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Showing posts from May, 2011

Moving Stinks

Everyone knows moving is a pain. For weeks before (and weeks after), disarray is the norm. We have boxes about the house, and we've barely started organizing for a long-distance move. In coming weeks, we need to donate, sell, and dispose of as much as we can without parting with anything we'd later miss. Of course, I'm the sort of person to miss anything we leave behind. Coordinating the move is practical logistics: events have to happen in near-perfect order. My wife and I over-plan, and yet we will both feel unprepared until the move is complete. We will worry about every detail between now and August. The cats hated today, which began with two workers installing five new interior doors. I disliked it, too, but it sure was fast and painless versus us doing the work. But, Pumpkin Kitty ("PK") was truly annoyed. I have the two puncture marks on my right hand (thankfully, the less-sensitive hand) where PK bit down and wouldn't let go. He is still hiding several

Revised Answer to Autistic v Typical Child

I didn't answer one of the submitted questions as well as I should have. Here was the key to the question and the one I should have addressed: My husband thinks I am wrong to 'expect so much' from her. I think that she's very intelligent and that I would be failing her if I just said 'she has autism' every time…. Am I in the wrong? Am I damaging her by treating her like a typical kid? Here's the new, improved answer: No. It is unlikely you are damaging any child with a disability by trying to treat that child as much like other children as possible. I should include a dozen caveats and warnings, but most are commonsense. Some disabilities do limit what we can do, but not what we can accomplish. We "mainstream" students in special education because we know that separate is not equal, because the experiences of students in a "special" class do differ from the experiences of students in a "normal" class situation. "Normal"

Should an Autistic Child Be Treated Like a Typical Kid?

From the " Ask a Question " inbox: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I have a question concerning my own 9 year old daughter, similar diagnosis to your own. She is considered HFA, though her abilities and reactions are 'scattered all over the spectrum' (low, mid, high functions). My question is: Am I wrong to treat her as I do my other children? She is the oldest child of 5. I do not give her a lot of leeway based on her diagnosis--what I mean is, her autism is not allowed to be an excuse for bad behavior. She is aware of what is acceptable and what is not--no hitting other people, no cursing, no destroying the house-- and she receives the same types of punishments as her siblings. We do time outs and grounding from favored activities. Spanking is very rare and only as a last resort (she received a pop to the bottom for stabbing her brother with a fork) I realize the difference between bad behavior and meltdowns from stress, along wit

(Some) Parents vs Self-Advocates

Maybe I'm even more of a curmudgeon after three hours of sleep, but during an exchange with the parent of an autistic child early this morning I found myself thinking, "How stupid can you be?" That is what I thought, too. Not "how ignorant" or "how mistaken" but bluntly and definitively "how stupid" this parent seemed at that moment. I know the following is a rambling post. I'm tired and fuming a bit. If the rant is incoherent, I apologize; this is definitely a rant. Being exhausted, I'm probably not thinking as clearly as I should, but I find myself at odds with a vocal group of parents somewhat regularly. The particular topic of debate doesn't matter at the moment; what matters is that the feuding camps of the "autism community" are precisely that: feuding camps. I do not pretend to represent individuals with Kanner's classic autism disorder. I do not pretend to be a parent. I am precisely what I claim to be: one p

Children with Special Needs Become Adults

Last night I spoke to a group of educators, support specialists, and parents of teens with autism spectrum disorders. One of the key points during the conversation was that children with special needs grow up and become adults with special needs. Unfortunately, it is easier to raise awareness of children via the media than it is adults. A child with special needs is a great "feature story" on the local news. A child is also great for fundraising posters and images on websites. Adults with disabilities remind other adults that life is unpredictable, even cruelly absurd. Many disabilities appear as adulthood begins. Schizophrenia is one mental health condition that often appears after the age of 18, for example. Physical challenges, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's also appear in adulthood. Disabled adults are a reminder that no one is impervious to life's risks. Life itself is always terminal. Children with autism now receive more supports than ever befor

The Need to Control a Physical Space

The following question was submitted via the " Ask a Question " page: My 9 year old son has PDD/NOS and gets very upset when his room is clean and organized. He told me tonight that it makes the world feel all wrong, and makes him very unhappy to the point of tears. When I say messy, I mean there are toys on every spot on the floor, flat spaces and even old papers jammed anywhere. Can you possibly explain why this is comforting to him? Thank you so much! Disclaimer: I'm a language education specialist, not a psychologist — I have the minimal required background in psychology for special education. I'll have to discuss this question with a colleague in the future so I can answer more completely. I can offer only what I do know with caveats. Many of the students and adults I have met with autism spectrum disorders have been diagnosed with co-morbid conditions such as OCD, PTSD, SAD (social anxiety disorder), and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). While other conditi

Another swing for the fences and a miss by the anti-vaccine movement : Respectful Insolence

