You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
“Right before I went into high school, my parents enrolled me in a couple of social skills classes to prepare me for the change,” she tells me.
“They taught me how to behave in certain social situations, like when girls go into the washroom together, or how to behave when you get invited to a party, or when you want to ask someone on a date. That’s where I think the classes switched from being useful to being controlling.”
How to think of the risks of Autism. "As a statistically minded neuroscientist, I suggest a different approach that relies on a concept we are familiar with: relative odds. As a single common measuring stick to compare odds, I have chosen the “risk ratio,” a measure that allows the bigger picture to come into focus."
A succint NYT op-ed that is also a good primer on assessing health risks in general as well as the impact of media coverage on skewing risk perception.
At three, Ron Suskind'
s son, Owen, was diagnosed with regressive autism and all but lost his speech. A year later, watching Disney's The Little Mermaid
, Owen's parents heard him speak again. Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney.
(SLNYTimes Magazine, with video) [more inside]
Made by Brad
Brad can't read or talk, but he can put together complex furniture. [more inside]
Rather than being oblivious, autistic people take in too much and learn too fast.
While they may appear bereft of emotion, the Markrams insist they are actually overwhelmed not only by their own emotions, but by the emotions of others.
Consequently, the brain architecture of autism is not just defined by its weaknesses, but also by its inherent strengths. The developmental disorder now believed to affect around 1 percent of the population is not characterized by lack of empathy, the Markrams claim. Social difficulties and odd behavior result from trying to cope with a world that’s just too much. [more inside]
is a severely autistic thirteen year old artist whose prolific drawn art, animation, films, photographs and clay sculptures
all share a distinctly colorful, vibrant and upbeat style. Her mother maintains an online gallery of her work, as well as sharing her story as it develops on the site and in a blog
. She has also notably used Rickrolling
as inspiration to create beautiful art
. [more inside]
Researchers using eye-tracking technology found that 3-year-olds diagnosed with autism looked less at people’s eyes when they were babies than children who did not develop autism. But contrary to what the researchers expected, the difference was not apparent at birth. It emerged when babies were 2 to 6 months old, and autism experts said that may suggest a window during which the progression toward autism can be halted or slowed. Article in the NYT
. Also SciAm
. Reduced eye contact for autistic babies has been documented previously (e.g.
), but this study captures the exact window of the decline. [more inside]
Two weeks ago, 14 year-old Avonte Oquendo
was last seen running out the door of his school in Long Island City, New York. Because Avonte has autism and is non-verbal, he was supposed to have one-on-one supervision at all times.
Now, an unprecedented citywide search
for the boy that includes searching commuter trains and subways
and playing his mother's voice out of emergency response vehicles remains underway. [more inside]
The book that helped me understand my son.
Author David Mitchell's introduction to The Reason I Jump
, a newly-translated memoir by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida on what it's like to have autism.
Kelli Stapleton kept a candid blog
about the struggles
of raising Issy, a teenager with autism who suffers frequent violent episodes. A newspaper profile from earlier this spring
detailed the family's trouble accessing the professional help Issy requires. Kelli admitted in her most recent blog post on September 3rd: "I have to admit that I’m suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue." Later that day, [Kelli's husband] received a message from Kelli that police described as "despondent"
. Kelli Stapleton is now under arrest on charges of attempted murder and Issy remains hospitalized after what appears to be a failed murder/suicide
. Bloggers from the national autism community have responded
Tommy Des Brisay
is a Canadian runner and para-athlete
living with autism. While running, Tommy often chants "I think I can..."
