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Left Brain/Right Brain Performance Issues – need your input

19 Apr

Hi friends (as pD would say),

As a few of you have noticed, LBRB is getting a bit slow. I think there are some obvious reasons for that – the database is heavy with nearly 9 years worth of posts and comments, our hosts are not all they could be etc.

However, there are a few things I can and have tried. I’ve cut out a few of the site features and I’ve optimised scripts etc to within an inch of their life. What I need now is your input. Is the site faster? Is it performing better? What pages/sections are particulalry troublesome for you? etc etc.

Thanks for any input you can offer.

Best image from an iPad-autism blog post

12 Apr

If you don’t regularly read the Liv’s Journey blog, it’s well worth taking a look. The blog has some great insights and a great sense of humor. Case in point: The Case FOR iPads Being a Miracle Device for Children with Autism. Posted in response to a post here on LeftBrainRightBrain: Wired: iPads Are Not a Miracle for Children With Autism, it takes a long look at the iPad. What made me snort aloud what this graphic:

I don’t know if he lifted it from someplace or created it himself (I didn’t find it with a quick google search). But it shows the humor of the blog. The real meat is in the actual posts, which are very well thought out and presented.

Reconsidering the Nature of Autism

8 Apr

Todd Drezner has a new piece up on the Huffington Post: Reconsidering the Nature of Autism. He starts out by quoting the forward to one of Jenny McCarthy’s books. The forward is by alternative medical practitioner Jerry Kartzinel.

Here is what Mr. Drezner wrote in his introduction:

“Autism … steals the soul from a child; then, if allowed, relentlessly sucks life’s marrow out of the family members, one by one.” So wrote Dr. Jerry Kartzinel in the introduction to Jenny McCarthy’s bestselling “Louder Than Words.” No wonder, then, that the concept of neurodiversity– the idea that we should understand and accept autistic people as a group that thinks differently from the majority — has proven to be so controversial.

The quote takes me back. Back to when I was starting to look online for information about autism. I remember when Jenny McCarthy hit the scene. Kev responded here with his blogging. The blog might have been kevleitch.co.uk then, not LeftBrainRightBrain. I remember that Kev’s blog went down: the traffic was so high that he hit his bandwidth quota. I remember that he responded to the forward from Jerry Kartzinel. He responded with words and, a little later, with video:

I don’t bring this up just for some sort of nostalgia. But this reminds me of two major themes. First: words hurt. What Dr. Kartzinel wrote, and Jenny McCarthy published, hurt. It hurt a lot of people. It added to the stigma of autism and disability. Second: words can be powerful. Kev fought back, as did many others. How or if this was an influence on Todd Drezner, I can’t say. It influenced me as I still remember it.

We can’t sit back and let people stigmatize others, for whatever reason they may have. Kim Wombles shows that almost every day with her blog Countering. Bev did it with a humor and keen perspective on Asperger Square 8. Corina Becker is taking up the task with No Stereotypes Here. And this is just a few of the many voices, autistic and non, out there.

Having said this, I will bring up one message that I’ve felt needed to be countered for some time. Here is a screenshot of a page from the book “the Age of Autism” by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill. Both write for the Age of Autism Blog (Dan Olmsted appears to be the proprietor). Mark Blaxill is a member of the organization SafeMinds. Both promote the idea of autism as vaccine injury and, more specifically, the failed mercury hypothesis. (click to enlarge)

To pull but one disturbing quote: “As one of the first parents to observe an autistic child, Muncie learned how well autism targets ‘those functions distinctly human’ “. Yes, I have spent quite a lot of time fighting bad science like the first part in that sentence: the idea that autism is new/the kids in Kanner’s study were the first autistics ever. But what about the second part: that autistics are missing or have impaired “distinctly human” functions? Yes, I’ve also responded to that sentiment in the past and I plan to continue to do so. And that is much more important than the fight against bad science.

Words hurt. Jerry Kartzinel’s words hurt. Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill’s words hurt. They hurt and they are wrong. Plain and simple.

Another phrase from the above paragraph: “autism brutally restricts the interests of the affected”. So say the team that has one interest: pushing mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism. A little ironic?

