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Elizabeth Torres on Autistic Neuromotor Differences: The TPGA Interview

Photo © Shannon Des Roches Rosa [image: two white kids in bathing suits running on a beach towards some waves.] Elizabeth Torres is Director and Principal Investigator at the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence, and a researcher at Rutgers University, where her lab “develops new methods for precision medicine and mobile health.” We spoke with Dr. Torres about her work on autism’s motor and movement underpinnings, and why research in this area could lead to autistic people getting greatly improved and highly person-specific accommodations and supports, and why autism research is so rarely truly evidence-based. Why is understanding neuromotor-based factors in autism so important? Elizabeth Torres: As you know, autism is currently defined by observation. Think about a continuum from zero to ten, where at zero you have opinion, and at ten you have hardcore rigorous science, mathematically based. And somewhere in between, you have pseudoscience and soft science…

I’m The Parent of a “Severe” Autistic Teen. I Oppose the National Council on Severe Autism.

Shannon Des Roches Rosa squidalicious.com Leo making me make fart noises, because that is never not funny to him. [image: Photo of the author’s teen son squeezing her cheeks so she will make a raspberry sound with her mouth. Both are wearing hats, outdoors.] Last week my son Leo and I had a pleasant arm-in-arm walk* around a fancy shopping center while his sibling was at an appointment. We strolled past the coin collector’s shop and the jodhpurs boutique, then popped into the housewares store—just in case they had any unintentionally awesome fidget toys (which, being gadget central, of course they did). Finding delight in utilitarian objects is part of what being autistic means for my son. Another part is being a traveling one-person party. I go with his flow, as long as he’s not being disruptive. So as we wound our way past the store’s racks of remarkably specialized cooking…

CinemAbility: A Review

CinemAbility poster via Amazon.com [image: Movie poster featuring a shadowy photo of a person in a wheelchair, seen from behind. Headshot of the actors Jane Seymour, Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, Marlee Matlin, William H. Macy, and Geena Davis are arranged in a diagonal over the wheelchair user, above large white text reading “CinemAbility The Art of Inclusion.”] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion (2018) Directed by Jenni Gold, Leomark Studios Closed Captions I recently and eagerly watched the new documentary CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion via an Amazon rental. Although I have a couple of complaints, I don’t want to lead with them because the documentary overall was amazing and has been sorely needed. For those who only read articles’ opening paragraphs: you must see this film! You will not regret it. The documentary was filled with interview clips—actors, directors, casting directors, academics. I apologize in advance because I won’t…

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A Documentary About “Scary” Kids Scares Me—On Behalf of the Kids

One of the families featured in A Dangerous Son (Source: HBO) [image: A white family of four, with two young kids, on a couch together.] Kit Mead kpagination.wordpress.com Content note: Discusses violence and abuse regarding children with mental illness and disability, and the Newtown shootings. I’m not going to watch “A Dangerous Son,” the HBO documentary that tells “a story about families with children who have psychiatric disorders that lead to violent behavior.” I’m going to avoid it mostly because I have already read all of those stories. Again. And again. And again. And I have found them incredibly disturbing each time—on behalf of the children who are being written off and exploited. Especially because, as Mel Baggs points out: Across violent and abusive sets of environments, we—the kids—are the only ones seen as having a violence problem. And those environments are so very often the context for “violent outbursts.” Like…

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The World Is Such a Loud Place And It Seldom Stops Talking

Photo © dan_giles | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: A red lit-up mute button featuring a crossed-out microphone symbol.] Alex Earhart autisticallyalex.com Hearing is the sense that gives me the most trouble to the point that I often wish I had a mute button for the world around me. Sometimes I even wonder what it would be like to have a cochlear implant that I could detach when sound was just too overpowering. The world is such a loud place and it seldom stops talking. Some days are better than others. Sometimes my brain does a better job at filtering sounds toward the back of my mind, but most days the sound comes at me all at once in a jumble of confusing, overwhelming chaos. Each sound jockeys for position at the front of my mind as each insists I pay close attention to its deafening shouts. It’s an exhausting…

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Sesame Street’s Julia: What An Inclusive World Should Look Like

[image: partial view of Sara, who has dark hair in pigtails and is wearing a dark pink shirt, smiling. She sits with a Julia doll, holding onto the doll’s hand. The Julia doll has bright orange hair  in pigtails and green eyes, looks happy, and is wearing a pink shirt.] Sara Liss I wish that Julia the Muppet from Sesame Street had existed when I was a toddler and first learning (not very successfully) to interact with other kids. I was desperate to play with someone other than my baby sister, her baby playmates, and our family friends. I didn’t know how to connect with the other kids my age, and most of them preferred for me to stay away. One or two of the girls at my preschool either liked me or took pity on me, on their own or with adult encouragement, and were my sometimes-playmates. (I don’t…

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“Can My Child Ever Learn to Speak?” Authentic Communication and Autistic People

Photo © Kasia_Jot | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Photo of a young blonde girl standing outside a wooden door painted with aqua paint. Her legs are crossed at the ankle. She is holding on to the door handle with one hand.] Ann Memmott annsautism.blogspot.com Often, in my consultancy and training work, we get questions such as, “Can my child ever learn to speak?” The answer to this is important, because, for a lot of parents of newly diagnosed autistic children, it’s easy to become misinformed or misled on this point. A number of organisations will be keen to tell such parents that without their ‘ACME Treatment X’ or ‘Potion Y with Added Secret Ingredient,’ their child will never speak, never learn to communicate. The parents may be told that most autistic children who do not use speech at (say) four years of age will never do so. “Early intervention to enforce…

Autistic Disturbances: A Review

[image: Book cover with a black background. At the top, large white text & then yellow text reads “Autistic Disturbances” then smaller yellow text reads, “Theorizing Autism Poetics from the DSM to Robinson Crusoe”.  A large photo in the center features a storage rack with stacked cylinders, with different whimsical buttons on the lid of each cylinder White text below the graphic reads, “Julia Miele Rodas”. Smaller yellow text below reads, “Foreword by Melanie Yergeau”.] .  Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Autistic Disturbances: Theorizing Autism Poetics from the DSM to Robinson Crusoe By Julia Miele Rodas, University of Michigan Press, 2018. “Autism has a particular language, one that has been extensively recognized, researched, and described by clinical theorists, literary scholars, and autism (self)advocates” Rodas writes in her groundbreaking book on Autistic poetics, Autistic Disturbances. Through discussing the features of Autistic voice and examining various novels, short stories, and even diagnostic literature through…