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The Kids Who Beat Autism
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The word “autism” has come to serve a couple of purposes that are somewhat orthogonal although often overlapping: to characterize individuals at the extreme pole of nerd-Asperger’s syndrome (e.g., Temple Grandin) and as more or less of a synonym for mentally retarded.

In the 1960s, few would have thought to lump together retardation and autism because so many of the retarded then were friendly sufferers of Down’s Syndrome: anti-autists. They were the smiling faces of retardation. But their percentage of the retarded has declined sharply.

There is a little bit of good news on the autism front, two new studies confirming my anecdotal observation that a minority of autistics get better. From “The Kids Who Beat Autism” by Ruth Padawer in the NYT Magazine:

In the last 18 months, however, two research groups have released rigorous, systematic studies, providing the best evidence yet that in fact a small but reliable subset of children really do overcome autism. The first, led by Deborah Fein, a clinical neuropsychologist who teaches at the University of Connecticut, looked at 34 young people, including B. She confirmed that all had early medical records solidly documenting autism and that they now no longer met autism’s criteria, a trajectory she called “optimal outcome.” She compared them with 44 young people who still had autism and were evaluated as “high functioning,” as well as 34 typically developing peers.

In May, another set of researchers published a study that tracked 85 children from their autism diagnosis (at age 2) for nearly two decades and found that about 9 percent of them no longer met the criteria for the disorder. The research, led by Catherine Lord, a renowned leader in the diagnosis and evaluation of autism who directs a large autism center and teaches at Weill Cornell Medical College, referred to those who were no longer autistic as “very positive outcome.”

I’ve known one person who was extremely autistic from birth, who shunned almost all human contact other than with his mother. He never said a word until he was five, when he suddenly said “Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” He rapidly improved to being simply Aspergery (a diagnosis that has been eliminated from the DSM-5). But I’ve also known two children who started off better but are now worse.

… Scientists suspect that what is called autism may actually be an array of distinct conditions that have different genetic and environmental etiologies but happen to produce similar symptoms. If true, it could help explain why some children progress so much while others don’t. The research by Fein and Lord doesn’t try to determine what causes autism or what exactly makes it go away — only that it sometimes disappears.

There do, however, seem to be some clues, like the role of I.Q.: The children in Lord’s study who had a nonverbal I.Q. of less than 70 at age 2 all remained autistic. But among those with a nonverbal I.Q. of at least 70, one-quarter eventually became nonautistic, even though their symptoms at diagnosis were as severe as those of children with a comparable I.Q. who remained autistic (Fein’s study, by design, included only people with at least an average I.Q.) Other research has shown that autistic children with better motor skills, better receptive language skills and more willingness to imitate others also tend to progress more swiftly, even if they don’t stop being autistic. So do children who make striking improvements early on, especially in the first year of treatment — perhaps a sign that something about their brains or their kind of autism enables them to learn more readily.

Researchers also say that parental involvement — acting as a child’s advocate, pushing for services, working with the child at home — seems to correlate with more improvements in symptoms. Financial resources, no doubt, help too.

My uninformed guess would be that if autism is varying combinations of two things — retardation and extreme Aspergerism — the less retarded have more cognitive resources to overcome their extreme Aspergerism and vice-versa. (You see something like that with Alzheimer’s.) But there’s not much evidence for that:

For now, though, the findings are simply hints. “I’ve been studying autistic kids for 40 years,” Fein says, “and I’m pretty good at what I do. But I can’t predict who is going to get better and who’s not based on what they look like when I first see them. In fact, I not only can’t predict who is going to turn out with optimal outcome, but I can’t even predict who will have high-functioning autism and who will be low-functioning. There’s so much we still don’t understand.” …

The article goes on to profile a boy who has improved dramatically from autistic to Asperger’s.

Mark Macluskie, an animated 16-year-old, is another of the children in Fein’s study who no longer has autism. … While he seems like a fairly typical geeky teenager now, it took years of hard work to get here. Just before he turned 3, he received a diagnosis of medium to severe autism. He showed no apparent interest in those around him and seemed to understand few words. …

In desperation, the Macluskies pulled Mark from school. They took out a $100,000 second mortgage so Cynthia [his mother] could quit her job in human resources to work full time with Mark, even though she was the primary breadwinner. … In the end, Cynthia cobbled together a 40-hour-per-week behavioral program, on top of the five hours a week of speech and occupational therapy that the state provided. They were difficult years. … Cynthia decided to keep home-schooling Mark, having concluded that traditional school wouldn’t sufficiently address his weaknesses or recognize his strengths.

There are more of these kind of heroines and heroes out there than you might think.

By the time he turned 8, his speech and behavior were on par with peers, but his social thinking remained classically autistic. “I sort of knew there were rules, but I just couldn’t remember what those rules were,” he told me recently by video chat. “It was hard to remember what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not supposed to do when you’re interacting with people.” He rarely noticed social cues, and he couldn’t interpret them when he did. He was too rough, too tactile, too quick to intrude into other people’s personal space.

Cynthia set out to address his social delays. She watched DVR recordings of “Leave It to Beaver” with Mark, stopping every few minutes to ask him to predict what might happen next, or what he thought Beaver was thinking, or why June reacted the way she did. When they had watched every episode, they moved on to “Little House on the Prairie” so Mark could practice reading facial expressions. “I remember it being hard to answer my mom’s questions and being confused when I watched those shows. I knew she was doing all those things for a reason,” he said appreciatively. “I just didn’t know how it was going to help.”

