Monday, October 31, 2011

Autism: 10 Frequently Asked Questions Answered

Did you know that parents of children with autism like it when you ask them questions about their experience? At least I do. Sometimes we get tongue tied when answering because autism is complicated, and because we are emotional. Here is a list of the 10 most frequent questions that I am asked, along with answers:

1) What is autism, and how severe is Matthew’s case?
Autism is a neurological disorder; not a disease. It is a broad spectrum disorder, meaning that people with autism can be a little autistic or very autistic. Thus, it is possible to be bright, verbal, and autistic as well as mentally retarded, non-verbal and autistic. All share deficits to some degree in three areas:
social interaction
verbal and nonverbal communication
repetitive behaviors or interests.

In addition, many have unusual responses to sensory experiences, such as certain sounds or the way objects look. “They” are not all alike. Individuals with autism have unique challenges, quirks, and interests. So it is hard for me to describe where Matthew falls on the autism spectrum. He is honest, friendly, hard working and very funny. He’s frustrated by his inability to figure things out sometimes, and that makes him angry. But he’s learning to keep how to ask for help, and I admire him for that.

2) How old was Matthew when he was diagnosed?
Matthew was 2 years old when we noticed that he wasn’t talking as much as most toddlers his age. We also worried about his intense interest in lights, gates and drains. Developmental specialists told us he was not autistic, but developmentally delayed. We thought that meant he could catch up. Matthew was not formally diagnosed until he was 5, and by then, we had figured it out. That was many years ago. Developmental specialists are able to detect autism much earlier these days.

3) How did you handle the diagnosis?
I was sad and scared, but determined to “turn things around”. We tried every kind of therapy, even those that seemed whacky.

4) What do you think causes autism?
I’m on the side of science, and at present, most researchers think autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors – and it’s quite possible that different people’s symptoms have different causes.

5) How has having a brother with autism affected Matthew’s brothers Andy and John?
It was especially hard for Andy, who was just two years younger than Matthew, for many years. The two played a lot when they were babies, and then Matthew withdrew. Andy was also teased about Matthew’s peculiar behavior. John, who is 7 years younger than Matthew, was never at the same school as Matthew, but home life was chaotic to be sure. Andy is now 23, and John is 18. They are great with Matthew, and are more tolerant than most of the differences in others.

6) I hear that 80% of couples with a child with autism get divorced. How do you stay married?
I’m not sure anyone really knows the real statistics, but HERE is how I stay married

7) How do you handle the stress?
It is a challenge. Best thing I ever did you manage the stress was to talk to a therapist.

8) How in the world did you learn to be so patient?
I believe that everyone has more patience and they find it when they are tested!

9) Do you worry about what will happen to Matthew when you die?
Yes, but I have made plans,(more about that later) and you can too. Start by reading the Autism Speaks Transition Tookit.

10) One piece of advice for parents of a newly diagnosed child?
Reach out to parents who have been in your shoes. They can help you. My hand is raised!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


It may be more than coincidence that our cultural awareness of both the therapeutic potential of mindfulness and the prevalence of developmental disorders on the autism spectrum is increasing simultaneously.

In 1993, Bill Moyer's television special "Healing and the Mind" brought the power of Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to the attention of the general public. MBSR is now taught in hundreds of hospitals across the country and around the world. It has become a part of mainstream medicine, with a growing evidence base. And it has inspired development of applications of mindfulness for a wide range of medical and psychological conditions and populations.

In 1994, Asperger's syndrome was added as an official diagnosis to the American Psychiatric Association's "bible" of disorders, the DSM-IV. Awareness of, and identification of those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) increased substantially. For decades the incidence rate of autism was considered to be 4 or 5 in 10,000; the latest estimate from the CDC is 1 in 150. As people with ASD and "neurotypicals" collaborate to create a world that accommodates everyone, we are learning what is helpful. Mindfulness is being shown to help us all.

What is mindfulness?
If you've read this far, I'm assuming you have some understanding of ASD. Mindfulness is simple, in a way. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as "paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." It is cultivated by formal practices of meditation and by informal practice in daily life. As a result, you show up for what's happening with and in you, become more accepting of what cannot be changed, and more aware of what can. It's a path that leads to kindness towards yourself and compassion towards others.

