Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Potential powder keg: Will Alex Plank and Wrong Planet be connected to another shooting spree?

I've just read a post that concerns me a great deal on that well-known neurodiversity website Wrong Planet.  Apparently someone who is quite unhappy and possibly psychotic has posted a rather angry rant it reads:

 No idea if anyone reads this, but then, this about me venting, in the first place.

Damn lying bigot NTs. I hate you. I hate you all.

You're destroying everything of value. Betray. Treason. Lies. Explointing. Your world. Not mine.

No more false compromises. No more. Never. Not with me. I detest you.

Betraying the very core values of humanity. Yeah, that's what you're good at. Lying. Lying all the time.

Honesty? Honor? Loyality? Caring for your next fellow human beeing?

No, always looking for your own advantage, exploiting others.

Great society.

Give me one, just ONE reason why I shall not take my gun and kill as many of you scum as I can. And yes, I have a gun, beautiful 9mm Para. And enough ammo.

f**k you, NTs.

The world would be a better place w/o you.

To anyone reading this, the implications are rather scary, particularly in light of the recent stories suggesting the strong possibility that Adam Lanza had Asperger's syndrome and actually did go out and shoot people.  I wonder what wrong planet CEO Alex Plank's reaction will be.  Will he delete this post and ban this person from wrong Planet?  Will he report this to the authorities as well as the poster's IP address, so possible preventive action can be taken, regardless of whether or not this is an idle threat and the person really does not have a weapon and whether or not he will make good on his threat to kill people?  As regular readers of this blog know, Plank has banned me from posting on his website just because I had the handle "ND Just say no" and posted ideas that did not jive with Plank's anti-cure, ND philosophy.  

If this guy is on the level, this would not be the first time Plank and Wrong Planet have been involved in this kind of thing   In 2006 Alex Plank and Wrong Planet  were sued when Wrong Planet member and poster, William Freund broke into an innocent family's home and shot and killed two people.  Freund after the shootings committed suicide.  Shortly before the murders Freund had posted on the Wrong Planet website that he was lonely and needed a real friend and that he was contemplating suicide.  He also said that he planned to hurt those who had hurt them.

At first, Plank refused to comment on the shootings and Wrong Planet's involvement.  Later, he alleged that he had tried to contact Freund's parents and tell them about the post but he was unsuccessful.

Tonight's post is eeriely similar to this and is frightening to me.

In case Plank gets wind of this and deletes the post and anyone ends up thinking I'm just making this up as a vendetta against the ND movement (who I will concede I loathe, including Plank), I've made a screen shot.  If I can figure out how to post it on this blog post I will.  I'm also going to contact the FBI or any other appropriate law enforcement agency about this.  I hope that Plank and other WP administrators will do so as well.  Particularly in light of the Freund incident.

Unfortunately, Plank does not have a track record of good judgment, I'm remembering the Zachary Lassiter incident where an individual was claiming that autism speaks pressured an online store to remove his t-shirt that he was selling which was unflattering to AS.  Plank, a foe of autism speaks and a cure for autism put this story on the front page of his website.  This was later proven by yours truly to be a bunch of baloney. Unfortunately, in spite of this, autism speaks, has chosen to fund Alex Plank's autism talk TV.  Also, they handled the William Freund case particularly badly.  You can see a thread on Wrong Planet if you google William Freund where in October of 2005, Plank questions who Freund is.  I don't know if Alex's friends really tried to contact Freund's parents or not, but it would have been good judgment to report Freund to the FBI or some other authorities and it's possible two lives would have been saved (maybe three including Freund's).  I figured out how to post a screenshot and here it is below: 

Alex, if you happen to read this, I hope we can put our differences aside and you'll do the right thing and not only ban this person from commenting but report him to the appropriate authorities.  If you don't, I certainly will. 

Addendum:  As can be seen above, i've uploaded the screenshot in question in case wrong planet denies this post ever existed.  I've contacted the FBI and reported this.  I've been told they will send this to the appropriate field office and agent.  Finally, I've emailed Alex Plank at his wrong planet email address advising him of this and suggesting he take appropriate action against this individual, Cephalod and I've cc'd a copy of the email to John Robison just in case.

