Some persons on the autism spectrum have extraordinary talents and abilities. These are known as savant skills. Rainman's ability to count through an eight deck shoe in blackjack became well-known after the movie of the same name came out. One individual I went to special ed with could tell you what day of the week any date of the year was. More amazingly, he could tell you exactly what he'd done that day. Jerry Newport's ability to multiply four digit sums in his head were also well known and helped land a movie based on his life's story, Mozart and the Whale. Stephen Wiltshire's drawing ability is also well known. Others have extraordinary musical abilities.
Bernard Rimland conducted a survey and estimated that ten percent of spectrumites have savant skills. Researcher Patricia Howlin thought that his estimate was far too conservative and claimed that it was possible that as many as thirty percent of autistic people have some sort of savant skill. Darold Treffert, an expert on savantism, stated that her figure was probably based on a liberal definition of what defines a savant.
Until recently, I felt left out that I was in the ninety percent of autistic individuals (or seventy percent if you take stock in Howlin's more liberal estimate) who have no special talents or savant abilities. In one week from today I will be sixty-one years old and amazingly enough it took me that long to realize that I actually have a savant skill-the gift of prophecy.
Let me elaborate. The small number of you who have actually followed my blog know that autism has handicapped me in two ways. It has seriously compromised my ability to make a living. I'm likely in the Guiness Book of World Records for most jobs fired from. I have not worked in nearly ten years. I have also never had a girlfriend and my intensity and relentless negativity has been a turnoff to them. Some of you may also recall my quote of Freud's stating that to work and to love are cornerstones of our humanity. Ergo, I have felt autism stripped me of my humanity. I've discovered that when this issue comes up I can predict what people will advise me to do about these problems and their general comments on these issues. I can also predict what a neurodiversity proponent will say is the reason I hate my autism so much. This must mean I have the gift of prophecy.
Multiple people have advised me to disclose my disability to prospective employers. This will solve my problems of being fired. They will say to themselves "that explains it" if I make a funny movement with my hand instead of being prejudiced against me. If I make too many careless errors, they will say "that's all right his autism explains it" or they will make a better effort to work with me. Or that the Americans with Disabilities Act gives me the right to ask for accommodations and the employer will grant me these accommodations, they'll work and problem solved. Ari Ne'eman has even gone so far to state that all social unpleasentries that autistic people commit in the workplace should be completely overlooked. I get fed up with explaining to them that if there is something the employer does not like about me, they are going to fire me and they won't overlook errors and knowing I have an autism diagnosis won't matter. Also that the Americans with Disabilities Act only gives me the right to ask for reasonable accommodations and being able to go more slowly or asking to put up with loudness and behavior they don't like aren't reasonable accommodations under the law.
As far as not having a girlfriend is concerned I should find someone "like myself", a polite way of saying I'm not suited for a non-handicapped woman and "mixed marriages" are taboo. Or some unabashedly state "find an autistic girlfriend". It does not matter that the ratio of autistic men to autistic women on the milder spectrum is 10 to 1 and at least nine out of ten guys are going to be unlucky. Actually the number is probably greater than that since "mixed marriages" between a handicapped woman and non-handicapped man aren't as taboo. Not to mention the fact that the most desirable autistic women will have no trouble finding a non-autistic man and most of them will prefer them to the autistic man (barring extraordinary exceptions like Mike Carley and John Robison of course).
According to many neurodiversity proponents the reason I don't believe my autism is a beautiful thing and I'm not celebrating is that I had a horrible domineering mother who taught me to hate myself. Because she wanted a "normal" child, I somehow sensed this and when I could not make her happy I ended up hating my autism. She's been called overbearing, domineering, a witch and a shrew by at least some of these people. It has nothing to do with the fact that it prevents me from living a normal life, being able to make a living or having friends and girlfriends and I have the uncontrollable compulsion to twiddle during the day. Interestingly enough I actually lived through the Bettelheim era in the sixties where I and my parents had to hear this and castration anxiety was at least in part thought to be the etiology of my disability so it is nothing new for me.
I only wished that I'd known about this savant skill I have earlier. I would have been able to predict the weather and earthquakes and save lives. I would have been able to make a fortune playing the ponies. I would have been an expert poker player able to predict exactly what cards would fall and know what hands to play.
Perhaps it's not too late, even at my advanced age. I could work on it and practice and develop this skill or maybe I could get TMS like John Robison did and it would stimulate the right brain areas and then I could actually bring out this latent ability.
Well, in spite of all the hardships that autism has caused me I guess I can take solace in the fact that I have the gift of prophecy.
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One would think that such a gift for prophecy would have forewarned you that publicly recounting your lack of intimate friends on blogs and facebook is an ineffective solution for getting them. Maybe that's not your purpose.