At parks and restaurants, they watched the faces of passers-by and played social detective, with Cynthia asking Mark to find clues to people’s relationships or emotions. “He didn’t seem to learn that stuff through osmosis like other kids do, so I’d have to walk him through it each time till he got it.”

I’m reminded of Aaron Sorkin’s premise for The Social Network: that Mark Zuckerberg is a slightly autistic individual who doesn’t intuitively understand friendship or other human relationships, so he has to apply his high IQ to social questions that come easily to more normal people. This Spock-like intelligence makes him ideal for deconstructing the mechanics of human relationships into computer code.

It was a pretty good conceit on Sorkin’s part, even if I don’t know of any evidence that it’s true. As far as I can tell, Zuckerberg was recognized as a natural leader of men from an early age.

Now the use of autism imagery in discussing a 20-something billionaire raises the question of whether we should use the word “autistic” in talking about people with basically zero problems relative to the kind that Cynthia dealt with in her son.

About a dozen years ago, I used the word “schizophrenic” to mean “two-faced.” A reader wrote in to point out that schizophrenics and those who care for them have enough problems to deal with without having professional writers who ought to know better using “schizophrenic” to suggest multiple personalities when the problem of schizophrenics tend more toward having no personality. I tried to think of a flaw in that argument, but couldn’t, so I stopped using “schizophrenic” except in the technically accurate sense.

On the other hand, Sorkin’s conception of his unlikable “Mark Zuckerberg” character as being somewhere on the autism spectrum isn’t as qualitatively distorting as my use of “schizophrenic” for “multiple personalities” was. Still, it would be useful to have a word for these kind of tendencies without implying that you are talking about the kind of crushing burdens that Cynthia dealt with. So, I hope Asperger’s survives its removal from the DSM.

I bring this up because reading about Cynthia’s training of her son to use logic to recognize social patterns that everybody else just grasps intuitively and don’t need to consciously think about reminds me a little of my self-training of myself, although less in the social sphere than in those of my intellectual interests.

For example, I write a lot about human biodiversity, conflicts of interest, steroids, heredity, race, sex, and so forth. Therefore, it’s widely assumed that I must be possessed by greed, cynicism, and gross animal nature.

Actually, in person I’m pretty much the opposite. I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people. Nor am I a very physical person: I’m a classic intellectual ectomorph. It’s precisely because I don’t have an innate talent for thinking intuitively about such matters that I devote so much conscious thought to them, writing down patterns I notice and reasoning about them publicly.

This is widely considered disreputable. It’s inappropriate for an intellectual to think consciously about such gross, physical questions, so therefore I must be stupid.

 
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  1. “I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people. Nor am I a very physical person: I’m a classic intellectual ectomorph. ”

    Or as I described you to Ray Sawhill, “A lovable lug.”

  2. My observations on autism:

    There are two components:
    1) lack of empathy – two flavors
    A completely cant detect others emotions
    B can detect others emotions, but could care less (sociopath)

    2) lack of social imagination – cant model social situations to predict outcomes (social IQ)

    These traits are normally distributed. Not necessarily correlated

    The most dangerous sociopaths are highly skilled at 1 and 2, are intelligent, and don’t care how others feel.

    The most autistic of persons cant detect the emotional states of others, nor can they socially imagine how you might feel, or construct theories of cause and effect in social interactions. They have little awareness of others.

    Blends of social perception, social imagination and intelligence vary. It is best to think of social perception as a spectrum of communication bandwidth that can vary widely.

    Individuals with Limited social communications bandwidth excess channel noise (overstimulation) and complexity (too many nodes/individuals) degrades their ability to communicate. Working with the socially gifted can improve the apparent communication effectiveness of autistics in my observation.

    Smart kids with low communication bandwidth and/or social imagination can use their high IQ to improve social effectiveness. Not sure which combo of traits or what thresholds and what therapies make for the best “recovered autistics”.

    Highly recommend a book by Joseph Palombo. Believe it is called “nonverbal learning disabilities, a clinical perspective. ”

  3. In desperation, the Macluskies pulled Mark from school. They took out a $100,000 second mortgage so Cynthia [his mother] could quit her job in human resources to work full time with Mark, even though she was the primary breadwinner. … In the end, Cynthia cobbled together a 40-hour-per-week behavioral program, on top of the five hours a week of speech and occupational therapy that the state provided

    This is an example of the intensive personal mentoring that autistic spectrum people need. Not the well-meaning but useless (of not suicidogenic) BS they typically get at public schools.

  4. “… so therefore I must be stupid.”
    You should have come to my No Cal family reunion where everyone with fancy college degrees voted for Obama and are stupid on purpose. Favorite quote: “I don’t know anyone who is for open immigration.” (other than every politician you voted for.) 2nd fav: “I can’t imagine scientists would conspire to falsify global warming data.”

  5. One of the saddest things about our current age is the genocide of Down’s syndrome children via abortion.

    All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60’s and 70’s about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way.

    • Replies: @dearieme
    @Kevinx

    "All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60′s and 70′s about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way." I find that consorting with lefties keeps me in trim, though of course I sometimes have to take leave of their company before I am overwhelmed by a desire to punch their silly, self-satisfied faces. Not being given to violence, I have avoided being overwhelmed. So far.

