true rate of abortion of autistics would be from whatever the number is for Down's is given the hypothetical that such a prenatal test for autism existed.

I realize that neurodiversity proponents will state that even a 50% abortion rate is high.  This is not to say that I believe that even coin-flip rate of abortion for Down's syndrome is acceptable, only that ND's should use accurate information if they want to engage in propaganda and fear mongering tactics.  

Bristol Palin corrected the record.  Perhaps it's time that Ari Ne'eman, ASAN and other ND proponents do so also.

Monday, May 14, 2012

New study shows high unemployment among young autists

According to a recent study by Paul Shattuck, one out of every three young adults with autism has no paid employment or college or technical education seven years after high school.  This contradicts what Joseph and"The autistic bitch from hell" have stated in the past where they claimed the Brugha study done in England showed there was no unemployment problem among autistics and they were employed in the same manner as non-handicapped people.  As well as Joseph's projected rate of 70% employment among autistics.  As well as other members of the neurodiversity movement who purport that autistics aren't a burden on the economy because autists Bill Gates and Stephen Spielberg are billionaires who contribute far more in taxes and revenue than most neurotypicals.   

The study used data from the 2007-2008 period, before the financial crisis hit.  Therefore, this study is likely a gross understatement of what the problem is today if current figures had been used.   

Autism speaks apparently helped partially fund this study.  Autism speaks executive Peter Bell weighed in as well.  This person, if I am not mistaken has a 19-year-old son on the moderate and severe end of the spectrum and the family is spending money and time preparing him to face the cruel world.  Peter Bell maintains a friendship with John and Jack Robison and Alex Plank and helped fund Autism talk TV.  Plank has stated that it's a good thing Mr. Bell's son is crippled and sick, so I wonder why Bell would maintain a friendship with these people and help fund this endeavor that does nothing to help persons with autism. 

Ari Ne'eman, an individual in his early 20's who has never had paid employment has stated the solution is to eliminate social pleasantry as a criteria for hiring people and evaluating their job performance.

This is a problem that unfortunately leads to no quick and easy fix.  I wish I had a solution myself, but unfortunately I don't.  I had to struggle in the workplace myself and after nearly twenty-eight years of hell I had to retire at a young age.

How the ND movement can say autistic people are fine the way they are and how this is not a problem I don't have an inkling of a clue.  I know.  My authorship of this post proves that I am against human and civil rights for persons with autism, as are all other persons who oppose the neurodiversity movement and long for a cure.  I realize I'm violating the civil and human rights of autistics by even writing this post.  So it goes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Do I have too many Von Economo neurons

Today, I read an interesting post in the neurocritic's blog about a type of brain cell called a spindle cell or Von Economo cell. The blog entry stated that one of the areas these cells are located in is in the frontal area of the brain.  Recent research has indicated an excessive number of neurons in the dorsofrontal cortex of some postmortem autistic brains.  Also, apparently, there is destruction of these cells in frontotemporal dementia.  In a recent post, I wrote about parallels between FTD and autism.  

Naturally these made me wonder if these cells might somehow be involved in autism.  I asked the neurocritic and he replied:  jonathan - There have been speculations that VENs might be involved in autism, but conflicting studies have found greater, fewer, or the same number of VENs. Kind of hard to interpret that. Allman et al. said:

"There are many features of autism that suggest that the VENs may be involved in this disorder. An initial stereological study of the number of VENs in area FI in four autistic subjects plus controls did not confirm this conjecture. However, a second stereological study of VENs in dorsal ACC in nine autistic subjects plus controls found that the autistic subjects fell into two groups, one with significantly higher numbers of VENs than controls, and the other with significantly fewer VENs than controls. Thus the controls occupied a middle zone with little overlap with the high or low VEN autism groups."

When in doubt, postulate distinct subgroups.

Until recently, it was believed that these cells only existed only in humans along with a few other highly evolved primates.  Neurocritic's post dealt with a recent finding of these cells in a lower primate, macaque monkeys.  It has been subsequently discovered that these cells are also found in elephants and some whales, apparently only in larger mammals including at least some primates.  These neurons develop late.  They are small in number at the 35th week of gestation.  At birth, a person only has 15% of their final total number of VENs.  They continue to grow in the brain up until about age four, coincidentally during the time of the first onset of autism or the time during which at least a partial recovery from autism can be made (as was the case of myself around the age of four, when I regained my speech).

The fact that various findings from studies of these cells in autism is mixed, does not preclude the possibility that a problem with these cells, e.g. too few, too many or problems with formation and migration could be involved in at least some cases though not necessarily all.  in an article by the courchesne group , mention is made of two different studies in which 53% and 58% more voneconomo neurons were found in autistic brains versus controls respectively.