Mindfulness is helping individuals on the spectrum.
Perhaps the best way to describe what mindfulness does for individuals with ASD is to listen to their first-hand accounts. Two individuals with Asperger's syndrome have written eloquently about the value of mindfulness in changing their lives. From Chris Mitchell of the UK, "Asperger's Syndrome and Mindfulness":

"The abilities of my mind, I have begun to realize are those that I often experienced difficulty with relating to my Asperger's Syndrome, including flexibility of thought and being able to recognize reasoning for actions of others, as well as the roots of my own states of mind from anger to excitement. This, I feel has increased my awareness of myself to the extent that I can recognize the roots of low self-esteem I often experience."

The professional literature also reflects the value of mindfulness-based interventions with individuals who are more limited in their functioning in the world than Mr. Mitchell. Both one-to-one and group mindfulness instruction have been shown to reduce aggressive behavior, improve social skills, and increase happiness with such folks.

Mindfulness is helping caregivers.
As Ms. Mahari suggests, family members and others who care are also challenged by ASD. A number of studies have shown that the whole system changes when the folks who care for those with ASD are trained in mindfulness. Parents have reported increased satisfaction with their parenting abilities, more social interactions with their children, and lower parenting stress. Outside caregivers have shown considerably enhanced ability to manage aggressive behavior and were observed to be "more responsive, patient, creative and adaptable in giving care."

A study just published showed that when adolescents with ASD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Conduct Disorder and their parents were trained in mindfulness - through MBSR classes - both groups improved. The adolescents reported "substantial improvement on personal goals, internalizing and externalizing complaints, attention problems, happiness, and mindful awareness," and showed better performance on a test of sustained attention. For their part, parents reported that they improved on their own goals, as well as noting improvements in their adolescent's attention and impulsivity problems.

Mindfulness training and psychotherapy.
Training in mindfulness can be a central part of psychotherapy for individuals on the autism spectrum, particularly as they struggle with the anxiety and depression that are so often a product of meeting the neurotypical world, with its vast potential for misunderstanding and disrespect. And, of course, it can be a feature of family therapy, to create a more mindful, kinder, compassionate environment in which everyone can realize the possibilities of the present moment and their lives in the future.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How meditation can help people with Asperger’s Syndrome release tension and recognise body language « JKP blog - Jessica Kingsley Publishers

How meditation can help people with Asperger’s Syndrome release tension and recognise body language « JKP blog - Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The Autism Recovery Hoax

I've seen a number of testimonials floating around on the Web from parents who declare that after a few years of X biomedical program or Y behavioral therapy, their child has now "recovered" and has been evaluated by reputable psychologists and found to have "no trace of autism."

Many of these parents appear to be sincere, unlike the hucksters who tout their endorsements. However, their claims reflect a basic misconception of how an autism diagnosis is made. Quite simply put, it is not possible under the DSM-IV criteria to have a "trace" of autism. The diagnosis requires a showing of significant impairment in certain identified social and communicative behaviors. Therefore, if a child or adult has autistic characteristics but does not have (in a clinical psychologist's subjective judgment) any significant problems associated with those characteristics, the psychologist will conclude that he or she is not autistic.

Indeed, because many autistic adults have become familiar enough with society's narrow behavioral expectations to be able to blend in (at least superficially) with the majority population, it is often extremely difficult for a psychologist to diagnose an autistic adult. Some psychologists will not even attempt to diagnose an adult unless he or she comes to the evaluation accompanied by a parent or another older relative who can accurately describe his or her childhood development.

The flaws in this diagnostic approach are pretty obvious. It's basically the equivalent of identifying a young girl as female based on evidence of significant female behaviors such as playing with Barbie dolls, and then declaring her to be miraculously recovered from her gender when she outgrows the Barbies.

Yes, there are many parents of so-called recovered children who have in fact seen significant changes in their children's behavior over a few years. To a large extent, these changes are attributable to the natural process of maturation. Just as girls outgrow playing with Barbies, autistic children outgrow behaviors like jumping on the couch and climbing on the furniture. Children also develop better language skills over time.

