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Showing posts from September, 2010

Places Causing Stress

There are places that leave me anxious and stressed for days or even weeks. I can't explain it, but some settings leave me unable to gather my thoughts, senses, or emotions. I remain on "overload" and miserable until something several times more comforting can offset the anxiety. The main university campus makes me sick. Literally. I hate the campus and everything it represents to me. One visit of a few hours leaves me unable to focus and function properly for at least three days, and usually more. While the university is the most extreme example of a place making me sick, there are also businesses I can't enter or support. The nearby Target store is one I will not visit. It's a disgusting place with horrible employees. Maybe that will change, but I'm not going to go back to a store just to find out if they've mopped the floors. (I've noticed two stores in the same chain can be opposites. I love the Walmart in a nearby suburb, while the urban Walmart i

Am I Autistic

My doctoral dissertation included a chapter on the definitions of "autism." I located regional differences in criteria and these differences correlate to diagnostic "clusters" where the more liberal diagnostic traditions are emerging. Some clinicians call for a broad application of "autismness" that scales from "zero autismness" to "classic autism." This would result in a lot of autism diagnoses. Others, especially researchers, cling to the DSM-III tradition that autism cannot be comorbid with a known physical diagnosis. This was explained to me in this way: if you know the cause, you can research and treat accordingly. Things we do know to be "medical" are moved out of the DSM on a regular basis. This is a logical strategy for categorizing and treating conditions. You wouldn't study Fragile X the same way you might neurotoxin exposure. I fall into the "if you know it, classify it" camp. If I know the cause of my

Vaccine Studies

On the tail of revelations regarding the settlement agreed to by the Vaccine Court in the case of Hannah Poling, now there are more studies showing there appears to be no statistical correlation between certain vaccines and autism. The public is certain to view these as contradictory reports because the Poling case has been reported so badly in the media and online. Thimerosal in vaccines did not cause an autism epidemic. The study was released online Sept. 13 in advance of publication in the October print issue of Pediatrics. Questions and answers with the thimerosal-autism study author. From the University of Pennsylvania site MedPage Today: The case-control study, of 256 children with autism spectrum disorders and 752 age- and sex-matched healthy controls, found that higher-than-average exposures to ethylmercury were, if anything, less common in kids with autism compared with healthy kids, reported Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH, of the CDC's Immunization Safety Office in Atlanta, and

Vaccine Court Confusion

The Hannah Poling news reporting is analyzed at Left Brain / Right Brain. Specifically, LBRB looks at the coverage from CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson: Sharyl Attkisson blogs the Hannah Poling settlement. The reporting is misleading, but the issue is so complex I cannot fault CBS or the reporter entirely. The 2007 decision to settle the claim by the Poling family that vaccinations harmed their daughter was a reasonable choice -- the case would have been complex and likely to end in the same confusion regardless of any award. The Poling case was filed in 2002 and the decision to settle without a ruling was made in 2007. The reasons for settling the case were logical: Hannah Poling's underlying condition was exacerbated by a fever. Though we can never know if a vaccine was or was not the cause of the fever, the "tables" used in such cases assume a potential cause within certain timespans. In other words, if you get ill within X days of a vaccine, you do not need to prove the

Campus = Anxiety

I haven't felt well since Thursday, when I had to make a trip to the university campus. I dislike the university and everything it represents to me. The anxiety and stress of being on campus leave me unable to relax and think clearly for days at a time. My physical and emotional response to campus are too much to handle. I lose days of productivity. The reaction I have to campus raises a number of questions about what I should do or can do in the future. I know I have two more campus trips this year, at least. One for an eye appointment and one to speak to a class about writing. Neither trip will be easy and I anticipate losing two or three days after each trip to campus. Also, this week we had to confront the reality of student loans. It's a lot of debt, for a degree that causes my stomach to knot and head to ache when I think about the university. The diploma itself is somewhere downstairs. I never want to see it again. The university was a lousy experience that I'll be p

The Amish Question, Again

I encountered the question of the Amish and autism again today. Yes, the Amish do have autism in their communities and yes they do vaccinate, but at lower rates than most groups. The Amish do vaccinate. The old Amish communities have a lower rate than other communities, but the rates are steady in most communities. There are, however, almost a dozen "Amish" types, from those speaking a form of German to those that trade with "English" neighbors and are active in local counties while still living within their own village. About 70% of the Amish in Lancaster County do, indeed, vaccinate.  Immunization can be especially low among conservative groups, with only 6% of Swartentruber Amish participating, compared to 63% of the overall Amish population and 85% of the non-Amish population, according to a 1984 study (Paradox, Hurst/McConnell).

The Unexpected Twist

I have applied for a dozen 2011-12 university appointments already, not yet a week into September. After last year's job hunt, I decided to narrow my search by location and specialty. When creating a "job search criteria" I omitted autism and focused on literacy and new media opportunities. This weekend, a job opening appeared that caused me to reconsider a judgment I had expressed several times over the last year. I had stated, emphatically, I would avoid seeking autism-related research posts. Autism research is often the target of vitriolic rhetoric, even threats against researchers. Seeking other posts seemed wise, considering the heated debates around autism. A major research university has a tenure-track opening that is associated with a leading autism research institute. The post reflects the topics I explored as a graduate student -- the text of the announcement could be used to introduce parts of my dissertation. I decided to apply for the post, knowing that if I