Sunday, January 16, 2011

Owning Autism

I guess the fact that my Supervisor and I have just submitted an abstract for a poster at the 2011 IMFAR is enough to put the wind up some, but having got that out of the way I shall now be working up a proposal for something much closer to home. I enclose the call for proposals below. Out of respect for Autscape I am not accepting any comments on this.


Monday 22 August to Thursday 25 August 2011  West Yorkshire

C A L L   F O R   P R O P O S A L S

Deadline for submissions: 18 February 2011 Submission form:

Please distribute widely.

____ Contents ___________________________________

1.                What is Autscape?
2.                What we are looking for 
3.                Theme 
4.                Audience 
5.                Examples 
6.                Non-verbal workshops 
7.                A few notes of caution 
8.                What do we expect from you?
9.                What can you expect from us?
10.            How to submit your proposal

____ What is Autscape? ____________________________

Autscape is a conference run by and for autistic people. Non-autistic people are also welcome, but the environment and content of the event are centred around autistic people's needs, interests and sensitivities.
Lectures are about autism. Workshops and leisure activities do not need to be specifically about autism, but do need to be suitable for autistic people. 

____ What we are looking for ______________________

We are now accepting proposals for lectures and workshops to be presented at Autscape 2011.


Suggestions and proposals for informal activities will be called for in the near future. These may include leisure sessions and discussion groups.

____ Theme ___________________________________

The theme for this year's Autscape is Owning Autism.

Autism Spectrum Conditions (including Aspergers Syndrome) can be
officially diagnosed by clinicians. They are examined, thought about, and commented on by academic researchers, journalists and parents. These people contribute to defining what autism means in society. However, autism is experienced from the inside by autistic people.

We want to examine who currently "owns" autism and how ownership is
expressed. We invite consideration of the ways autistic people own our

Presentations which seek to develop this theme will be given priority however any suitable topics will be given consideration.

We wish to explore a broad range of perspectives on being autistic in many different ways. This can be through formal presentations or workshops, and may be theoretical or practical. Many different types of input are welcome: traditional lectures, creative expression,  physical activity, interactive workshops and more.

____ Audience _____________________________________

Although we welcome non-autistic professionals and family members, this event is primarily for autistic people, not about us! Workshops geared towards parents and professionals may be accepted, but must be positive in their support for autistic people and our right to be different.

____ Examples ______________________________________

For some examples of what has been presented at Autscape in the past, see last year's presentations at:

We are also likely to enjoy similar workshops to those that have been  presented at Autreat, in the USA. See:

____ Non-verbal workshops ___________________________

Although many of the autistic people who are attracted to an event such as Autscape are highly verbal, others may have difficulty with an event centred around language. We want to welcome and fully include all kinds of autistic people, including less 'wordy' ones. Therefore we are also seeking workshops which are not primarily focused on the spoken word. (Presenters may still use speech; it is just not the main content of this type of workshop). Examples: dance, relaxation, music, art, construction of some kind. These workshops are different from casual leisure sessions in that they have more structure, preparation (from the presenter), relevance to autism and  the event's theme, and duration.

____ A note of caution ________________________________

Cures: Workshops about curing or preventing autism are likely not to go over well at all and are best avoided altogether, unless it is from an advocacy standpoint.
Personal Experience: We all have personal experience of autism. If your presentation is primarily based on your personal experience, think carefully how it can help attendees to find new understanding of their own situation. Please let us know what you're hoping those present will gain from your presentation.

Suitability: Every workshop, no matter who it is targeted towards, should be suitable for autistic people to attend without feeling objectified or put down.

____ What do we expect from you? __________________

* Reliability: You need to be able to assure us that except for unforeseen circumstances you will be there to present as agreed.

* Presentation materials:  Please send copies of any handouts and computer presentations (e.g. powerpoint) by the date requested (to be confirmed, approx 2 weeks before Autscape). These will be made available for download and printing by Autscape participants. In addition we can printed a limited number of pages for handouts.

* Your details and presentation summary:  We would like to include your presentation summary, biography and any electronic handouts you provided in our website's archive area.

* Permission to record: Please allow us to video or otherwise record your presentation. These records may be made available to others by Autscape. Some participants may also audio record presentations for their own use. If you submit a proposal we will assume you are happy with these expectations. If you have any questions or objections, please let us know so we can discuss it.

* Presenters are encouraged to run a discussion group on their topic later in the day, for those who would like to explore the issue further. If you may have problems with this we will try and find a volunteer to help.

____ What can you expect from us? ___________________

* For Presentations: You will receive a day’s attendance at Autscape free of charge. Presenters will be accommodated on-site for the day of their presentation including the night before or after. Only one such place can be offered for each presentation, regardless of the number of presenters. Unfortunately, due to the funding situation we cannot offer free attendance at all of Autscape this year. Whenever you are not presenting you can enjoy the event, including other workshops and the setting, just as any other participant.

(Please note, this does not apply to informal activities such as leisure sessions however for these we will pay reasonable expenses for materials required)

* Involvement:  One thing you can expect by joining us is the opportunity to shape an emerging self-advocacy event and autistic community. There will be opportunities at the event to get involved in the future of Autscape.

