Thursday, October 9, 2014

Moving this Blog

Due to technical trickiness and the lack of accessibility on Blogger for folks using screen-readers, it requires use of capchas even if you have a Blogger account to make comments!
 I've decided to move this blog over to wordpress- AutistiCelt
I encourage other folks to move their blogs away from blogger and/or pressure/annoy Google to make it more accessible.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Let's Play Nice with the Religious People, and Atheists too!

On a recent Facebook discussion for adults with autism, someone was curious about the range of views on God and religion. Most people who responded stated their opinion in a neutral, non-judgmental way, though there were a few people expressing disdain for either atheism or theism. I do not want to see religion divide our community. Many autism support groups online and offline forbid discussion of religion or politics to avoid personality clashes, so I haven't encountered this topic very often.

Autistic people follow their own unique paths spiritually, or sometimes can be very rigid thinkers who adhere strictly to their religion. If we follow a spiritual path we usually are do it for our own reasons/personal interests rather than due to social pressure. Even if we stick with the religion of our upbringing, we find our own approach, or we may choose another religion or even create our own.  I also know many atheist/agnostic/humanist Aspies/autistics, many of them are very thoughtful, ethical and conscientious people, who often feel a deep connection to nature, animals, other people etc. They find meaning in other ways. What matters to me is that we are happy healthy and well-adjusted, whether religion plays a role in that or not is up to the person.

Our community should be pluralist, open to people of different cultural, ethnic, religious, class backgrounds, sexualities, gender identities and abilities. We can hold our opinions privately and may disapprove other people's beliefs or life choices but ultimately if they are not hurting or interfering with others it is best that we put those differences aside for the common good. 

Some people on the spectrum and their families have been hurt or excluded by religions. Others simply don't care to be religious. There are some Aspies who are quite vocally anti-religious, and I fear this may lead other autistic people to reject social services and networks with religious associations that they may desperately need.

I recommend that we try to be open to working with religious communities. That does not mean that we all need to be religious ourselves or agree with their particular beliefs and practices. We should avoid collaboration with religious groups that we feel are harmful to our well-being and that of other people on the spectrum. Western societies are becoming more secular, and while the merits of that as a whole can be debated, as a pragmatic disability activist one thing that does concern me is that many social functions that organized religions serve are not being replaced by secular counterparts. Atheist groups form for the purposes of socializing and advocacy- but do atheists bring each other soup when they are sick, volunteer to care for the child of an over-stressed parent, or take in their fellow homeless atheists?  There are definitely atheists out there doing this sort of community work, and I applaud them, and their are religious people who don't. I know talking about "social functions" sounds a bit off to a bunch of autistics, but as folks with disabilities, we really need these things!  I'm also quite happy to work with secular and atheist organizations on disability issues, so long as they are not focused on being anti-religion. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Is Your Church Autism-Friendly?

Is Your Church Autism-Friendly?

Note: This is based on my experience with mostly “mainline” Protestant churches, as a person with Asperger's/High-functioning autism. Though the disability community as whole commonly uses “person first” language, I and many others on the spectrum prefer “identity-first” language. We see autism as a part of who we are, rather than a condition we have. Other people on the spectrum, and their families may prefer “person-first”, and I respect their choice of self-identification. Mutual respect is good!

How Does Your Church Address/Frame Disability Issues?
In sermons, readings, hymns and Bible study, how does your church treat passages that mention blind, deaf, and lame people, people with diseases like leprosy and so forth? Does your church emphasize healing? Does God have a “plan” that includes teaching people lessons with suffering? Are people with disabilities “special children/blessings in disguise/angels” of God? Or are they possessed by demons?
Does your church espouse prosperity theology- the idea that God blesses faithful Christians with wealth, health and other benefits, or perhaps New Thought? Do disabled people just need to have more faith? These are the sorts of messages that you will need to question if you want your church to be welcoming of people with disabilities.