, recites lines from Disney movies, or sings. He has a YouTube
channel where he posts his dances
with Disney princesses
and mini documentaries
about his life
Darius McCollum was recently arrested in New York for stealing a Trailways bus. Evidently he drove the bus to a Manhattan hotel where he picked up a flight crew and drove them to JFK Airport. On the way back to a New Jersey bus depot, he was pulled over by the cops. This wasn't the first time Mr. McCollum was arrested while (unlawfully) transporting the public. In fact, it was the 29th time
. [more inside]
Noted anti-vaccination activist Jenny McCarthy
is going to replace Elizabeth Hasselbeck
as The View's newest panelist
. So, now
, she can take
her anti-vaccine roadshow
to the masses
. Even though she admitted that her son never had autism
A Slate columnist is even trying to petition The View to not hire
Mark Holman was a severely disabled teenager who had been living in an institution since his mother became ill. Upon her death, her lawyer petitioned for his guardianship before Judge Kristen Booth Glen, who asked a simple question: when did you last see Mark?
"I haven't seen him since he was eight or nine," responded the lawyer. "His mother used to bring him to our office with his brother, just to show him my face and so forth and so on, so I haven't seen him probably since 1995 or 1996."
Appalled by both the poor standard of care in Mark's case and the breathtaking lack of regulations compelling anything better, Judge Glen set about writing an opinion that would change the way trusts for people with disabilities are managed in New York State
in very, very significant ways.
"A quarter of U.S. households have a member with special needs. More than 8% of kids under 15 have a disability, and half of those are deemed severe. What we share in common with the parents of all those special-needs children is that our kids have almost nothing in common [...] "Saying you study autism is like saying you study the world of non-elephant animals." Special-needs parents do share one thing: the eviscerating cost of our children."
Paying for a Special Needs Child
. [more inside]
"My name is Chris Murray, and I'm an artist
and I'm very talented... And I’m a dairy stocker at the Edge of the Woods organic grocery store in New Haven, Connecticut." [more inside]
A lighthearted [blah blah blah]
Because whenever you describe something as 'lighthearted' it usually means they've taken a serious subject and can't talk about it properly. This father seems to have genuinely managed to talk about having an autistic son, and the ups and downs that entails. [more inside]
is a Unity Web Player game that simulates the experience of childhood autism (warning: loud sound). [more inside]
"In May 2013, "Asperger's Syndrome" will be removed as a diagnosis from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), leaving "high functioning autism" in its place. I agree with this change. Given the importance of the manual, however, it's caused a lot of consternation and caused me to reflect upon my experiences."—Anonymous
Pedagogy of the Depressed: my experiences as a special ed student in the 1990s
, an anonymous Boing Boing article
How do I empower someone without language, sign, or gesture? What is it like to experience aphasia, dysnomia, auditory and visual distortions, and variable physical sensations? At times I imagine that entering into my son's sensory world—his own particular neurocosm, perhaps I should say—is a bit like walking into Lewis Carroll's Wood With No Names ...
English professor Amy Leal wrote about her young son's son's unexplained regressions and loss of skills last year in Little Boy Lost
. This year she returns with a beautiful and heartbreaking study of her son's condition in Dream Map to a Mind Seized
Is Everyone on the Spectrum?
"In the nineties, clinicians began reconceptualizing autism from a singular disorder to a cluster of related conditions on a spectrum of severity; as the criteria broadened to encompass less acutely impaired people—such as the more verbal group diagnosed with Asperger’s—prevalence rose dramatically. Before 1980, one in 2,000 children was thought to be autistic. By 2007, the Centers for Disease Control were reporting that one in 152 American children had an autism-spectrum disorder. Two years later, the CDC updated the ratio to one in 110. This past March, the CDC revised the number upward again, to one in 88 (one in 54, if you just count boys, who are five times as likely to have one as girls). A South Korean study from last year put the number even higher, at one in 38. And in New Jersey, according to the latest numbers, an improbable one in 29 boys is on the spectrum."
Is autism an autoimmune disorder?
"The prevalence of inflammatory diseases in general has increased significantly in the past 60 years. As a group, they include asthma, now estimated to affect 1 in 10 children — at least double the prevalence of 1980 — and autoimmune disorders, which afflict 1 in 20.
