Saturday, January 27, 2007

Careers, academic subjects and interests that are thought to attract autistics and people with the Broader Autistic Phenotype

Computer Programming *

Anything to do with computers or the internet

Mathematics *

Careers involving mathematics or statistics

Science fiction; writing, cinema, enthusiasts, anything to do with sci fi

Physics

Chemistry

Science

Technology research and development

Industrial design

Inventing

Engineering, including audio engineering and other types

History, including military history

Librarianship/Information Science

Philosophy

Politics

Activism, of all types

Architecture

Music *

The public service

Careers involving language/linguistics *

The visual arts *

Collecting

Aviation

Operating machinery

Running a small business

Code breaking/cryptography

Aspie careers often are an extension of or are influenced by childhood special interests (obsessions), and can also be based on special/savant abilities.

I have read reports of auties/aspies also working in medicine, motor mechanics, the police, corrective facilities, the military and school teaching. I have read anecdotal evidence suggesting that having a father in engineering and a mother in education/teaching may be common amongst aspies.

* can be an extension of a precocious talent or a savant ability.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Book debunking autism epidemic nonsense reviewed in Time magazine

On page 61 of the January 22 2007 edition of Time magazine, (which is on the shelves of newsagents and supermarkets and servos in Australia right now), you will find the article
"Is the autism epidemic a myth?" by Claudia Wallis
You can read it here anyway:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1576829,00.html
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1576829,00.html

The brief article is a review of the new book "Unstrange minds: remapping the world of autism" by Roy R. Grinker. The article explains point-by-point some reasons why a person who is an autistic child in the US in the present day is much more likely to get diagnosed as autistic than were Americans who were autistic children decades ago. While there are many people who have an interest in pretending that autistic adults just don't exist in any substantial numbers, the plain obvious truth can't be ignored forever.
How far can autistic culture develop without excluding neurotypical people?

For many years I have been married (to the same guy). It’s obvious to me that we are both on the autistic spectrum, even though neither of us are diagnosed and we are not as autistic as some other aspies appear to be. There are also family members who are either aspies or have autistic traits, but most do not acknowledge that they are autistic. Over the years there have been many opportunities to enjoy social events or relationships in which no neurotypical person is present, and I can say that in a number of situations there is a characteristically autistic way of doing things, which I would not describe as inferior or compensatory or incomplete.

One example would be Christmas celebrations. An all-autistic Christmas Day can be substantially different to a regular celebration in a number of different ways, and in some ways more satisfying and less stress than a typical neurotypical Christmas for me personally. I can remember the content of conversations that I have had at aspie Christmases years later, probably because these conversations were quite lengthy and meaningful, while the chatter from NT Christmases past seems to have gone in one ear and out the other. I’m not claiming that there’s anything essentially pure or utopian about AS social life or relationships. Aspies always have many annoying traits, and are just as capable of being an arsehole as any NT is. I'm not saying I dislike NTs, in a prejudicial way, or don't want to be around them. I just find that the way they socialize and conduct relationships often doesn't suit the way my mind works, and they appear to (most understandably) not have the slightest understanding of how things are from our point of view.

I’ve found that even one lone NT among aspies in social situations, or an NT in a mixed relationship, may assume the role of the instructing the aspie in interpersonal matters. The aspie or aspies may be viewed as uncultured, inexperienced, unconfident, deliberately unfriendly, argumentative or in some other way incorrect in behaviour. From that point things may go nowhere for the aspie, or downhill fast. The autist is forced into the position of having to explain or defend their habitual ways, but who can be bothered doing that in a situation or occasion in which one is supposed to be enjoying one’s self? The autist may be perceived as being even more argumentative or self-obsessed if he or she tries to explain their own position. This is not an environment in which one can experiment with doing things differently and discover what does or does not feel right. In this kind of situation it is so much easier to pretend to be having a wonderful time while looking forward to spending time in the future in solitude.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I’ve just realized something about infant speech development

I’m a mother of a few kids. I probably should know a lot about the speech development of children by now, but I’ve just realized that all these years I’ve apparently been harbouring a major misunderstanding about the speech development of babies. I always thought the important thing about speaking and speech was the correct use of words (from the language that one is raised in) and the appropriate use of these words to transfer meaning from one person to another, and back again. I always thought speech was about accuracy and the transfer of meaning, but apparently the earliest speech development of babies has nothing at all to do with meaning or content.

The first hint that I’ve been making an apparently incorrect assumption came during discussions with an infant health nurse during our baby’s standard developmental checks. She kept insisting that it is of huge importance that the baby be making lots and lots of babbling and “jargoning” noises, which are strings of utterly meaningless sounds in a pattern that at a distance might sound to the ear like enthusiastic and expressive speech, but when analysed, is pure nonsense, just a random string of phonemes (English language phonemes). I thought it was more important that our baby had already appeared to say a few meaningful words to refer to things and people in baby’s environment, but the nurse remained fixated on the question of whether baby was coming up with enough excited gibberish.

I picked up an old edition of a baby manual that I may have read years ago, I don’t remember. I was sceptical about the advice and predictions in this baby manual when it was new, and with the wisdom of hindsight I’m all the more sceptical. It describes all manner of good and undesirable toddler behaviours that I’m sure our older kids never did (such as lying in toddlerhood), and it describes many practices and problems that we never experienced. In the text I found confirmation of the things that the baby nurse had been saying. According to Penelope Leach “There is no particular point in trying hard to identify your baby’s first words. It does not matter whether he uses any or not at this stage. His expressive, fluent varied jargon is an absolute assurance that he is going to speak when he is ready.” Leach goes on to explain that babies typically get the idea of using a particular word to refer to a particular object later in their speech development. So according to the experts, being able to speak fluent nonsense, (or baloney or bulldust, whatever you wish to call it) in a social, expressive manner, as though you want to be a part of the social world of speech but have nothing to say that is meaningful or makes sense, is the precursor to the development of what is generally considered speech. Might this explain why so many autistics are so late in their speech development?