Structured vs. Unstructured Socializing
A typical church service can be a great way for autistics to interact with others. The structure, predictability and repetition can be soothing to us. But many church social events- the after service fellowship time, the potluck, the wedding reception, the youth lock-in- are very unstructured and chaotic, and can give an autistic person a lot of discomfort and anxiety. A church service that the autistic person is familiar with creates a sense of security, their expected role is clearly defined. But once the church service lets out, the random social mingling begins, and autistic person isn't sure what to do. I'm always more interested in having in-depth conversations rather than engaging in shallow “small-talk” that tends to take place in these settings, especially when I don't know most of the people involved. The noise and packed together crowds of people can also set off our anxiety. I find large groups easier to deal with when they are more organized- even when people are sitting down at tables, rather than standing and walking around with coffee cups, makes me feel more comfortable.

A couple of options- one is that the individual is free to skip the fellowship time altogether. Fellowship is generally optional, but some congregants may see the person as anti-social or aloof. A better option is to offer small group discussions or hands-on activities, either concurrently with fellowship time, or on other days. Most churches have these sorts of activities, but they too, can present social problems for autistic people.

Age and Gender Segregation

Autistic people develop differently than their peers- emotionally and socially we are behind, but sometimes intellectually we may be ahead of our peers. Assuming that an autistic person belongs with people of their own age group, and will necessarily have more in common with them is a big mistake.
Churches, as compared with schools can potentially offer a lot more flexibility with ages. Consider allowing an autistic teen, or even a pre-teen in an adult Bible study, volunteer activity or other small group, rather than expect them to do “fun” youth activities that they may not actually consider fun! Some autistic people may prefer topics and activities that are directed toward younger age groups. This can be a good opportunity to help a person with autism to learn to be a mentor toward younger people. Also consider whether certain activities are inherently more or less appropriate for particular ages, or if that is more based on traditional cultural assumptions. Try having a multi-age art class, for example, or an adult discussion of Veggie Tales! Remember, bullying, intolerance and social exclusion happen in churches too. This is something I've often seen denied by parents and church leaders, but it is definitely something that I and many other autistic and disabled people experience in churches, and it is a major reason why we often do not return after adulthood.

Now, for gender. I've noticed both from my own experience and many others on the spectrum that we frequently do not fit well into socially expected gender roles, and that our social difficulties are often exacerbated by being forced into same-gender/same-age groups. Many autistic guys I've known find more social acceptance from female friends, many autistic girls I've known have mostly male friends. If your church has a theology of “complementary” God-given gender roles, I would strongly ask you to re-consider it. I know I probably won't change your mind based on this one article, but hopefully I will at least get the wheels turning! Please keep in mind that gender-nonconforming behavior in childhood or adulthood does not imply anything about an individual's sexual orientation, and it may or may not mean identifying as transgender. I understand that churches may still want to have a men's/women's retreat, Bible study, etc. but please do not base too many of your activities along gender lines, and do not make assumptions about what being a man or women means- it varies with each person, and some people do not identify with either!

Sensory Issues
Smells and bells can be awesome for some autistic people- for others they can be hell.
Autistic people are wired in such a way that their senses are often extra sensitive. Many of us enjoy music, but we may have strong preferences about the volume and tonality. Some of us can't deal with the scents of candles, incense. Maybe if you're Catholic or Orthodox, that's just How Things Are, and it can't really be changed. Or maybe there's a different service that doesn't use those scents, or that type of music that you can switch to. Or you may need to find another church.

Autistic people often don't like to be touched without warning so the “Sharing/Passing of the Peace” that is part of some services may be challenging for them if the congregants are especially huggy. Autistic people need to learn to watch social cues that others may be planning a hug/handshake or kiss and figure out what they're comfortable with, and politely assert if they don't want to be touched, either at all or in a particular way. Other autistic people love hugging, and may sometimes not understand appropriate boundaries (especially between men and women) If this issue arises, please discuss it privately with the autistic person (and their family if they are younger) and make it clear that we're not judging you, hugging is OK, but explain boundaries and body language to be watchful of.

