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Showing posts from 2008

Hospitals Smell Funny...

According to Blue Cross, I've had 29 medical claims filed by doctors in the last 90 days. I will begin the New Year with at least three that I have already added to my calendar, one minor surgery, at least one out-patient test, and I am anticipating there will be more medical nonsense to follow.

I had to spend the night of December 23-24 in the hospital, my body being decidedly low on certain fluids and nutrients.

So, we've gone from trying to fix my vision to a neurological assessment to a neuro-psych wasting my time... to finding a serious, potentially very serious, internal physical problem. At least we know my exhaustion was definitely not psychological. I really was "drained" when I said I felt like I was running out of fuel.

The comments I would make about neuro-psychology aside (for now), someone should have caught my medical condition in early October when I first had basic blood tests. Apparently, reading the results wasn't part of the service charge?

Yet Another Exam

Today, December 15, 2008, I went to yet another neurological exam. Actually, it was a psychological exam, supposedly screening for seizure disorders (complex partial seizures). However, it was simply another bad experience with that vague semi-science we call psychology.I think about 20 to 30 percent of psychology / psychiatry is valid and useful. Certainly I don't doubt the existence of clinical depression, mental retardation, or even sociopathy. The brain is incredibly complex, though, and I think a dozen psychologists would offer a dozen "evaluations" of a given individual. (Honestly, I would prune the DSM -- not expand it. Too may things are now considered medical or mental health "conditions" needing treatment.)Today's exam relied heavily on the speed and accuracy with which I could use my right hand. The pain was excruciating during the exam, eventually becoming too unbearable to continue testing. As I mentioned before the testing, my righ…

Medical Meander

For the last two weeks, plus or minus a few days, I have been coughing. This followed a horrible cold -- the second rough cold of this season.In winter, more of us are in close proximity, leading to more infections. Unfortunately, I teach and that means I am in a small, cramped classroom with nearly two dozen young adults. Most of my students live with lots of other young people. At least I don't work with elementary school students with my tendency to catch everything. My wife convinced me to stop by the campus health clinic yesterday. I arrived within 15 minutes of the clinic opening. Unfortunately, the clinic is only open from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. As a result, the clinic doctors and nurses can only see a few dozen first-come, first-serve patients. I simply wasn't early enough. Coughing and apparently wheezing, the admitting nurse took pity on me and checked to see if there were opening on the main campus. I would have to try to arrive early the next morning. The nur…

Microexpressions and Memorization

I recently spent some time studying microexpressions. The theory is that most humans, including some of the best liars and manipulators, briefly signal their true emotions via expressions that last only fractions of second. These microexpressions are involuntary.My interest in this was triggered by a special on the human brain I saw on a cable channel. Supposedly, and I wonder about this, Secret Service agents scored the best as human lie detectors, while psychiatrists and other mental health professionals did no better than random college freshmen. (http://www.mettonline.com/) Paul Ekman has written several texts on this, as well has hosting a BBC special on the human face.Here is the "autism" connection:If I can study and memorize body language, with at least some success, why not teach microexpressions to individuals with high-functioning autism?After a few days, I was scoring over 50% on simple microexpression tests. These are simple tests, of course, using v…

Everyone Needs a Best Friend

My wife is probably the nicest person I know. Though she isn't outwardly emotional, she is kind, caring, and definitely patient with the world. It takes a lot of energy to put up with what is becoming a tiring few months. I wish I could give her a nice, long, vacation to relax -- but any vacation would be spent working on projects around the house.She's tolerated my complaints about eye surgery, my trip to the ER, my MRI and upcoming EEG exams, and all the testing yet to come in the next two months. While dealing with my medical (mis-)adventures, she's working full-time and taking three graduate courses. Personally, I'd be a walking zombie from exhaustion with her schedule.I'm tired of the medical exams -- no question about it. I'm tired of my eyes hurting, that's for certain. I've whined a lot about the pain, though I guess I've done okay considering the doctor literally scraped a layer (or layers) of skin from my eye.Honestly, it does …

Vision and Pain

I had eye surgery October 1 and am still recovering. It is also likely that I will have another surgery, but hopefully that will wait until after I take my Ph.D exams.When the surgeon said the surgery and recovery would be "extremely painful" at least he told the truth. The eye hurts more than anything I can recall. How bad is it? I passed out from the pain during my first follow-up exam. I mean gone, as in no clear memory of the moments before I slid to the floor.I'll write a lot more about this, probably in my personal notes. A simple exam turned into an all-day medical misadventure. Plus, they cut one of my favorite polo shirts on the way to the emergency room. I liked it because it was a cream-beige shirt that worked well with black and blue jeans.My vision has been giving me headaches for a year, now. The surgery was to repair something called a "dot dystrophy" possibly caused by arthritis or a similar condition. So, now I need to plan visits t…

Shame on Me?