Both are linked to autism, especially in the mother. One large Danish study, which included nearly 700,000 births over a decade, found that a mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, a degenerative disease of the joints, elevated a child’s risk of autism by 80 percent. Her celiac disease, an inflammatory disease prompted by proteins in wheat and other grains, increased it 350 percent. Genetic studies tell a similar tale. Gene variants associated with autoimmune disease — genes of the immune system — also increase the risk of autism, especially when they occur in the mother." [more inside]
"When Robert Wood Jr. disappeared in a densely forested Virginia park, searchers faced the challenge of a lifetime. The eight-year-old boy was autistic and nonverbal, and from his perspective the largest manhunt in state history probably looked like something else: the ultimate game of hide-and-seek.
" [more inside]
How Humankind's Theory of Mind Could Have Produced God
"As a direct consequence of the evolution of the human social brain, and owing to the importance of our theory-of-mind skills in that process, we sometimes can't help but see intentions, desires, and beliefs in things that haven't even a smidgeon of a neural system... More than a few of us have kicked our broken-down vehicles in the sides and verbally abused our incompetent computers.... So it would appear that having a theory of mind was so useful for our ancestors in explaining and predicting other people's behaviors that it has completely flooded our evolved social brains. As a result, today we overshoot our mental-state attributions to things that are, in reality, completely mindless. And all of this leads us, rather inevitably, to a very important question: What if I were to tell you that God's mental states, too, were all in your mind?" [more inside]
Snow White's Scary Adventures - A Retrospective
[via mefi projects
The author can't post it here for obvious reasons, but I can. I think. Now to wipe these tears from my eyes...
Tomorrow, May 31st, will be the last day of operation for the ride Snow White's Scary Adventures at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. The ride has played a significant role in my family's life for the past decade (my son is autistic, and has ridden the ride more than 3,400 times), and I wrote a retrospective about the history of the ride. This is a subject that is too close for me to post on the Blue, but Matthowie and Jessamyn both suggested that I post about it here. The linked blog post itself contains links to a four part series about my son, and also a link in the footnotes to the single best reference site on the web for the ride in all its permutations. I know it's just a silly old fairy tale dark ride, and not on many people's "must-see" list when they come to Disney World, but I hope my article can help at least a few people understand why it really is an important piece of history.
New Jersey father wires autistic son to capture teachers bullying him
When his 10-year-old son, Akian, started getting into trouble at school, Stuart Chaifetz was stunned. The notes from Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill, N.J., said that Akian, who has autism, was having violent outbursts and hitting his teacher and his aide -- behavior that the boy had never exhibited before.
The etiology of Autism
remains a mystery. However, three research teams have for the first time linked a gene
to certain forms of autism. This is a great step in the search of what causes this disease.
Since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
has based its estimates of how many children in the United States have autism on surveillance reports from its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network
. Every two years, researchers count how many 8-year-olds have an autism spectrum disorder in about a dozen communities across the nation. According to a new report released by the CDC yesterday
, (pdf), the latest data estimate that 1 in 88 American children has some form of autism spectrum disorder. (1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls.) That's a 78% increase compared to a decade ago
. The report, which analyzed data from 2008, indicates a 23 percent rise in diagnoses of ASDs over a two-year period
. (Last link has autoplaying video)
11-year old Emily Mueller wanted nothing more than to see the Krewe of Muses during Mardi Gras..
But when a drunken man blocking Emily's view and after spilling beer on her referred to Emily, who is autistic, as a "retard," Emily asked her mother to take her home. AJ Mueller, Emily's mother, blogged about the encounter, and when she woke up the next morning, the page had over 30,00 views. One of the first comments on the page is from an area DJ offering to send Emily gifts from their stash of prizes.
And the Krewe of Muses
-- the act Emily so wanted to see --- opened their den for Emily Gras.