Two of the many good articles online today are regarding a "study" claiming that legal settlements prove an autism-vaccine link. Of course, having been involved in court cases and settlements in business, I can attest that the law has nothing to do with facts -- and often you settle because that's cheaper than paying lawyers. Settlements are not admissions of anything, though I admit I was tired of lawyers on those occasions when I had to deal them. Another swing for the fences and a miss by the anti-vaccine movement : Respectful Insolence Now that the report, written by anti-vaccine stalwarts Mary Holland, Louis Conte, anti-vaccine lawyer Robert Krakow, and Lisa Colin and entitled Unanswered Questions from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury , has been published, I sort of wish I hadn't promised to blog about it, because now that I've actually read the damned thing I can't believe it. It's

More on Bullying

On Facebook, a reader asked if I have any suggestions to stop bullying. I began to consider my experiences as an educator and university scholar. I'm not sure my experiences point to any solutions, but I can relate what I have learned. (Be sure to follow The Autistic Me on Facebook !) Evolutionary psychologists will tell you that most species engage in "battle" to establish leadership. I'm not sure how humans can overcome millions of years of "alpha-beta" sorting impulses. However, that doesn't mean that teachers, parents, mentors, and, later in life, good supervisors, cannot intercede and stop competition from crossing the line into bullying. I was never a good athlete, even though I like some sports. I'm certainly not strong, fast, muscular, tall, or whatever else might translate into a physically dominant appearance. However, I was also rarely the smallest person in a class — average describes me well. Yes, physical presence matters. We know from

Bullying Never Ends

Bullying is nothing new to me. Even as a second grade student I could tell you why I was a target for bullies. But, when I saw the headline "Predictors of Bullying of Autistic Children Identified," I found myself reading the story below on Medscape ( ). Maybe I was searching for a solution I know doesn't exist. Yes, I am cynical about human nature. (Read my previous post on lying and narcissism as they relate to popularity and power: Social Success and Narcissism ) My simple theory on bullying: people of all ages, young and old, test each other to determine the nature of the "competition" in a social group. We measure people, to locate the strongest and weakest in the group. Bullying is an extreme version of this social testing. Even those of us who want to believe we are exempt from such impulses rarely are. Every group has power rankings, the challenge is to see people beyond those social standings. Predictors of Bull

Home Alone

My wife is out of town tonight, leaving me alone in the house with the "kids." While I like to be alone at times, I dislike it when I'm not with my wife. I know that we sometimes have to travel for work or family, but I don't like it at all. Our cats are senior citizens. I have to check their medications, make sure they are doing well, and entertain them. That helps, since I have a routine to follow. My wife prepared a checklist, just in case, for the next two days. What time alone does is remind me that I don't want to live apart for months at a time. That was something we considered — me taking a job and living in an apartment until things were settled with our current house. That's not a realistic option. I'd have to be flying back and forth or something, which is expensive. Phone calls and webcams are not the same as holding the cats or being near my wife. I had a donut (apple fritter) for breakfast and a small yogurt for "dinner" tonight. I

Social Success, Empathy, Sympathy and Autism

I've been swamped for the last week, but that doesn't mean I haven't been pondering "big ideas" while working. One of the topics I can't stop pondering is why so much value is placed on "empathy" and "social skills" when the best of the best at imitating these are often the worst of the worst people. You don't believe me? There are numerous studies indicating leaders (think Presidents and the list is long) have narcissistic tendencies, as well as a dash of paranoia. Nationally elected politicians also score high on communications measures of social lying. I located more than 100 unique studies indicating that the ability to manipulate people, well-intentioned or not, corresponds to personal popularity. One study of young children tested their ability to lie and correlated "social lying skills" with popularity. Empathy is "the ability to understand the feelings and desires or needs of others." When tested, narci

Autism/ASD Forum, May 23, St. Cloud MN

I will be participating in an Autism / Asperger's Syndrome forum for families on Monday, May 23, in St. Cloud Minnesota. The event is at Apollo High School from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The address is: Apollo High School 1000 44th Ave N St Cloud, MN 56303 The roundtable discussion is for parents, young adults, and teens. I believe there will be a short introduction by the autism support specialists for District 742. Arc Midstate, a non-profit dedicated to life-long services for individuals with special needs, will also have someone on hand to answer questions. For more information: Arc Midstate Minnesota This event will likely be the last appearance I have in Minnesota, at least for a few years. I will always appreciate the generosity of the Midstate schools and organizations.

Kindle so-so for students, UW study concludes

Brier Dudley's Blog | Kindle so-so for students, UW study concludes | Seattle Times Newspaper Seven months into the study, more than 60 percent of the students had stopped using their Kindle regularly for academic reading -- and these were computer science students, who are presumably more sympathetic to an electronic book. I'm not surprised that an eReader doesn't replace books. Taking notes and highlighting are part of the reading process that a Kindle or other eReader doesn't easily replicate. I recall what a page looks like, from the graphics to the pattern of paragraphs. On an eReader, I can't always locate where a bit of information is. You can't say it is on "Page X" because the pagination changes with font size and other choices a user can change. Maybe my visual memory would learn to use an eBook? Does anyone else use visual cues the same way? I also use multi-color "Post-It" notes to mark sections of books. They obviously sel

Lessons from the shaming of chemically castrating doc who “endangers autistic children and exploits their parents”