I was informed recently, "People like you should be progressive Democrats because Republicans don't care about people." Activists are always blinded by prejudices... and if you decline to state an affiliation, they assume the "worst" and try to save your political soul.
And people wonder why there is so much venom and vitriol in politics?I know a lot of caring, supportive, and generous people. They come from all walks of life, all geographies, all religious, and all political backgrounds. One slice of America does not have a monopoly on "caring" about people like me.Autism, palsies, seizures, scoliosis, and whatever else might constitute the characteristics of "me" are not restricted to a specific population. "We" are not a uniform group, whoever we are. If anything, members of the Dramatists Guild or university humanities departments are more uniform in beliefs and biases.I don't want to be told what I should believe. I …

Why I Hate Politics

I don't like lies, factual omissions, data manipulation, et cetera. I like honesty. Tell me the truth, and even if I disagree with your conclusions I will respect you.I have been told I am "black and white" when it comes to data. I certainly hope so. Shades of grey don't make sense when presenting factual information.So, I dislike most political years. The candidates and their supporters, especially their surrogates, prove to me every two years that honesty and politics don't intersect often enough.Differences of opinion, I could tolerate. Differences in facts? Sorry, but that just doesn't compute. I don't believe in "social construction" of facts, and the truth is a real thing to me, which is why many of my courses have been problematic. Identity and opinions are social constructions. Opinions exist on which economic policies are best. But the earth goes around the sun, the mood goes around the earth, and the tides can be computed.T…

Bowling Alone

I have discovered that I like bowling. I bowl alone on Tuesdays, after teaching. It isn't that someone else can't join me, but I go bowling in the student center with or without anyone else.Bowling allows me to concentrate on something "meaningless." It's like meditating. I think I like darts for the same reason. (I cannot shoot pool, due to a bad arm, but I do try.) I like escaping... focusing on something that isn't career based. There's no horrible result if I miss a pin.What about the noise? I know I hate bowling alleys when they are crowded and noisy. But the student center is quiet. It's me, a TV with CNN or ESPN, and the alley. In fact, not one of the other seven alleys was being used. It's great.I'd like my own shoes and bowling ball. It's amazing that I can use something so public. I admit to scrubbing my hands after bowling. I convince myself to worry only about the actual bowling and nothing else.Curiously, it reminds…

AutismWiki, Presentations, Manuscript...

As the school year begins, I am preparing for a series of presentations and updating more of the AutismWiki in parallel. I believe these resources will be helpful to students, over time.I started rewriting my manuscript, as well. It won't take a lot of effort to adjust some things that will result in a much better text. As more students classified as "on the spectrum" prepare to enter college, the information and experiences I can contribute should be of interest to a publisher, as well.

Cafe Elitistim

This weekend hasn't gone well, from mid-Friday or so onward. Maybe earlier.

My left eye is definitely out of focus, possibly causing my headaches and worse. I have made an emergency appointment to see the optometrist or whatever the "O.D." is at the university health clinic on Monday afternoon. I cannot keep fighting my eyesight, especially if that is the cause of my migraines.
I was invited to interview for an after school science program in St. Paul. I was excited, but the weekend stresses and the general hassles of my upcoming schedule may require that I decline the interview. The university is unsure where my office will even be this year. Annoying.

I thought part of my problem was a lack of social contact and mental stimulation. Being home alone day after day is taking a toll on me, but I also don't do well outside of the house in this relatively urban setting. I admit it — I want to be near malls and strip centers. I miss huge bookstores with cafes.