Many autistic people are sensitive to fabric texture and may prefer to wear casual clothing that feels more comfortable their skin. I know for myself, the feeling of lace is like wearing burlap. If that is the only reason Junior is getting upset about going to church is putting on that starched suit, count your blessings. Let him wear the sweatpants. People will be able to deal with sweatpants, tantrums- not so much. For autistic teens and adults, it may be easier to politely and discreetly suggest an affordable shopping trip to find clothing that is more comfortable but more formal. The autistic person may still not be interested. Then you may just need to be flexible, and tell people who get uncomfortable “that's just how Joe dresses, that's just who he is”. Remember, whatever Joe's wearing, it's probably better than the getups John the Baptist preferred. (OK- now there's a Biblical dude that sounds autistic! Lived in the wilderness, ate locusts- yeah John was a little special)

Church Size: Pros and Cons
In some ways, it may seem as if a smaller church may be better suited to an autistic person than a large one. It's hard to make that generalization however, as it really depends on the culture of the church, it's structure, and the needs of the specific autistic person. Small churches can have a tendency to be cliquish and insular, and that may make it difficult for a spiritual seeker to feel welcome. But it may be easier for small church to make accommodations. It may be easier to educate the entire congregation about autism, and a particular individual's unique needs. In a smaller church, one person can feel like they have more of an impact.
On the other hand, a larger church, simply by having more people is more likely to contain others with similar disabilities and special needs. A support group for families, or for teens, or adults on the spectrum or with disabilities in general can be formed. An autistic person with a particular special interest is more likely to find others with the same interest. But these points could be made about the size of towns and cities as well.

Class, Status and Money
In this era of uncertain economic change, many people struggle with keep employment and housing- particularly people with disabilities. Instead of asking people what they do for a living, ask them "what are your hobbies?" what is your passion? If they're formally employed, it's probably more interesting than what they're paid to do, and if they're not then they don't have to feel bad. Churches need money to support themselves, but please be careful in how you ask for money. In religious communities in which I participate, I always try to chip in something, but sometimes it isn't a lot. I do not like feeling pressured to donate more than I can afford. I want to be appreciated for other gifts I can offer the community. Use a closed box for offerings, so people don't feel as if they are being compared. Having sliding scale fees for events is a good way to make sure the church is inclusive while still covering costs. Consider having mission trips that are closer to home, there is always some important work that needs to be done in your own area or region- even if it doesn't seem as exciting as traveling to Guatemala or even New Orleans. If your community has a support group for people who are unemployed, try to re-frame it so that it is about career networking in general, because funny thing, currently employed people within the congregation will be a lot more useful to unemployed people than...other unemployed people. Recognize that everyone has different challenges that they face, including disability and age (too young or too old) and that conventional suggestions may not be helpful to everyone.

The Parents Aren't Always Right
Churches, being very family-oriented, have a bias towards assuming that parents always know best, and do what is right for their children. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Some parents, including those with disabled children, neglect and abuse them. A child may experience developmental or social problems, but a parent may deny it and refuse to get their child help. Fellow church members and clergy should keep an eye out for these problems, talk with family and offer them support, and report to proper authorities if there is actual abuse or neglect going on. Adults with disabilities often remain dependent on their parents, financially and emotionally. Young people may be pressured into guardianship when that may not appropriate, or applying for Social Security Disability when it may not be the best option for them or shunted into sheltered workshops, group homes or institutions that may not be the best fit for them, sometimes in part because parents have very few options. Learn about resources that are available in your area and share them with individuals on the spectrum and their families.

Relationships and Sexuality
Autistic people, and people with disabilities in general, are often viewed as being asexual, or if they have a sexuality it is viewed as mostly something to be exploited by others, or with disgust. While churches place great emphasis on marriage and family, and preparing for it, often people with disabilities are excluded, or only partly and very awkwardly included. It is true that autistic people are vulnerable to sexual abuse, but that makes their sexual education all the more important. Autistics may grow up to be any sexual orientation- heterosexual, gay, bisexual, or asexual. Some may live a single life- hopefully a happy one with good supportive friends. Others may have long-term relationships and marriage. Many autistic people struggle to have healthy relationships, and some may think this an inherent part of autism, but it is not. Autistic people can have healthy partnerships and marriages with both autistic and non-autistic partners when they find the best way to deal with their autism and communicate their needs and feelings.

