Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2011

Genetics and Autism

I've been sitting on this report for a month or two while I did a bit more research on the original sources and similar studies. As regular readers of this blog know, I believe autism is better described as "autisms" and that likely contributors include de novo genetic complications (sometimes called pre-natal genetic copy variation). In these forms of autism, genes replication introduces errors. This is not the genetic of heredity, a common misconception when the term "genetic" is used to describe some forms of autism. From CBS News: Children with autism have distinct facial features For the study - published in the Oct. 14 issue of Molecular Autism - researchers compared facial features in 64 boys with autism with faces of 41 typically developing boys, all 8-12 years old, with a 3-D camera system. After mapping out 17 points on faces, the researchers found significant differences between the two groups.  The study found children with autism had wider ey

Autism Website Converted, Updates to Follow

My autism research and speaking website is slowly coming back online after a minor glitch. While this doesn't directly affect the blog you are reading, it does affect a few people kind enough to link to my personal site. Over the Christmas break, my wife and I upgraded our home computer systems and much of our software. The upgrades included Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 and migrating our systems to the latest OS X 10.7 release. Overall, the process was uneventful. However, there was one small glitch: our personal websites were created in iWeb. For our business website, we have long used Dreamweaver (back to the earliest Macromedia versions), but iWeb was ideal for visually appealing sites for friends and family. While I could have forced iWeb to continue working for us, we decided to migrate to RapidWeaver 5. The migration was relatively painless. I say relatively because moving to RapidWeaver did rearrange directories. Several websites linked to information on my personal autism p

Time Vortex

My wife tells me that I must exist within some sort of time vortex. When I estimate something will take an hour, it inevitably requires at least two. Yet, from my perspective, it seems only the anticipated hour has elapsed. I'll be working at my computer, certain a television show I planned to watch is about to start and my wife is left to explain that the show ended an hour ago. And that's nothing compared to my mornings. No matter how early I wake and no matter how carefully I plan, most days require a two hour warm up period, at least. It is the rare morning when I am ready to work or leave the house before 9 a.m. — and far more likely that I won't start functioning normally before 10 a.m. When I do rush to leave early, I end up spending time feeling ill at work. No matter my intentions, my body rebels for two hours and I must submit to its terms. Once I'm working, I lose track of time. What seem to be minutes are often hours, as I've already explained. That&

Distracted by Everything

I get distracted easily. While I prefer to think of it as a curious mind eager to learn, the truth is that I end up following tangents that consume hours. I'll be reading something for work and encounter some little factoid that demands exploration. The next thing I know, an hour has been lost to reading about the history of Amish quilt designs. There's nothing too obscure or too mundane; every bit of information leads to a dozen more bits. My wife and I share a passion for information and often watch History, Discovery, Science, and the other educational cable networks. While watching, I'll sit with my laptop and search for the sources they cite. My wife will do the same, especially while watching the Food Network. It isn't a problem to follow tangents while watching television or reading for enjoyment. It is a problem when you can't resist the tangents while working. And… I can seldom resist. The mix of Google Bookmarks, Safari's Reading List, and the

Christmas Thoughts

To all our readers, we wish you all the best this Christmas. We've had a quiet week and plan to have a quiet, relaxing Christmas Day at home with our little furry kids. I like simple Christmases, which are what we have had for several years now. Living 2538 miles from "home" (according to Google Maps) means we don't have family gatherings to attend. There's no pressure to make the rounds from house to house. While I love my family, it's nice to have no pressure on us to be everywhere and see everyone over the two days of Christmas Eve and Christmas. Also, we don't do parties or big social events. We attended one small gathering, and that was it. It wasn't easy for me, but it was at the home of two friends to whom we owe much. It was a nice gathering, with nice people. Plus, it was quiet. I like quiet. We did make a few trips to local stores, a nearby mall, and into Ohio briefly for some craft supplies and other errands. The mall was surprisingl