    , @colm
    @Kevinx

    The very purpose of gentrification is to avoid having to interact with people with severely reduced intellectual abilities and demonstrating their deficiencies in physical ways.

  6. To some kids, the implicit social rules aren’t obvious, so they need to be told explicitly what the rules are and given opportunities to safely practise and internalise the appropriate behavior.

    I suspect that among the reasons for the increase in kids being diagnosed with Asperger-type disorders is that explicit rules – yes sir, no sir, put on a clean shirt, stand up straight – are regarded as square, and authenticity and “being yourself” are thought to be sufficient. The explicit rules give social slow-learners a script that lets them “pass” in social situations until they can figure out the implicit rules.

  7. You’re 6’8″ and not skinny at all and quite robust. I don’t think anyone would consider you to be an ectomorph.

  8. The use of perception and logic to read expressions and motives to make up for lack of instinctual ability describes my wife and my oldest son. As a consequence, they’re actually much better at it than most of those without those deficits, but it takes a lot more effort and thus they easily tire of people’s company.

    Still, it’s amazing how far fear + steel-trap mind can take one.

    My youngest, also a high-functioning autistic is basically a happy person. However, the lack of fear in his life (he knew life would treat him well (and it has)) meant that there was no compelling reason to learn how other people worked. His “too mean;didn’t hear” philosophy has made the odd bully he’s encountered along the way just give up in frustration.

    Given no incentives, he doesn’t try to read people. If they don’t want to tell him, he’ll just ignore it.

    I’m a bit worried for his future relationships, but so far, he’s decided they’re just too much drama to worry about at his age (16).

  9. ” I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people.”

    I used to be the same way, but I recognized that was going to get me in trouble, so I try to be cynical instead (maybe from growing up in NYC?)

    “All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60′s and 70′s about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way.”

    A very Christian attitude, you don’t see that much anymore, it’s devil-take-the-hindmost. Very pagan in an old-Roman kind of way. I wonder if we’ve picked up the worst traits of the ancient world–Roman cruelty and Greek kinky sex?

    • Replies: @Kevinx
    @SFG

    Sfg. You have outed me! I am a Christian Protestant minister.

  10. The huge rise in autistic diagnoses is complicated.

    First of all, the population in general has become more reclusive over the last 20 years, as documented by “Dusk in Autumn”. This has hit the younger generation pretty hard, as they haven’t had as many opportunities for social interaction during their development.

    Furthermore, is it really autistic to ignore the feelings of people? that makes you arrogant, not necessarily autistic. Its ridiculous, for instance, to label Mark Zuckerberg as being autistic. For one thing, Zuckerberg was highly cunning in his rise to power, deliberately and consciously screwing over the Winklevoss twins. This type of street-smarts is profoundly non-autistic behavior – one of the hallmarks of Autism is a lack of theory of mind, in other words you can’t get inside other people’s heads. Yet Zuckerberg psyched out and out.
    maneuvered the competition. He may be a nerd, but Zuckerberg seems pretty typically masculine

    The culture has become conformist and petty. Everyone expects to be fawned over, and when they aren’t, they assume there is something mentally wrong with then person who snubbed them. That said, however, there are real, truely autistic hard cases, as detailed in your post.

  11. DSM-5 which lumps a bunch of disorders (including Aspergers) into “autism spectrum,” linked with levels of severity and with or without mental retardation.
    With some of the new clinical criteria, many of what would be considered Asperger’s on DSM-4 does not picked up to any clinical significance. Fortunately, for the billing psychologists, they still refer those kids to therapy.

    Nonetheless, I would be interested in seeing the people who beat autism based on DSM-5 criteria, when many of the same sorts may not be considered autistic under current diagnostic criteria.

  12. Zuckerberg is a perfect example. People didn’t like him personally, so they assumed – or decided to fabricate – that there was something mentally wrong with him. Arrogance is not a positive trait, but it is not a sign of mental illness either.

    Its no coincidence that the huge rise in Asperger’s diagnoses seems to have started in the ’90s, when political correctness also did. Non-conformists had to be cut down, and what better way than to claim they were crazy?

    A lot of the hippies and rebels from the 60s, if growing up today, would have been stigmatized by their elders as being Autistics. I believe that this one fits under Steve’s repeated argument that the old Boomers have a double standard for themselves vs. young It was considered normal and alright for Boomers to have weird, obssessive interests, and expected that they would ignore older people(“don’t trust anyone over 30!”) Yet if some young kid today challenges his teacher or the status quo, then he must be some autistic hardcase who doesn’t know how to get along with people.

    • Replies: @Marc
    @Curtis

    "A lot of the hippies and rebels from the 60s, if growing up today, would have been stigmatized by their elders as being Autistics".

    Even in the preppy, conformist 1980's, being an individual who did there own thing was still considered a sign of being bold, cool and internally directed. It didn't make it any easier to fit in, but there was a respect earned from being your own man instead of following the herd. In the information age of the 21st century there is this existential fear of being "that guy." We now live in an era where the child in the crowd who mentions that the Emperor is naked is the one with the problem (and possibly an Aspie), instead of the phonies in the crowd all playing along.

  13. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I think it is unfortunate that the same word, “autism”, is used for both high-functioning autism (say, those at least capable off some verbal communication) and low-functioning autism (the kids who are trying to bite off their arms by the time they are teens).

    Complex spectrum indeed.