I realize not all of these types of sexuality and relationships are accepted in every church, and every church, religion and denomination must make their own decisions about these issues.
But please, do not tell autistic people who identify as gay or bisexual or transgender, that they have a problem. That they need to change who they are, and that who they are is sinful. I know you may say “love the sinner and hate the sin” but they will just hear “hate”. If you cannot accept them for who they are, please help them find another community who will. I would say that of anyone who is GLBT, but people with disabilities, especially youth are even more vulnerable. So many young people whose sexuality or gender identity is disapproved of, are rejected by their families, their churches, and end up homeless, and often victims of human trafficking. And GLBT communities are not necessarily any more understanding of disability and autism issues than heterosexual and cis-gender (non-trans) communities. So please, even if you can't accept them, help make sure they are safe.

I also ask that you consider the difference between legal and religious marriage- some people may have benefits like SSDI, that may be cut back if they get legally married. If a couple comes to you with these concerns, please offer them a religious marriage that is not legally binding. The entire community doesn't necessarily need to know it- they will still be married in their eyes. There are ways to gain some of the legal benefits of marriage in other ways.

Embracing the Eccentric
The single most important question for church that wants to be autistic-friendly is simply, does your church embrace eccentric people? Almost every church I've visited, of many denominations loves to trumpet how welcoming they are of all people. But I notice many of them have mostly people of similar skin colors, class/educational status, political views and so forth. And for the most part, church goers tend to be a pretty conventional bunch, because while Christianity may have started out essentially as a radical counterculture of its time, its character has shifted a bit since then. So, really honestly does your church have room for eccentric people? I am one of them, and I will tell you straight up, sorry but it probably doesn't. Not really.  There needs to be space in our culture for weird, oddball, eccentric, geeky/punky/gothy (etc) Christians. Maybe not in every church- but at least in some of them. C'mon, guys I know you can do it. Jesus did it! Embrace the eccentric! Love the stranger!  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Irish Class Notes for 13th Jan

Nuacht- News & Announcements

Cén chaoi a laethanta saora? How was your holiday? (Lit. free days) 

This was our first class for quite some time, due to the holiday break and the Polar Vortex (Fun homework- translate THAT into Irish!) Before the holidays Wes had a review session for Buntus Cainte at Cahoots Coffee Bar in St Paul on Snelling & Selby. They managed to get from chapters 1 thru 10. Since we will not be having class at Central next week in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Wes will continue the review with chapters 11-20. So come catch a cuppa and catch up! That will be going on 7-9pm Monday our usual time. out nicely because I have a tour about Irish-American history beginning at the St Paul Cathedral at 4 and ending singing songs at O'Gara's which is on the same block as Cahoots at 7pm. So I'll be done just in time, as will you if you care to join me. The tour is free and offered by an organization called Erik's Ranch & Retreats. Just go to the website to sign up!

More news: Jan 26th will be our fundraiser- chip in $5 (or more!) at the Dubliner Pub in St Paul (time?) There will be music, dancing, a potluck (please bring items that don't need to be kept warm, as there's only so many outlets) and "white elephant" Irish-themed door prizes. Bring anything tacky and green your relatives gave you and pass along the fun!

Onto the lesson- today we asked/answered questions about objects to describe them and when to use the two "to be" verbs- ta and is.

*Ceard é sin? What is that thing?

Is clar é seo. This is a (chalk) board

Cén sort bord? Is clar dúbh. It's a black board.

You can also ask "Cén cinéal? What kind?  or  "Cén saghas?" What type? 