Some changes also may be related to psychological factors in the family. That is, if the parents react to the autism diagnosis with shock and despair, the child is likely to become very anxious as a result of observing the parents' distress and probably will have more behavioral issues because of that anxiety. If the parents then become convinced that they have found a wonder cure and that everything will be just fine, the overall level of anxiety in the household will decrease greatly, and the child's behavior will improve just because he or she is no longer feeling as stressed.

On occasion, alternative diets do have beneficial effects. Gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance are both fairly common in the general population. If an autistic child who happens to have one of these conditions is put on the popular GFCF diet, the child's digestion will improve, and he or she probably will behave better as a result of feeling better. This doesn't mean that the child is no longer on the autistic spectrum, however; it simply means that he or she is a healthy and happy autistic child.

A biomed enthusiast or behaviorism supporter may ask, perhaps, whether it really makes any difference if a child is described as "recovered" or as an autistic child who has developed a socially accepted set of behaviors. In either case, they may say, aren't we talking about the same positive outcome? Does it really matter what language is used?

The difference is, of course, that using the word "recovery" implies that autism is a disease. This in turn implies that autistic people are damaged, that the autistic way of being is inherently flawed, that it is not possible to be both healthy and autistic, and that (as Autism Speaks would have it) the entire autistic population ought to beeradicated.

There's also a subtler set of implications. When social conformity is equated with neurological health, the objective of "recovery" then becomes conformity for its own sake; just looking normal (whatever that may mean), rather than developing truly useful life strategies, is the ultimate goal. Instead of valuing diversity and helping every child to find a niche based on individual strengths and interests, we end up crushing an ever-widening array of human differences as our society lurches toward Camazotz. Becoming socially accepted, regardless of what is lost in the process, should not be assumed to be a positive outcome.

And then, of course, there's the implication that the hucksters want to create when they speak of "recovered" children: that autism is a tragic disease, and therefore if you are a loving parent, you'll gladly go into debt to pay for the latest and greatest miracle cure. If they honestly acknowledged the simple fact that autistic children mature over time, they wouldn't be able to stampede so many parents into buying unproven and possibly dangerous products and services.

Parents—don't be fooled by this hoax!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lego beneficial for autism

I 've allways thought that pretty much everything about LEGO is awesome
So, when my kids were finally old enough for LEGOs, I was a happy man...
I 've allways loved playing with my kids, so playing with them and LEGO, was all that I coulD wish for...  
What was interesting (though not totally surprising), was how beneficial LEGO play seemed to be for my 6-year-old who has autism.

Ultimately of course, it makes a lot of sense because

  1. It is engaging
  2. Let’s face it, LEGOs are just plain cool. In contrast to some other activities, It does not require a lot of persuasion from a parent for a child to want to play LEGOs. It is fun, challenging and rewarding. Play-based intervention, like that proposed in Greenspan’s Floortime model requires the therapist/parent to first engage a child in order to allow him/her to open circles of communication. LEGOs engage a child so naturally that other challenges faced during playtime are more likely to be overcome

  3. Works off his strengths
  4. One really cool thing about LEGO play is that it allows him to work off of his strengths. This automatically makes him more comfortable and willing to conquer more challenges that arise during play. With problem solving and step-by-step directions at the center of kit-building, many children who have autism find themselves in their comfort zones right from the get-go.

  5. Stealthily challenges his weaknesses
  6. Because he has strong skills at the foundation of the activity, he is more balanced psychologically and physically and therefore more likely to participate in behaviors that are often challenging for children with autism like creativity, imaginative play and socialization. I watched my son today pick up his model at various stages of construction and imagine what the half-built project “looks like.”
    “A Policeman!” he shouts… which garners a chuckle from me followed by a “What are you laughing at?” in his best baritone policeman voice. To watch such spontaneous imaginative play from him is an amazing and valuable experience.

  7. Develops fine motor skills
  8. One of the challenges often faced by those with Autism or other ASDs is troublesome fine motor skills. Many try to intervene here with coloring/drawing, but our son has never been very interested in coloring (as opposed to his big sister who’s had a pencil attached to her right hand since she was about six months old). I believe that LEGO play has been one activity that is so engaging that he is willing to focus on those fine motor skills and they’ve improved overall as a result. He handles each of those tiny pieces with such dexterity it is hard to imagine just months ago he wouldn’t even grasp a pencil.