End of Semester Rush

I created a schedule for myself — technically my wife created it with/for me — so I would post to each of the blogs I either author or co-author on a weekly basis. But, this is that crunch time known as "finals" at universities. It's also the holiday season and several other things all at once. I've read that everyone gets a bit stressed at the end of the year. We have Christmas, New Years, family gatherings, and there's the simple reflection on another year passing us by. The years seem to race on by as you get a bit older, too. The schedule means I might not get the blogs updated as often as readers might enjoy. For that, I do apologize. It's nice to know people recognized I was offline here and elsewhere (Twitter, Facebook). Grading will be a frenzy this coming weekend, so I might still be offline much of the time. I am hoping that after a year or two in the new post and in a new region I'll have adopted a better routine. Also, someone asked me

Employment Concerns, Autistic vs Normal

I worry about my job. I also wonder how much of this concern is reasonable, what might be considerer normal for any probationary employee, and how much of my concern is unreasonable. While many today are worried about job security due to the economy, I worry about my job because of my personality. Fifteen to 17 percent of adults with ASDs work full-time, according to a U.K. study (2007). Other researchers have found similar trends. Even those of us with doctorates struggle with employment in academia (Diament 2005). Outside technology fields, the world is less than welcoming (Anthes 1997). We are attending college, obtaining degrees, and ending up unemployed. It is a struggle to finish college, and yet that only marks the beginning. We love the success stories of students with ASDs in college (Erb 2008). Those stories don't answer the "what next" question. A U.C. Berkeley study found adults with ASDs struggle with unemployment: — Almost all participants … reporte

Surgery Monday and Catching Up

I have minor surgery on Monday to address a problem that has been recurring for several years. A few years ago, the problem made Christmas a bit complicated — I was planning to get my wife a gift and ended up in the hospital that day. This year, I'll be having surgery the day before a guest arrives to stay with us for a few days. My wife and I need things to settle down for a few weeks so we can gather ourselves and relax. Neither of us has a "laid back" personality. We are both perfectionists. We both feel like we are always falling behind, even while we finish tasks ahead of colleagues. Being a perfectionist is hard work and emotionally draining. Surgery comes right as I'm dealing with some issues at work. It also comes as we are trying to fix up our existing house enough to put it on the market next summer. There always seems to be more to do than is possible, but that's because we think of everything as important. I want the classes I teach to be "p

Moving (Again) and Home Owner Stress

We will be moving again in April, if things go according to plan. This will be our fourth move in the last five to six years. That might not sound like a lot of moving, but moving is stressful for everyone and extra stressful for two people with a need for order and routines. Moving is a lousy experience. Things get damaged, misplaced, and general disorder reigns. We lost four desks in moves, including two I really liked. We were never compensated for those loses, either, with bothers me. I end up attached to desks (and other things). Desks are where we work. I write at my desks and they become part of my routine. I still have the desk my family purchased for me in high school (if not earlier — I cannot recall). After we move, I do plan to replace both my computer and writing desks with a single desk. Sure, it won't be perfect, but I want to consolidate my work area. Plus, I want space for a scanner and other things I use frequently. (I like to scan books and documents for the

Autistics Speaking Day

Someone sent me a note asking why I didn't participate in National Autistics Speaking Day. The simple truth is, I'm not home on Tuesdays and don't have much time for anything outside my university duties on that day. I teach until 9 p.m. and don't get home until late. I thought about writing something a day or two earlier, but I'm swamped with university projects, teaching, freelance writing, and a never-ending series of household-related tasks. I'm more than a little overwhelmed lately. I have to fit in a surgery this month, too, while staying somewhat on track. So, here are my thoughts for "Autistics Speaking" as I glance at my new dry-erase board featuring a list of to-do items: 1. I am a "success" neither because of nor in spite of my "autistic" traits. I am a success because my wife, parents, extended family, and friends help me and I try to help them when I can. Success is a team effort, whether you're "normal&q