Is bad beag é, an ea? It's a small boat, isn't it? 
Ní hea. (Short answer) Ní bad beag é. Is bad mór. It's not a small boat. It's a big boat.
'S ea bad beag. 
Now if you're answering a question starting with "An bhfuil..." you answer with Níl, short for ní bhfuil.
 *Ceard is short for Cé hé an rud? What is the thing?

And in case you're wondering the h is added in to separate the vowel sounds. Because that makes Irish so much clearer.

Now I am going to go review the difference between the To Be verbs again, and I'll try to see if I can make more sense of it.

Pronunciation key:
bad- bawd
beag- byug 
bhfuil- will
ceard- care-d 
cinéal- keen-ill   
eaglais- ag-lish (church)
muisiriún- mish-roon (mushroom)
s before e/i is pronounced "sh"
saghas- sai s 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Taking the Autism/Atheism Connection Too Far

A very belated post---but nonetheless---

A while back, I commented on a study that had come out that found a correlation between autistic adults and lack of religious beliefs (or unconventional beliefs) I thought it fit with my own observations of autistic people I've met (including myself) and that how we think doesn't always fit in with mainstream religions. I was concerned though, that this might lead to people jumping to conclusions (Correlation DOES NOT equal causation, people!) and lead to further stigmatizing of both groups.

Yup. I was right. Fehmi Kaya, a  Turkish doctor has claimed that autism causes atheism, that a deficiency in the autistic brain misses the ability to believe, and children need "therapy" to help them become religious. And to boot, he is no ordinary doctor, but the leader of Turkey's Health and Education Associations for Autistic Children. Of course this caused an uproar among scientists, family members, autistics, educators as well as atheist/humanist/agnostic and religious communities, and Kaya has apologized though I suppose he may still privately hold these views.There is a panoply of responses on both autism, atheist and religion focused blogs. The Friendly Atheist sums it up well.

This is damaging to both autistic and non-religious people. It is completely unscientific- though there is some speculation about brain activity and religious experience- it is just that- mostly preliminary speculation and research.  In addition to being obviously insulting to the intelligence and agency of people with autism (of any kind) it is also, from a religious viewpoint implying that we are spiritually inferior, created as lesser beings.

 I take the position that religion itself is of neutral value- throughout human history and today, religions have inspired great artistic and musical beauty, a search for wisdom, the spread of literacy and charity and social justice work. They have also been used to justify war, conquest, oppression and the suppression of knowledge and science. I think we would be doing most of these things regardless of whether religion was involved, because either way, we are human and capable of  Likewise, secular or non-theistic ideologies have been put to both good and evil ends.

On the other side, there also a view that autistic people (and folks with other types of disabilities) are somehow more spiritual or have some special wisdom and are inherently sweet and innocent. This is a seemingly kindler, gentler more New Agey cousin to the Noble Savage- instead of the "magical Negro" we have the "magical retard" and it leads to a condescending attitude.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Silly, and Stupid Practices in K-12