  9. Fosters social interaction
  10. For those using LEGO play as actual therapy, one of the primary emphases is on social interaction. One might imagine that a potential negative of an activity like LEGOs for an individual with autism is that he might be so engrossed in solving the puzzle that he would shut out everyone else entirely. Studies have shown otherwise though. When attacking a LEGO set as a group, studies have shown increased self-initiated social contact among those observed not only during therapy sessions, but also spilling over into other social settings as well.

  11. Natural payoff
  12. It is hard to find a more satisfying payoff than a completed LEGO set. With every piece in place and a tangible reward and excited parents, the child can’t help but learn the value of working off his strengths and pushing through the challenges faced along the way. There is no need for manipulated behavioral modification, just organic learning at its best.
    I work from my strengths
    I meet the challenges along the way
    I’m rewarded with a finished product and cheers from loved ones

I could go on and on about the benefits of that payoff.
-How a finished set is then a creative toy with unlimited opportunity for pretend play...
-And the fact that a big bin of assorted LEGOs has the potential for unlimited creative thinking...

Interestingly enough, some serious studies are now being done to develop LEGO-based therapy for children with autism.
Besides all of that, it is a fun and bonding activity that just about any parent can enjoy with just about any kid.
So turn off the TV and go find some LEGOs...
I insist..!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: Ten Things Every Child / Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
A few years ago, writer Ellen Notbohm wrote an article entitled "Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew." That article became an Internet phenomenon, and was reproduced on site after site. Its deceptively simple "ten things" list resonated with parents, therapists and educators across the board. In 2005, the article was expanded to become a full fledged book. Then, in 2006, Notbohm wrote a second book: "Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew."

This is one of those books that just hits an audience right where it lives. The "ten things" are simple and self-evident -- "I am first and foremost a child," for example -- but they strike an important chord.

Most parents of autistic children should have a look at this book, even if it's just to reaffirm their own intuitive knowledge. After all, even when we KNOW our child with autism doesn't MEAN to cause chaos and angst, it's hard to react appropriately as they slam the door for the umpteenth time. Notbohm's salty good humor, simple language and clear examples help parents keep perspective -- and remember how to smile.

Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew
Like Notbohm's first book, this book includes ten fairly self-evident truisms about children with autism. But while her first book is a tool for helping parents cope, smile, and remember to hug their children -- the second is more of a primer for educators who really shouldn't need it.

Nothing Notbohm says is untrue. Indeed, autistic children think differently. And teachers should figure out how to reach their students. But any teacher of autistic children who doesn't have this information available shouldn't be a teacher at all -- let alone a teacher of children with special needs!

Recommended Reading
It's easy to see why NotBohm's first "Ten Things" book quickly made a name for itself. It's a bit tougher to see how the second book is going to have the same impact. It has a few good ideas for classroom use, but overall it's a reminder of what good teaching ought to be -- and a reprimand for teachers who don't truly understand that their role is both to teach and learn.

Perhaps the best use of the second book is as a holiday gift for special needs teachers -- from grateful or not-so-grateful parents. Is it a reward for work well done? Or a reminder that teaching autistic children requires all the basic teaching tools of patience, creativity, love -- and just a touch of humility?

Famous people with autistic traits or autism

Only a person’s close friends or relatives, or doctors, are likely to be able to judge whether he or she can be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome (AS). But it is illuminating to learn of people with similar characteristics to ourselves, especially when those well-known people? are successful or well-known. For this reason, I have listed here some celebrities who have shown some?autistic or AS traits. Some of these celebrities?may have autism or AS, in their mild or severe forms. Others may be elsewhere on the autistic continuum. And others listed may just be "unusual" individuals.