Autism and "Fitting in" with Peers

A Facebook fan — and thanks to everyone following us on FB and Twitter — asked if I could address problems with "fitting in" with same-age peers. A good topic, and a difficult one. The challenge is that there are two different "stages" I'm learning about among autistic individuals. As children, many high-functioning autistics seem to deal better with adults. As adults, the opposite seems to be the case, with autistics relating better to children. The challenges make sense, though, as I will explain. As a child, the individual with Asperger's or any "high-functioning" ASD diagnosis is likely drawn to concrete thinking, pattern recognition, and might be an "expert" on a few subjects of special interest. Compared to his or her peers, the autistic seems "advanced" because some skills we associate with greater chronological ages appear early. These are not social skills, however. The interest in topics and things, compared to

Autism and Teaching

Following a panel discussion I was asked if my autistic traits made me a better teacher. I replied, "No. They are a disadvantage for much of what I teach." The mother asking the question was puzzled. I don't believe I offered the answer she wanted. This led me to ponder the question and the answer further. I teach a literature-writing course this semester, "The Study of the Essay." The course is a survey of major essayists and requires students to write personal essays and reflections weekly. The essay is by nature an author's attempts to persuade readers in a personal way. The essayist is a character in his or her own work. Like many autistics I've met, I read a lot of nonfiction and historical fiction. There are great nonfiction writers, most of whom use the same techniques any novelist or short story author would harness. But, I don't analyze the style while reading: I'm interested in devouring facts. Literary analysis is not my streng

When Driving is Too Much

Driving is okay when there is little traffic and I know the route by memory. I do not like driving on busy streets or highways and I hate driving on narrow roads or in cluttered urban settings. I also hate, truly despise, highways or freeways without sufficient exits and places to turn around when necessary. I hate driving in Pittsburgh, enough so that I shake and get a headache after passing through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. I hate narrow, enclosed, claustrophobic tunnels. Two lanes, horns sounding, and tailgating. Horrible. Today, we drove to Cranberry. I hated the last trip there and needed two days to recover. I hate the fact beautiful hills are being covered with townhouses. Narrow two-lane roads are trying to accommodate a flood of new arrivals. Yes, the economy in Butler County is doing well, but the roads and spaces were never meant to handle so many people. We planned the trip ahead, knowing I hate the toll booths and most of the Turnpike, which is in a constant state of repa

Another Long Week

I knew when I accepted my new job that it would not be a 40-hour work week. Last night, I had a work-related call just before 10 p.m. — a dedicated instructor caught in something of a jam thanks to scheduling conflicts. Tonight, I was working until after midnight on multimedia content for an online course. I barely had the first week's content loaded before the "official" start of the course. It has been one of those weeks. I keep telling myself I'm doing better than expected. I do seem more organized than many other instructors, and I'm working hard to prove myself in the new position. But, I am also exhausted. As readers know, my wife and I have been dealing with the damage from a flash flood. It was the fourth time water had taken over the lower-level of our house. I spent much of the last week worried about the new appliances (washer and drier) as well as calculating how expensive repairs are going to be. The good news is that the appliances do still work.

Flooding Again, Medical 911, Forming Plans

Our lower-level flooded again last night. We ended up calling a company dealing with such emergencies. A neighbor also helped me as I frantically tried to move important paperwork from filing cabinets downstairs to our dining room. Without my wife here, I did what I could on my own and it wasn't enough. Unfortunately, I lost some notes and research I was hoping to use in coming weeks. Thoughts cannot be replaced, while furniture and appliances can be. Earlier in the day, I had driven past our insurance agent's office. I had intended to obtain flood insurance this week. It probably wouldn't have been in effect, but I feel horrible. Why didn't I stop? Because I was coming from a medical appointment, which led to a referral to a surgeon. I'm losing a lot of blood. As readers of this blog might recall, I was hospitalized over Christmas Eve a few years ago with blood loss. I needed a transfusion. We're near that point again.