Seriously, Do They Still Do That? Things in K-12 That Really Need to Go
Since I haven't really been directly in touch with K-12 schools since I graduated high school in 2001, I don't know how common the following practices still are in St. Paul and Minneapolis but they are probably are all in use somewhere. I also attended elementary school in 3 different states, and 4 different schools- Preschool & Kindergarten in Lewiston, Idaho, Grades 1 & 2 in Topeka, Kansas, and 3rd-7th in Dubuque, Iowa (at 3 different schools) and high school at a regular one for 3 years, and a charter school for 2 in St. Paul, Minnesota. So my experiences vary broadly.
This is listed in order of what I think of, not by priority-
  • School Fund-raisers for Kids- all those programs (usually presented by private companies who get a cut) where the students are pressured to sell junk food, holiday décor or other stuff no-one really wants but is guilt-tripped into buying. My parents didn't allow me to
    In reality, these as well as Girl Scout cookies and such, fall on the shoulders of the parents. They take the order forms into work and annoy their friends and co-workers. Then the kids get prizes or badges for being the best salespeople, when actually their parents are just the best wheedlers or social networkers. Though I suppose that is a good sociology lesson about privilege vs. actual truly competitive capitalism. And of course the families or neighborhood schools with more money can contribute more to this, leading to even more inequality. Which leads me to-
  • Funding Schools with Property Taxes Yes, I know. It's Always Been Done This Way. Tradition! Every five years or so there is a referendum in St. Paul to raise property taxes, and like a good liberal I vote for it, in spite of the fact that I don't pay them. Because somehow, everyone has the money for this, right? Even all those seniors on fixed incomes, or all those people who lost their jobs? I am not expecting the state or the Feds to totally pay for public education. What I think should be done is these larger forms of government need to make up the different between Edina and Minneapolis or Minnesota and Mississippi and maybe even give poorer areas more money. I know this is done to some degree but it needs to be done more- go read Jonathan Kozol's book Savage Inequalities to see what I mean. But this is socialism! Paying for Their Kids is Their Personal Responsibility. By that logic childless people or empty-nesters shouldn't have to pay for it (though some of them might in favor of that) Children are primarily the responsibility of their parents, but these kids are our neighbors, our relatives, and our future fellow citizens, employees and business owners. They affect you even if the live at the other end of the country, heck even if they live in another country. Oh, yeah and the ones who will support you in your later years, even if they're not your kids. So be nice, or they might not be so forgiving if they know you didn't help them when they needed you the most.
  • Pull-out/”Supplementary” Gifted and Talented Programs- this is really a cheap and token sop towards highly intelligent students and their parents. I could say the same of many pull-out programs as a whole. But what G & T students really need is accelerated curriculum, so they can have schoolwork that challenges their minds, rather than being bored most of the day, and having one hour with some special activity. Many of these students are underachievers, and thus are never identified, because they are so bored with the regular classes that they do not pay attention or make an effort. Many of them also have different learning styles like AD/HD, dyslexia and autism. As a result of all these problems many highly intelligent and talented people in our society end up under-employed. What a waste!

  • Cursive Hand-writing- I was talking with a teacher a while back and she mentioned that they still teach this. What?! Why don't they teach 1950's style shorthand while they're at it? We do have a modern version of short hand that is used online and in texting.c. At any rate, I remember she defended it by saying that students need to have their own unique signatures so they can't be forged. All a signature requires is bad hand-writing which all these kids have anyway. And these days, things are moving more towards fingerprint, retina scans, and pretty soon we'll all have our own QVC codes. We do still need to learn to print well for writing notes, filling out forms, etc. Instead of wasting time on this, let's teach them to print legibly and learn that how to write and speak academically and professionally vs. the latest online/texting lingo. I feel bad for all the immigrants who are trying to learn English.
  • Pep Rallies: Or I, the Principal, Dub thee Sir Football Captain
    This is another weird holdover from the 1950's held to supposedly promote “school spirit” consisting mostly of worshiping sports teams. Assemblies are a more logical event to be holding for relevant information/news to students and staff. Sometimes they are also held in response or to commemorate some occasion or current event- like the latest school shooting. So, about once a month. 
  • Amusingly, some workplaces (particularly retail) have pep rallies for their employees. At my company we have a morning “rally” and at Jo-Ann's we had “team huddles” Extra funny for workplaces mostly consisting of women. At Wal-Mart I have heard they actually do cheers. So it is great preparation for the "real world" after all! 
  • Bullying, and Anti-Bullying Programs that are also a joke. When the anti-bullying movement arose, I remember thinking resentfully thinking, oh sure now they're doing something about it. Some spiteful part of me thought if I went thru it they should too, and maybe “kids these days” are just wimpier but then I realized how unfair that was, and this has become so normalized in our culture that we just consider it a regular part of childhood. Many conservatives are getting mad about the whole thing, suspecting that it's really a part of this evil Liberal Pro-Gay Anti-Christian conspiracy. They are right, in part about the pro-gay thing, but aside from that I really think it's based on a masculine might makes right, suck it up and deal with it, worldview. A stink is also made about how it's really the parents' responsibility to teach their kids good values . I agree with this, but even parents who try their best can end up with brats and serial killers, and awful abusive parents can end up with Nobel Peace Prize winners. Once again, the schools have to deal with it, regardless of what the parents do. To be continued...
  • The Whole Concept of Junior High/Middle School I never understood the point of having a school that only lasts for 2 or maybe 3 years (No, I don't mean community college) While I'm in general opposed to gender-segregated education, I think this age group would actually be a good exception. Face it- puberty sucks. Girls go thru it first, and are noticeably socially and emotionally more mature than boys, even when the boys are getting thru puberty. 6th-9th grade at the broadest. It's possible this may exacerbate bullying, however, since most bullying in my experience happens among the same gender. Oh, and around this age, please get them vaccinated for HPV- both Susie and Billy. This, and comprehensive sex ed in general, do not encourage kids to have sex. It teaches them the risks and avoids the forbidden fruit phenomenon that results in rebellion and exploring without knowing how to protect themselves. Even if they are pure virgins at the altar, hubby or wifey may have an unpleasant surprise from a previous relationship, or cheat on you. STI/STD tests are always a good idea before you start having sex with someone.
  • History Classes that are all about Wars- and White Guys I find history, both American and globally to be fascinating, but particularly in junior high it was all about wars. In our culture, they are supposed to be fun spectator sports, complete with chest-beating tribalism, but I just found them boring. Civil War. World War II. Revolutionary War. Yeah, I get the idea. Funny, thing too, they never teach about the ones that we lost. History curriculum has become increasingly multicultural, but at least in my experience, it was often a token inset, or Black History Month- generally about the same people- MLK, George Washington Carver.