Fictional characters

Television characters
* NEARLY NEW Alex P Keaton, played by Michael J Fox in Family Ties, USA 1982-1989
* Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese in Fawlty Towers, BBC 1975-1979
* Bert (voiced by Frank Oz) in Sesame Street, USA 1969-
* Cliff Clavin, played by John Ratzenberger in Cheers, USA 1982-1993
* Daria Morgendorffer (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) in Daria, MTV cartoon USA 1997-
* Jim Dial, played by Charles Kimbrough in Murphy Brown, USA 1988-1998
* Lisa Simpson (voiced by Yeardley Smith) and Moe (Moe Szyslak of Moe’s Tavern, voiced by Hank Azaria) in The Simpsons cartoon, USA 1989-
* Martin Miller (”Ben’s little brother”) played by Matthew Buckley in Grange Hill, Children’s BBC UK 1978-
* Mr Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson in the eponymous TV series UK 1989- and film Bean UK/USA 1997-
* Taz Tasmanian Devil (voiced by Jim Cummings) in Taz-Mania, USA cartoon 1991-1993
* Steven Quincy “Steve” Urkel / Myrtle Urkel / Stephan Urquell, played by Jaleel White in Family Matters, USA 1989-1998
* Dr Victor Ehrlich and Dr Mark Craig, played by Ed Begley Jr and William Daniels, in Saint Elsewhere, USA 1982-1988
TV Aliens/Extra-Terrestrials
* Mr Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek, TV and films, USA 1966-
* Data and Reginald Barclay, played by Brent Spiner and Dwight Schultz in Star Trek: The Next Generation, USA 1987-1994
* Seven of Nine and The Doctor, played by Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo in Star Trek: Voyager, USA 1995-
* The Doctor, The Daleks and The Cybermen, from Dr Who, BBC TV and films UK 1963-1989
* Mork, played by Robin Williams in Mork and Mindy, USA 1978-1982
* Dick, Sally, Harry and Tommy Solomon, played by John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 3rd Rock from the Sun, USA 1996-
Film characters
* Andrew Martin the robot, played by Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man, USA 1999 from a story by Isaac Asimov (see below)
* Barry, played by Jack Black in High Fidelity, USA 2000 (based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby, whose son is autistic)
* Benjie, played by Oliver Conant in Summer of ‘42, USA 1971
* Chance the Gardener (”Chauncy Gardener”), played by Peter Sellers in Being There, USA 1979
* Charly Gordon, played by Cliff Robertson in Charly, USA 1968; also known as Charlie Gordon, played by Matthew Modine, in Flowers for Algernon, USA 2000; based on the novel by Daniel Keyes
* Cody, played by Holliston Coleman in Bless the Child, USA 2000
* Edward Scissorhands, played by Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands, USA 1990
* Herbie Stempel, played by John Turturro in Quiz Show, USA 1994
* “Joon” (Juniper Pearl), played by Mary Stuart Masterson in Benny & Joon, USA 1993
* Malcolm Hughes, played by Colin Friels in Malcolm, Australia 1986
* Melvin Udall, obsessive-compulsive writer played by Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets, USA 1997
* Molly McKay, played by Elisabeth Shue in Molly, USA 1999
* “Noodles” (David Aaronson), played by Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America, Italy/USA 1984
* “Powder” (Jeremy Reeves), played by Sean Patrick Flanery in Powder, USA 1995
* Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, USA 1988
* Ricky Fitts, played by Wes Bentley in American Beauty, USA 1999
* Simon Lynch, “nine-year-old autistic boy”, played by Miko Hughes in Mercury Rising, USA 1998
* Thomas Newton, played by David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, UK 1976
* Victor, played by Jean-Pierre Cargol in L’Enfant Sauvage, directed by Fran??????ois Truffaut, France 1969 (based on the true story of “the wild boy of Aveyron”; see also Genie, below)
* William Forrester, played by Sean Connery in Finding Forrester, UK/USA 2000
Cartoon characters
* Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson, US
* Dilbert, engineer, created by Scott Adams, US
* Mr Logic, literalist character from the adult British comic Viz, inspired by Steve Donald (brother of the comic’s creators)
* Gerald McBoing-Boing, created by “Dr Seuss” (Theodore Seuss Geisel), US books, films and TV
Literary and stage characters
* Alexandre Luzhin of The Luzhin Defence by Vladimir Nabokov, Russia/USA/Europe 1899-1977; played by John Turturro in the 2000 film
* Bartleby of Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street, a short story by Herman Melville, USA 1819-1891
* Billy Bibbit of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, USA 1935-; played by Brad Dourif in the 1975 film
* Frankenstein’s Monster from Frankenstein, much-filmed book by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, England 1797-1851
* Geoffrey Firmin of Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, played by Albert Finney in the subsequent film
* Professor Henry Higgins, the linguist in Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw (see below), staged and filmed as the musical My Fair Lady
* Monsieur Hercule Poirot, Belgian private detective, from the books of Agatha Christie, England 1890-1976
* Ignatius Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
* Jeremy Clockson of Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
* Mary Bennet, Mr Bennet and Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (see below)
* Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, France 1828-1905
