The History of Autism

I know the title above is rather ambitious for a single blog post, but I do want to give you an idea of how it came about and how some of the statistics might be deceiving. I have been studying this topic for a few weeks now and thought I knew enough to put out a continuous series of posts on the subject, but as my snippet on This N’ That Sunday mentioned I just didn’t know how much I didn’t know. So, I am going to put out bits and pieces of what I have been learning as I go along. After all, a blog is not supposed to be novel length but instead snippet of info.

To the layman, it seems that “Autism” just came on the scene in the late 1980s. Before that is was almost unknown by the general public. In reality, the term itself was coined in 1908  to describe a subset of schizophrenic patients who were especially withdrawn and self-absorbed.

Hans Asperger brought it to the forefront in the field of psychiatry in 1944 when he describes a “milder” form of autism now known as Asperger’s Syndrome. The cases he reported were all boys who were highly intelligent but had trouble with social interactions and sometimes specific obsessive interests.

After World War II there was a lot of psychoanalytic work done on autism where researchers looked solely at the negative impact on life experiences.  At that time Autism was not considered biological or genetic. In 1980 “Infantile autism” is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the first time; the condition is also officially separated from childhood schizophrenia.

It was not until 1988 when the movie Rain Man is released which stars Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant that Autism became widely known to the general public. At that time Asperger’s Syndrome was not included in the DSM category.

Finally, in 2013, The DSM-5 folds all subcategories of the condition into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer considered a separate condition. I have some strong feelings about that but I will leave them to another post. ASD is defined by two categories: 1) Impaired social communication and/or interaction. 2) Restricted and/or repetitive behaviors.

Some say folding Asperger’s into the DSM category was a mistake since it is significantly different when it comes to life experiences from much of the rest of the autism spectrum. More on that in a near future post.

Footnote: The source for much of this history is from the Parents.com website.

Positive Psychology

To this layman, it seems that most of the Psychology and especially Psychiatry professions today are now focused on fixing disorders in people. If you go to someone in those professions you must be broken in one way or another. You just don’t hear about psychologists helping people to improve their lives and relationships. That field is called Positive Psychology.

While I was doing some investigation into Autism recently I came across an article that brought back a flood of memories. It was something I become obsessed with in the early 1970s after I graduated from college. I became fascinated with Psychology. I was a subscriber to Psychology Today and read dozens of books on the subject trying to understand why I had so much trouble understanding human relationships.

I devoured books by Maslow, Berne, Fromm, and Harris in what is now called positive psychology. It was all about helping people lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. Even after all these years I still remember much of what I learned and it helps me in trying to understand why people are as they are. Things like:

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Berne’s PAC – Parent-Adult-Child transactions
  • I’m Ok – You’re OK
  • Transactional Analysis
  • Understanding the Ego

I wonder why we don’t hear more about these types of things today?

It seems we have just quit trying to understand one another now.

We just call anyone who now disagrees with us our enemy. I think I need to re-visit these folks some more in the future and maybe even give you a lesson or two on the subject. Having a better understanding of people and their actions is just maybe something we drastically need now.

Just to give you a little taste of this field, here are some word from Wikipedia about Maslow’s theory of Self-Actualization:

Self-actualization can be seen as similar to words and concepts such as self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realization and self-exploration.
As Abraham Maslow noted, the basic needs of humans must be met (e.g. food, shelter, warmth, security, sense of belonging) before a person can achieve self-actualization – the need to be good, to be fully alive and to find meaning in life. Yet, Maslow argued that reaching a state of true self-actualization in everyday society was fairly rare. Research shows that when people live lives that are different from their true nature and capabilities, they are less likely to be happy than those whose goals and lives match. For example, someone who has inherent potential to be a great artist or teacher may never realize his/her talents if their energy is focused on attaining the basic needs of humans.

I find this stuff very interesting, even after so many years away from it.

Homeschooling

I will say up front here that I am not an advocate for homeschooling.  I think it deprives a person of some very necessary life experiences. What is the primary reason that parents give for homeschooling their children?

We control the curriculum.

With homeschooling, I can choose the curriculum that best meets my child’s learning style.

A relaxed atmosphere.
Homeschooling, for the most part, is a much more tranquil atmosphere than the traditional school system

It keeps me connected with my child’s education.

My home, my values.
Yes, I’m Christian, but this goes beyond my faith

More time with my kids.

Source: HuffPost

To me, the detrimental side of homeschooling is that the kid is not exposed to much of anything outside the family’s worldview and corresponding attached prejudices. Then when it comes to leaving the nest some are grossly unprepared for what they will face. They know nothing of simple life building things like being teased which builds character. They know nothing about the diversity of the world outside their mother’s reach. They know nothing about families who struggle from paycheck to paycheck.

I went through the first seven grades in a small Catholic school and then went into a small rural public school. The differences were starkly shocking. But even the final five years in a small rural public school did little to prepare me for the diversity of the world I would face in college. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to cultures very different from mine. I had a foreign roommate my first year who had a very different worldview than mine. I managed to cope in this new world and even thrive because of it. I wonder if a homeschooled would do the same?

Rural America – Appalachia

Before I get into the New York Times quote below I want to tell you about my visit to the Museum of Appalachia from a few years ago. I didn’t know what to expect before I went but was blown away by what I found. There seems to be a lot of pride in their folksy past and art. Some would never consider leaving their “holler” and are proud of their Appalachian culture. It showed the light side of Appalachia, the stories below show the dark side.