  • Over-Priced Yearbooks/Class Rings Jostens is an evil company that has a monopoly on yearbooks and class rings. I don't know if they make ones for colleges, but I wouldn't be surprised. It is actually not that hard to produce your own book at an office supply/printing store like Staples, Office Max or FedEx Kinko's, or online print on demand companies. Those rings are just plain tacky- they look like something a pimp would wear (at least the men's) Then, sometime after you graduate- No One Cares. You don't care. And the ring ends up in some drawer gathering dust. Save your money for interview/work clothes, college tuition and moving expenses.

That's all I have for now- end rant!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Younger Siblings and Autism

Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of evidence that the chance of a child being born with autism is much higher if they have an older sibling on the spectrum. In fact, as more data has become available, this probability is understood to be even higher than previously thought. In addition, non-autistic siblings often imitate autistic behaviour. In the early 90's when time my brother and I were diagnosed, autism "experts" my parents encountered were often interested in study our genetics make-up. Parents who had an autistic child frequently stopped having more, so we were a rarity.

Over the years as I've met more families with autism, I've noticed that younger siblings often seem to have stronger autistic symptoms- such as more speech and developmental delays than their older autistic brothers and sisters. My younger brother and Dan's were both delayed in speech, whereas were considered quite precocious. Dan went straight from Dr. Seuss to National Geographic while his brother struggled to read. So why is this?

If a child proves more difficult to raise, parents may wait longer to have another child, thus increasing the likelihood of disability in the next.  My brother and I are 3 years apart, as are Dan & his brother, and our mothers were both 30 when the had us. So not considered old enough to be risky. Are the parents a little worn out raising the first, so they are a little less conscientious with the second? My dad has joked that its the reverse- that the first child is a sort of "guinea pig" and with the second kid the parents know what they are doing more!

Of course this isn't always the case, I've certainly plenty of autistic kids with younger non-autistic siblings (though frequently they have traits, or related disabilities like AD/HD- and one or both or the parents- often identified after the child with more severe symptoms has been. It's interesting to see the reaction of the parents when another child is labelled (older or younger) Sometimes they are more accepting, in other cases more resistant. (Nooo- why can't I have a "normal" kid!)

I'd be interested in other people's observations and experiences- Please share them below, or post a link to your own blog or website.