Writing Instruction Blogs, Twitter Feeds, and Facebook Page

My wife and I maintain two blogs, Twitter feeds, and a Facebook page dedicated to creative writing instruction. I have discovered that readers prefer to choose how they receive updates and blog feeds, so we've tried to offer the most popular options. First, a reminder to visit the Tameri Guide for Writers ( ) if you are interested in creative writing. The Tameri website is not an academic writing website, though it includes some resources for teachers of writing. Our blog on creative writing and mass market fiction: My blog on using technology in writing instruction: The two blogs are featured on our Facebook page: You can find "Follow Us" links for Twitter on the blogs and on the Tameri website. Please consider following us using the social networking method of your choice.

Dinner, Panel Appearances in Western PA

I will be participating in two upcoming events this month. The first event is for students and faculty at the university where I work. The second is a panel roundtable at a high school in Pittsburgh, PA. If your school or organization would like me to discuss autism, special education, or literacy issues, please do not hesitate to ask. AHEADD Panel on Autism and Higher Education Monday October 17th Central Catholic High School  4720 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 5:30-7 p.m. Room 108/109 Please contact AHEADD for more information: Phone Toll-Free: 1-877-AHEADD-1 The AHEADD Panel is open, but you do need to contact AHEADD to RSVP. Campus-Only Event The RMU event, which is tomorrow night, gives me hope that faculty and staff might be interested to learn more about ASDs and higher education. I'm hoping some faculty might see this announcement and consider attending: Services for Students with Disabilities Dinner "Autism and Higher

Autism, ADHD, and Creativity

I have always been fascinated by the need for some people to redefine disabilities and differences as gifts, blessings, and strengths. When I was struggling with graduate school, the educational psychologist suggested the book Driven to Distraction . Instead of recognizing attention deficit disorder is a problem, a barrier to academic success, the psychologist was convinced that I had attention deficit and it explained my creative writing and other artistic interests. I am doubtful of such associations, such as popular myths connecting depression, substance abuse, or other mental health issues to artistic genius. I wonder if statistically there truly is a significant correlation between talent and difference. Although we know the many famous stories of depressed or addicted writers and artists, what about the numerous artists no more or less challenged / impaired than the rest of the population? When asked if I believed that my autistic traits contributed to my creativity, my repl

Autism, Health Issues, and Family

Tonight my wife told me that she has been experiencing stress, worrying about my health from afar. I have been having some minor health issues for the last month or so. Experience has taught us that I am not good at recognizing how serious an issue is or is not. I did go to a "minute clinic" after a week of coughing, and was diagnosed with bronchitis. However, other health problems have continued and I am set to see a doctor next week. One of the serious issues facing families of adults with autism is how to help an autistic person recognize and deal with health related issues. Because I am always in physical pain and discomfort is a constant in my life, it is challenging for me to recognize when a pain is something important. I have severe back pain and was even in a back brace as a teenager. I also have other injuries dating back to birth which cause shoulder and hip pain. For as long as I can remember, I have had headaches and migraines. With my complicated physical si

Academic Discomfort: An Autistic Trait?

Many of the comments I receive regarding the blog are sent to me directly. For some blog posts, the majority of comments are not posted to this blog, though some might appear on Facebook or via Twitter. I have wondered why some topics lead to fewer public replies. Last night, a question asked concerned my previous post on being uncomfortable among writing and rhetoric professors at a conference. Did I believe the discomfort was related to autism? Is it an autistic trait to be uncomfortable in some academic situations? That's a good question. I know my personality and I know what autistic adults told me during my doctoral research: I do fit the stereotype of preferring academic subjects that are "apolitical" and "objective" in nature; the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects are comfortable. I'd add to that list business, architecture, film production, and similar fields that stress applied knowledge over theory. Though I am a writ