    BTW, it looks like there might be some progress being made on genetic causes of autism. It sounds like this isn’t a simple story either, certainly nothing as simple as a “one-gene” problem.

    “Evidence found for the genetic basis of autism: Models of autism show that gene copy number controls brain structure and behavior”

    “…one of the most common genetic alterations in autism — deletion of a 27-gene cluster on chromosome 16 — causes autism-like features. By generating mouse models of autism using a technique known as chromosome engineering…”

    Also:

    “Cluster of symptoms reveals gene’s link to autism subtype”

    “CHD8, a gene that regulates the structure of DNA, is the closest thing so far to an ‘autism gene,’ suggests a study published today in Cell. …

    … “We’ve tried for so long to identify subtypes of autism based on behavior alone and we’ve done abysmally… …The reverse approach — that is, beginning with people who all have mutations in the same gene and characterizing their symptoms — may prove to be more useful for simplifying autism’s complexity.”

  14. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    A bit off-topic, it’s not autism, but here’s a study claiming weekly marijuana use in teens can probably reduce IQ 6 points by adulthood:

    “Regular marijuana use bad for teens’ brains, study finds”, ScienceDaily, August 9, 2014:

    “…”It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe…

    …People who have become addicted to marijuana can lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood, according to Lisdahl, referring to a 2012 longitudinal study of 1,037 participants who were followed from birth to age 38.”

    Of course IQ doesn’t exist? Maybe this is another reason why those Victorians were actually smarter…

  15. Steve, you probably have mild Asperger’s as do people like Jim Donald, Mangan, Lion of the blogosphere and so many others in neoreaction. I can tell because I have it too, based on Simon Baron cohen’s autism spectrum quotient test.

    That’s why you’re so trusting and incapable of taking advantage of people. That’s another reason why the portrayal of Zuck in the movie wasn’t entirely in keeping with the Asperger’s stereotype – they don’t tend to be manipulative credit-grabbers.

    Autism rates skyrocketed because a bunch of retarded kids got grouped into autism for the special benefits it brings – as you have mentioned in the past. Pisses me off. I wish they came up with a reliable test to tell those parents “Sorry Ma’am your son is just retarded, he isn’t autistic, now fuck off and stop hogging resources meant for others”

  16. Employers in the American South prefer secular and Jewish Student Association resumes over explicitly Christian groups, and really don’t like people who put Muslim Students Association on their resume:

    http://scu.sagepub.com/content/1/2/189.full.pdf+html

    The study replicates the same findings for New England employers.

    I commend the authors for a numerically literate article and data presentation. They present their data in multiple formats to let you do your own robustness checks. In my opinion, the best data summary is in Table 5. Here is the ranking of most to least popular religious identifier:

    Control Group (No Religious Identifier) 1.27
    Jewish 1.2
    Evangelical 1.15
    Average of test and controls .98
    Catholic .94
    Pagan .89
    Atheist (“Atheist Student Association”) .86
    Muslim .69

    Just more data confirming that Christian Americans love Jews. We like our American Jews like Jerry Seinfeld and Steven Spielberg, our Accented Euro-Jews like Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger, and our Israeli Jews blowing stuff up to defend the Holy Land and providing us with delicious SodaStream soda-pop and carbonated water home systems.

  17. Ss said:

    Actually, in person I’m pretty much the opposite. I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people. Nor am I a very physical person: I’m a classic intellectual ectomorph. It’s precisely because I don’t have an innate talent for thinking intuitively about such matters that I devote so much conscious thought to them, writing down patterns I notice and reasoning about them publicly.

    This is widely considered disreputable. It’s inappropriate for an intellectual to think consciously about such gross, physical questions, so therefore I must be stupid.

    I daresay that a fair few of the HBD crowd are like-minded, at any rate this description seems to fit the several HBDers I have met (the Derb, Randall Parker), including myself. Public spirited nerds with an other-worldly affect and a tendency favour the intellective, as opposed to the intuitive, as a way of figuring out social situations. The complete opposite of the savvy social hostess.

    This gives us an edge when scaling up social analysis to macro-institutional levels where abstract universal models are needed to predict stereotypical behaviour. However when these models are scaled down to micro-individual levels, which is where most normal people live, our uncanny knack for blurting out inconvenient truths in polite company leads to awkward silences, social death and career ending moves

    The only way out of this is that salvages something from the social wreckage is the Larry David/Prince Phillip method. Somehow craft a self-deprecating joke out of the faux pas and use it to paddle furiously away from the scene of the thought-crime.

  18. Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio isteve readers who want to support the West Bank Settler Movement but also hate paying retail will want to check out their local Meijer’s, where a high-reputation poster notes they are having a huge kitchenware clearance that includes SodaStreams.

    http://slickdeals.net/f/7123664-huge-meijer-b-m-kitchen-department-clearance-45-75-off-small-appliances-ceramic-bakeware-skillets-etc-ymmv?v=1

    Meijer is truly the most lovely retail experience in America for flinty middle class Americans. While closer to Wal-Mart than anything else, it is more upscale and much better stocked and well-run. They also have giant stores in nice-suburb locations that no longer have big greenfield development sites for a Wal Mart. The aisles are also wider, the grocery section is always full-sized, and of course the garden section is good: you can’t compete with Michigan Dutch in the live plant trade.

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    @Lot

    Wait wait wait. Are you describing Meijer's or Target?

