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Showing posts from February, 2012

Random Personal Updates

I like to tell myself that sometime after this summer my wife and I will have a nice routine again. That is unlikely, but I can hope that things settle down a bit by the end of summer.

1. The dieting and exercise routine now has me down to my lowest weight since leaving California, more than five years ago. We are walking at least three nights a week and counting calories. In a few months, I'm sure the exercise routine won't seem to be "disrupting" my schedule. It will also be nice as the weather changes and we can walk outdoors in the park as weather permits. (It rains a lot here, so weather might not permit.)

2. The new house is going to be ours on Friday, April 13. That means another move, another few months of disruption, and then work on the current house to get it on the market. There are so many things that will need to happen during April and May that I get tense thinking about them. The new house will not be "done" when we are handed the keys, but…

Artistas Cafe in Tampa, Florida

As readers know, I have promoted or linked to products or services only a few times. If I wouldn't use, purchase, or support something, it isn't going to be on this website. And when I do disagree with a product or book, I don't hesitate to state so. 
When I received the following note, I wasn't sure if I'd view this merely as a promotion for the car dealership or if it was something more. Of course, something can be both a good idea socially and commercially. This might be one of those instances: Hi Dr. Wyatt,

I stumbled upon your blog and think you'd be very interested in a doc style project I recently worked on. The Mercedes Benz Tampa dealership currently houses a cafe that is completely staffed by individuals diagnosed with Autism. Artistas Cafe provides a place that allows these baristas constant human interaction that they might typically shy away from, while also breaking down stereotypes and misguided assumptions others might hold.

I invite you to wat…

Loving Lampposts | Watch the Documentary Film Free Online | SnagFilms

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Though several readers have asked me about Loving Lampposts, I must admit that moving and starting a new job meant I haven't had much free time. People have mentioned this film to me and not too long ago the distributor asked if I would consider a link to the online streaming version.
Loving Lampposts | Watch the Documentary Film Free Online | SnagFilms

I'll let visitors watch the film and offer their opinions. Hopefully, I'll have some time to add my own thoughts in coming months.
Feel free to share your reviews in the comments.

Friends

A concerned mother asked about friends. She was worried because her teenager only had one close friend.

Do I have friends? An interesting question, and one I doubt most people can answer easily. My wife and my family are my close friends; there is no one else I communicate with at least monthly on serious matters.

I have friends, people with whom I discuss matters of minimal consequence. Online contacts from my "real life" are generally of this sort. We communicate, but seldom about personal matters.

From Discovery.com:
In 1985, the average American claimed to have three close confidants (which could have included spouses or family members, in addition to friends), but by 2004, the average American had only two close confidants. One in four people reported having no one to talk to at all. This isn't an "autism" or "introvert" or "gifted" issue. This is a social crisis much larger than any labels could explain. Most of us don't have ma…

Not Caring versus Not Obsessed

I would be lying if I made any claim to understanding the people for whom a particular trait or set of traits is an obsession. I do not relate, and I cannot "put myself in X's shoes" to comprehend such views of one's self.

When an autistic self-advocate wrote to me that I didn't take autism seriously enough (that's a paraphrase), I wasn't sure how to respond. I believe my wife would say I take everything too seriously, and that's the problem.

The next question, and maybe this is the revealing one, was: Why don't I tell my coworkers, students, and others that I am a diagnosed autistic?

It doesn't seem like that would help anything. In fact, I could see it causing problems. Plus, "autistic" isn't a label with which I was raised and it isn't a label I consider that often.

Actively being an "Authentic Autistic Advocate" (some sort of service mark or trademark must apply) would be distracting. I'm already busy bein…

Pain and People

I'm in a lot of pain lately. Extreme pain, causing a noticeable limp, slouch, and squint. I've already been to a doctor and know what the issues are. I have two bone spurs in my left foot (sole and ankle) as well as a "wrinkle" in my right eye (again). The eye is out of focus, even with my glasses, and hurts. The result is headaches and migraines, which cause lights to seem yellow and other strange tricks on my mind. The foot is like having nails shoved to the bone.

Obviously, it is hard to be "fun" and people friendly in such discomfort. To be blunt, I don't want to deal with anyone right now. I want the pain to go away.

