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Showing posts from February, 2011

Neurodiversity and Autism Advocacy

I am unsure of my emotions regarding this research project: SpringerLink - Health Care Analysis, Online First™ HEALTH CARE ANALYSIS DOI: 10.1007/s10728-011-0169-9 Autism as a Natural Human Variation: Reflections on the Claims of the Neurodiversity Movement Pier Jaarsma and Stellan Welin Neurodiversity has remained a controversial concept over the last decade. In its broadest sense the concept of neurodiversity regards atypical neurological development as a normal human difference. The neurodiversity claim contains at least two different aspects. The first aspect is that autism, among other neurological conditions, is first and foremost a natural variation. The other aspect is about conferring rights and in particular value to the neurodiversity condition, demanding recognition and acceptance. Autism can be seen as a natural variation on par with for example homosexuality. The broad version of the neurodiversity claim, covering low-functioning as well as high-functioning autism,

Autism and Success in the Workplace

The workplace can be a social minefield. Building Collegial Relationships Colleagues tend to come later in life, when we have professional careers or volunteer to work for organizations. However, colleagues are similar enough to peers that I am discussing the two together. Colleagues range from those with whom we work daily to those we might consider more similar to acquaintances. Because today’s workplaces often require us to shift from team to team, or from one location to another, it is always best to consider the possibility that any colleague can become a close coworker. I’ve met successful people with ASDs who accomplish great things and do so without any impulse to impress colleagues or develop social connections. Colleagues respect these individuals, I hope, though it can be difficult for me or other autistics to determine how much we are respected by coworkers. My colleagues at the universities and colleges where I have taught can be divided into close and distant colleagues.

Autism and Peer Relationships

More of the draft text I am composing. As always, comments are appreciated. Colleagues and Peers For some people with autism spectrum disorders, colleagues and peers are the closest non-familial relationships in their lives. Autistic individuals with occupational or academic success often find their success because of an ability to hyper-focus on a topic or skill of special interest. This focus is one aspect of “autistic perseveration,” a near-obsessive interest in an object, concept, topic, or activity.  I’ve read various definitions of “colleague” and “peer,” so it might be useful to clarify the terms as I am using them in this text. I use “colleague” as a broad synonym for coworker. When I use “peer” I am referring to someone of similar age and background as the subject. As a university instructor, all the employees of the university were my colleagues and deserving of respect. However, my “peers” at the university were the doctoral students and the junior members of the faculty wi

The Puzzling Nature of Relationships

Sure, it is a play on the "puzzle" of autism — because I believe relationships are a puzzle for almost every person. More from the eBook I am preparing for release later this month. Relationship Circles We often hear about “circles of friends” and our “social circles.” These are references to the numbers of people we consider to be within particular relationship categories. The smallest “circle” is that of lovers: usually two people. Even that smallest of circles changes, as partners enter and leave our lives. The largest, and most fluid circle, contains the strangers we encounter on any given day. Most of our relationships begin in the outer circle. We meet a stranger and that person becomes an acquaintance over time. If we work closely with that person, he or she might become a colleague or peer. Eventually, we somehow sort through our peers and choose friends — or they choose us. I consider my wife to be my best friend, but I knew her first as schoolmate (not even a clas

Autism Research and Money

From the American Association of Universities: H.R. 1, the FY11 continuing resolution introduced last week in the House, […] would truly harm this nation’s capacity for innovation by slashing research spending for nearly every agency that sponsors scientific research. This is exactly the wrong approach to deficit reduction, and it is our hope that the Senate, the President, and ultimately the House will agree on deficit reduction measures that enhance, not stifle, innovation and long-term economic growth. We are concerned that the President’s proposal to eliminate the in-school interest subsidy on loans to graduate students as a means of covering some of the costs of the Pell program may discourage American students from attending graduate school at a time when the nation needs to encourage its own best talent. We look forward to working with the Administration and with Congress to mitigate any negative impact on these students. It is likely I am leaving autism research behind, as the

Childhood / Early Development and Future Relationships

Early childhood development can affect future relationships. Here are more book excerpts: Childhood Lessons Our relationships might eventually include friends, teachers, coworkers, and clients. However, our initial relationships tend to be familial and customary connections. Studies indicate that the relationships formed during the first two to three years of life affect our future social skills. Childhood is a time of learning essential skills, ideally in a safe family setting. For children with autism spectrum disorders, early intervention and social skills reinforcement are particularly important.  • Early relationships affect future connections • Families are small, safe social groups • Parents and siblings can help teach social skills • Teaching is more “active” and “conscious” when supporting someone with an ASD • As connections expand beyond families, the challenges become more complex Our families prepare us for both the largest communities and the smallest. Relationships are