  19. Steve, I don’t get aspy vibes from your writing like many other bloggers who use data. You want to see a borderline aspy data blogger, check out Nate Silver with his obsessive devotion to tending his xlsx’s and dazed appearence when doing videos.

    I took the Baron-Cohen’s autism spectrum test online mentioned by hardly’s comment, and my score was almost exactly the non-autistic average, 16 for me, 16.4 the non-autistic average, and 32+ for autism or related disorder.

    http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html

    Don’t assume that because you’re good at one thing (data analysis) you’re not good at others (social interaction and soft people skills).

    • Replies: @Sisyphean
    @Lot

    Recently my own mother accused me of being autistic and she is the second person to do so, which I find absolutely insane. (I wrote about it at my blog here) I wonder if 'autistic' is the new shorthand for any person who has outsized talents or is overly (highly subjective) driven. It functions as a subtle denigration that allows the self described non autistic to not feel bad for not having accomplished as much. Interestingly, I just took that test myself and scored an 11.

  20. our uncanny knack for blurting out inconvenient truths in polite company leads to awkward silences, social death and career ending moves

    As I’ve become a mature adult I’ve learned to temper the expression of my opinions in the workforce, online, and polite company. “I’m just a bit aspy” is a self-defeating and excuse-making thing to think about yourself.

    That’s not a defense of political correctness, but vein displays of incorrectness do nobody any good and are just impolite. If you have a problem with political correctness, the correct thing to do is carefully tread near the edge of polite discourse, because by doing so you push it outward in your preferred direction while showing your respect for those in the middle. If you’re not up to that task because you really are a bit Aspy, keep your own counsel and outsource this important work to iSteve. You can also do your part on Wikipedia, which is the most important ApsyNormative Safe Space on the Internet.

  21. Why so many bonding problems?

    I wonder if shipping a two week old baby child off to a babysitter has anything to do with these missing socialization skills.

    • Replies: @Old fogey
    @Wonder

    "Why so many bonding problems?

    "I wonder if shipping a two week old baby child off to a babysitter has anything to do with these missing socialization skills."

    Hear! Hear! Children do need their mothers, even if Feminists think otherwise. What an enormous experiment they have perpetrated on Western civilization.

    Replies: @colm

  22. My nephew has a severe form of autism and behavioral modification didn’t work for him. The only things he ever says are slogans from TV commercials.
    Comparing Aspergers with autism is like comparing the flu with Ebola. I understand that autists are on a spectrum, but I believe that Aspergers is in most cases a simple awkwardness that boys go through during development rather than a mental disorder. Having a fancy diagnostic excuses their quirks and makes them more of a special snowflake.
    One of the reasons diagnostics like Aspergers (and ADHD) exist is because normal boyish behaviour is qualified as deviant by a feminized educational establishment.
    Another is that Aspergers and ADHD allow parents to take part in the Victimhood Olympics that confer them status and material rewards.

  23. I suspect that among the reasons for the increase in kids being diagnosed with Asperger-type disorders is that explicit rules – yes sir, no sir, put on a clean shirt, stand up straight – are regarded as square, and authenticity and “being yourself” are thought to be sufficient. The explicit rules give social slow-learners a script that lets them “pass” in social situations until they can figure out the implicit rules.

    Perhaps the implicit, and even explicit, rules have become more complex since 1975?

  24. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    But, surely, the reasoned and rational way – which I am sure Steve is upholding, and has been the basis of western thought since the Enlightenment, is to question, question, question and try to get at the root of the matter. If your theory happens to be wrong, so be it, and let the preponderence of evidence to demolish it. The real ‘crime’ is not to speak up in the first place and put your theory to test in the great big market place of ideas, and to live by dogma, any dogma.
    For this reason we all must root for Steve – and have the gravest suspicion for anyone who tries to stifle the debate for any reason. Whenever I read of a debate-stifler my first thought is this – “What exactly are his motives for closing down the debate?, what benefit does he personally get from ending a purely harmless intellectualizing pastime?” Invariably, you’ll find a disreputable motive.

  25. @Lot
    Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio isteve readers who want to support the West Bank Settler Movement but also hate paying retail will want to check out their local Meijer's, where a high-reputation poster notes they are having a huge kitchenware clearance that includes SodaStreams.

    http://slickdeals.net/f/7123664-huge-meijer-b-m-kitchen-department-clearance-45-75-off-small-appliances-ceramic-bakeware-skillets-etc-ymmv?v=1

    Meijer is truly the most lovely retail experience in America for flinty middle class Americans. While closer to Wal-Mart than anything else, it is more upscale and much better stocked and well-run. They also have giant stores in nice-suburb locations that no longer have big greenfield development sites for a Wal Mart. The aisles are also wider, the grocery section is always full-sized, and of course the garden section is good: you can't compete with Michigan Dutch in the live plant trade.

    Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi

    Wait wait wait. Are you describing Meijer’s or Target?

  26. @SFG
    " I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people."

    I used to be the same way, but I recognized that was going to get me in trouble, so I try to be cynical instead (maybe from growing up in NYC?)

    "All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60′s and 70′s about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way."

    A very Christian attitude, you don't see that much anymore, it's devil-take-the-hindmost. Very pagan in an old-Roman kind of way. I wonder if we've picked up the worst traits of the ancient world--Roman cruelty and Greek kinky sex?

    Replies: @Kevinx

    Sfg. You have outed me! I am a Christian Protestant minister.