A Bad Day

Saturday was a bad day. That should be read in a deep voice by James Earl Jones for effect. It was that kind of bad day.For much of the summer I have had horrible headaches. These are definitely migraines, as my vision is as if the brightness were set to maximum, with no contrast. They have increased in severity over time, seeming to correlate to any physical pain. The more I hurt, the more likely to have one of these strange headaches.Being at home, when the headaches reach the peak of my tolerance I have the option of resting. If I fall asleep for a few minutes on the couch or sitting on my bed, no one is going to complain.As a news junkie, I'll be the first to admit that the cable news is repetitive and probably does put people to sleep.At least that was my logic until today. Now, I'm not sure sure I'm simply "falling asleep" when I have the headaches. Maybe I was just tired. In the afternoons, "Closing Bell" started seem strange. The fina…

Am I Broken? Should I Care?

Whether I consider my oddities "autistic" or "birth trauma" (I vote for "complex entry into life"), I am certainly not normal. My wife will attest to this.Parents of special education students ask if I would want to be "cured" of my oddities. This question is one with which I struggle, since I both value my abilities and curse my lack of social skills.If being "normal" would mean that I must surrender some of my skills, then I would not be me. To not be gifted, a loaded word I admit, means to surrender analytical skills I value and admire in others. I admire scientists. I admire men and women solving problems with thought and through experimentation.I don't like the idea of being as ignorant and sloppy as the people I encounter. I also have no desire to be as slick and manipulative as the most successful people I have met. I'd rather be honest and know myself. I believe there is a point at which great salesman loses …

Long Summer Months

I have hated this summer.I resent the house because working on it causes way too much physical pain for too little progress. I hate using the sink in the bathroom, as it reminds me of the time and pain wasted on a sink that still isn't to code. I hate the kitchen, with various things incomplete or missing. I really despise the hallway, where there's no flooring and the open closet is a mess from water damage.The house is much too small "per floor" since I can no longer use the stairs without wanting to scream in pain. This means my exercise bike, many books, my desk, and much of my writings are out of reach for me. I'm not about to use the stairs if I can avoid them. It was bad enough on my back for the three weeks essential items were downstairs.I want a house that is "normal" to my experiences: a nice, Southwest-style home with a single large floor. No stairs. An attached garage, too.The location bothers me. A lot. I hate driving any more th…

Sleep Is What I Want

The thing I want most... sleep. I want at least a routine cycle of sleep, regardless of the hours. Instead, I sleep randomly and it annoys me. I'm exhausted much of the time when I am awake.To sleep... perchance to dream!I spent the last few hours learning about a database tool. I experiment with technology when I cannot sleep. Really, I should be writing or focusing a lot more on other projects. I have a long enough list of projects that nothing new should be allowed. I need a lot more focus when I am awake.The "ADD/ADHD" label enters my mind at these hours. What if the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD was correct years ago? Was I any more or less productive with that label? With the medications? I don't remember.Too many things I do not remember. I want focus. I want to finish projects.

Autism Exclusions... or Not?

The following is the latest in a sudden "bubble" of stories about autism and access to spaces: churches, schools, and now airplanes. I have kept only the major sections of the story and suggest reading the ABC report.
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=5238571&page=1
Autistic Boy and Mom Kicked Off Plane
Mother Says Flight Crew Should Have Been More Understanding
By STEPHANIE DAHLE and JONANN BRADY
June 25, 2008 — There were no weapons on board or concerns about terrorism, but an American Eagle flight about to take off from the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., airport was turned back to its gate on Monday to remove two passengers. The culprits? An upset, autistic toddler and his mother. By all accounts, two-year-old Jarret Farrell wasn't a happy traveler. But his mother, Janice Farrell, who said she tried everything to calm her son, believes there was no reason for the airline to kick them off the plane.
Okay, so far the headline and the story make a clear case for not removin…

Scars in My Mind

The first weekend of June we headed for the Como Zoo and Conservatory, in St. Paul. We went to see butterflies and flowers, which we did. But it isn't images of butterflies I keep seeing at night. Instead, it is a person I keep seeing.She was thin,
much too thin...
Her face was older than her age,
Thin blond hair,
straight and shoulder length
Shorts and tank-top,
basic denim and pastels
Painted nails,
feet and hands a midnight blue
And scars.
On her right arm,
patterns and shapes,
On her left arm,
lines of various widths
Scars.
They burned into my eyes,
Like looking into bright lights
everywhere I looked
I saw her scars
I wanted to talk to her,
to ask her questions
Is it feeling too much
or feeling too little
That makes us want pain?
She was familiar,
this random stranger
With her scars
And I keep seeing her,
wondering about her
She will be alright,
I tell myself
Perfectionism gone awry?
Anger kept silent?
Pain beyond words?
Or simply scars...