* Audience: A rare opportunity to be heard by a significant number of autistic people. A chance to have some influence and get some feedback from the people who matter most in the field of autism.

* Respect and consideration. We will let you know as soon as possible if your proposal has been accepted and will try our best to accommodate you at a time that suits you.

____ How to submit your proposal ___________________

 To submit your proposal, please use one of the following:

Please include the following information:

At least one way to contact you of:
- Email address (preferred)
- Phone number
- Postal address
Experience (a summary of your relevant experience, including presentations/education/advocacy, and the nature of your interest in autism and/or in general disability issues)

Your name or alias (for public use)
Biography (50-100 words)
Presentation title (1-12 words)
Summary (50-150 words)

Type of session (choose one):
-        Lecture (audience mostly listens)
-        Workshop (audience participates verbally)
-        Hands-On (audience participates physically)
-        Other (please describe)

How does your presentation relate to this year’s theme “Owning Autism”?

Please describe your presentation or activity for the decision makers.


All proposals must be received by 18th February.

What happens next

The committee will decide which presentations to accept for autscape and will inform everybody who has made a proposal of their decision by 23 March

Friday, January 07, 2011

A beautiful Mind

No the author is not talking about himself here he is talking about the movie.

I have recently been re-watching the movie, and a few things have struck me about it. I don't intend to do the obvious here, play Lili Marlene's game and attempt to slap a dx of my own on the guy, but there are parts of the Russel Crowe's interpretation of the part that reminded me of myself at Uni as a loner not knowing how to engage people, and fearing that nobody liked him. Well to be honest I have not changed a lot there..

However John Nash  himself is not a part played by a famous movie actor, he is a real person and in person quite different. To some peoples chagrin he might well make a good recruit to so called Neurodiversity's "cabal" given his real views on mental illness, which are somewhat different from the movie portrayal and from which I quote here:
“When there are large populations and behavior of a complex structure, it observably turns out that the individuals of a species can have quite varied forms of behavior and that they may serve the interests of a nest or family or tribe in quite varied fashions,”  
and ...

“It is conceivable that the susceptibility of humans to depression or to bipolar disorder may correlate positively specifically with the composition of poetry,” 
And there's more ...
 “One thing about diversity in natural species that is well understood by evolutionary biologists is that the natural phenomenon of mutations serves to prepare a species for adaptation to changing conditions or for improved adaptation to an existing level of environmental circumstances,” 
 leading to: -
 “So a possible, but perhaps questionable, inference is that humans are notably subject to mental illness because there was a need for diversity in the patterns of human mental functions,”
Ok so I have cherry picked here, the full article can be found elsewhere: -

Nash Suggests Schizophrenia May Serve Adaptive Function.

Thing is, I have met John Nash and conversed with him. We met at the 2005 Warwick University Economics Summit, when I had the good fortune to be a VIP Alumni guest (chosen by lot from ticket applicants) and so had the opportunity to share some time with him and the other speakers.

I can tell you he was a lot more impressive than the majority of autism academics it has been my misfortune to have to correct in the middle of lectures. During his lecture (where he had his back to the audience throughout) one had to submit written questions, and if he thought that the question was rubbish he would say so and go onto the next.

I therefore felt privileged that he accepted my question as a worthy one, where I dared to suggest that his asymptotic ideal money, (The subject of his lecture) was essentially a self referring definition prone to error because of the variables chosen (a concept one gets quite familiar with when one reads the dross that passes for autism research) and to my surprise (because I was aware I was up against a formidable brain  here, that, whose considerable knowledge of mathematics could easily be insulted by my scraping the bottom of the barrel of my undergrad economics and shaky maths), he conceded that I had a point, but that he felt the concept was better than any other in terms of a new "gold standard" (gold standard in the literal sense here, not the metaphorical sense it is used when speaking of diagnostic schedules.

Anyway having asked him a question gave me the opportunity to follow that up in a lengthier conversation later where the subject turned to Post Modernism.

It was there that I realised that although we have the same desire for there to be certainties, I am more comfortable in seeing that no such exist and that even mathematics is a relative subject dependent as much upon human psychology and biology as any real platonic existence. Qv that Bogey of mathematicians  "George Lakoff"

Well we did not talk about "mental illness" at all, as I recall, but is interesting to see in the article I have referenced that he does indeed share similar views about that to mine, especially the notion coming out more and more in research that Schizophrenia and Bipolar are not too nosologically inseparable biologically determined absolutes, but that they live together in a more complex relationship.

Now whilst people can (and do) accuse myself and colleagues of a like mind of romanticising Autism as a 'difference which has it's positive aspects', I do not think anyone can accuse John Nash of the same romanticisation of his condition, and get away with it. For here is a man who has clearly suffered the unfortunate consequences of his own negatively nuanced difference, yet come to terms with it in a particular way, something that exists for all it's confusion and chaotic appearance, in a rational framework.

Apart from anything else, John Nash is relevant to our autism blog world, in another way, in terms of his Game Theory. It is quite clear that there is a middle ground to be found amongst our rival fraternities if we play rationally. Alas we seldom do.