Reading their writing, I am reminded of one of Bev’s amazing videos:

Back to the paragraph from “The Age of Autism”. Dan, Mark: You don’t think autistics made tools, explored the globe, invented new technologies? The sad thing is, it seems like you don’t.

Yeah, a lot of kids, kids like mine, aren’t in the world explorer/inventor categories. And even kids like mine are still as human as you or I. They are not missing anything “distinctly human”.

Something we’re all guilty of

6 Mar

We don’t always manage to hold on to our ideals as we are all people and sometimes we all screw up and do the wrong thing.

In the case of Kevin Leitch and Harold Doherty to name just two people, these people have ideals about using pejorative terms but don’t always see that the terms they _do_ use are just as pejorative.

So its time to change that behaviour I believe. From this point on LBRB will try its absolute best to be a pejorative free zone. We would never use racist terminology so using ableist terminology should be equally without a place on a blog dedicated to enhancing the rights of autistic people.

Some may believe this is political correctness gone too far but I don’t believe it is. It wasn’t that long ago that ‘idiot’ was pejorative, as was ‘moron’, ‘imbecile’ and a whole host of other terms. So lets not bring the stigma back to those terms and lets willfully try and not refer to people in these terms. We’re here to debate ideas, not to attack people after all. Its time I remembered that and its time a lot of others did too.

And whilst we’re at it, maybe when we’re visiting and commenting on others blogs, when we see behaviour like that in others, a polite pointing out of the pejorative nature of the word in question may dissuade them from using it again.

Age of Autism have a good old cry on Twitter

22 Feb

Back story: as Sully blogged the other day an American political cartoon strip had a bit of a dig at the anti-vaccine brigade. This provoked the following response from Age of Autism:

Yeah, thats right, Age of Autism truly see themselves as a victimised minority group. No really. They do. They’re putting themselves on the same footing as every Suffragette, every victim of Apartheid, every disabled activist and every poverty stricken member of a developing country thats ever lived.

Age of Autism have a slogan ‘the bull stops here’

and they’re absolutely right – thats exactly where the bull stops. In fact, it not only stops, it takes its slippers off, puts its feet up and stays for ever.

Age of Autism, you really need to get a grip. Maybe a name change might help (click for bigger).

Why does it matter what happens to Andrew Wakefield?

8 Jan

People have been questioning the necessity of these latest revelations about Andrew Wakefield and suggesting that enough is enough or maybe that all this latest round of publicity will do nothing except make him a heroic martyr. This is possible.

However, for a number of reasons I really feel it is vitally important that not only is there some response but that that response comes at least partly from the autism community.

Firstly, I believe it is necessary for there to be a response full stop. These might be the same set of _facts_ that were uncovered during the GMC hearing but the difference here is that for the first time it has been established that the facts against Andrew Wakefield came about through what the BMJ refer to as fraudulent. This is a huge difference. Up until now it could’ve been argued that Andrew Wakefield simply made a mistake. After the events of the last two days, that can never be honestly argued again.

Secondly, there are a set of people who have been at the rough end of Wakefield’s fraud for the last 13 years. A set of people who have struggled to make new parents understand that there is no risk of autism from the MMR vaccine. Doctors. Particularly paediatricians and GP’s. It is vital that by establishing what Wakefield has done as fraud, the media ensure that the message is spread far and wide. They (the media) have something to atone for in this respect, being the original spreaders of the message that the MMR caused or contributed to autism. They now need to recognise their role in the past and help the medical establishment by ensuring Wakefield can never again spread his fraudulent claims via their auspices.

Thirdly, there is another set of people who have been at an even rougher end of Wakefield’s fraud. The sufferers of the falling vaccination rates of MMR. Its been well documented in numerous places, including this blog how people – particularly children – have been injured and died in the UK and US. The concept of herd immunity, no matter what some might claim is a real concept and when it falls, the level of protection falls. When it falls to far then the people who suffer are the very young, the very old and those who for genuine medical reasons cannot be vaccinated. Wakefield’s fraud needs to be spread far and wide in order for people to realise what he is, what he tried to do and what the consequences were in order to have some confidence in the MMR jab.