John Allman of Cal Tech speculated that VEN's found in the frontoinsular cortex and the anterior cingulate relayed outputs to portions of the frontal and temporal cortex where theory of mind and other social decisions are made and propose the possibility that impairments in this area may be responsible for social deficits found in autism.

He reports an MRI study in which the area containing VENs in the anterior cingulate gyrus is reduced in volume compared to matched controls.  tensor diffusion studies also showed white matter abnormalities in some autistic subjects.  This also might be consistent with recent work of Courchesne showing excessive growth in the dorsofrontal cortex as well as the recent genetic study using this data.  However, Courchesne stated in the above-linked paper that VEN's accounted for too low a percentage of all neurons in the frontal lobe to be totally responsible for all of the brain growth.

So, in my desire to finally uncover the etiology of my problems and the reason for my immense suffering, Von Economo neurons may be yet another leaf to be unturned.

Monday, April 2, 2012

IACC appointees: A sick April fools joke or ???

Ironically, right around the time of April Fools day,the federal government announced the names of the new appointees to the public membership of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. This is the agency that was created under the combating autism act where members of the general public, along with federal government members are appointed to give input and vote on autism policy. In the past(though I'm not certain about now) the Federal members outnumbered the public members. They voted on what they wanted, and I doubt the public members actually had much power to make meaningful contributions.

Three of the appointees' names particularly stood out for me:

1. Matthew Carey
2. John Elder Robison
3. (Last but certainly not least) Scott Robertson.

The combating autism act was designed with the intent of actually curing and eradicating autism. I'd like to discuss the incredible incongruity of appointing these three individuals to this position.

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a blog post explaining why I did not believe that members of the neurodiversity movement should be allowed to be heard by the IACC. This was in response to a post one of the three aforementioned appointees wrote.

Now in what I hope was either an early April Fools joke or a nightmare from which I'll awake tomorrow morning, it's happened. We now have three individuals from this movement who are not only being heard by the IACC but are actually on the board themselves.

Matt Carey, AKA "Sullivan", is at least a somewhat pro neurodiversity blogger who has a propensity to make numerous factual errors in posts that try to rebut those of us who have an intense dislike for the neurodiversity movement. He has gotten it wrong on special education law, gotten it wrong on whether or not Ari Ne'eman said that autism was not a disability and gotten it wrong about a certain individual who does not like ND, falsely claiming this person threatened Ne'eman with death. Carey has consistently stated the strawman that those of us who don't like neurodiversity are against civil and human rights. As this is one of their standard lines, I won't bother to comment on the absurdity of this. Carey has been very pro special ed and the IDEA law, yet apparently is against curing autism. He apparently believes the taxpayers should foot the bill for his son's disability which he is opposed to curing.

John Robison is another individual who has stated there is no need for a cure for autism. To his credit, he has acknowledged that autism is a disability that needs research for remediation. Though quite wealthy, he has accepted funding from autism speaks for his son's and Alex Plank's autism talk TV, while most persons with autism are crippled and sick and languish in poverty. He has suggested studying geek success as a legitimate scientific endeavor. He seems to either not understand that a newborn has a nearly equal chance of being a boy or a girl or comes up with some strange theory that parents of autistic children are at least four times more likely to have a son as their firstborn and then an equal chance of either sex with subsequent children. Though he has not even completed the tenth grade in school, he serves on scientific advisory boards with M.D. and Ph.D. scientists. Most notable of all, his friend, Alex Plank, whom he has helped secure funding for, has stated that autism is a good thing. So, though Robison has stated that many facets of autism are disabling and need research for remediation, I wonder if we can judge him by the company he keeps.

As I said before, last but not least is Scott Robertson, one of the top executives in the autistic self-advocacy network, second-in-command to Ari Ne'eman. Though ASAN has publically opposed the combating autism act, they apparently feel it is okay to be the beneficiaries of tax dollars paid for created out of a law that they disagree with. They have stated that curing autism (the purpose for which the combating autism act and the IACC which they now have a seat on was enacted) would be morally rephrensible. ASAN or their representatives have used murder of autistic children as a political tool, they have stated that autism and Asperger's are not disabilities, and they have implied that autistic people who are unable to hold jobs who disagree with what they are doing are welfare bums who in their words should be strangled to death and turned into cat food or taken out, lined up against a wall and be shot.

To date, not a single person on the spectrum who favors curing autism has been appointed as a public member of the IACC. Though it would seem we are the primary individuals for whom the CAA was passed by congress and signed into law by two different presidents. I wonder why Kathleen Sebelius and other powers that be, think that these individuals are better suited for the job than we are. Guess because of my disability, there are just some mysteries that I'm not sophisticated enough to understand.