  27. Comparing Aspergers with autism is like comparing the flu with Ebola. I understand that autists are on a spectrum, but I believe that Aspergers is in most cases a simple awkwardness that boys go through during development rather than a mental disorder.

    Asperger’s is much, much more than the typical awkwardness around puberty. Childhood isn’t much fun for kids with it. You can function, but you never fit quite in.

    Adulthood for Aspies can be worse than childhood. While school isn’t fun, the social network that it provides disappears, and the typical work environment doesn’t provide one.

    There are more of these kind of heroines and heroes out there than you might think.

    Definitely. For mild to medium autistics, a involved parent can make a huge difference. It’s emotionally exhausting, and can be physically as well.

    I think one of the problems for kids with Asperger’s is that they come from parents who have it , or at least some of the traits. The parent(s) don’t really pick up on the fact that their kid is having trouble.

  28. @Kevinx
    One of the saddest things about our current age is the genocide of Down's syndrome children via abortion.

    All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60's and 70's about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way.

    Replies: @dearieme, @colm

    “All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60′s and 70′s about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way.” I find that consorting with lefties keeps me in trim, though of course I sometimes have to take leave of their company before I am overwhelmed by a desire to punch their silly, self-satisfied faces. Not being given to violence, I have avoided being overwhelmed. So far.

  29. An English colleague who was unaccustomed to my directness of speech once asked me whether I’d grown up in the countryside. Hee, hee.

  30. I know Canadians who’ve told me about high rates of ‘autism’ among the equatorial Somalians they’ve imported to the sub-Arctic. I’ve told them they are probably just dealing with sub-90 IQ’s, and maybe vitamin D deficiency as well. They look at me like I have Asperger’s and need help.

    I know a man in his mid-30’s. He is constantly agitated–sometimes it’s crowds, sometimes it’s open spaces, sometimes it’s close spaces. And hyperactive, pacing and gesturing with his hands. He doesn’t speak but understands language. He is able to groom himself to an extent and, apparently, has expressed a preference for a mustache. He has no Down’s markers. He’s actually a big, strapping guy; thank God he’s not violent. He’d love to smoke, which would probably help him, but then he’d just be constantly smoking. He’s incapable of work or unsupervised living but strikes me as having average-or-higher intelligence. Obviously though, he has a real problem processing what’s going on.

    He’s always been described to me as autistic but I’ve never seen anything like it among the few other autistics I’ve encountered. Does anybody know what this is, or is it severe autism?

  31. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Steve said:

    “As far as I can tell, Zuckerberg was recognized as a natural leader of men from an early age.”

    He was? I think “natural leader of men” is in the eye of the beholder in many ways. Zuck does NOT strike me as one. He may be bright, and gifted at reading and manipulating people, but he doesn’t have what I perceive as naturally radiating charisma. Then again, I see very few men with that anyway (could never get how people saw that in Clinton; he came off as a goober to me). Even if I do see it, I tend to be very wary and skeptical of it. Then again, my idea of charisma is very skewed; I think this old guy at the end of the Youtube clip has it:

    “…reminds me a little of my self-training of myself…”

    Ouch; I heard the thud of a dead cat tossed from a two-story roof when I read that phrase; thanks Steve (is it Aspergery of me to notice that?).

    “I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people.”

    I’d have a beer with you (or glass of wine, or shot of whiskey, si vous préférez). Same here; it’s been the cause of some headaches for me throughout my career when I’ve been in leadership positions; I have a hard time spotting the peer or underling working to undermine/take advantage of me. I’ve always followed my grandmother’s advice: people are basically good at heart unless they give you reason to believe otherwise. I’m coming to believe that, as I age, perhaps she had a rosier view of her fellow human beings than was warranted.

  32. By the way, do the children really “beat autism”, or does it simply retreat as they age?

  33. Steve said:
    “As far as I can tell, Zuckerberg was recognized as a natural leader of men from an early age.”

    He was? I think “natural leader of men” is in the eye of the beholder in many ways. Zuck does NOT strike me as one. He may be bright, and gifted at reading and manipulating people, but he doesn’t have what I perceive as naturally radiating charisma. Then again, I see very few men with that anyway (could never get how people saw that in Clinton; he came off as a goober to me). Even if I do see it, I tend to be very wary and skeptical of it. Then again, my idea of charisma is very skewed; I think this old guy at the end of the Youtube clip has it:

    “…reminds me a little of my self-training of myself…”

    Ouch; I heard the thud of a dead cat tossed from a two-story roof when I read that phrase; thanks Steve (is it Aspergery of me to notice that?).

    “I tend to be trusting, unworldly, and positive about everybody I meet. I have no knack for exploiting other people.”

    I’d have a beer with you (or glass of wine, or shot of whiskey, si vous préférez). Same here; it’s been the cause of some headaches for me throughout my career when I’ve been in leadership positions; I have a hard time spotting the peer or underling working to undermine me. I’ve always followed my grandmother’s advice: people are basically good at heart unless they give you reason to believe otherwise. I’m coming to believe that, as I age, perhaps she had a rosier view of her fellow human beings than was warranted.

  34. @Lot
    Steve, I don't get aspy vibes from your writing like many other bloggers who use data. You want to see a borderline aspy data blogger, check out Nate Silver with his obsessive devotion to tending his xlsx's and dazed appearence when doing videos.