Fourthly, there is another set of people who have suffered heavily. This set of people are the silent victims of Wakefield’s perfidy. Autistic people. Wakefield and his supporters, TACA, NAA, Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, Treating Autism et al have turned autism into a circus. The aim of the last decade amongst serious autism researchers and advocates has been to

a) Raise awareness
b) Find evidence-based therapies that will help the life course and independence of autistic people
c) Protect the educational rights of autistic people

and getting research monies to meet these aims is long, hard and slow. Andrew Wakefield and his hardcore of scientifically illiterate supporters have actively derailed that process, dragging research monies away from these principled activities and towards their core aim of degrading vaccines and ‘proving’ vaccines cause autism. Wakefield himself has taken over US$750,000 worth of money to pursue a legal battle against the UK Gvmt. Just think of how that money could have enriched the life of just one autistic person.

However, this same set of people claim to be representative of the autism community. They write nonsense books about autism. They hold celebrity studded fundraisers for autism. They participate in rant-filled rally’s for autism. But none of them are really about autism. What they’re about is anti-vaccinationism.

Every one of these activities denigrate autism and autistic people. They take attention away from where it is needed.

We, the true autism community, made up of parents, autistic people, professionals of autistic people need to do two things. Firstly, we need to wrest back control of the autism agenda from these one-note people. Secondly, we need to speak to society at large and say ‘yes, some members of the autism community believed the fraudulence of Andrew Wakefield but not all of us did. Please don’t tar us all with one brush.’

What Andrew Wakefield has done has impacted everyone. We need to make sure that he and people like him can never affect us all in this way again. To do that we need to speak out about him, loudly and as long as it takes.

Professor Simon Baron Cohen endorses Neurodiversity

16 Dec

Neurodiversity, that much misunderstood, much maligned concept has been dragged through the mud for years by people determined to misunderstand it and misrepresent it. We all know who these people are.

However, it also has its supporters and people determined to understand it on either a social or personal level. One such person is Professor Simon Baron-Cohen.

In an interview with the Encyclopaedia Britannica blog Professor Baron-Cohen was asked:

Individuals with Asperger syndrome often use the term “neurotypical” to describe normal people, and in an effort to lessen the stigmatization associated with autism as a medical condition, the Asperger community has initiated the so-called neurodiversity movement. Can you briefly describe the neurodiversity movement and its implications on the diagnosis of autism spectrum conditions?

To which he replied:

The neurodiversity movement has been a very positive influence in reminding us that there is no single pathway in neurological development, but there are many ways to reach similar end-points.

Stigmatizing anyone, whether they have autism or any other characteristic, is wrong, since the point about these labels is not to pick out the person in order to make their lives worse, but to help others understand their special needs and qualities.

How nice to see a researcher who _gets_ it.

Gender Genie: JB Handley’s Results

18 Nov

In amongst the fun and games of “I’m Bonnie” something that JB Handley said intrigued me.

Sullivan claims to be a man, and is actually a woman. Anyone who reads dozens of Sullivan’s posts, as I have, would probably reach the same conclusion. It’s hard to hide your gender when you write…

I wondered what The Gender Genie would make of JB Handley’s own writing style:

There you have it – the Gender Genie thinks JB Handley writes like a girl. Now, what about Sullivan?

Woah – the Gender Genie thinks Sully is all man. Hmm.

Society vs Individuals

17 Nov

In amongst yesterdays fun and games, the author of the paranoid piece itself, JB Handley included the following statement:

What parent of an autistic child would write, “my main concern is to create a better world for all people, but especially for people with disabilities. Autism is a great challenge. People with autism deserve respect and support”? Give me a break! A real parent would only have one main concern, the concern we all share: giving our own child the best possible life!

I commented briefly on this paragraph by Handley but the more I mulled it over, the more I thought it deserved its own blog entry.

There are those that believe that even though they are parents, they have a responsibility to society and particularly to the society in which their own child belongs. Sullivan’s child, like mine, is autistic and therefore disabled (amongst other things) and so we (and many of our online friends and colleagues) believe that we owe a debt of responsibility in our writing to both this particular society. We believe this for numerous reasons:

1) The betterment of that society is the betterment of the society in which our child resides.
2) Its simply the right thing to do.

However people such as JB Handley clearly believe their own child and no one elses is important. There is no such thing as society in this world view.