Well, lenny we've met once in real life and I've never even met the majority of my blog and facebook acquaintences in real life so not the same as intimate friends. Most of my posts, particularly the satirical ones, have no real purpose, though occasionally I try to outwit Neurodiversity, but I haven't even been good at that.
Let us assume that all autistics were savants, okay, so from that we have a great number of people who could do amazing work. Okay. Due to the diminished intelligence (I am not referring to an IQ score but to things we lack like intuition, the ability to multi task, acting automatically, being able to have a clear enough head to think things through, facial recognition, etc.) and our poor executive function/motivation/memory, we won't be able to guide ourselves to our dream job, no no no, our parents and those around us must hold our hand until we find our special spot where we will work like crazy with our highly specified savant skills!
Has anyone thought autistic people may actually enjoy being able to do normal things? Not all of us are asexual and interested in trains, enjoying being coders cramming out code until we die. And I suspect the neurodiversity crowd is full of autistics who are ignorant of just how fun it is to do normal things, like a child thinking his toy car is better than owning a Ferrari, and addicted to their special interest. Special interests are not cute nice quirks, they are harmful, there was a study showing people who are addicted to gambling or surfing the net/video games have damage to their grey and white matter in their brain and show signs similar to cocaine addiction! Special interests are bad for a person's lifespan! Although maybe making us work to death in our savant field making neurodiversity bosses rich then letting us die early from brain damage is better than curing a potential slave-oops! I mean work-force.
The maddening thing is that gene therapy has been shown in rodents to reverse symptoms in adult mice! A human brain is plastic and marvelous, even changing some of the genes will cure numerous issues in adults, not that all their problems would disappear but they would no longer qualify as autistic! So where is the cash being raised to go to this kind of research? The ice bucket challenged raised 200 million USD and led to a key gene being identified! But how could we even do that with autism?
Neurodiversity is a thing in the west, in Asia people their want to be cured and their parents want them to be cured as well. They are doing research in China. Neurodiversity won't stop a cure from existing eventually I hope, but they will keep it from happening sooner. Neurodiversity and the other crowd (the one's who think all autistic people should be exterminated and hate them) are two sides of the same coin really, they see autism as an essential part of someone rather than a condition that needs to be cured. (Attribution fallacy I think) GAH!
If you have the stomach read neurodiversity cheerleader Jessica Wilson's, Diary Of A Mom, latest blog post entitled, "Why i'd follow neurodiversity on tour, if that were a thing." I have never read such a bunch of bullshit in my life. It's bloggers like that who do nothing but make unsuspecting people think autism is a wonderful way of being. The woman is sickening.
Look at Sue Rubin, non-verbal low functioning autistic who communicates with a keyboard. Guess what she thinks? She wants to be cured!
yes, I've met Sue and her parents on a few occasions.
Hey Jonathan, do you keep up with research? A common reply against a cure is "autism is a developmental difference where the brain develops entirely differently and is encoded in a persons genes!" well um....we may just get around that.
They have shown it is entirely possible to edits a genetic structure well into adulthood, on top of that they have discovered a potential method of reintroducing a critical period into an adult mice brain, plus they can regrow brain neurons by converting other matter, and creating new brain tissue is also becoming possible. It is only a matter of decades.
"There are a bajillion different autism genes!" They are highly interconnected and all affect similar areas, it also used to cost millions to sequence a genome but its now only a lot less and requires only a few weeks. We are getting there.
"Oh that must cost millions of dollars" well no, it may only cost thousands, and considering the USA has spent trillions on its military, we need to reprioritise.
If all that still doesn't work, there is research into neural implants as well. Worst case scenario we develop treatment drugs specifically for autism, like insulin is for diabetics that will allow a near normal life.
"Drugs are bad! The body is a temple!" No more aspirin for you! Also don't eat any food at all not grown in your backyard, they are full of substances.
"That all goes against God and is like killing a person since we are who we are from birth!" A human body replenishes itself every 7 years, I must be talking to a copy, good day!
"Im still not taking a cure and will give birth to more autistic children! I will marry other autistic people so you can't commit genocide!" I won't pay any taxes for your healthcare. Deal?
I am not as knowledgeable about research as I'd like to be, due in part to my disability. I know about Crispr genetic editing. It may be able to prevent syndromic forms of autism such as tuberous sclerosis and fragile X in the not too distant future. Other forms of autism are more complicated. I had not heard that it was possible to grow new neurons, that's interesting. There are many different genes interacting that contribute to autism, but it's unlikely to be completely genetic and there are enviromental factors at work as well and it will be a long time before they are completely untangled so I'm not sure how completely sequencing a genome will help. Neural implants to help autism will probably not be available in the forseeable future. A drug that can mitigate autism the way insulin treats diabetes is probably not on the horizon any time soon.
