Friday, January 26, 2007

Autism, it's not what you think, it's how you do.

In 1944 Gunnar Myrdal stated in "An American dilemma, The negro problem and modern democracy"

"A handful of social and biological scientists over the last fifty years have gradually forced informed people to give up some of the more blatant of our biological errors, but there can still be countless errors of the same sort that no living man can yet detect, because of the fog in which our type Western culture envelops us. Cultural influences have set up the assumptions about the mind, the body and the universe with which we begin; pose the questions we ask; influence the facts we seek; determine the interpretation we give these facts and direct our action to these interpretations and conclusions."

I borrow this freely from Stephen Jay Gould though it is set down elsewhere, for Gould sets out in the mismeasure of man examples of how the contemporary notions of racial stereotypes and superiority directly influenced the science of the day, and from that perspective the notions of the Creationists and the Darwinists were completely in agreement. Science produced “facts” that Women and Black races had smaller brains, and more ape like features.

The statistics of such renowned scientists as Broca "proved" it, so did the observations of such medical taxonomists as John Langdon Down, and even Darwin himself was in on the act.

Gould shows how easily data is misinterpreted by prior bias, and re-interpreted to when it suits to produce the opposite argument when suddenly refuted, that being the tenacity of a scientist toward their original notion, that the will find ever more complex perversions to explain what ought in scientific terms to be a sinking ship.

Bruno Latour a philosopher and sociologist as well as a historian of science gives many examples of the way in which facts are in reality nothing but a consensus produced by complex processes of human endeavour that have little to do with pure empiricism.

Thomas Kuhn gives us the notion of paradigm shift, and if we want to see all of this sociology in practice we can observe the ding dongs of the pro and anti mercury theorists each of whom miss the practical and most important part of autism.

Never mind the bollox we are here and what is to be done? Many a good omelette is made by first breaking eggs and I would like to break the egg heads on both sides who divert themselves with arguments that have no place beyond establishing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Autism is firmly located as a Sociological phenomenon within a wider discourse of disability and the very science that purports to define and reify this phenomenon is flawed because it is predicated not upon what is practical but upon the notions of autism being an affront to parenthood and the American way of life, from Kanner onwards through the perversions of both Bettelheim and Rimland in turn.

In others eyes it is more Bob the Builder “can we fix it, yes we can” than Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas runs on rails, but that is not all that determines the course that Thomas takes, it is a complex interplay of engineering, signalling and the social function of the railways that is reified in Awdry's parables.

I would like to refer to the pragmatics of establishing autism as just part of the human condition that has to be accommodated for in the same way as dyslexia, and the other neuro diversities.

Nobody these days would contend that dyslexia can be cured by chelation or neuroleptics.

No the mainstream realises it is a developmental condition that can be ameliorated to the extent with which each individual has the innate capacity, and that perhaps different educational styles are necessary to come to terms with this very post literate phenomenon.

I have been saying the why and wherefores by which we have come to label autism in the latter half of the twentieth century and how it could not have happened before that because of the dubious cultural “advances” in society and the creation of disorders tied closely into the historical development of medicine and pedagogy. It seems that you don’t just have to take it from me any longer as Majia Nadesan has published much the same notions ahead of my conclusions.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Worse than Cancer

Well the good news is, that I do not have Cancer (yet)

And so for those who say that autism is worse than cancer, I can tell you which I prefer, and for those who want to witter on about the agonies of having a live coal burning within ones bowels, well that is dramatic speech, but heck I would rather that than it turn out to be cancer. So ok there may not be rivers of diarrhoea that I have to tip out of my wellies (it is wellie weather round here) cos I can get to the toilet in time, but I tell yer now I can give you a bucketfull of crap, well don't the mercurians give us that and more :)

No the fact that I am a little longer for this world than was my estimation a week ago waiting for test results only improves my disposition so much as I am still contending with that anomaly of being an autistic in a social world where it is not recognised.

I am damned for my "black and white" thinking and my unsubtle approach to trying to get people (and if you are reading this you know who you are) to sign this petition

Well perhaps I am the rudest autist in existence, Temple Grandin seems to think so, and that encounter is not one to be repeated

But you see I have other problems and dilemmas to deal with, because if I were not where I am and I did not have these autistic traits that seem to give me aggro, then would I truly deserve to be there cos I would not be autistic enough would I? The old catch 22.

Laurentius the polymath, the pleonastic, who would twist Derrida and Sartre in linguistic knots when it comes down to it, when he needs to, finds that speech dissolving, he struggles to communicate over a phone and certainly speaks a grammar Chomsky would appreciate as a little less than Pidgin (not that he would have them crapping on his landing as I do) phone in one hand tother left a flappering.

I might have an extension on life being as my gut problem is not terminal but I might not be so long in this world of internet discourse as I am currently in deep shit with the benefits system in the UK. My doctor without my knowing replied to a questionnaire from the "jobcentre" and though that was full enough of much else besides autism as has caused me to be a regular at the surgery or emergency room, it's still not enough for the system who still can't categorise autism aright.

Oh yeah and if you check out the link to this blog, Bert Massie is an old mucker of mine. We go back a long ways together.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gone. and I didn't hear it fall.

I looked out my window and a tree was gone. It is the one to the left of this picture.