    I took the Baron-Cohen's autism spectrum test online mentioned by hardly's comment, and my score was almost exactly the non-autistic average, 16 for me, 16.4 the non-autistic average, and 32+ for autism or related disorder.

    http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html

    Don't assume that because you're good at one thing (data analysis) you're not good at others (social interaction and soft people skills).

    Replies: @Sisyphean

    Recently my own mother accused me of being autistic and she is the second person to do so, which I find absolutely insane. (I wrote about it at my blog here) I wonder if ‘autistic’ is the new shorthand for any person who has outsized talents or is overly (highly subjective) driven. It functions as a subtle denigration that allows the self described non autistic to not feel bad for not having accomplished as much. Interestingly, I just took that test myself and scored an 11.

  35. #5 “All…social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities…”.
    I don’t recall anyone ever hanging out with the retarded. There’s still plenty of dumb people to have “social interaction” with if one wishes to do so, enough so one can get bored out of their mind.

    • Replies: @vinegary
    @Anonymous

    To #35

    I do. I remember many occasions throughout my childhood in the 1970s that brought me into the company of people with Down's Syndrome or another intellectual disabilities. Until I read that comment however, I had not consciously noticed that those experiences almost never happen anymore. I am sure prenatal genetic testing (and the subsequent abortion) is the primary reason for the great reduction in the numbers of those so afflicted.

    While I would not wish any congenital disability on anyone, their existence has helped their fellow humans down through the ages to learn about compassion, grace, humility, patience, and respect. I shudder to think of the potential callousness of our future offspring once it is possible to engineer any "imperfection" out of possibility.

  36. @Wonder
    Why so many bonding problems?

    I wonder if shipping a two week old baby child off to a babysitter has anything to do with these missing socialization skills.

    Replies: @Old fogey

    “Why so many bonding problems?

    “I wonder if shipping a two week old baby child off to a babysitter has anything to do with these missing socialization skills.”

    Hear! Hear! Children do need their mothers, even if Feminists think otherwise. What an enormous experiment they have perpetrated on Western civilization.

    • Replies: @colm
    @Old fogey

    And the babysitters tend to be uneducated and less intelligent.

    The noblemen of the 18th century liked to let the nannies raise their sprogs. That did not really fare well at the end of that era.

  37. @Curtis
    Zuckerberg is a perfect example. People didn't like him personally, so they assumed - or decided to fabricate - that there was something mentally wrong with him. Arrogance is not a positive trait, but it is not a sign of mental illness either.

    Its no coincidence that the huge rise in Asperger's diagnoses seems to have started in the '90s, when political correctness also did. Non-conformists had to be cut down, and what better way than to claim they were crazy?

    A lot of the hippies and rebels from the 60s, if growing up today, would have been stigmatized by their elders as being Autistics. I believe that this one fits under Steve's repeated argument that the old Boomers have a double standard for themselves vs. young It was considered normal and alright for Boomers to have weird, obssessive interests, and expected that they would ignore older people("don't trust anyone over 30!") Yet if some young kid today challenges his teacher or the status quo, then he must be some autistic hardcase who doesn't know how to get along with people.

    Replies: @Marc

    “A lot of the hippies and rebels from the 60s, if growing up today, would have been stigmatized by their elders as being Autistics”.

    Even in the preppy, conformist 1980’s, being an individual who did there own thing was still considered a sign of being bold, cool and internally directed. It didn’t make it any easier to fit in, but there was a respect earned from being your own man instead of following the herd. In the information age of the 21st century there is this existential fear of being “that guy.” We now live in an era where the child in the crowd who mentions that the Emperor is naked is the one with the problem (and possibly an Aspie), instead of the phonies in the crowd all playing along.

  38. @Anonymous
    #5 "All...social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities...".
    I don't recall anyone ever hanging out with the retarded. There's still plenty of dumb people to have "social interaction" with if one wishes to do so, enough so one can get bored out of their mind.

    Replies: @vinegary

    To #35

    I do. I remember many occasions throughout my childhood in the 1970s that brought me into the company of people with Down’s Syndrome or another intellectual disabilities. Until I read that comment however, I had not consciously noticed that those experiences almost never happen anymore. I am sure prenatal genetic testing (and the subsequent abortion) is the primary reason for the great reduction in the numbers of those so afflicted.

    While I would not wish any congenital disability on anyone, their existence has helped their fellow humans down through the ages to learn about compassion, grace, humility, patience, and respect. I shudder to think of the potential callousness of our future offspring once it is possible to engineer any “imperfection” out of possibility.

  39. I have sat through my fair share of autism diagnosis tests. If you want to see if someone is autistic, ask them to play with dolls/action figures.
    The whole imaginative play part can really show up; it’s part of the defects in social communication that many autistics have. The generalized category of social communication also include a lack of ability to read or for that matter display body language as well. Nonetheless, for a lay person not involved in child psychiatry or clinical psychology, this test can be quite illuminating.

  40. Even in the preppy, conformist 1980′s, being an individual who did there own thing was still considered a sign of being bold, cool and internally directed. It didn’t make it any easier to fit in, but there was a respect earned from being your own man instead of following the herd

    Like hell there was.

    Social skills in the 1980s were all a matter of hustling to be the biggest conformist on the block, and the most manipulative psychopath. That decade had about as much empathy as a pile of dog doo.

  41. @Kevinx
    One of the saddest things about our current age is the genocide of Down's syndrome children via abortion.

    All of the valuable lessons that we learned in the 60's and 70's about social interaction with others of differing intellectual abilities must now be learned in some other way.