I agree we are getting there and the funding that comes from organizations like autism speaks, the simons foundation and the government may help produce some sort of treatment for autism or even a cure in some cases at some point, but i'm not holding my breath. I agree with your last statement regarding neurodiversity.
Check out futurology on reddit. One thing that is being shown is that a cure if it does come out won't be useless even on adults, there will be residual symptoms but it will not be useless to not have it done.
I am a young adult, if a cure came out in 30 years best case scenario I will be in my 50s, assuming another best case scenario and they develop anti aging drugs, that leaves me with 70 more years to live. Even if I never get cured, I feel fortunate enough to see the tides turning at the very least. But I am annoyed its not going as fast as it could.
There are over a hundred million people with autism but the amount of research is tiny compared to what it could be. Neurodiversity is complicit in stalling by adding decades.
I can imagine some anti-cure people are trying to make themselves feel better due to worrying there may never be a cure ever and saying "autism is a gift" but the fact is that if a cure comes out there will be some who protest. Why in God's name would they be doing that? What is going through their heads?!?!
On top of that I also want to add that the kinds of autism not caused by a single genetic mutation may require another kind of cure, direct intervenion in the brain via drugs and cell therapy, but gene therapy can help bolster deficiencies by strengthening other areas when it is perfected someday. This is both bad in that a single genetic fix won't solve it but good in that other interventions in the brain will have a lower chance of being regrowing back identically completely by said fault chromosome or a single fault gene dragging it back down. (Gene therapy is still useful even for neurotypicals and I won't rule out its benefits for our kind. Also the genetic differences may differ heavily from eacother but they still are not the same as neurotypicals, editing them will still help a ton) Also brain intervention via drugs, cell therapy, and induced neuron growth will be proved safe likely sooner than editing genes all over the place.
I found out about a boy for instance who was neurotypical but had brain inflammation at 8 which caused autistic behaviour. While even conditions like fragile x or rett may not be ours, they still are invaluable for research as they affect similar growth areas, cause similar development in certain areas in a child, and share symptoms which can likely be traced to certain parts of the self found also in other autistic people. They can observe these areas and see what changes happen. If we also discover the enviromental factors, they may not be a source of a cure but a source of finding out what the cure should eventually be.
I just hope I will live long enough to get the answer to satisfy my curiosity.
Regular autism without physical deformities causes is being shown to be mostly genetic. They used to think it was 50/50 genetics and enviroment by new research shows it is more like 75-95 percent genes actually. They are also now researching into how to use crispr to change not the gene but gene expression which will target normal autism too.
I don't think that's true of all autism's. There have been associations with thalidomide, misoprostol and cocaine ingestion. The fact that fraternal twins have a higher concordance than siblings is also suggestive of environmental factors. There was a california twin study that covered these issues, but i'm a little sketchy on the details as it's been a while since i read it.
This is not to downplay the role that genetics has, but it's very clear that it's not entirely genetic in spite of what the neurodiversity movement claims.
So it is possible autism rates have increased? Better diagnosis can't explain everything, enviromental factors have changed and continue to grow in potential number. It is a wonder someone can be lucky enough to be born neurotypical in this day and age.
Then this is an actual crisis that people need to pay attention then. Something neurodiversity stands in the way of! A cure needs to be found before its too late and entire swathes of the population have autism.
Wow! I pretty much stumbled into this after reading some basic symptoms defining Asperger's. I decided to go the route of reading up on you, Jonathan, and your writings because you actually have it and live it and I wanted the real thoughts and feelings of someone who is living it. My interest is person and intent: My adult son fits what you've written in many respects (though not all) plus the love of my life - a man I suspect is affected somewhat in among all the various definitions, explanations, theories, speculations, that I've read which are in addition to your own. I will resist the temptation of going into detail about symptoms of the two men except to say that my son has (since birth) a life-time of a variety of diagnoses - many of which have been wrong - which have pretty much (he is now 48) settled into OCD+ADD+Anxiety, Depression for which he takes numerous medications. I've never been convinced of a correct diagnosis or therapy. One huge exception: he has - since a toddler - been girl-crazy! He was spending piggy-bank change on flowers for crushes on girls by his 5th birthday and is currently on his 3rd marriage. As for the love of my life, I know almost nothing. We were introduced, mutually attracted immediately, started seeing each other. After approximately 2-3 months of dating, kissing, falling asleep (him) and almost no communication at all about anything, I walked out in total frustration. That was over 50 years ago. We have not seen each other or spoken in all that time. He never married or had any relationships (we have mutual friends). Whether or not that has anything to do with feelings for me, I don't know. I remember, when introduced by one of those friends, she stressed that he was shy; terribly, painfully shy. But ONLY with girls--not in any other way.