University "Giving Up" Autism Support Program

I wish I could say I am shocked... but I'm not. The announcement below is probably going to become the norm. Minnesota: leading the way in autism acceptance, I suppose.Special Supports to be DiscontinuedThe University of Minnesota is terminating the Strategic Education for Asperger Students pilot program.The University of Minnesota is announcing this change in disability services effective June, 2008. This change will affect all students registered for services related to ADD/ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, High-Functioning Autism, and PDD-NOS.With the SEAS pilot program ended, the University has decided that DS specialists should work with students only on academic accommodations (extended test time, notetaker, etc). Specialists can no longer work with students as they have with SEAS.I have been told the basic implications could include:The end of scheduled appointments (no longer meeting weekly or monthly)No special support for other issues like time management, social …

AuSM Presentation

The raw text of my presentation for the Autism Society of Minnesota state convention, Surviving the College Years, is now online at:http://www.autisticplace.com/wikiI am speaking tomorrow afternoon, but attending the conference for most of the day. My hope is to promote both The Autistic Place and my individual Web pages, within reason. I am hopeful that I can reach out to more students online than I ever could via public speaking — which is something I find stressful.My airline reservations are also set for the ASA convention, where I will be speaking July 11, I believe.

Logos, Symbols, Ribbons...

Update 20 Jan 2011: I have written on the origins and evolution of the puzzle piece logo.  Ribbons and wristbands are a fairly poor way to indicate interest in a cause. When there is a dedicated color of ribbon or wristband for every issue or cause, none of the rainbow matters. A chest full of ribbons, aligned in some proto-military fashion, seems ludicrous.

So, one more ribbon should matter. But it does.

The Autism Awareness campaign uses either a puzzle-piece pattern or a tie-dye pattern with purple dominant. For some reason, these do bother me more than the dozens (hundreds?) of ribbons we are supposed to associate with causes.

Autistic individuals are puzzles? They are distorted, psychedelic minds? Exactly what is the message? Not that all people aren't puzzles, but to think one group is any more puzzling is a curious claim. How does this promote understanding? The claim that we are all part of the greater puzzle... no, a puzzle is a mystery. The message to me that …

I Know I'm Lucky

I probably don't express it often enough, and certainly not well enough, but I am lucky to have a wife who is also my best friend and the reason I haven't given up while in Minnesota. Somedays are really tough on me, which means they are even tougher on her.I have wanted to quit and return home to California throughout most of this semester. But I'm here to eventually give her the life she deserves. She certainly deserves a break after helping me through two graduate programs.

Moving Ahead

Matters within the university seem somewhat settled, thanks to the support of some good people.I've decided not to pursue anything this summer related to school. I know most everything I do relates, in some way, but I need to decompress and focus on my writing and maybe even some painting. Ideally, a bit of software work for myself will be finished, too.This semester has left me needing some time away from all things "university" — time to recover my energy.I might not be the best creative writer, but I'm pretty good. It helps to step back and not always be focused on education, social causes, and serious matters. A bit of laughter would be good.

New Project... Why?

It's currently 1:30 a.m. and I'm typing this without the ability to view it well. For some reason, my vision — literally overnight — went blurry. I can see the shapes of things, but not definite lines. I have to close my left eye to see anything well, but then my right eye tires and things get slightly fuzzy. Slightly fuzzy is better than nothing.And yet, as I struggle to see, I have launched a new, potentially massive, project:
http://www.autisticplace.comWhat is The Autistic Place? And why am I creating yet another Web site? Don't I have a life? (Not to mention school work, teaching, a home to remodel....)The Autistic Place is a Web portal. Think of a "Yahoo" or "MSN" dedicated to autism. It has discussion areas (forums), full blog capabilities (including Blogger API support), collaborative "book" editing (think Wikipedia with editors), and much more. The system is based on Drupal (http://www.drupal.org/) with various modules added…