* Sherlock Holmes of the detective stories by English-Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859-1930, who himself may have had some autistic traits
Characters from children’s literature
* Catweazle the wizard, from children’s stories by Richard Carpenter, played by Geoffrey Bayldon in the UK TV series
* UPDATED Pippi Longstocking or Pippi Langstrump, from the children’s stories written by Astrid Lindgren, Sweden 1907-2002
Musical characters
* Albert Herring from the 1947 comic opera of the same name by Benjamin Britten, England 1913-1976
* Petroushka or Petrushka, the puppet, from the 1911 ballet of the same name by Igor Stravinsky, 1882-1971
Fabled characters
* Domme Hans (”Stupid Hans”) from the Tales of the Brothers Grimm
* Brother Juniper, disciple to Saint Francis of Assisi
Historical famous people
* Jane Austen, 1775-1817, English novelist, author of Pride and Prejudice (see above)
* Bela Bartok, 1881-1945, Hungarian composer
* Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German/Viennese composer
* AMENDED Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, Scottish/Canadian/American inventor of the telephone
* Anton Bruckner, 1824-1896, Austrian composer
* Henry Cavendish, 1731-1810, English/French scientist, discovered the composition of air and water
* Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, US poet
* Thomas Edison, 1847-1931, US inventor
* Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German/American theoretical physicist
* Henry Ford, 1863-1947, US industrialist
* Kaspar Hauser, c1812-1833, German foundling, portrayed in a film by Werner Herzog
* Oliver Heaviside, 1850-1925, English physicist
* Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, US politician
* NEW Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychoanalyst
* Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Czech writer
* Wasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, Russian/French painter
* H P Lovecraft, 1890-1937, US writer
* Ludwig II, 1845-1886, King of Bavaria
* Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928, Scottish architect and designer
* NEW Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911, Czech/Austrian composer
* Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, Austrian composer
* Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, English mathematician and physicist
* Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher
* Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British logician
* George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish playwright, writer of Pygmalion (see above), critic and Socialist
* Richard Strauss, 1864-1949, German composer
* Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, Serbian/American scientist, engineer, inventor of electric motors
* Henry Thoreau, 1817-1862, US writer
* Alan Turing, 1912-1954, English mathematician, computer scientist and cryptographer
* Mark Twain, 1835-1910, US humorist
* Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch painter
* Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889-1951, Viennese/English logician and philosopher
Historical people prominent in the late twentieth century (died after 1975)
* Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992, Russian/US writer on science and of science fiction, author of Bicentennial Man (see above)
* Hans Asperger, 1906-1980, Austrian paediatric doctor after whom Asperger’s Syndrom is named
* John Denver, 1943-1997, US musician
* Glenn Gould, 1932-1982, Canadian pianist
* Jim Henson, 1936-1990, creator of the Muppets, US puppeteer, writer, producer, director, composer
* Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980, English/American film director
* NEARLY NEW Howard Hughes, 1905-1976, US billionaire
* Andy Kaufman, 1949-1984, US comedian, subject of the film Man on the Moon
* L S Lowry, 1887-1976, English painter of “matchstick men”
* Charles Schulz, 1922-2000, US cartoonist and creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown
* Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, US artist
Contemporary famous people
* Woody Allen, 1935-, US comedian, actor, writer, director, producer, jazz clarinettist
* Tony Benn, 1925-, English Labour politician
* Bob Dylan, 1941-, US singer-songwriter
* Joseph Erber, 1985-, young English composer/musician who has Asperger’s Syndrome, subject of a BBC TV documentary
* Bobby Fischer, 1943-, US chess champion
* Bill Gates, 1955-, US global monopolist
* Genie, 1957-?, US “wild child” (see also L’Enfant Sauvage, Victor, above)
* Crispin Glover, 1964-, US actor
* Al Gore, 1948-, former US Vice President and presidential candidate
* Jeff Greenfield, 1943-, US political analyst/speechwriter, a political wonk
* David Helfgott, 1947-, Australian pianist, subject of the film Shine
* Michael Jackson, 1958-, US singer
* Garrison Keillor, 1942-, US writer, humorist and host of Prairie Home Companion
* Kevin Mitnick, 1963-, US “hacker”
* John Motson, 1945-, English sports commentator
* NEW John Nash, 1928-, US mathematician (portrayed by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, USA 2001)
* Keith Olbermann, 1959-, US sportscaster
* Michael Palin, 1943-, English comedian and presenter
* Keanu Reeves, 1964-, Lebanese/Canadian/US actor
* Oliver Sacks, 1933-, UK/US neurologist, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings

