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Showing posts from May, 2009

The Statistic

There are times when nothing makes sense. The universe, despite its patterns, seems random, chaotic, and even cruel. Yet, reality simply is. We can study statistics, predict possible outcomes, develop complex models for nearly every contained system… yet on the personal level those models are useless. We can predict that one person of every thousand contracts a given disease, a numeric formula safely separating the person from the calculation. Risk management, economics, and various sciences step in for the analysis. Everyone involved digests the numbers and accepts them as theoretical models. Yet the model is meaningless to the statistic… that one person. Parents hear statistics and worry. Contexts are often missing, especially comparison to other statistics. How dangerous is something, really, when compared to other risks? We know travel by car is very dangerous, but it is familiar. We worry about the unusual, the strange. In 2004, 27 children died in cribs according to th

Sore, exhausted, trapped

I have been very sore and sensitive for the last few weeks. My back, legs, and hands ache. Unfortunately, this drains me of any ability to deal with things I dislike. Trying to start a cultivator, also known as a tiller, I yanked too hard just as the starting cable seized. This pulled my shoulder, ripped skin from my middle finger, and caused a shooting back spasm. I was already tense and unhappy with progress on the house, so this left me even more tense, more anxious, about the yard and house. I don't like where we live. I hate being semi-urban, living within Minneapolis. The disorder of urban life is hard on my senses, as it is. The fact our yard is yet one more thing that's disgustingly incomplete annoys me. We've already made plans to have the garage painted. The crew will prep it, let us repair some of the wood, and then it will be painted white. I am at least glad it is one less thing we will need to do. I hate seeing the peeling paint, rotted wood, split

Another Step

Tonight, slightly after midnight, I e-mailed a second draft of my dissertation prospectus to my academic adviser. It was shy of 20K words, about 40 single-spaced pages. It has been a long journey, certainly. The prelims, the oral exam, and now the dissertation. I won't make my goal of having the doctorate before 40 -- I'm already there -- but I will have it at 41. I guess that's not too bad, all things considered. There were several tangential journeys along the way. Maybe it is too early, but I am wondering what might be next. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. I like routines. School was a routine. Teaching was a routine. Now what? There's the job hunt. There's the prospect of moving. There's uncertainty. In academia, if that's where I remain, there's the stress of trying to earn tenure. Anxiety. But, at least I proved I can do it. I survived a graduate program. Now, to get the dissertation done, defended, and those letters Ph.D after my name. Th

College and Realistic Goals

I often speak on post-secondary education and students with special needs. Every student I have met has "special needs" and quirks. Every human has limitations. Therefore, I have been stunned lately to hear and read advocates suggesting students with autism disorders or similar limitations can "do anything they want." No one can do "anything" simply because he or she wants. Our personalities and physical traits do set some limits. So, while I believe that most students can master a great many things — the key being practice and dedication (genius is effort) — there are some obstacles we cannot remove. Reading some recent blogs and articles, I was troubled by how many think students should receive special accommodations, even waivers of some admissions requirements. One advocate even argued that a student with severe dyslexia and autistic traits should be able to become an air traffic controller. Wow. Hello? Reality? I admit it... no one would want me tryin

Increasing Rates in California

From the San Jose Mercury News: Autism in California increases twelvefold By Sandy Kleffman Updated: 05/06/2009 08:12:02 PM PDT California saw a twelvefold increase during the past two decades in the number of autistic people who are receiving services through regional centers, a new state study reveals. Notice this is the number of people receiving services. This may or may not reflect an increase in autism diagnoses, a decrease in social stigma, or other factors. Also, in a slower economy, more people seek public assistance. From 1987 to 2007, the number of children and adults with autism served by regional centers rose from 2,701 to 34,656, notes a study released this week by the state Department of Developmental Services. This is a huge increase, but I would like to know the percentage increase. I realize that California did not double in population, so no matter what this is an exponential increase in autism services. St

Genes and Autism

This is from an interview conducted May 1 with researcher Hakon Hakonarson, the lead researcher on an autism genetic database analysis conducted by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Question: Could any of these genetic differences be identified in utero? Response: Yes, all of them could be tested in utero; we have identified 10 new variations (9 rare and 1 common) and we have replicated (and confired) four other once that were previously published (neurexin 1, contactin 4, 15q11 and 22q11). However, we do not have a yes or no answer as to whether the fetus will be autistic -- but if we are testing a fetus in an autistic family the value of the test is much higher. I know something more should be said, but I'm not sure what. We know that autism is a set of symptoms, without a clear etiology. But, this genetic finding certainly brings us closer to understanding some of the symptoms consistent with the DSM-IV criteria for autism disorders. Experiments on mice reveal