I’m from Appalachia, where getting into the working class was an aspiration. I was raised “up the holler” and know the culture intimately. You have no idea of the amount of anger, self-righteousness, bigotry and willful ignorance you’re dealing with. I have seen a blighted small town use a corrupt sheriff and judge to run off a business owned by a black man. I have been present when an entire community looked the other way when a gay couple was burned out of their home.
They support Trump and the reason is simple: He acts just like they would if they had money. There is no saving this culture, nor should you want to save it. The people who could have revitalized it have either left for better opportunities or been run off. It’s a breeding ground for hatred and despair, dying with a Bible in one arm and a heroin needle in the other. Let it die. — Peregrinus, Erehwon

Source: New York Times

Here is another story about the dark side:

HERE ARE LOTS of diversions in the Big White Ghetto, the vast moribund matrix of Wonder Bread–hued Appalachian towns and villages stretching from northern Mississippi to southern New York, a slowly dissipating nebula of poverty and misery with its heart in eastern Kentucky…

Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short …

There is here a strain of fervid and sometimes apocalyptic Christianity, and visions of the Rapture must have a certain appeal for people who already have been left behind. Like its black urban counterparts, the Big White Ghetto suffers from a whole trainload of social problems, but the most significant among them may be adverse selection: Those who have the required work skills, the academic ability, or the simple desperate native enterprising grit to do so get the hell out as fast as they can, and they have been doing that for decades. As they go, businesses disappear, institutions fall into decline, social networks erode, and there is little or nothing left over for those who remain

Source: The Week – January 2104

A very big part of the current populist movement occurs in Appalachia. 95% of the Appalachian counties voted for Trump in the last election, but what is unclear is just what they expect a “new” version government to do? An even bigger question is can anything be done for areas of the country like this other than to provide an easy exit for those wanting to escape.

Elder Orphans

I recently saw an episode on the PBS Newshour that talked about the increasing number of families who now support their elderly parents. Many of us Baby Boomers are now, or will soon be approaching the times when we can no longer adequately care for ourselves. For those fortunate enough, the kids/grandkids will invite them into their homes.

Almost twenty years ago I did the same thing for my mother. Even though she had abandoned me at the age of nine I, unlike my two siblings, felt a responsibility to care for her. She lived with us for almost three years before her needs outpaced our ability to provide. I continued to take care of her as her legal guardian until she passed.

It is nice that families are graciously accepting their parents into their homes, but what about those of us without children? I didn’t know we had a name until I came across this article below.

I first heard the term “elder orphan” a few years ago. Typically, it refers to seniors who are aging alone. They have no spouse or partner, and no children to step into the role of caregiver.

AARP recently estimated that 20 percent of the aging population, or 8.6 million people older than 65, are now “orphans” or at risk of becoming an elder orphan. By 2050, this number will mushroom to 16 million or higher

Source: The Gainesville Sun

My wife and I are elder orphans and that is kind of a scary thing. Who will do for me what I did for my mother? With no one available to depend on for health crisis or even occasional daily needs, we do kinda feel like orphans. Do we need to hire a lawyer as our legal guardian when the time comes or is their another alternative? I have put this topic off for too long now.

I guess there are organizations already in place, such as the ones shown in the featured image above and below. Wouldn’t you know that there is even a website www.ElderOrphanCare.com  It’s nice to know they we are not alone with this problem?

Are you an Elder Orphan?


Breaking Down Myths – Most Deaf People Can Read Lips

From looking at my post counts here at RJsCorner I see that I am pretty much ignoring my number five pillar, breaking down myths. I need to pay more attention to that topic so this post will be about a deaf myth.

It’s true that people who are deaf sometimes can read lips but lipreading is in no way an adequate substitute for hearing. In fact, only 15% of the English language appears on the lips. So in reality, lip reading is nothing more than a guessing game.

In certain circumstances, I do get by with lip reading. For instance, if I am at a grocery store checkout I can lip read “Do you want paper or plastic bags”. But if I was asked “Did you see Dancing with the Stars last night”, I wouldn’t have clue. And then the usual “How are you?”s is easily lip read. In other words, if I can expect what a person is going to say I have a greater chance of lipreading.

Let me give you a little lesson in this. The letters “b”, “m”, and “p” look exactly the same on the lips. The phrase “buy my pie” just looks like the mouth opening and closing three times. I think you get the idea. Many syllables just don’t appear on the lips or tongue.

Let’s get some other obvious things out of the way. It is impossible for a deaf person to read lips in a dark room. It is equally hard to read the lips of someone with a big mustache. Another example is someone who is constantly moving their head, or even unthoughtfully looking away from the lip reader. You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize any of these things greatly hamper what lipreading skills the deaf person might have.

Finally, I want to give you a deep dark secret of most deaf people. We often fake it instead of really trying to understand. Since lip reading is a very tiring thing, sometimes it’s just not worth the effort. In those cases, we usually just nod our heads in agreement, or so the person thinks.

 The final attempt at the lesson for today is don’t expect a deaf person to really know what you are saying just because you move your lips. If you really want to get your message across, try an old fashioned paper & pencil approach. If you are tech savvy pull out your cell phone and fire up a speech to text app. Do whatever is necessary but don’t assume lipreading is the answer.