Two Conferences, Too Different

A few days ago, someone commented that I looked exhausted. I was asked if this was the results of the ongoing bronchitis battle and the flooding issues with our house. Most people would have agreed or said something simple to dismiss the question. The problem with being exhausted is that I end up answering questions bluntly. "I'm tired of being around so many people," I answered. "I need some time to recover." I had attended two conferences, one on Friday and another on Saturday. That meant dealing with people — and trying not to mess up too badly. I'm sure the second conference went poorly, since I was too tired to monitor myself effectively. The first conference, however, went relatively well because I arrived, spoke, and left. That's always the best way for me to deal with situations. Leave before I have to deal with too many one-on-one interactions. Speaking to a group, as I did on Friday, is relatively easy. I don't have to be polite, beca

Sale on A Spectrum of Relationships: Autism and Social Connections

If you haven't purchased A Spectrum of Relationships , this month is a great time to do so. Following the surprise flooding of our home's lower level, we had to spend a bit of money. While I know my little eBook isn't going to cover more than a fraction of the surprise expenses, I figured it couldn't hurt to try a BIG SALE  approach to help out a bit. $0.99 SALE: A Spectrum of Relationships Kindle Owners, Click for Amazon . For Nook Users, use Barnes and Noble . That's right, for less than a dollar you can learn about one autistic adult's experiences with relationships at school, work, and beyond. I offer advice on how to deal with various situations and how friends and family can support an autistic teen or adult struggling with interpersonal relationships. I'm only going to keep this price for a few weeks, and then the price will return to $2.99 per copy. I want to thank everyone who has purchased copies of A Spectrum of Relationships  over

Autism and Insurance Coverage State Laws

An update from the National Conference of State Legislatures has been posted to their webpage on insurance mandates by various states. The last change to a state law was posted in May 2011, but several changes will be taking effect in approximately a dozen states in 2012 based on these laws and language in the federal Affordable Care Act: Autism and Insurance Coverage State Laws : A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws related to autism and insurance coverage. At least 26 states—Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin—specifically require insurers to provide coverage for the treatment of autism. Other states may require limited coverage for autism under mental health coverage or other laws. Some states have passed laws with num

Dealing with Minor Disasters

I've managed pretty well on my own for the last few months, with some complications, but last night was too much for any one person. For the third time, our basement area took on water. The first two were bad enough, but this was the result of a flash flood, with more than two inches of rain an hour. This morning, you can see the "water line" of debris around the lower level of the house, ranging from four to ten inches. It might be a bit deeper in other spots, but I wasn't going to measure with a ruler. I spent the entire night using a wet/dry shop vac to remove water from the semi-finished living area of the basement. That's where we have stored boxes of our belongings and large items — like a computer, an entertainment center, my CD/DVD collections, etc. Plus, it is where my books and writings are. My writings include my journals from fourth grade until now. Photo albums, yearbooks, and holiday decorations are all in the basement. Our important documents, a

A Peek Inside Our Dysfunctional Community: The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism

Apparently being busy with moving, the new job, and severe bronchitis has spared me the annoyance of the ongoing conflicts within the autism "communities." I admit my interactions with some of the people involved in the latest kerfuffles have not been drama-free. I'm not radical enough for some advocates, while some parents have accused me of being too radical. Welcome to the autism community. However, if you want some insights into the conflicts between adults with ASDs and parent advocates, I suggest you visit The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. Read the following posts and the comments: The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: The Self-Advocate/Parent Dialogues I concluded some years ago that the autism communities are dysfunctional, but that's not really news to anyone inside the communities. There are "trolls" in all communities, people searching for conflict and people unable to simply ignore comments and posts with which they disagree.

Blogging on Autism for Autistics, Parents, Educators, or...?