Friday, January 25, 2013

ASAN's strange take on the Fein study

I see that the autistic self advocacy Network is at it again, lambasting Deborah Fein and company's recent study documenting "optimal outcomes" for persons on the autism spectrum.

They use the word "recovery" in the title of their piece as well as emphasizing that word in regard to the recent study which has received a plethora of media attention in recent weeks.

This would seem akin to a "spin job" as the Fein study only mentions recovery once in the study.  Rather than emphasize recovery, they mention optimal outcomes, though claim the oo subjects no longer have symptoms on the autistic spectrum as determined by interviews as well as a variety of diagnostic tests.

ASAN's article purports that the oo subjects in Fein's study suffer from depression and other issues, using the research of others to base their argument. ASAN researcher Stephen Kapp cites research obtained by a K. Doheny retrieved from web M.D., but neglects to cite a journal article.  A search of Google scholar fails to find such research done by this individual.  If anyone can come up with a more specific reference, of course, Gadfly will stand corrected.   Fein et. al., in a typical scientific hedge, merely don't discount the possibility that there may be residual symptoms in the optimal outcome group, but stated that further study was necessary to elucidate on this. 

ASAN also implies that these optimal outcome subjects felt suicidal yet neglects to present any evidence.  They have also stated that these people are still autistic but just have the ability to pass for "normal" persons.  This effort to pass they claim, leads to stress, anxiety, depression and even the possibility of suicide, yet they only provide speculation and no concrete evidence to back up these assertions.

Most troubling of all (at least to yours truly) is their statement:

Autistic people do not “recover” and the idea of “recovery” has been profoundly damaging to the Autistic community, encouraging service providers to emphasize normalcy above other more meaningful goals. Furthermore, by teaching Autistic children and adults that “recovery” – pretending to be something we are not – is the “optimal outcome” they can achieve, we send a profoundly damaging message to Autistic people, our families, and the public at large. Autism is a natural part of the human condition and not something to recover from or eliminate. The goal of autism research and service provision should be to create happy Autistic people, not to encourage ‘passing for non-Autistic’ without regard to the impact on our quality of life.

I believe some people with ASD do recover, a lucky few 100%, others partially.  I myself belong in the latter category.  In the late 1950s I was a profoundly autistic toddler, unable to speak, tantruming, smearing feces, etc.  I did partially recover, including getting my speech back, graduating college and being able to work sporadically.  However, as regular readers of my blog know, my recovery, unfortunately, was only partial.  I have profound social problems, motor coordination problems, anxieties and after multiple firings from jobs had to retire in my early 50s.

No, I don't believe autism is a natural part of the human condition.  It is a disease that if at all possible should be completely recovered from and completely eliminated, so no other child has to suffer as I did and still continue to do so.  ASAN in their statements believes that persons such as myself should be crippled and sick, that we should not have a chance at a decent life and we should continue to be handicapped no matter how much spin they would promote to have us believe their position is otherwise.

Again, they show an astounding ignorance of the Americans with Disabilities Act, what the law states in terms of how ASD's should be accommodated in the workplace and elsewhere.

Their statements are quite unfortunate and I am deeply offended by their statements that I and others like me don't deserve a cure, don't deserve to be recovered and be able to live normal and happy lives without autism.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why does Shannon Des Roches Rosa stick up for the neurodiversity movement?

I've just read an interesting article in that ironically named blog, The thinking person's guide to autism,  that seems to stick up for the neurodiversity movement, which claims to be about human rights, but also states that autism is not a disordered way of being but a different way of being and whose numerous proponents have even stated on occasion that autism is not a disability.

Her article is in response to a piece written by Amy Lutz, questioning how well facilitated communication works as well as how much the neurodiversity movement truly represents autistic people.  Most of Lutz's article is nothing new for those denizens of autism blogs who know well the arguments against neurodiversity and the story of Amanda Bagg's questionable if not improbable status as a true member of the autism spectrum.  Ergo, the details of the article are not worth repeating here, though the interested reader can read the article I've linked to.

Ms. Rosa questions the reasons that Lutz would attack the ND movement.  Conversely, I'd like to ponder the question of why the author defends the neurodiversity movement.  Accordingly, I'd like to come up with what I think may be a plausible explanation for her behavior.