A Philadelphia program is bringing families, airport employees and airlines together to help autistic kids fly more comfortably. [more inside]
Navigating Love and Autism
- When kissing feels like "mashing your face against someone else’s" and you experience mindblindness, how do you build a relationship? Is it even possible?
An in-depth series in the Los Angeles Times
examines whether the increased recognition of autism as a syndrome has led to skyrocketing rates of diagnosis, and how social, ethnic, and geographic factors affect the treatment a child is likely to receive. (via
Part One: An epidemic of disease or of discovery?
Part Two: Warrior parents fare best in securing autism services
Part Three: Families cling to hope of autism 'recovery'
Part Four: Finding traces of autism in earlier eras
The Autism Enigma
is a documentary that explores the potential link between gastrointestinal bacteria and the disorder. It is viewable online
through CBC's The Nature of Things. [Full show on Vimeo
, for those outside Canada.] [more inside]
Just wait till we're alone together. Then I will tell you something new, something cold, something sleepy, something of cease and peace and the long bright curve of space. Go upstairs to your room. I will be waiting for you...
As a rare October blizzard drifts a blanket of white across the Northeast just before Halloween, what better time to settle in and read (or watch) Conrad Aiken's
most famous short story, "Silent Snow, Secret Snow."
About a small boy who increasingly slips into an ominous fantasy of isolation and endless snow, it could be viewed as a metaphor about autism, Asperger's syndrome, and even schizophrenia before such conditions even had names. In addition to the 1934 short story, the tale has also been adapted as a creepy
1966 black-and-white short film
(also at the Internet Archive
) and as a Night Gallery
) narrated by Orson Welles. Or for a more academic take, see the essay "The Delicious Progress"
examining Aiken's use of white as a symbol of psychological regression.
It's long been thought
that there is a high incidence of autism (and autism-related disorders like Asperger's) in IT fields. Now one company is looking
to turn that into sales. [more inside]
Autistic and Seeking a Place in the World.
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Amy Harmon spent a year observing a young man with autism named Justin Canha, who took part in a new kind of “transition to adulthood” program for special education students at Montclair High School in NJ. The experimental program was intended to ready him for an independent life as an adult and integrate him into the community. [more inside]
Will a slightly pared down version of
the My Keepon
, a fuzzy yellow dancing robot
, be this year's holiday hit
? (For extra added schmoopy, a portion of the proceeds will go to autism
research.) Pretty fly for an AI.
Stefan and Tyler are twins conjoined at the head.
These brothers both play the violin and have a form of high-functioning autism, but one is homosexual and the other is heterosexual
. You can watch a video of them here
"It’s an oft-repeated and erroneous stereotype that autistic people lack empathy." Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg
, who was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of 50, blogs about the different kinds of empathy and to what extent they are present in those with autism.
Seth Mnookin courageously fought heroin addiction and re-launched himself as a well-regarded writer. His new book The Panic Virus
raised several questions about the science behind claims that vaccinations contribute to autism, and that the consequences of doing so resulted in the reemergence of formerly eradicated diseases such as measles and whooping cough. In that light, he recently criticized a new PBS Series
which, despite strong scientific evidence to the contrary, again suggests the vaccination-autism connection. This led to a classless attack
on Mnookin's former struggles with addiction. His pained response
From an early age, it was clear that Carly Fleishmann had autism. Furthermore, she couldn't speak, and professionals who had diagnosed her considered her moderately to severely cognitively impaired. Therapy helped, but she still wasn't able to speak. Then at age ten, working with a computer equipped with pictures and symbols, she started typing and spelling words. She started with single words, then wrote sentences, describing how she felt, and how she wanted people to treat her
. Her story has been presented on a variety of shows
, often with insight provided by Carly that she typed with one finger
. As her writing ability has improved over the years, she has shared her thoughts through her blog
(and as a guest on Larry King's blog
), on her own Twitter feed
, and Facebook page
. Now 16, she recently appeared again on TV, talking through her writing
). [more inside]