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.