Des Roches Rosa claims that Lutz was attacking disabled people for appearing less disabled than her offspring.  This did not seem to be the case.  Though she did not dispute that Amanda Baggs may be disabled, she points out Baggs unusual clinical history for an autism diagnosis and the questionable claim she was diagnosed with autism at age 14.  This is certainly a legitimate talking point as Baggs, at least in the past, was a poster child for the ND movement.  Also, she gives Ari Ne'eman as an example of one of these disabled persons.  This is in spite of the fact that in the past i've documented that Ne'man has stated that he himself is not disabled.  So I'm not sure who the author is referring to as disabled.

Most interesting of all, she states that neurodiversity is not only the province of very high functioning (or not even disabled) autistics/Asperger's individuals, but for parents of relatively low functioning children as well.  She gives herself and Kristina Chew as examples.

Though I don't know a whole lot about Ms. Rosa, I am quite familiar with Ms. Chew, as I've read numerous blog entries of hers and have seen her on Good Morning America.  This is a woman who has stated she opposes curing her son's autism, yet has placed him in ABA programs with the apparent goal of "normalizing" him.  She has advocated for the IDEA law and has advocated for services on his behalf and seems to have a misunderstanding of the law's intent and the supreme court's decision in the Rowley case and insists her son receive the "best" services, though he is not legally entitled to these.  She has also made the strangely inconsistent statement to me that she is satisfied with her son's functioning level.  Not only does one wonder about an explanation for Rosa's defense of ND in general, but Ms. Chew's behavior in particular.

As a former consumer of psychoanalysis for more than ten years in my childhood, I believe I have the answer to these intriguing questions---Freudian defense mechanisms.  These include reaction formation, denial, projection, etc.  though I've written about this topic in the past, I believe a recap is in order.

The first of these defense mechanisms is denial.  Diane Sawyer in the Good Morning America show that Ms. Chew was on aptly described neurodiversity as a beautiful way of justifying heartbreak.  Chew and I suppose Des Roches Rosa are possibly in denial of having children who are impaired.  They can't cope with the hurt and the pain so they use this as a psychological defense mechanism.  This is to deny that there is anything wrong with their children.  This goes with saying that autism is not a defect that needs to be cured, but that progress can be made and the child with the correct accommodations can function as well as a normal kid.  This is a denial of reality but perhaps it makes these mothers feel better about their offspring.  Others are displacement and projection, thus getting angry at anyone who wishes a cure for their child or who has something like the ransom notes thing that clinic in New York had.  Most intriguing of all is reaction formation, taking something you hate and and claiming to love it.  Instead of hating autism, they use this defense mechanism to celebrate it, to claim that Gates and Einstein were autistic and that autism is a great thing and not a bad thing and it can be worked with.

Perhaps these defense mechanisms are why Chew makes the outlandish statements that she does and why Des Roches Rosa would stick up for a convoluted movement like neurodiversity. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

cool new blog by Dr. Manuel Casanova

I'm happy to report that the neuroscientist Dr. Manuel Casanova, who's done research involving minicolumns in the post mortem brains of autistic persons has has recently started a new blog called cortical chauvinism, which should be some interesting stuff about neuroscience, particularly the neuroscience of autism. The good doctor's first entry deals with the problems of extrapolating mice models of autism to humans, since the brains of the two species are so different. Dr. Casanova has found that a unit of the brain called minicolumns-a vertical structure that contains 80 to 100 neurons working together- are more numerous in the postmortem autistic brains that he studied and also have less neurons in them and are narrower than in typical control brains. He also found the insulation of the autistic minicolumns was not as well developed as in typical brains. He has used the analogy of a broken shower curtain which means that certain neurotransmitters such as GABA can get through, abnormally exciting the neurons. Interestingly, he found these in the prefrontal cortex, an area that Eric Courchesne found to be abnormally enlarged and have an abnormal number of neurons in some autistic brains. Also these are part of the mirror neuron system that Dr. Marco Iacoboni has described. He and other researchers have found abnormalities of these type of neurons in the autistic brains on functional MRIs. Courchesne seemed to think that one of the problems of Casanova's research was that all of the postmortem brains were those of adults rather than small children. Since the autistic brain undergoes developmental changes throughout the lifetime, this could limit the minicolumn findings. Of course, there are a dearth of toddlers brains available for postmortem autopsy. I asked Dr.Iacoboni if mirror neurons could exist on minicolumns, i.e. whether or not you could have a minicolumn with 60 to 80 mirror neurons on it. He replied that we didn't know but probably not. So apparently, there are a lot more questions than answers. Though some of the science on this new blog post and future posts that Dr. Casanova may write may be a bit out of my depth, I still find this a really intriguing new blog and I hope Dr. Casanova continues to write posts.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alexis Wineman: A bitter irony?

