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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 were to earn the position it would cause some consternation among a select group of activists. However, it is also the right thing to do. It is a post from which I could do a lot of good for students with autism. The right thing to do is to apply and see if the university agrees with me that I would bring a unique and valuable perspective to the research.

Plus, it is in a great location.


  1. Follow your heart and your interests and the world/activists be damned. Do what you think is right for you. Good luck and I hope you get the position.

  2. I know that you need the position, and I think I hope you get it, if only for that reason. I hope that it isn't with AutSpeaks, but then, if it is, you might be able to do some good there. Good luck with getting it.

  3. "I decided to apply for the post, knowing that if I were to earn the position it would cause some consternation among a select group of activists."

    I am uncertain as to how to indicate frustration and sputtering.

    I know that you're right and I'm glad you know. It's just...not right...

    I am thinking some very unkind thoughts.

  4. The post is at one of the top research universities in the U.S., but that doesn't mean the institute hasn't had its share of autism debate nonsense. Sadly, even the founding and funding of university programs leads to heated arguments.

    There are the standard lines, from across the debates:

    1) They study neurology and genetics, which means they want to eliminate people with autism.

    2) They study education and therapy, which means they must not care about a cure.

    3) They study occupational therapy, which means they have given in to the diversity advocates....

    And on and on and on. That's why I wasn't intending to seek out appointments related to autism or disability. Every group creates a conspiracy theory that fits the top research sites.

    The site works within the STAART Network, though it is an affiliate and not one of the eight primary NIMH sites. (Ah, the Secrets of NIMH came to mind typing this.)

    The post would build on my previous research, ideally leading to better instructional techniques for teachers. I know that being able to read and write are key to my existence; helping others improve basic skills seems a worthy goal.

    One can never anticipate how an academic hiring committee will approach these matters, but I do hope I qualify for an interview.


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