Today I was asked for whom do I write this blog. The individual asking said that I don't write much for autistics, and yet that should be my primary audience. So, was I writing for parents? And if so, which parents? You'd imagine a writing instructor would have an "audience analysis" ready. Any good author is supposed to know his or her audience, we tell our students. I must have a target in mind when I write… right? No. I write whatever comes to mind. This is a blog, a personal reflection on daily life, and I don't pretend that it is a focused work with a consistent rhetorical purpose. Some days, it is a place where I write about science and research. Other days, it is where I record the way I feel about my wife, family, and pets. This blog isn't a planned literary work — it simply happens as it happens. When I write, I'm not trying to offer my experiences as "the autistic experience" of life. I'm aware that I have limits, but I don&

Being Independent Stinks

August and September have been challenging months, yet they also demonstrate that I can live independently — at least as independently as most other working adults. In the last few months, I've had to deal with more disruption to my schedule and life than I thought I could handle. My wife has visited twice and we talk most nights, but for the most part I've had to settle into the new house and job on my own. I couldn't have done what I have without her support, yet that support has been from a distance. Having to drive from Minnesota to Pennsylvania in a single day, right after a flight from Las Vegas to Minneapolis, was too much. I was exhausted and near my breaking point the first few days in Western PA. The movers arrived a few days later. I did my best to deal with the commotion and seemed to do okay, all things considered. My wife's first visit was accompanied by J.C. getting ill. Her second visit ended with her visiting him at the pet hospital. He died only a

Twenty Years and We Are Here

For the first time in many, many years, things feel somewhat "right" in life. Not great, since I'm still dealing with the loss of J.C. Kitty and the stress of missing my wife until she can join us permanently. But, things are better than they have been in almost two decades. My wife is the most important person in my life, and the last decade has been anything but fair and good to her. Our relationship imploded for a time, in no small part because doctors (of both the medical and mental health variety) had little clue how to address physical and neurological issues. For most of the time we've known each other, I've never felt like I deserved her as a friend, much less as a companion. I wanted her to be happy — and I doubted very much that I could give her the life she deserved. We've lost a fair amount of time and money trying to earn enough to live. I dreamed of earning enough to "pay her back" for all she did. Instead, we went backwards. A comp

Another Three Weeks

A couple of hours ago, I drove my wife to the airport. She's returning to our home in Minnesota for a few weeks. Her next visit will likely be at the end of September and last only two or three days. This move has been a challenge, especially as we maintain two houses until the previous one sells. I don't mind being somewhat alone, and I definitely prefer to be alone in my office on campus when I'm working, but being without my wife is different. She's my guide and my companion. I don't like Minneapolis, but if she's there, that's where my thoughts are. As I returned home from the airport, a storm rolled into the area with rain, lightning, and wind. It was dark and gloomy — pretty much how I felt on the way home. Today was a day we remember both first responders and those called to serve in the months and years after September 11, 2001. I can't imagine being in the military and serving for months, even a year or more, away from my family. The famil

Sticking to the Familiar

My wife is visiting this week, which at least temporarily restores some familiar order to my daily routines. Even before her first visit, I'd already established some routines in and around our new home. One of the "happy things" about the new home is that I can stick to five major roads for everything from getting to work to shopping for groceries. I don't want to learn more roads, and am in no hurry to memorize new paths to anywhere. I drive down an interstate expressway to work. The same expressway takes me to shopping centers or to the streets on which shopping is located. I shop for groceries at two stores. In our previous residence, I preferred one store but shopped at several because cities are like that. Living in a rural area, there is one dedicated grocer and a Super Walmart within a few miles of our house. Those two are our choices and I'm content with that. I can memorize two store layouts and develop my routines. There is one restaurant I really like.

Meet Misty

I'd like to introduce Misty. Since moving, I've been shopping at a PetSmart location near the university. For that entire time (a month and a week or two), Misty has been in the adoption cages. Then, last Saturday, I noticed the employees had removed her tag and were sorting some paperwork in a large white three-ringed binder. I asked if someone had adopted Misty. No. She had reached her limit with the Humane Society. Misty arrived in April and August was as long as they could give her. Misty was so calm, quiet, and even "sad" looking that she didn't attract enough attention. She had been turned over to the shelter at the age of two and half, so she isn't a cute little blue-eyed kitten. But she is adorable. She is a beautiful cat, who simply needed a home. Having had an elderly owner, according to the Humane Society, Misty was accustomed to relaxed, slow moving people. The "spunky" kittens around her in other cages would run up and stick ou