Though Alexis Wineman didn't reign victorious in last night's Miss America competition, the comely 18-year-old's story gained a lot of media traction in recent days.  This is because she has a form of autism diagnosed at age 11.  She overcame obstacles to become Miss  Montana and the youngest competitor for the 2013 Miss America crown.  

 A girl whose autism probably would not have fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis less than twenty or even ten years ago and may lose her diagnosis when the DSM-V shortly comes out is a beauty queen.  I wonder if anyone else besides me sees an irony in this story. 

As an almost always celibate male on the spectrum at the advanced age of 57, I took interest in Ms. Wineman's platform with the tired cliche about normal being a setter on a dryer.  Also, I was piqued by her statement that since autism is not a sickness so it can't be cured autistics can be helped to achieve their full potential.

I wonder if Alexis would like to help out some lonely celibate autistic male achieve his full potential by dating him.  I suspect the answer is no.

One of the tired and pat solutions I hear for our celibacy by those averse to "mixed marriages" is that we should find an autistic girlfriend.  This begs the question as I believe most studies that have explored the question have found an approximately 10:1 ratio of autistic males to females, at least at the higher functioning end.

Neurodiversity proponents have repeatedly dismissed the validity of these findings, claiming that the prevalence of female autism is underestimated.  In spite of the fact they never seem to present any actually published findings documenting this, they claim we have nothing to worry about.  The hidden horde of female autistics who will decelibitize us is out there if we look hard enough.

I do realize there are autistic females out there and most of them are neither national beauty pageant competitors nor exactly resemble matinee idols.  I still don't think this solution is feasible.

My friend, Jerry Newport, wrote a rather interesting essay  detailing the reasons why this is not workable.
The media does not seem to care about the celibacy of many of us.  Alexis' story is far sexier than ours.  Of course we get to hear about married males on the spectrum such as John Robison, Steve Shore and Tim Page, while those of us lower functioning then these august individuals languish in obscurity.

I wonder if anyone else sees the irony in this that I do.  I reckon not. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

four more years of Kathleen Sebelius?

According to this article in the Huff post Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is going to stay on in the Obama administration for another four years. Does this mean the Interagency Autism Coordinating Commission will still be stacked with more neurodiversity individuals. I've already written about her choice of Ari Ne'eman, Scott Robertson and John Robison and Matthew Carey to serve on this body.  Even worse was the appointment of hatemonger Noah Britton who has compared Autism Speaks to the Ku Klux Klan.  I've written about this sterling individual elsewhere.

I can only hope that in another four years when there is a new presidential administration whoever becomes president in the beginning of 2017 will appoint someone to HHS who is sane and rational and who, unlike Ms. Sebelius understands what a horrible disability autism is and how it needs to be cured and the above-mentioned people would only be laughed at if they dared to try to make autism policy suggestions to the federal government.  Hopefully whoever the secretary of HHS is would appoint people who will try their best to suggest policy that will lead to a cure of this horrible disability from which I suffer every day.

Why we need public members to make suggestions at taxpayer dollars and what these people have to offer to persons such as myself on the spectrum is beyond my comprehension.  Stephen Jobs did great things in his life, but he never served on a cancer advisory board.  We don't have people giving advice on how to create and administer antibiotics just because they or one of their loved ones has had an infection.  

Of course maybe even better than having an HHS secretary with a less cavalier attitude toward people such as myself that Ms. Sebelius has, we'll get a new congress and presidential administration who will do away with the IACC and it's public members.  Then hopefully maybe some real experts can come to the fore and find a way to mitigate or even cure this horrible disease.