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Showing posts from June, 2011

Strangers in Our House

I've taken three cats for rides in the Jeep twice this week while people have toured our house. I hate the idea people are in our house, so I was nominated to take the kids for these trips to the park. Like the cats, I'm not happy about this. Unlike the cats, I at least know the reason we have to leave the house is to help us move to a larger house. Rearranging our possessions bothers me. I like things where I like them. So, after I return from these short drives, I try to restore my sense of order as best I can, while knowing some things need to be packed and hidden. My wife did the house hunting for the new home. She's dealing with strangers in our house. I hate both processes, so it is best that she handled these tasks. I'd want to clean the homes as I toured them. When we looked at homes before moving into our current residence, I hated seeing how little people care for their homes. I like things clean and maintained. The idea people have walked through our ho

City Life Could Change Your Brain for the Worse | Wired Science |

I'm glad research is finding evidence that supports my impressions of city life. This research could have implications for autism, as well. There is significant evidence that autism rates are higher in some settings, but we don't know how correlations relate to causation or other factors. Simply finding more autistics in a region doesn't mean something in the region causes autism. It could be that similar people slowly congregate. But, this study finds evidence that city life itself changes the brain. The implications are fairly important. Humans didn't live in cities of millions until recently. We did not evolve in groups much larger than a few thousand, and more often our social groups are under a thousand people. We're only emotionally wired to handle connections to 150 people or fewer. We deal with 1000 or more by connecting though our close connections. We connect beyond the 150, in other words, but we do so via networking. City Life Could Change Your Brain for

Autism, Therapists, and My Experiences

It's no secret I have a deep disdain for the mental health professions, based on my personal experiences and observations. My work with families and students also reinforces my suspicions that too many support professionals don't understand the autistic experience, including those professionals supposedly specializing in autism. My most recent blog entry on the topic was: Autism Therapies and The Autistic Individual One of the readers of my blog sent a note that included the following: "Your experiences were in the 1970s and 80s. Things have changed. You don't know what is done now for autistics." My last individual appointment with a counselor specializing in autism was in late November 2006. That is not ancient history. I also had a follow-up evaluation in early 2007 during which the psychiatrist was condescending, critical, and inattentive to anything I was trying to explain to her. (I

Relationships, Sex and Autism / Asperger's Syndrome

My wife and I are currently revising A Spectrum of Relationships, which is a guide to social connections for teens and adults with ASDs. The last chapter deals with romantic relationships. Because this book is a broad overview of social situations and not a dating guide, we decided to include only a few short sections on physical relationships. Many of the questions I do receive following public appearances do deal with sexuality and romance. I know there are some texts on autism and sexuality, but I am wondering if I should prepare a separate book on those matters. Writing about sexuality is a challenge because I don't believe there are "norms" of sexuality that can be neatly organized along autistic / non-autistic lines. We can discuss studies of human sexuality and surveys of opinion on the physical and emotional aspects of relationships, but there is a lot of variety among all people. I have included a section in A Spectrum of Relationships on how some autistics repor

Autism Therapies and The Autistic Individual

I have written about my views on various therapies and treatments several times. One such post was: Early in that post, I address the problems with the term "Applied Behavior Analysis" (ABA) being applied as a generic term for all therapies associated with the Revised Lovaas therapies (Dr. Lovaas' original approach developed at UCLA in the 1970s, minus the aversions). The problem within the autism community is that most parents associate ABA with this 8 hr/day, 40 hr/week approach to treating autism-related behaviors. Here is what I wrote at the time: I do not and cannot agree with some "neurodiversity" activists that we should not research "ABA" therapies. First, this assumes all ABA is still dependent on the out-dated and discredited early Lovaas work. Second, we cannot ignore the fact that the brain is more adaptable at early ages. We know children do learn languages

Autism and Relationships Book Progress

Work on A Spectrum of Relationships is continuing. The book on autism and relationships should be available via Amazon sometime in July. The challenge has been adding content that has value for families and autistic individuals. Also, the book can only serve a small segment of the autism community, since by definition only some autistic people want and seek social connections. We also have to admit to ourselves that some autistic children with severe cognitive impairments might make some progress with early interventions, but they will always face social limitations. Several people wanted me to address the "full spectrum" in the book. That isn't possible, at least not in a single book. Really, the most affected children, teens, and adults require highly specialized supports that are beyond what a book can offer. The best advice I can offer to families of those with the most debilitating mix of physical, intellectual, and emotional impairments is to sit down with experts a

Fox News and Unpublished Comments

Thursday night I noticed the following on Dr. Manny Says Autism Breakthrough Is Real...For Now By Dr. Manny Alvarez Published June 09, 2011 | …[W]hen you look at a family that delivers twins, and one is autistic and the other is not, as a scientist, I have to believe there is a genetic component to the problem. The studies, published in the journal Neuron, appear to have proven as much. The researchers examined the genomes of more than 1,000 families in which one child was autistic and the siblings and parents were not. Their findings confirmed a growing body of evidence that autism can be caused by a random genetic mutation that could occur at any one of hundreds of different sites in the human genome. On behalf of my son, who was born with autism, and my family, I just want to congratulate the men and women who spent years working on this research. The comments were soon filled with the standard anti-vaccine rhetoric, government conspiracy claims, and general

Weather and Me

Yesterday, it was in the low 90s in Minnesota. Today, it is over 100F. That's a huge change from three weeks ago when we saw snow flurries in the air. I am not a cold weather person. Cold weather means clothing I hate: itch-inducing layers, gloves, thick socks, knit caps, and so on. I've written several times about hating winter wear, and my annual frostbite / frost "nip" experiences resulting from my distaste for some of the clothes. I'm also not a huge fan of blistering heat. I'm comfortable from the low 50s into the mid 80s. There's no way to dislike a nice, partly cloudy 72F day with flowers in bloom. That's perfection, especially if you get to sit outside and relax. Still, if I have to choose between sub-zero temperatures and the 110F summers of my youth, I'd opt for the heat — air conditioning is a great thing. The cold causes cracked skin, sore joints, and ice patches I find without any effort. Summer heat can at least be dealt with: fans, a

I Limp (More) Because of What?

This week's lesson is that pain is bad. I keep failing to learn that pain means something is wrong. Since I am always in some pain, I never seem to know when the pain is severe enough to take action. Today I went to the medical clinic because the pain in my left leg, and the corresponding limp, had become too much to bear. I was near tears several times over the last week. I've been hesitating to put any weight on the heel of the left foot due to shooting pains, but this has caused me to put too much weight on the front of my foot, leading to a pinched nerve. I've used a cane for many years. In 2008, an MRI found a little arthritis and the damage from a spiral fracture I suffered as a youth, but nothing to explain my limp. Today, the physician's assistant asked a simple question: "In 2008, did anyone look at the left foot?" No, they had not. The doctors assumed the limp was related to my previous injuries, my palsy, and scoliosis. Nobody paid much attention to