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Showing posts from December, 2010

What's A Mental Disorder? Even Experts Can't Agree

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This article is from NPR's “All Things Considered.”
What's A Mental Disorder? Even Experts Can't Agree
by ALIX SPIEGEL

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM, updated roughly every 15 years, has detailed descriptions of all the mental disorders officially recognized by psychiatry. It's used by psychiatrists, insurance companies, drug researchers, the courts and even schools.

But it's not without controversy: The proposed changes suggested this year have sparked a kind of civil war within psychiatry.

In a small condo on the beach in San Diego lives Allen Frances, who blames himself for what he calls the "Epidemic of Asperger's." Frances edited the last edition of the DSM, and he's also the new DSM's most prominent critic.As one with a graduate degree in “Rhetoric: Scientific and Technical Communication” I am aware of the complex nature of the DSM editorial process. Though I specialize in language edu…

Holiday Season

My wife an I spent the holiday at home, with one friend, and that was fine with us. We'll likely spend New Year's Eve quietly watching movies, as well. Our ideal holiday, like most days off, is spent quietly with just the two of us. That's about as social as either of us wants to be. I might want out of the house at times, but I don't want to attend social events.

I never enjoyed family gatherings, which are just too loud and too stressful. I want to enjoy a holiday, which means I don't want the stress of people. Yes, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve are about family, but I can call and e-mail family members. I don't need to be in a crowded house, anxiously waiting for the holiday to end.

Holidays were rarely pleasant as a child. I dreaded them. I still do. The fact we are several thousand miles away from family was somewhat "helpful" over the last five years. It means we can be alone without offending anyone.

I care about my family,…

Autism and Adults

On one of the many popular autism blogs, the old myth of "no autistic adults" once again made its appearance. The argument is autism is "new" and an "epidemic" — the proof is that there are so few adults with autism receiving services.

Adults don't receive many services. The laws and supports are changing, though. For now, the best census of adults with ASDs was done in the U.K. by the National Health Service.

The autistic adults do exist, they just were not counted in the past. Again, from 2009:

On Sept. 22, England’s National Health Service (NHS) released the first study of autism in the general adult population. The findings confirm the intuitive assumption: that ASD is just as common in adults as it is in children. Researchers at the University of Leicester, working with the NHS Information Center found that roughly 1 in 100 adults are on the spectrum — the same rate found for children in England, Japan, Canada and, for that matter, New Jersey.Read…

Reflections on Charted Courses

A simple question as the new year approaches: What path should I take? More importantly, what is best for both my wife and me?

I am out of ideas. The past offers lessons of what I should not do, if I pay attention. But what should I do? In general, I'm just annoyed. I feel like the last 20 years have been wasted, professionally. I'm unemployed and overeducated.

My wife and our "kids" (the cats) deserve so much better than I've been able to deliver.

It seems an inescapable conclusion after 20 years that education is not a field for me, at least not in the humanities. I don't fit politically, philosophically, temperamentally, or in almost any other way within the professions of education. I don't even fit physically or intellectually. I love learning a lot, but that's definitely insufficient in a field dominated more by political views than intellectual curiosity.

They say you should learn from the past. There are many years I dislike and will never c…

Struggling to be Positive

This week I will turn 42. And, like too many of my friends and colleagues, I will continue to be underemployed, earning much less than $1000 / month since June.

People have told me, "At least you have a Ph.D." I'm supposed to feed "better" because I've expanded my horizons.

How does that help matters? How does $40,000 in debt help me? My academic "success" hasn't translated into anything. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Actually, it has resulted in negatives -- lost time, substantial debt, stress, and overall bitterness. What was the point of more than seven years' worth of graduate education?

When I started graduate school, the talk was of the coming wave of retirements in higher education. Some of those retirements did come, but new full-time instructors were not hired. Instead, universities are scaling back where possible.

I don't blame colleges and universities. They need graduate students and I'm sure most educators want to believe ed…

Autism: Researchers, Scientists and Science

Researchers and scientists are human. This means that despite their best efforts, they are shaped by their own biases and experiences. It also means they exist in a world of politics -- from university politics to the politics of professional organizations. And make no mistake about it, government and non-profit organizations make research funding decisions based on politics, as well. Most scientists and researchers I know were drawn to research for personal reasons. For example, many cancer researchers are motivated because they lost friends or relatives to cancer. The goal is still altruistic, in my opinion, but there is something that nudges each of us interested in research to pursue specific questions. I do want to clarify that not all researchers are scientists. Researchers in the humanities might borrow terms and techniques from the "hard sciences," but social science and general humanities research is often overtly political. This research is sometimes called "a…

What If MRI is Right, Dx is Wrong?

I posted a link to this article a few days ago:
In Study, MRI Scan 90% Accurate Identifying Autism
The full story cautions that this is merely one study, but it is interesting. From the story on CNN's website:
Scientists are finding more pieces of the autism puzzle of with the help of MRI scans of brain circuitry, according to a study published Thursday online in the journal Autism Research. By scanning the brain for 10 minutes using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.Here is my question:
What is confirmed high-functioning autism?

HFA is not a standardized diagnosis, as it does not appear in the DSM-IV. It is a subjective diagnosis, and there are constant debates as to what differentiates HFA from Asperger's Syndrome or PDD-NOS. I have even heard discussions claiming it is easy to confuse "moderate" (whatev…

In Study, MRI Scans Detect Autism

In Study, MRI Scan 90% Accurate Identifying AutismThe full story cautions that this is merely one study, but it is interesting. From the story on CNN's website:Scientists are finding more pieces of the autism puzzle of with the help of MRI scans of brain circuitry, according to a study published Thursday online in the journal Autism Research.By scanning the brain for 10 minutes using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.The images of the brains helped researchers correctly identify those with autism with 94 percent accuracy, says Nicholas Lange, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and one of the study authors."No one has measured what we measured," says Lange of the MRI test he and Dr. Janet Lainhart from the University of Utah developed.While previous studies using different types o…

The Skeptical OB: Autism and mother-blame

The Skeptical OB: Autism and mother-blame

It's an interesting read, especially the comments. I'm not going to add much, beyond a simple observation: When people don't trust a medical doctor and Harvard instructor, I'm no longer as stunned as I once was.
It is also clear from the comments that people can get confused when they don't read carefully. A good blog post, if you read it carefully.