Patience, patience, patience..!

"Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me. It may be true that I’m not good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don’t lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates or pass judgment on other people? Also true that I probably won’t be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh..."


There are countless stories and movies about the challenges and difficulties of raising a child with autism -- dreams are dashed, expectations are lowered and life is tragically altered forever. But the reality of autism is not always gloom and doom.

All children -- especially those with autism -- come with an enormous set of needs. Cathy Pratt, chair of the board of the National Autism Society of America, tells us, “Parents report that autism is not a death sentence, but it is a life sentence. You will be your child’s life-long advocate.”
For many parents, autism may not completely be a blessing, it's definitely not a curse.

See what some moms and dads had to say about life with an autistic child:
“I feel blessed. I would be a different person if I had not been given such a child.” - Hamza’s mom
"I love the new view of the world that he has taught me, I love the quirks that always make me giggle, and I love that he loves me, and even shows it sometimes."- Denise Norton, mother to Blair:

"I see things in a much simpler way, and I have learned to be less ignorant to people with disabilities. My son pushed me to better myself as a single mother." - Jesse's mother

"I think every child is different, and the best that a parent can do is to be very attentive to their child's needs and learn from each child what they need and respond to." - Willy's father
"Watching him succeed in the little things you take for granted with your other children. I will never forget the first time he told me that he loved me." - Patrick's mother

"Having a child with autism is a very rough road...but when your child does something for the first time, it helps make it more bearable, and you learn something new every day." - Anonymous

"Read. Educate yourself. Never feel that you are not a good parent. Just love them with everything you have."
 - Anonymous

"He is not a horrible child, he just has difficulties along with his gifts." - Aiden's mother

"I am learning to be open to different expectations and continue to learn what is important. Remembering that what I want for all my children is for them to be happy and safe and loved. My boys have taught me how to be a better parent and person. I have learned a lot about myself and how I handle difficult situations." - Stephen's and Jack's mother

"I know what matters in life, and I know that everything that I used to think and worry about didn't matter! He is precious! I love other kids with special needs immediately, and I know a kind of love I never would've known otherwise! I have more empathy for people in the world in general."
- Jennifer Harman, Jackson's mom

Perhaps part of the reason autism exists is to make the rest of us – "typical folks" – become better people...

Book Review: The Autism Book

My daughter was recently diagnosed with autism, so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to review Dr. Sears, brand new book The Autism Book. It’s release coincides with Autism Awareness month. This book is a must, for the parent of any child who has either recently received a diagnosis, or shows symptoms associated with autism or sensory intergration disorder. It would also be a good choice for educators.

The book of course goes over the signs and symptoms of autism, and the usual theories and treatments. Dr. Sears has also included a good deal of information concerning biomedical treatments, and an excellent resource list. He also has a website up in conjuction with the book to help parents remain updated. This is a very fast moving field of medical study, right now, and up to date information is essential, for getting children the best treatment.

While my daughter’s diagnosis is recent, she has been going to an Early Intervention program which specializes in autism. Thus, I have heard directly from the parents of several autistic children how some of these biomedical treatments have helped their kids. These are not expensive or dangerous treatments, most involve vitamin supplements or diet changes. These treatments are done in conjuction with traditional therapies.

The earlier treatment begins for an autistic child the better their chances for a positive outcome, perhaps even full recovery. So the faster a family gets information the better. This is why I highly recommend this book. It is packed with the information to get families started on the right track.

Autism and Amazon Kindle

If you are like me, you probably want to find out as much as possible about your childs autism, or about the autism of the other person or persons in your life.