    Replies: @dearieme, @colm

    The very purpose of gentrification is to avoid having to interact with people with severely reduced intellectual abilities and demonstrating their deficiencies in physical ways.

  42. @Old fogey
    @Wonder

    "Why so many bonding problems?

    "I wonder if shipping a two week old baby child off to a babysitter has anything to do with these missing socialization skills."

    Hear! Hear! Children do need their mothers, even if Feminists think otherwise. What an enormous experiment they have perpetrated on Western civilization.

    Replies: @colm

    And the babysitters tend to be uneducated and less intelligent.

    The noblemen of the 18th century liked to let the nannies raise their sprogs. That did not really fare well at the end of that era.

  43. “Control Group (No Religious Identifier) 1.27
    Jewish 1.2
    Evangelical 1.15
    Average of test and controls .98
    Catholic .94
    Pagan .89
    Atheist (“Atheist Student Association”) .86
    Muslim .69”

    My guess would be that, since this is the South, other religions are looked down upon. Jews might get a pass because of the sadly unrequited evangelical philo-Semitism, or positive stereotypes–one Jew might be a valuable employee. Hire ten of ’em and you might not own your business anymore, but that’s less of a problem in the South where there just aren’t that many.

    “Sfg. You have outed me! I am a Christian Protestant minister”

    No shame in it. I’m an atheist, but without Christianity, people would be even worse than they are now. I can want to live in a society with some religious underpinning even if I don’t actually believe God exists. Without religion there’s no barrier to ‘let’s exterminate everyone who doesn’t fit into the system’. Better to have someone say that the weak and the feeble are all part of God’s plan.

  44. The problem is that it doesn’t PAY to beat autism — wangle your children an autism diagnosis from a sympathic/corrupt doctor, and you’ve got yourself a cool $250 of crazy money per child per month through Social Security. It’s straight-up Econ 100. Plus, an autism diagnosis means your children get extra time on tests and extra tutoring resources, and your mattress is FREEEE!!!

  45. I have a hard time spotting the peer or underling working to undermine me.

    So do I.

    I’ve always followed my grandmother’s advice: people are basically good at heart unless they give you reason to believe otherwise. I’m coming to believe that, as I age, perhaps she had a rosier view of her fellow human beings than was warranted.

    It’s egomorphism or projection. Your grandmother was probably a good person, and she presumed others were the same way.

  46. Steve’s dad is an aeronautical engineer! So following genuine rules of science and physics is in his blood. More fickle rules for human social interaction are a different beast altogether.

    training of her son to use logic to recognize social patterns that everybody else just grasps intuitively and don’t need to consciously think about reminds me a little of my self-training of myself,

    In my experience, this is one of the main keys to determining who will “beat autism.”

    Figuring out the peculiar rules for human behavior and then following them helps a whole lot to pass as normal. But that doesn’t mean that these people are “normal” underneath.

    It can also cause HUGE issues when exceptions come up. I suspect this happens a lot for aspergers/high functioning autistics, since people may not realize that they are getting to the same point everyone else is through a completely different process. So when things don’t work quite right, everything can completely break down. And normal people might feel that they are crazy or evil or a psychopath or whatever.

    I think one of the problems for kids with Asperger’s is that they come from parents who have it , or at least some of the traits. The parent(s) don’t really pick up on the fact that their kid is having trouble.

    You can say that again! The parents also often don’t really pick up on the fact that they are having trouble…

    • Replies: @colm
    @wren

    Someone had said Mr. Sailer was adopted which means whatever credential his legal father had does not flow to him.

    Replies: @wren

  47. @wren
    Steve's dad is an aeronautical engineer! So following genuine rules of science and physics is in his blood. More fickle rules for human social interaction are a different beast altogether.

    training of her son to use logic to recognize social patterns that everybody else just grasps intuitively and don’t need to consciously think about reminds me a little of my self-training of myself,

    In my experience, this is one of the main keys to determining who will "beat autism."

    Figuring out the peculiar rules for human behavior and then following them helps a whole lot to pass as normal. But that doesn't mean that these people are "normal" underneath.

    It can also cause HUGE issues when exceptions come up. I suspect this happens a lot for aspergers/high functioning autistics, since people may not realize that they are getting to the same point everyone else is through a completely different process. So when things don't work quite right, everything can completely break down. And normal people might feel that they are crazy or evil or a psychopath or whatever.


    I think one of the problems for kids with Asperger’s is that they come from parents who have it , or at least some of the traits. The parent(s) don’t really pick up on the fact that their kid is having trouble.

    You can say that again! The parents also often don't really pick up on the fact that they are having trouble...

    Replies: @colm

    Someone had said Mr. Sailer was adopted which means whatever credential his legal father had does not flow to him.

    • Replies: @wren
    @colm

    Thanks, I think I may have heard that too, now that you mention it.

  48. On the other hand, Sorkin’s conception… isn’t as qualitatively distorting as my use…

    They really need to add that one to the manual, w/ diagnostic code for Pseudo-Humility Sphere Syndrome: “Yes, I may have been wrong, that one time, in March 2002, totally different circumstances of course — but look at how the world is wronger”

  49. @colm
    @wren

    Someone had said Mr. Sailer was adopted which means whatever credential his legal father had does not flow to him.

    Replies: @wren

    Thanks, I think I may have heard that too, now that you mention it.

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