Autism Awareness... and Misinformation

Why in the world CNN and many other media outlets decided to give "equal time" to various autism experts like Jenny McCarthy is beyond me. This is like giving equal time to the Flat Earth Society when discussing El NiƱo and ocean currents. McCarthy, Kirby, and others are
using Autism Awareness Day to promote misinformation, speculation, and conspiracy theories.I was going to rant and rave, but I know the anti-vaccine mob will never be convinced of anything. We could present a thousand reports on genetic predisposition, genetic triggers, and alternative environmental factors... it would not matter. Some, like myself, believe there are environmental triggers, but the popular media can't write a story without mentioning MMR vaccines.Autism clusters in California overlap specific agricultural crops. This points to anything from soil contamination to the residual pesticides wafting in the local air. Who knows? I certainly would be curious to map asthma and autism, …

Autism, Amish, and Outbreaks

Apparently, contrary to urban legends, the unvaccinated Amish do get seizure disorders and autism:http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/Autism/tb/2954Of course, why trust the New England Journal of Medicine when there are so many "experts" pushing their theories on the Web? I am now accustomed to the anti-vaccination crowd claiming that any research that points to a genetic cause, with minimal environmental triggers, is research bought and paid for by "Big Pharma" or some other conspiracy is at work. It is ironic that the stories of autism-free Amish appear on thousands of Web sites, while serious research is largely ignored. People want easy answers.Triggers are not causes. Are there triggers for underlying conditions? Probably. But I wonder if we are asking for trouble as more and more parents avoid vaccines? Hence, recent stories in the New York Times about measles outbreaks. According to the Times, several outbreaks of nearly-eradicated diseases have recently o…

Speaking and Walking

It has been a tough couple of weeks. I skipped a class last week because I could not speak well and was having a great deal of difficulty walking. My mind and body are not in agreement lately. With all that has been happening at the university, it was reasonable not to attend class with flapping arms and strange verbal outbursts.

I wish I understood myself and could control my arms, my legs, and my mouth!

This weekend I slipped down our basement stairs, fell into the walls more than once, and whacked my face against a bookcase in our bedroom. My internal sense of balance is definitely offline; whatever internal gyroscope most humans have is malfunctioning.

The verbalizations, usually grunts and shrieks from pain, are annoying. It is worse than an elderly man trying to stand up from a beanbag. I yelp in agony, randomly, without realizing it. Quite annoying. You would think I could bite my lip or something. It scares the cats.

The pain seems to result in something like the chills. I have…

Low Incidence

I have been informed that the university considers autism spectrum disorders a “low incidence” concern. Therefore, the university sees no reason to increase support resources for these students or to expand faculty and staff training. In other words, after a cost-benefit analysis it has been decided that there’s not enough benefit to be gained.

I suppose until someone pushes a demonstrable ADA claim or a bias case, the university can continue to ignore ASD’s unique complexities. Why bother investing in students who might have special skills?

Why would we want students with unusual abilities if they include complex needs? Much easier to ignore the unusual….

This month’s Wired magazine (March, 2008) includes mention of the special skills possessed by some autistics. Not merely the savants, but “regular” autistic individuals posses unique spatial and mathematical skills. The methods ASD students use to analyze problems sometimes provide new insights. Different brains produce different so…

Big Univ., Little Support

In several earlier posts I have noted systemic failures at the University of Minnesota. In August, 2006, my misadventures began. By the end of September, my position in the Writing Center ended in disaster and a complaint to the university relating to the experience. The university has been less and less welcoming with each new semester.

The university is nothing like my experiences at Fresno State or my initial studies at USC. My classroom studies in English and journalism at USC were relatively uneventful. (Problems at USC were limited to one person in the School of Education, after I completed my undergraduate studies.) Fresno State went relatively well, too, with a 4.0 GPA and my only issues involving paperwork nonsense that occurs everywhere.

I was never “disabled” at USC. I was only listed as disabled at Fresno State after having issues walking across the campus in a timely fashion. I am slow, especially when my back and legs hurt. Still, this was a minor issue and the universit…

Sick of this Hell

As anyone reading this blog knows, I hate — despise completely — Minneapolis.I am in constant pain this winter. My left shoulder feels like it is being ripped from its socket. My entire back hurts, especially my lower back. My hips, knees, and ankles constantly pop. My hands tingle, like ants are crawling over them… plus they sting constantly.Then there are the two, three or four times a day that my nose bleeds. I use Vaseline, ointments, and we boil water on the stove. Still, my nose bleeds, usually followed by a severe headache.I am taking Ultram twice a day once again. I take painkillers at night, whatever we have in the drawer. I think it is a Tylenol PM of some sort. I have no idea how well these things mix. I should probably research what is and is not safe with Ultram and Neurontin.Then, you have the dirt and grime of snow turning to slush. It is disgustingly dirty here. I get dirt on my clothes constantly. My shoes get wet and they get stained from the salt / chemic…