I blame it on Global warming, for we get more storms now, so it is more likely that a tree will be declared unsafe, given the greater probability of it being blown down in high winds. But it cost more in energy to cut it down than it will repay as it was an old urban tree, not commercial timber, and I am an invader in it's territory that was originally farmland, where only sheep would have to worry.

I do not like change and it has upset me, added to my upsets as gradually everything around me changes eroding my stability. The blocks of flats in the picture have already gone, and in a couple of years mine will follow, not that I am altogether happy living here, it is cold and my flat is old, but at least it is peaceful and I enjoyed the view.

You can see why they cut it down in the picture below (on the left), as there was a hollow section at the bottom of the trunk, however in its natural habitat that would have been no threat. Next time you zoom off round the world in an aeroplane, consider there is one less tree to mitigate it's impact, you did not hear it fall, nor see it go, but it was there and now it is not.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Actress & Composer's Daughter, Nikki Bacharach, Commits Suicide

"LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The only child of pop songwriter Burt Bacharach and actress Angie Dickinson has committed suicide after a lifetime struggling with a form of autism, a spokeswoman for the former couple said on Friday. Nikki Bacharach, 40, died "quietly and peacefully" at her home in the northern Los Angeles municipality of Thousand Oaks on Thursday night, a statement said. "

I dread to think what impact this will have when the news breaks given the negative slant the Bacharachs have put on this through their press release.

I only hope there is time to combat the publicity, however this is a bad time to get the NAS to respond, I have informed the press office mobile, but that is on voice mail.

I doubt we will ever get the full picture of what this is about and I am sure there is more to it than AS, however it is the particularly curebie, mercurian, and utterly false statement regarding the "ravages" to ones brain that really perplexes

""She quietly and peacefully committed suicide to escape the ravages to her brain brought on by Asperger's," the statement said."

Autism does not ravage the brain, it is not a degenerative neurological condition on a par with Alzheimers, at the age of 50 I am succumbing the ravages of many things, but not my mental capacity which is intact enough to still be pursuing post graduate studies.

We will likely never know the real story behind, this or personal details of whatever difficulties Nikki was going through, but whatever they were, Asperger's syndrome was not the cause, but the responses of those around her to their own negative perceptions of it.

Well it has taught me a lesson anyway, not to commit suicide (which is just as well considering my low mood lately), because no matter why I do, it will be reported badly. Pity really because all the negative statements we are going to get make it more likely that someone else will!

Oh yeah thanks to Jypsy for the heads up on this ...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I have just returned from the august portals of the Royal Society no less, that bastion of the scientific establishment, where a conference was being held in honour of Uta Frith who is retiring.

I may be a fellow of a "rival" royal society myself but not one of that particular pedigree, my bunch being Johnny come latelies in comparison (though I could be shot for saying so) contaminated by the arts and manufacture as we are :)

I have to admit , that the scorpion has not yet lost his sting and although I did not engage in the sort of vehement argument I did at the NAS, I still felt compelled to tell some of the presenters who I disagreed with that they were doing bad science, because they were not sufficiently open or lateral in there thinking to realise how much cultural bias there was in their assumptions and there methodology too.

Not that I spent the whole time doing that at all, because I was only bothered with those who said things I fiercely disagreed with, not those who were not so relevant to autism as the conference covered dyslexia as well, and I am not well read up so far as the literature on dyslexia goes.

However I couldn’t let SBC get away without being told once again about the subjectivity problem with his AQ, SQ, and EQ tests, but one thing I was not able to do, because the chair wasn’t going to take my questions (is it any wonder I heckle when holding your hand up in the proper way does not guarantee parole) was to get him to publicly say something about the Geiers. However I did tackle him about it during the “networking” part of the conference during the break, and he mentioned reading what Kathleen Seidel had to say and assured me he will write something to deal with the way the Geiers are distorting his Foetal Testosterone theory.

Another thing I got out of the way, was to take the opportunity to have a conversation with Francesca Happé about her now notorious essay in Uta Friths autism and asperger syndrome book and to clear the air once and for all that she does not still hold to the ideas she represented then when autobiographies were few and far between and admitting to writing poetry could lose you your diagnosis.

Mind you it was be nice to Uta day, (well two days actually) as the whole shebang was as I have explained, to mark her retirement, and when I learnt that people had been giving her retirement gifts I decided to give her one of my own, which I admitted was a bit of an egocentric onet as it was a copy of my DVD “whichever way”

I had to be careful with the free wine at the reception, as I have been known to overindulge at conferences, and say things I very much regretted later. I don’t think I did this time, leastways nobody reproached me for it the next day as happened at the NAS international conference a year or so back.

All in all I was glad I went, and although it can be stressful for me, wanting to intervene all the time, and take some presentations apart, line by line, I was also there to enjoy and to learn.

Seriously for all there potential faults and failings (they can't help being NT after all) the researchers doing the presentations, all of whom had come under the influence or tutelage of Uta Frith at some time in their careers, seemed to be a very different bunch from the sort of fanatic stuff one gets from the MIND institute or Yale for that matter, certainly the mercury hypothesis gets short shrift, and there is no emotional talk of epidemics and Tsunami's. Too much talk of deficit and disorder for my liking but nothing I think Michelle Dawson would be uncomfortable with from the scientific perspective.

I have no idea, from the body of the conference other than those already in the know, that anyone would have considered my interjections came from a diagnosed perspective, I should think most people probably thought I was just being eccentric and individual in the best of British traditions. Who knows?