Me, I used to buy book after book, clogging up all of my shelfspace and leaving me browing endlessly for that piece of information I wat looking for...

Since the introduction of the Amazon Kindle, however, this has changed radically. I now buy and download my books online and store up to 3500 books on my Amazon Kindle 3G, highlighting the things I find interesting or usefull for later reference.

In addition, I can read newpapers, magazines and documents everywhere I go!

If you want to know more about the Amazon Kindle and its features, please click here

To date, a large and growing number of autism related books is avialable for the Amazon Kindle.
(See the link below).
Amazon Kindle books on Autism

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: Could it be Autism?

A Prompt to Act Fast...

“Let's just wait and see” is a phrase many worried parents hear from the pediatrician when they express concerns about their infant's or toddler's development. But sometimes “wait and see” just doesn't cut it -- especially when it comes to possible signs of autism. This book, by parent/activist Nancy Wiseman (founder of First Signs Inc., a national nonprofit group dedicated to early identification of autism) tells parents what to watch for and when to get pushy.

Early Red Flags Your child isn't smiling by 6 months? Babbling and pointing by 12 months? Using meaningful two-word phrases by 24 months? None necessarily means he has autism. But they are signs to get an immediate, formal evaluation by a developmental disorders expert. Wiseman includes several screening tools that help parents spot early warning signs -- vital info, since most experts say intensive intervention before age 3 has the most profound impact.

Subtle Clues The author discusses subtler signs of problems. For example, an 18-month-old may meet the developmental milestone of using 10 different words, but just saying them isn't enough. “It's one thing to say cheese' when you want a cube of mozzarella,” Wiseman explains. “It's quite another to say 'cheese' over and over all day” when there are no dairy products in sight.

What Next? Say your child is diagnosed with developmental difficulties. Wiseman explains the many therapy options available, while emphasizing that there's no “right” one. Instead of looking for such a solution, she urges parents to prioritize their child's needs and pick therapies accordingly. Parents will especially appreciate the tips from a mom who's been there and done that -- e.g., how to get in to see the specialist who has a two-year waiting list.-

Do You Recognize the Gifts of Children With Aspergers?

I was so excited to come across an awesome video by Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin has her PhD in Animal Science, and is the author of multiple books on autism. She is a professor at Colorado State University, and has become an advocate and spokesperson for persons with Autism and Aspergers.

Dr. Grandin argues for neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is an idea which asserts that atypical (neurodivergent) neurological development is a normal human difference that is to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. Differences may arise in ways of processing information, including language, sound, images, light, texture, taste, or movement. (borrowed from this Wikipedia definition)

I want to summarize some of the points of this talk that she gave recently. I find it fascinating and encouraging, because it de-mystifies the condition, and highlights some of the unique and positive characteristics of the the Autism Aspergers continuum.

First, Dr. Grandin talked about the fact that some children with Aspergers have a visual mind. To understand this visual intelligence, she stated that we have to understand that these children actually think in pictures. (She explains this in detail in her book, Thinking in Pictures). When the word “steeple” is used, for example, Dr. Grandin recalls specific images from different points in her life. So for every word, her mind “downloads” a sequence of images, almost like a videotape. The visual thinker has a perspective that many average people don’t.

Another type of ‘mind’ or gifted thinking that Dr. Grandin described is the pattern thinker. The pattern mind is gifted at seeing patterns in data. As a result, they tend to excel in math and music, but can often struggle with reading, for example.

The verbal thinker, or verbal mind, is highly attuned to language and words. In fact, Dr. Linda Holliday Wiley, author of Pretending to Be Normal, writes about how she loved her books, and how she was fascinated with the different words contained in those books. Unfortunately, although some of these children with Aspergers have high word recognition, they may struggle with comprehension of more abstract comprehension. But this varies by child.

Verbal minds, patterned thinking minds, visual minds. These are just three of the types of minds found in the Autism Aspergers spectrum. I am posting Dr. Grandin’s talk here so that you can view and listen to her entire talk.

Perhaps her best point is that we as parents, teachers, and therapists, must recognize the beauty and diversity of the child with Aspergers. In this way we may be able to recognize and cultivate the next generation of Einsteins, Mozarts, and other gifted world citizens.