Injuries, Real and Unimagined

Thanks to a complete breakdown in the University's system and a professor I will never forgive, I endured a trip to the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. It was a stupid situation and far too much for my system.Before the meeting I was already in sorry shape. This is a meeting that should never have been held if anyone at the university cared about my health. I knew it would be damaging.Susan ended up meeting with the office representative, leaving me alone in a room. Alone, while other people talked about me. Alone, with too much on my mind. Alone… desperately wanting to go home.By the time Susan returned to the room, my knuckles on both hands were bleeding. I had scraped the skin by pounding rhythmically on the floor. I'm not exactly sure how I ended up sitting on the floor, under a table, exhausted. My back was bruised, badly, from rocking against a brick wall with external power conduits.This absolutely stupid meeting left me bloody, bruised, and sore. All…

University Failures

I was told to edit this for “tone” but it says what I want it to say. I am tired of being told to be patient, that “now” isn’t the time to be angry. Now is definitely the time to be demanding action. I should have been a lot more proactive a lot earlier. Waiting was pointless.I came to the University of Minnesota’s Dept. of Rhetoric thanks to a DOVE (Diversity of Views and Experiences) Fellowship. My wife and I relocated from California because we had the impression the department and university would be inviting, supportive, and, most of all, a place where I would not be excluded due to differences. It should be no secret to anyone that my fellowship and my studies are the result of a severe brain trauma. I have talked to many of my peers and some faculty about the injuries and their consequences. I never hide the following conditions:
Palsy and partial paralysis from neurological damage;Six years in a body brace for spinal damage;Chronic pain, migraines, and hypersensitivity to input…

Struggling Along

Not even two months into the year and I am exhausted. I'm possibly the most exhausted I have been since moving to Minnesota. It is the mix of university nonsense, cold weather, aching body, renovation disorder, and so forth. When one of our "kids" became ill Monday night, it was one more thing on my mind. My kids are the closest friends I have, and I need friends right now.The university nightmare continues. I never felt like I belonged here, so having issues with any faculty member only intensifies the alienation. It isn't that I want to be liked or want to be friends with anyone here — but I definitely do not want to be disliked. I have a lot of anger and disappointment as I feel the university hasn't been very accepting of me. I mainly want to be left alone, allowed to work.Physically, I am shaking more often than I have in the past year. I shake violently at night, when I should be sleeping. I tremor and cramp, especially my right arm. The pain is…

Difficulties and Will Power

It would be an understatement to write that my time in Minnesota has been a challenge. After this most miserable, humiliating week, I spent today wondering if I am capable of finishing my university program. My self-doubt and self-criticism were familiar to me, and to my wife. It is depressing, for lack of a better word, to feel isolated from the university, my peers, and even my instructors.When a professor or a peer seems to dismiss me, I need to rebuild myself. I need to prove to myself that I am not worthless simply because I lack social skills. I should not be ignored simply because my mind is so atypical.My wife, loving and caring person that she is, reminds me that others do benefit from my existence. My words do help other people. My impulse to say what I think might shock and even offend, but maybe what I am driven to express needs to be said by someone like me.I do become defensive, in order to salvage my own sense of worth. I need to remind myself that I am not onl…

Classes and Anger

I walked out of a class tonight, angry and frustrated. There is a great deal I could write about how I feel and what annoyed me, but the essential information is that there is a limit to the stresses I can tolerate. Even though I speak on surviving college, the reality is that I still am not equipped to handle some events — or some personalities.The classroom is of a miserable, hyperactive, media-saturated design with six flat-panel video screens, two LCD projection units, and an unrelenting buzzing from strangely flickering fluorescent lights. (The buzzing is amplified via metal reflectors of some manner.) The entire room buzzed, vibrates, and leaves me shaking in agony. Even after leaving the room, a persistent, high-pitched tone did not leave me until well after midnight. I was physically shaking, near tears, and wanted nothing more than to have silence. Real silence. But just try explaining such an overload to anyone who does not experience literal pain in some settings.So,…

Speaking Engagements

I recently spoke at the Autism Society of Minnesota. It was a good experience, overall, and I think the audience enjoyed the presentation. When I speak, I never know how well things went, but my wife noticed the comments people made because she was sitting in the audience.AuSM has graciously asked me to repeat the presentation at their annual convention. The AuSM 2008 Annual Convention will be in Minneapolis, April 30 through May 3. I look forward to having a larger audience before I travel to Orlando for the national ASA conference.When I speak to a audience of parents and teachers, I feel like I'm making a genuine difference. When I sit and write, I'm never sure that others are affected. Despite being nervous when speaking, there's a real sense of connection during a presentation.