Autism, Desires, and Needs

Another section of my book on relationships and autism. I'll be adding citations to the final edition. For now, you can read the bibliography on this blog for additional resources I have consulted. Desires and Needs Human relationships come down to our desires and our needs as they relate to social connections. Psychologists and social experts can and do argue over the distinction between a desire and need, and I realize plenty of scientists assert the only real “needs” are biological. I am not using the biological definitions in this text, I’m relying on terms from marriage and family counselors. A psychology need is something necessary to develop a sense of self. If you want to learn more about needs, there are several books and websites with information on Abraham Maslow’s theories. By contrast, a desire is something we want, but that is unessential to the development of self-awareness. Philosophers also consider desires versus needs.  Allow me another moment of blunt honesty:

Autism and Insurance Coverage State Laws

Autism and Insurance Coverage State Laws A total of 35 states and the District of Columbia have laws related to autism and insurance coverage. At least 23 states—Arizona, 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 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. The above link from the National Conference of State Legislatures includes a detailed table of insurance mandates by state. The table is maintained quarterly, so it is relatively up-to-date. You would have to read the complete state laws for specific coverage data.  

Book Excerpt: Autism and Tolerances

Yet more book passages on autism and relationships. Thanks to all the readers so far! Tolerances When someone declares, “I can’t tolerate that person!” the speaker probably means that literally in some way. Yes, we really do have “tolerances” and those affect our relationships. When people discusses their tolerances, most are referring to their emotional abilities to tolerate others. However, emotional tolerances are only a part of limits on a relationship. • Tolerances describe our physical, emotional, and neurological limitations • Ranges of tolerance vary by individual, though some with ASDs are extremely sensitive • Composing a list of tolerances can improve self-awareness of social limitations • Friends and family often know tolerances better than the individual with an ASD All of us have physical, emotional, and neurological limitations. Some of us can tolerate extreme cold, others can tolerate extreme heat. Some of us are emotionally equipped to work in emergency rooms or disas

Quick Note: Job Hunt

A very quick note, not a full blog entry. As readers know, I have been pondering three career paths: Continue freelance writing and consulting.  Pursue university research posts in communications and/or language arts. Return to private industry (good pay, benefits). I have had two university interviews and two corporate interviews this month. I don't do well with phone interviews, but who does? It is great to sense the job market returning, though it is far from normal. I'm hoping the Ph.D. was worth the time and energy — and it might be. Freelancing is low-paying, but flexible for my physical and neurological days of rest. University teaching posts have good hours, decent pay, and I don't have to remain focused on autism research if I can make a case for other research projects. I love teaching and the schedule is ideal for writing projects. Corporate posts pay well and have better benefits than freelancing. Also, there's little controversy involved versus

Collapsing from Exhaustion

I am hoping to take a few days away from my various blogs and other projects to finish the book on autism and relationships. I've had two job interviews this week and the stress of those is getting to me, I fear. Today I was also asked if I might speak to a high school audience in the spring, which would be a wonderful change of pace -- and it is in a region of Minnesota I love. Oh, and an AP Literature class in another state is reading one of my texts for an assignment and I agreed to answer any questions. There is a point I reach every so often at which I have tried to do too much too quickly. I need to collapse for a day or two and recharge. I'll be okay, but I've pushed myself too hard. Doesn't everyone? I want to help anyone asking questions. I want to write enough that people enjoy the blogs. I have several website projects I'd like to "finish" this year, finally. I have five screenplays to write, at least two novels I want to finish writing, and two


There must be something better out there. I'm not sure what, but the more I interview functional adults with autism who received ABA-based or similar therapies, the more I know there must be a better approach. The problem is, I have no idea what that "better approach" is. I'm not a psychologist. I'm a language arts and autism specialist. My research is on how autistic students learn to master written communication (which doesn't really mean "written" in all cases). I am not a therapist. I am not a counselor. But there has to be a better way to help students and young children. I am not suggesting all ABA-based therapies in use today are bad. I sincerely believe ABA must be revised, researched, and ideally all connections to anything Lovaas did forgotten to history. I'd even like to see whatever evolution occurs to have a name other than "ABA-based therapy." The history and associations are that troubling. So, understand I'm ca

Lovaas and Anti-Gay H8

Did you realize several Lovaas Institute employees fund every anti-gay rights group they can? Some employees still claim homosexuality is a mental health disorder? Lavender Liberal has been doing research on the origins of money to fight gay rights. It turns out, according to NoH8, Lovaas staff (at least four) are using the money they earn from ABA training programs to register websites like this: PROTECTMARRIAGE.COM Registered to: {name removed} Lovaas Institute 6540 Lusk Blvd #C157 San Diego, CA 92121 "Treatment for children diagnosed with autism or a related disorder." If you know the history of ABA, you know it was created to "cure" feminine boys. Now, as more and more states consider mandating ABA therapy coverage within insurance policies, you know more Lovaas staff and executives will earn money. And that money will be spent on such nice things as promoting discrimination. But, hey, everyone knows Lovaas' original project to cure homosexualit