Sunday, August 20, 2006

Robots and Chimpanzees (that's us folks)

You would think that in the intellectually respectable world of the chattering classes, someone like Stephen Pinker a Harvard Proffessor of Pyschology no less, would in his writing on culture, and the mind, know a false meme when he saw it.

Yet he perpetuates the mythology of autism we have inherited down through the changeling of mediaeval legend through Bettelheims exported Freudian metaphor to Simon Baron Cohen’s Theory of mind hypothesis (by way of Philip K Dicks Androids, and the Voight Kampf test)

Fact and fiction seamlessly integrated, for on page 62 of Stephen Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” (Penguin London 2002) He states “Autism is an innate neurological condition with strong genetic roots. Together with robots and chimpanzees. people with autism remind us that cultural learning is possible only because neurologically normal people have innate equipment to accomplish it.”

The notions seem to be lifted straight out of Simon Baron Cohen’s 1995 (and well out of date) tome, Mindblindness, an Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. for he also states :

“A mind unequipped to discern other peoples beliefs and intentions, even if it can learn in other ways, is incapable of the kind of learning that perpetuates culture. People with Autism suffer from an impairment of that kind. They can grasp physical representations like maps and diagrams, but cannot grasp mental representations …”

For a professor of psychology Pinker seems extraordinarily ignorant about what language, culture and representation actually are as concepts and how they relate in terms of cognition. In other words he has no idea of my world, it’s levels of complexity and richness.

This whole network of blogs we belong to on the Autism Hub, if it proves nothing else proves that we have representation (in more one sense of the word) and the means of transmitting culture for if this is not it, what is?

So what is it then the robot as exemplified by culturally complex character Roy Batty of Blade Runner, or the sophisticated Chimpanzees of the Planet of the Apes.?

Beware Professor Pinker, the Autists might take over the planet one day and strip you of your academic credentials.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Study: Autism Affects Entire Brain

"New research is challenging the long-held belief that autism affects only those regions of the brain that control social interaction, communication, and reasoning — suggesting, instead, that the disorder affects the entire brain. "

From CBS News.

This is what many of us with the condition would tell you. It goes much further than the diagnostic manuals say, indeed sensory perception has been much ignored until recently.

It also shows that Autism has to be a part of the natural human condition, you cannot cure it without destroying the person.

I and my autism are indissolubly linked, it has advantages and disadvantes but it is all relative. Society is going to have to live with autism just as we have to live with society.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Attack of the non verbals.

I have just had an unpleasant experience this morning whereby my speech would not carry me through a series of phone calls.

I am not even sure that it is autism, rather than a dyspraxic, dyslexic thing being unable to articulate.

It doesn't cut out altogether, but what happens is it slows down, the words don't come, and I cannot proceed because I can neither compose the sentence in my head that I want to say (Chomsky note, my innate grammar goes) nor actually get the verbal muscular apparatus to utter the next word.

It is like playing a record that gets stuck in a groove over a radio where the transmission is intermittent and ends in a long period of silence, perhaps a lot of stammering over a word which is holding place while the rest of my brain tries to figure out how to use words, punctuated by islands of fluency when whole phrases come out as if there were not problem.

It’s a right bugger when that happens, as it always does when you have something complex and important to communicate.

I guess it must puzzle people when it breaks up like that, because they are used to me being hyperverbal even if the dialect I am speaking is unintelligible Larryese anyway.

So what is the problem I was trying to communicate?

Well it is my Disabled Students Allowance assessment report, it is recommending unsuitable equipment, the cheap and nasty option of an all in scanner/printer. When what I need is a decent printer and a decent OCR document management package not some generic schlock that comes bundled with the cheapo option.

What is annoying is I have a scanner which is OK, and a printer that will do, but because both are well over five years old neither is likely to work with a current model laptop which they are providing, for a combination of hardware/software and obsolescence problems.

My desktop is slowly dying, I can't defrag my discs because of the bios on the motherboard won't support any of the hard drives currently available, my graphics card is failing, and again my processor won't support any replacement card currently on the market.

Makes you sick, that you can't simply replace the hardware with the equivalent old technology to get it back up to speed, you have to go for a new computer entirely, and then upgrade your peripherals too.

The costs of becoming a student mean I can't afford any of that, but the grants and allowances to help you are quite inadequate, and deal with budget options not individualised person centred solutions.

That coupled with the fact the first part of the course is in about three weeks time, and all the staff who can help sort out this problem won't be back till then by which time it is too late.

So when I try and phone anyone, my own speech is as halting as the computer I am stuck with for now.

Sunday, August 06, 2006



Named by Quaker William Penn as the "City of Brotherly Love" from the Greek. That was the cryptic reference in my last post :)

Well Autscape is over and I am settling into the next phase of my life.

Autscape was fine, my Landie did not let me down, and I was comfortable being able to sleep in the back.

The presentations were mixed, I liked some, not so sure about others. Wendy Lawson got of lightly this time, (apart from suffering me over dinner) so did Jim Sinclair.

This one was interesting, and the guy deserves more publicity even if it is hosted on “Autism Never There’s” website.

On arriving home I have to deal with the operation coming up very shortly now, and worse than that even, the first study weekend at Birmingham Uni.

Why oh why do they have to have Ros Blackburn to do the self narrating zoo turn?

I would rather someone who is politically aware and linked with the wider online autistic community, not someone who annoys me with unsustainable bias.

I would rather see Kieth McKenzie do his autscape presentation although he has more to learn about our wider community yet, which things I am sure he took note of after Autscape.

I shall have to make sure that the other students are aware that there are many shades of autistic opinion and make sure they know about the autism hub even if I get chucked out doing so.

That course has a lot to learn and I shall make sure that my metaphorical sword never sleeps in my hand till they look at what they don’t want to look at rather than stay with what is safe.

Is it any wonder I am very tense about the whole thing?