School and Stress

At the start of every semester, I suffer from extreme anxiety. I dislike learning how new classes will function. I also have a general distaste for classes that seem to repeat the same basic themes and topics. As a graduate student in any given field, the primary figures in the field and the major works are mention again and again and again. I'm tired of hearing the same basic notions.It is hard for me to remain on task when I am so bored. The problem with being bored is that I end up either working on other projects during class or I end up speaking up and giving my opinions too often.Like so many ASD individuals, I feel like I want to rush the courses along. Tell me something exciting to me. Interest me. Instead, I had a professor talking about writing paragraphs tonight. I'm nearly 40 years old. I know the "composition" paragraph style calls for a topic, some supporting data, and a conclusion. Yes, I get it. And I still think it is stupid. That's w…

Freezing Weather

This coming weekend is supposed to remain below 0F, with some areas of Minnesota experiencing a windchill of -50F or worse. Sponsors have cancelled a major skiing competition due to safety concerns. It was deemed too cold for ice sculptors to work on the famous Winter Carnival attractions in St. Paul. It's cold... even for Minnesota.Cold is painful. Very painful. Even indoors, my joints ache. My skin itches and burns from the low humidity. Outside, I have to wear gloves and hats, which I hate — as readers already know.I've tried lotions, but they bother me. It's a sensation I dislike intensely, the slick oily nature of lotions. When I don't use the lotions, I end up with bleeding around my fingertips, the skin splitting along the ridges of my fingerprints. I can't explain why, but I hate lotion so much that bleeding is almost better.Spring cannot come soon enough.When I read about SAD, I don't quite get the "sunlight" issue. I don't car…

Debates and Autism

This is a rant, based on exchanges elsewhere…

One of the unavoidable aspects of writing and speaking publicly about autism is that I am certain to offend someone with nearly every sentence I type or speak.

I have been told I don't know "anything at all" about autism or its affects on a family.

Let's be very clear: I am officially diagnosed as "high-functioning autistic" and have been "evaluated" (studied? examined?) by neurologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Even though I don't like labels, in this case it is not merely a label but a qualification that I believe gives me some authority to say, "Here is what I experienced."

I do not pretend to know any universal truths about how autism is experienced by individuals, nor do any of the experts I know. I can only write and speak to my own experiences.

Obviously, being able to write and speak publicly is a gift not shared by every individual with a developmental disorde…

Speaking Engagements

I am scheduled to speak at a workshop sponsored by the Autism Society of Minnesota on January 23, in St. Paul. If anyone cares to meet me and hear me ramble about university students with autism spectrum disorders, this is a good opportunity. (Visit http://www.ausm.org for more information.)The Autism Society of America has also invited me to conduct one of their 75-minute conference sessions at the 39th Annual ASA National Convention. This event will be in Orlando July 9-12. I'll post more details once I know the date and time of my conference session. (Visit http://www.autism-society.org for more information on ASA.)As always, I do my best to meet individually with parents, teachers, and students to offer whatever advice / insights I can.

Blaming Mercury / Thimerosal

Today the media are reporting an analysis of autism rates in California since the removal of thimerosal from most vaccines. The autism rate, or more accurately the rate of diagnoses, is still climbing in the state.Study challenges drug's role in autism
By Jia-Rui Chong, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
5:15 PM PST, January 7, 2008The prevalence of autism in California children continued to rise after many vaccine manufacturers started to remove the mercury-based preservative thimerosal in 1999, suggesting that the chemical was not a primary cause of the disorder, according to a study released Monday.The analysis found that from 2004 to 2007, when exposure to thimerosal dropped significantly for 3- to 5-year-olds, the rate continued to increase in that group from 3.0 to 4.1 per 1,000 children."If mercury exposure in vaccines was a major cause of autism, then the number of ... affected kids should have diminished once they were no longer exposed to thimerosal," said Dr. Rob…