Just want to say I, too, hope there is a cure but am not optimistic. Not only is this "ailment" very, very complicated; hindered by an almost totally-opposing 'final destination' war of opinion, but - and probably the most devastating, the most powerful exponent is the awful truth that whatever the source that has the money and license to be able to find a cure will - for their own financial gain - withhold an actual 'cure,' opting to sell some drug(s) to 'control' rather than cure it as that would be far, far more lucrative. Such is (sadly) the world we live in!
Thank you, Jonathan, for sharing yourself with a needy bunch of people like us. I have learned much from you and - with over 50 years of relative living under my belt - still can only imagine your frustration, challenges, anger, and pain. You are NOT ALONE, my new friend. There is ME, there are others, we are thousands upon thousands. We are legend.--In Friendship & Truth, Marty
If you follow the research for any amount of time,you will learn that there are many different forms of autism,it isn't this big monolithic thing.The two big areas that really interest me are metabolic causes,that can be folate,redox,mitochondrial or tetrahydrobiopterin related.
These are forms of autism that are treated the way insulin treats diabetes.
And then there is autism caused by mutations of single genes,previously thought only to be cancer genes.
The most commonly found mutation is on a gene called PTEN.
But new single gene causes of autism,due to other genes previously to be cancer genes,are being discovered all the time.
We can thank whole genome and whole exome sequencing for this breakthrough,even though these cases of autism caused by cancer genes,make up a small per centage of those on the spectrum.It will soon be recognized as its own genetic subtype of autism.
I,of course,have cerebral folate deficiency,but I have also had a whole exome sequencing,and have been found to have very serious mutations on both copies of a single gene.This gene can either cause a very rare neurological disease,that I have hardly any features of,or it can cause rare forms of breast,uterine,and prostate cancer.I don't have cancer,but I do fit the picture of more severe or complex forms of autism caused by cancer genes.I will be having more tests soon,to find out which expression of the gene I have.
I believe every person with severe,or medically complex,autism needs to have a whole exome or whole genome sequencing.
Then there are those cases of autism,that seem to be caused by epigenetic changes.This means things the grandmother did while pregnant,smoking,taking certain drugs,etc can cause genetic changes,that can cause autism in the grandchildren.Jill Eischer has explained this very well,in her many articles and blog posts around the web.
So yeah,there is lots of exciting stuff going on about finding causes of the various types of autism.
Take a look at https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/09/01/the-decline-of-play-in-preschoolers-and-the-rise-in-sensory-issues/ for another possible reason autism gets diagnosed more.
Some adults are actively discouraging large groups of children from learning things that, if only they were allowed to have age-appropriate childhoods, are easier for NT children to learn than for ASD children to learn.
Some of these kids may end up diagnosed with autism later even though their lack of people skills and lack of motor control was taught instead of genetic. :(
Jonathan, autism cannot take away your humanity. Autism is a condition you have, it is not who you are. As you know my daughter suffers from very severe autism and profound intellectual disability., and is prone to violent tantrums. However her life is as precious as anyone else's bar none.
With so many voices promoting the splendors of autism, you are a refreshing voice saying hold on, it is not that way for me, nor for most. I think this is your calling..
Keep up the good fight.
I wonder if there is a conspiracy behind neurodiversity. What if they are run by some other group? Do they have an ulterior motive? Are they in cahoots with some bigger group we do not know about?!?!?!?! Like the schizophrenia deniers who secretly were with neo-nazis or scientologists. There is something fishy going on, why would neurodiversity exist but not some anti-schizophrenia interest group? Coincidence? I am not sure.
Anthony, there are equivalent movements in schizophrenia, the icarus project and the mad pride movement that are similar to neurodiversity in autism. Some people like John Best have suggested that neurodiversity is just a conspiracy among the big pharmaceutical industry to cover up that vaccines caused an autism epidemic. I doubt that is the case or that there is any conspiracy in the neurodiversity movement.
Jonathan, have you met Benjamin Alexander? Guy is a pro-cure severely autistic man.
I have not met him in person, but we've exchanged some email and know about each other, yes.
It's good to see that Asia is working on a gene therapy that would possibly cure autism or get rid of it. The feel good neurodivesity crowd need to include the negativity that comes along with autism. Neurodivesity claim that disability of autism is a social construct, it doesn't. Autism is a biological problem that reduce the individual quality of life and medical model would debunk all the lies from neurodivesity and social justice warriors.
I've seen plenty of pro-neurodiversity stuff used *against* people who care about social justice, like accusing anti-stalker people of being anti-aspie (http://autistscorner.blogspot.com/2009/10/but-what-about-aspie-men.html talks about this trend).
Chances are that some of these assholes don't even have ASDs, they self-diagnose themselves in order to have more excuses for their anti-social and unjust attitudes.
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