Oxidation and autism

From – Forbes.com:

‘Oxidation is basically burning,’ McGinnis said. ‘Chemically, it involves the loss of electrons. A burning match is a clear case of oxidation.’ Other examples include an apple slice turning brown or vegetable oils that go rancid, he said.

McGinnis’ studies have found that autistic children exhibit high levels of cellular oxidation, which exacerbates the disorder’s symptoms. To treat this, McGinnis is exploring the intravenous use of important antioxidants such as zinc, magnesium and various vitamins. He said his research has shown some success. ‘Some of these kids talk only on the days they get these IV treatments,’ McGinnis said.

Just as autism is a spectrum, so are the apparent causes….

The language of “us” and “they”

We first came across this poem by Mayer Shevin many years ago when we were first coping with a diagnosis of autism, and found copies of it recently when were doing some spring cleaning. You can find more about it at the links above, but I’ve included it below:

We like things.
They fixate on Objects.

We try to make friends.
They display attentions seeking behavior.

We take a break.
They display off-task behaviors.

We stand up for ourselves.
They are non-compliant.

We have hobbies.
They self-stim.

We choose our friends wisely.
They display poor socialization.

We persevere.
They perseverate.

We love people.
They have dependencies on people.

We go for a walk.
They run away.

We insist.
They tantrum.

We change our minds.
They are disoriented and have short attention span.

We have talents.

We are human.
They are ?????????????????

Kind of takes me back to Luke’s question, “When is an obsession not an obsession.”

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Thoughts on curing autism

Research into autism’s causes and a cure are very important, and I hope for success sooner rather than later. There is a lot of work going on towards finding a cure for autism. The most obvious example comes from the appropriately named organization Cure Autism Now, (or CAN, for short).

But what would happen if, all of sudden, they did find a cure?

“We can give your child a shot now, and when he wakes up tomorrow he will no longer be autistic. Would you like us to give him the shot?”

Pose this question to a group of parents of children just diagnosed with autism, and chances are you would get a very quick, passionate, and unanimous response of YES!!! Ask this question to those partents of older children, though, and the responses would likely be more hesitant, not quite as passionate, and definitely not unanimous. Ask this question of autistic adults, and you may be surprised at the answer you get.

In the forward to her book Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin is quoted as saying the following on the subject:

If I could snap my fingers and be nonautistic, I would not – because then I wouldn’t be me. Autism is part of who I am.

Unlike a cure for a physical ailment, which fixes the body so it works properly, a cure for a neurological disorder such as autism fundamentally changes the nature, the personality, of the person suffering the disorder. As autistic children get older, their personality becomes more and more not just a product of their disorder, but inseparable from it. If you take away the autism, what else do you take away?

That pun was unintended, but was it unavoidable?

Listening to a discussion on a talk radio show yesterday, one of the guests said something to the effect, “The US is a magnet for steel from everywhere else…, no pun intended.” Which got me thinking.

People make these unintended puns because their mind is already thinking of the subject, as in the reference to a magnet in a discussion of the steel industry. In the same way, our everyday decisions – whether personal, business, or something in between – are influenced by what we are already thinking of.

I think we all want to believe that we make objective decisions based on just the information, but we need to keep in mind that all of our decisions are subjective, it’s just that sometimes we don’t know it.

Knowledge and Understanding

A while back I posted a quick example of how knowledge of how Microsoft PowerPoint works could save you time when composing a presentation. In KM terms, this type of knowledge would be considered explicit, something you can read in a book or find in the help file (or just figure out by clicking on menu items and buttons to see what happens). But just because you know how to use PowerPoint doesn’t mean you understand what you can do with it. (If you want to get a better understanding of what you can do with PP, I highly recommend Cliff Atkinson’s blog beyond bullets and his recently published book Beyond Bullet Points.)

A couple of things have happened over the last few weeks that have got me thinking about the differences between knowledge and understanding.

I bought a new car: Closing the deal with the financial guy, there were forms upon forms. He typed in my info, a bunch of things got printed out, “Sign here, here, here and here.” The process was very straightforward, he knew what needed to be done, but I don’t think he necessarily understood why he was doing all the things he was doing.

Tax time: I used TaxCut to do my taxes this year. The interview process is relatively painless (assuming you have all the info you need gathered up). The program asks some questions, you give answers, it tells you if you have a refund or owe money to the IRS. But how it comes up with that answer is beyond me (and, I would guess, most everyone else that isn’t a tax specialist!)

GTD: I’ve been using the
Getting Things Done add-in for Outlook
, with some success. What I’ve found, though, is that by relying on the technology of the add-in to do the bulk of the processing, I’ve lost touch with the process. On the surface it looks as if I’m effectively managing my projects and actions in accordance with GTD, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find something a bit less straightforward.

The common theme here is how the automation of processes through IT has the potential to remove our understanding of the processes we follow everyday. Is this good or bad? Who can say. Just something I think we need to keep in mind.

