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.