I have written about Dr. Mark Geier and his son, David, in the past. I refused to recommend a book that referenced the Geiers' "research" because I was so upset anyone would take these men seriously. (See previous posts .) The following article is not surprising to me. It is sad. Lessons from the shaming of chemically castrating doc who “endangers autistic children and exploits their parents” By Seth Mnookin Posted: May 4, 2011 According to this ruling (see original article for PDF download) by the Maryland State Board of Physicians, which was issued last week, Mark Geier has had his license to practice medicine suspended in the state in which he is based. (As far as I can tell, this doesn’t affect Geier’s ability to practice in the other states in which he’s licensed, including California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington.) That this move comes years too late for scores of children does not mean it is not

Legislation Affecting School Accommodations

Yesterday, I received the following e-mail "alert" from the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM): Representative King Banaian (HD 15B-St. Cloud) has introduced HF 1642, which eliminates numerous special education laws and rules that have served our children well in the State of Minnesota. Among those slated for elimination are the Minnesota Pupil Fair Dismissal Act (121A.43), requirements for assistive technology, and rules that create parent advisory councils (or Special Education Advisory Council). This is a bit misleading (big shock in politics). First, the Minnesota legislative website lists House Files only through 1633 -- there cannot be an official filing HF 1642. I explain this more below. Second, Dr. Banaian voted against the Republican budget (one of two GOP members to do so) because it cut education too much. According to Banaian was one of two Republicans who voted against the Republican cutting plan. "The higher-ed piece was the worst for me,&q

Weighted Blanket WINNER

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12807.51 today. That means the random number is 51. There are 19 comments to the original post. Time for a little math. 51/19 = 2.68 (2 r 13) Remembering to add "1" because a zero remainder was a possibility, gives us THE WINNER Comment 14 by Kabie! It seems Kabie is in the U.K. -- but hopefully that isn't a problem for shipping. Congratulations, Kabie! Contact me at poetcsw @ gmail . com

Quick Observation on Blogging

Me : Why are people so personally rude via e-mail and blog comments? I'm deleting more mail and posts than ever lately.  Friend : What are your blog topics? Me : I maintain websites on economic theory, political rhetoric, technology, autism, creative writing, and philosophy.  Friend : You do realize only creative writing and technology aren't likely to trigger hate mail. Me : It seems Linux is a religion.  Friend : Says the person with an Apple sticker on every vehicle.  Sometimes, it is easy to forget a personal zealotry. I am having a strong reaction to the fact my future employer is an all-Windows campus. Yes, I use Windows sometimes — but I just uninstalled Boot Camp from my Mac and removed the last Windows software.  Turns out, I am a fanatic, too. 

Autism Rate: The Same in Children and Adults?

The following is an abstract. The full article is available only for paid subscribers, sadly. Note: The "autism rate" refers only to what we define as autism during evaluations. The "rate" is subjective, due to the nature of autism screening. Still, that's autism research for you. Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults  in the Community in England Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(5):459-465. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.38 Traolach S. Brugha, MD(NUI), FRCPsych; Sally McManus, MSc; John Bankart, MSc, PhD; Fiona Scott, PhD, CPsychol; Susan Purdon, MSc, PhD; Jane Smith, BSc;Paul Bebbington, PhD, FRCPsych; Rachel Jenkins, MD, FRCPsych; Howard Meltzer, PhD Context   To our knowledge, there is no published information on the epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in adults. If the prevalence of autism is increasing, rates in older adults would be expected to be lower than rates among younger adults. Objective    To estimate the preva

Autism and Higher Education Rights

The following is an outline I use when speaking to faculty, students, and parents about autism spectrum disorders and the legal rights of students within the university. My last post on university access and students with ASDs resulted in a conversation more about diagnoses than services, so I hope this helps clarify the nature of the university experience. I will expand and edit this post if necessary and as information changes. I would rather update this post than have "outdated" information online in the future. These are presentation notes, not an essay or academic article. Still, the information should be helpful. Scope of the Challenge There are many students entering our colleges and universities with appropriate documentation of autism spectrum disorders. Proper documentation legally qualifies a student to some supports from the school. Post-secondary students with disabilities represent 11 percent of enrollment (GAO, 2009).  High-functioning, college-capabl

Weighted Blanket Giveaway Plans

Tomorrow, May 3, we will select the winner of a weighted blanket from: DreamCatcher Weighted Blankets P O Box 252 * Stevensville * Montana * 59870 Website: email: We will select the winner using the following method, to ensure fairness: 1) At the close of the markets, we will use the "basis points" of the DOW (the tenth and hundredth decimal values). For example, if the DOW is 12820.44, we will start with "44" as our seed value. 2) If the seed (dividend) is less than the total entrants, we will simply use that number +1 as the winner. 3) If the seed is greater than the number of entrants, we will divide the seed (dividend) by the number of entrants (divisor) and add one to the remainder (because a whole quotient result has no remainder). Yes, this is seemingly complex, but it is reasonably fair. Everyone can see the DOW and count through the list of entrants. I'll be sure to post the math a