Your Life’s Work

In the soon to be released What is Your Life’s Work? : Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do, author Bill Jensen recounts a defining moment in his life, when he :

Over ten years ago, a wake-up call completely changed my life’s work, and pulled me into this project. In July 1994, I came home one night just as the phone was ringing. It was my sister. Mom just had a massive stroke. We’d better get to the hospital — fast.

We got there just in time for the emergency room doctor to inform us that Mom wasn’t expected to make it through the night. None of us was prepared for this shock. Mom was the cornerstone of our family. Suddenly, we had to say goodbye….

For months, I scribbled down what I was going through and thinking about. Eventually, a new kind of clarity emerged for me. I found a new calling — what really mattered in my own work became crystal clear….

I can draw a direct line between what happened in the hospital that night, my diary about the experience, and how that changed what really mattered for me.

Parents and family members of autistic children can identify all too well with this. We all have that moment first of, “What?”. Then, “How? Why?” Then ultimately, “What can I do about it?” Which sometimes (usually) results in a re-thinking of their life’s work.

There are many examples of organizations and efforts started up by parents and other family members of autistic children as they embark on this new work. The first I recall using was the American Hyperlexia Association, started up and maintained (until very recently) by Ted and Julie Whaley. It was an invaluable resource as we tried to figure out what was going on and where things would lead. Thanks Ted and Julie.

What really matters to you?

Ask people that question, and you’re likely to get a quick “Spending time with my family” or “Helping others help themselves” or something along those lines. If you ask those people to really think about it, you will some much more detailed, personal responses.

It is very unlikely, however, that you will ever hear someone answer that question with, “Go to work everyday and only get paid for 8 hours even though I actually work 10 or more.” Yet that is exactly how many people spend their time, going to work doing something they don’t enjoy and just enduring it until they can get away.

In a recent post I wrote, “if the results of our work is not art, what is the point.” No matter the job, each individual has the ability (and I think responsibility to themselves) to leave their mark, to leave something “good” of themselves. A legacy, if you will.

In the soon to be released What is Your Life’s Work? : Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do, author Bill Jensen explores this question in great detail. From the our life’s work site:

Imagine having a profound, plain-spoken conversation with your loved ones. You speak with absolute conviction: “This is what I stood for, believed in, struggled with, and accomplished. This is my life’s work, and what I want to be remembered for.”

These conversations are captured as letters from parents to children, or friends to friends. You can download a couple of sections to get an idea of what is in the book. For example:

Never Hang Back, Wedge Yourself Forward

Years ago, as a widowed mother with two young children, the idea of work took the form of a cage or a boa constrictor: I have to support my children. I have to work, unceasingly, for the rest of my life because no one else is going to take care of us!

But I love work. I hope you will too. Not for the money or the perks, but because it offers a place to express yourself to a captive audience.

Work is a verb, not a place. A business is simply where I go to do my work, but I’m working most all the time. This matters a lot: Identify your God-given talent, cherish it, refine it, and then find a way to get paid for it for as long as you need to.

The most important thing is connecting with a place that is big enough for your talents, with people you enjoy and can learn from. No matter what your responsibilities, use every opportunity to wedge your talents into the forefront. Make suggestions. Design a solution and put it in front of the CEO as “just something to think about.” Invent the need for what you deliver. Express yourself. Chances are that people will start to pay attention, especially since so many people just hang back and do what they’re told.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Good advice, indeed.

Dusting off some old notes…

Going through some old notes, I came across a couple of things worth repeating here.

Can adults learn? from McGee’s Musings. The short answer (imho): Of course they can!! But only if they choose to. And unfortunately, it seems that most adults choose not to.

NESTA Futurelab – literature review in games and learning.

Computer games are today an important part of most children’s leisure lives and increasingly an important part of our culture as a whole. We often, as adults, watch in amazement as children dedicate hours to acting as football coaches, designers of empires, controllers of robots, wizards and emperors. In the past, computer games have been dismissed as a distraction from more ‘worthy’ activities, such as homework or playing outside. Today, however, researchers, teachers and designers of learning resources are beginning to ask how this powerful new medium might be used to support children’s learning.

Adventures in Autism: A Case for Mainstreaming

As our autistic children grow up, one of the key questions that we face is where they will go to school. To mainstream, or not? From Chandler’s Mommy is this Case for Mainstreaming:

In 1998 Yad Hamoreh became the first conventional educational facility in the world to open its doors to severely disabled autistic children and to integrate them into day-long studies and activities with mainstream pupils.

While the first years were chaotic, today the school stands as the world’s pioneer in the field of school integration with low-level autistic pupils. The endeavor was initially an unmitigated disaster. In class, where they had been placed with healthy pupils, autistic youngsters would rock back and forth, beat their heads against the walls, pull their classmates’ hair, scream, and savagely bite both themselves and others.

As the quote above states, the article addresses mainstreaming of low-level autistic children, but is worthwhile for the parents of any kids on the autistic spectrum. Unfortunately, the process this school adopted, and the participation of the “typical” students and their parents, is not going to be the norm at most schools. Neither will most schools be willing to accept the hard times early on.

Still, it gives you hope.