This tallies neatly with their other set of beliefs. I’m talking of course about vaccination. To choose to vaccinate is a supremely societal act. When you vaccinate you are saying that not only do you believe in protecting your _own_ child, you believe in protecting the society around him/her. The concept of herd immunity illustrates this perfectly:

More than a hundred years ago, scientists were noting that not everyone had to be vaccinated against smallpox to stop an epidemic in its tracks*. Scientists also noticed that when they were wiping out smallpox, not everyone needed to be vaccinated to have the disease disappear. In many places, it was enough if 80% of the population could be vaccinated and revaccinated in a 4-5 year period.

Why do we do this? Why do we need to protect the herd? We do this because no vaccine is 100% effective. There will always be people who cannot be vaccinated and these people need to be protected. Why? Because its the right thing to do.

Anti-vaccinationism takes the directly opposite path. They claim – as does JB Handley – that it is only ones _own_ child that matters and that society can go hang. By electing not to vaccinate they not only put their own child at risk, they also put the herd at risk. They have forgotten that one of societies greatest accomplishments was learning to work together for the common betterment of us all.

One of the things that speaks most to not just Handley’s set of beliefs but the beliefs of those he speaks to is the idea that anyone could find what Sullivan said as anything but crazy:

A real parent would only have one main concern, the concern we all share: giving our own child the best possible life!

Remember that when these parents march ‘together’ they are nothing of the sort. They are a group of individuals looking out for No.1 and No.1 only.

I am Bonnie Offit!!

16 Nov

AoA have a hilariouslybizarre post up this morning.

Is Dr. Bonnie Offit masquerading on the web as an autism parent and prolific blogger named “Sullivan”?

And why do AoA think this?

The primary answer seems to be that they found a comment from Liz Ditz on Squidalicious blog that _seems_ (if you’re not too bothered about reading the context) to refer to Sullivan as ‘her’. In fact what Liz was doing was referring to the subject of the post she was commenting on – Holly Robinson Peete.

AoA’s next piece of evidence is that Bonnie Offit surfs the blogosphere late at night. Erm…so what?

Their third piece of evidence seems to be that Sullivan is a smart guy. This is undeniable. I’ve had the good fortune to chat to him via Skype and he is indeed one smart cookie. Is he a doctor of medicine as Bonnie Offit is? No. No he’s not.

Their fourth piece of evidence is that Sully defends Paul Offit. Well so what? I know of lots of bloggers, including myself, who defend Paul Offit.

Their fifth piece of evidence (why does this remind me of ploughing through Age of Autism the book) is that Sullivan appears to know Paul Offit. Again, so what? I’ll be frank, I’ve swapped emails with Paul Offit and charming man that he is, he’s always very friendly and courteous , going out of his way to be helpful and guess what – he gives proof copies of his books to people he think would be interested in reading them!! I have one myself. Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill et al also indulge in this practice. That takes care of another piece of ‘evidence’.

Yet another piece of evidence produced by AoA is that Sully goes to great lengths to clarify what Paul Offit earned from his vaccines. Let me give you a little lesson AoA – this is something called ‘clarity’ and it is coupled with something called ‘tenacity’. When you have these things, as Sullivan does, you are interested in the actual truth as opposed to the surface appearance.

Yet another piece of evidence (and we’re really scraping the barrel here) is that Sully didn’t discuss the suit against Paul Offit until the day it was dismissed, despite the fact that Orac had. Not really sure what to say about that one, except this is getting very silly indeed.

AoA closes this piece of hilarity with:

You know, I’m starting to hope this is Bonnie Offit, because if it isn’t we have one really, really troubled father on our hands. Get a life, father of a child with autism, Paul Offit is not going to help your child…unless Paul Offit is the father of your children, and then, once again, it all makes sense.

Which is a weird statement to make given that the author of this whole piece, JB Handley, said in an email to Sullivan:

…you are entitled to your own opinion, and I find your writing to be thought-provoking.

So on one hand Sully is a really, really troubled father and on the other JB Handley finds Sully thought provoking. Hmmm.

However, as I said, its plain to me that Sullivan is not Bonnie Offit for one clear and simple reason. I’ve spoke with HIM.

And there’s one other factoid AoA clearly missed. Sully can’t be Bonnie Offit because I am!!

Update:Orac claims he’s Bonnie Offit. Clearly this can’t be true because I AM!!!