It isn't easy to teach, standing for 90 minutes, while wanting to scream in agony. Walking from my Jeep to my classroom and office is a miserable journey. I'm taking painkillers, but they wear off about mid-class.
Maybe things will be better in a few months. I need to get into the doctors and address these issues over the su…

Diet Progress and Autism

So far, counting calories has helped me lose about five pounds. At the same time, counting calories reinforces the fact that bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are evils I need to resist a bit more. Since my favorite foods are Italian and Mexican, I'm not sure how to avoid bread, rice, and pasta. The potatoes, I can do without. Bread? Pasta? Those will be a challenge.

One of the things my wife will attest to is that when I get a craving it is specific and nothing else will do. It isn't that I'm a picky eater, overall, but that I am struck by cravings. There are days when some foods aren't appealing, too.

Parents and teachers tell me that some children and teens with autism are much, much pickier. One mother told me her autistic son went through a period when he would only eat the "blue box" of macaroni and cheese for lunch. Nothing else was acceptable for the young boy. When the mother tried to add anything to the pasta, he wouldn't touch it.

A diet of c…

Asperger's Syndrome as Trendy

I know this topic is a minefield, but I happen to agree with two recent column in the New York Times. "Autism" as a label and diagnosis is being applied to too many people, especially the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. My experiences are purely anecdotal, but when I speak to groups about autism it is common that one or two young adults and/or their parents approach me to tell me that they have self-diagnosed Asperger's Syndrome.

Self-diagnoses are not official diagnoses. You should always work with a clinician to determine something like an autism diagnosis. What if the individual actually has a social anxiety disorder and not an ASD? What if the individual has mild depression? There are so many "what-ifs" that I must always recommend a professional evaluation.

Teachers even come to me and say, "I believe I have students with Asperger's in my class." In general, these teachers end up describing what we might call "geeks" or &quo…

Research Projects NOT Related to Autism

As an "activist" I will continue to speak out and educate on issues of autism and education. But, I'd rather earn my tenure for research that isn't linked to autism. I don't want to be defined by one word.

Leaving "autism" behind as a professor and researcher has been a good thing. Over the last two years, I wrote that I did not want to be the "autistic researching autism" because that strikes me as playing to trends. And yes, "autism" is a trendy word in language research. I've been advised more than once that focusing on autism would be good for my career. It was suggested that I specialize in "disability studies" or whatever the politically correct term might be.

No, thank you. I'm far more content working on other projects that have nothing, zero, zilch, nada, to do with autism.

I'm going to settle in and research wiki usage. I'll study typography and online design. I'd love to study design trends…

Writing, Speaking, the Brain, and Autism

The brain is amazing. It's both fragile and resilient.

While researching written language and autism for my doctoral degree, I learned a small fraction of what scientists now understand regarding language cognition. The question I had, and one many others have, is why some autistics are good at written or symbolic language communication, but have either limited verbal abilities or are non-verbal? How can someone write and not speak? Why would someone prefer sign language or pictographs to speaking, especially if he or she can speak?

The simplified answer: language is not one thing. Language that is seen is not the same as language that is spoken and heard. Symbolic language and auditory language differ. Braille involves yet another form of language cognition. Somehow, our brains manage to connect and decipher several different "languages" we experience.

Most people can "read" postures, expressions, icons, symbols, colors, sounds, gestures, vocal tones, spoken …

The Rise of the New Groupthink - NYTimes.com

Autistics aren't the only people who work best when allowed to work alone. Unfortunately, we are most likely to struggle with The Rise of the New Groupthink.

Susan Cain, writing in the New York Times, advocates for solitude and silence. She is the author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Cain is responding to the faddish embrace of the belief that groups are always better than individuals. The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki, was published in 2004. Around that time, the idea of "crowdsourcing" took off with various "great minds" embracing this statement:
Specialized expertise tends to be over valued. In fact, large groups, structured properly, can be smarter than the smartest member of a group. On average, the wisdom of crowds will come up with a better answer than any individual could provide. Thankfully, Daniel Tammet (see the book Embracing the Wide Sky) and others have critiqued this statement. The prob…