1 in 50

21 Mar

Yep, you heard right. The CDC announced yesterday it’s new findings that show 1 in 50 school-age children have autism.

Naturally, articles instantly popped up about how this doesn’t really mean anything, the numbers are the same as they’ve always been. We’re just more “aware”. This article was my favorite: (<— sarcasm)

“You will probably see a lot of headlines about the 1 in 50. Some organizations might even try to use those numbers to scare people, to talk about an “epidemic” or a “tsunami.” But if you look at the numbers and the report itself, you’ll see that overall, the numbers of people born with autism aren’t necessarily increasing dramatically. It’s just that we’re getting better and better at counting them.”- Forbes.com

“We’re betting better and better at counting them”…??? Seriously!?

Are we as a society more “aware”. Of course. Are there probably some percentage of kids who are misdiagnosed and don’t actually have autism? Sure, the same is true of ANY diagnosis. But does that account for the ever-increasing autistic population? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

People LOVE to deny an increase and tell us we’re overreacting to these numbers. If the numbers aren’t increasing…prove it. Show me 1 in 50 sixty-year-old adults with autism.  You can’t! Because they don’t exist!

THAT is the research I’d love to see. If people are so sure that we’re just getting better at recognizing autism, then let’s look at the adults around us and see how many of them currently qualify for an autism diagnosis. How many ADULTS (ages 30, 40, 50, 60+) have autism? Let’s compare those numbers to the numbers we see today.

And for those parents out there who say they agree with this Forbes article, and don’t think there’s a real increase in autism…ask yourself these 2 simple questions:

How many autistic kids do I know?  How many autistic adults (ages 30+) do I know?

Autism Tattoos – Part 2

10 Mar

In January I did a post featuring reader submissions of autism tattoos (you can see that post here). My sister’s tattoo that she had done for our brother was my inspiration for that post. This is my sister and her tattoo…

Lyss

I decided to do a follow up “Part 2” and share more autism related tattoos after the amazing response I got for my original post. Once again, there was no shortage of family members and friends who had decorated their bodies with symbols of autism. And interestingly, this round there was a strong butterfly theme! Whether to promote awareness, spark conversation, or to serve as inspiration, motivation and a reminder, people show their love by their tattoos. Here they are… click to enlarge.

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Search Engine Nightmare- Part 2

3 Mar

After posting on Friday about the terrible issue with Googling about autism, an old high-school friend of mine who works for Google got in touch with me. He sent my blog to a co-worker in charge of the search predictions, who had this response:

“We are aware of the problem, and as you rightly noted, these predictions violate our policies on hate speech. We have a bug open to get rid of them – a solution should be live soon. Feel free to tell your friend that we’re aware of the problem and working to fix it.”

My friend went on to tell me,

“We (at Google) don’t like seeing this stuff any more than you do, and we wish it was easier to keep it off the site. It’s just a constant losing battle so things will always slip through. I’d be happy to continue championing the autism cleanup for you, though.”

So, I’d say that sounds pretty good. They know it’s happening. They agree it’s wrong. They’re going to fix it. And, I’ve been personally assured that at least 1 person out there at Google will fight this fight alongside the rest of us. I believe the only thing left to do (after fixing it of course) is for Google to publicly acknowledge what happened, and how they feel about it. I know the autism community would appreciate the support. I look forward to progress being made here.

In other news…I decided to try my luck with 2 of the other largest search engine sites. Here’s what I found on Yahoo!:

Yahoo1

Besides the shocking “demon possessed” suggestion, and a couple of other hurtful results, the rest were FAR less violent  than what I found on Google. Then, I was impressed when I saw these:

Yahoo2

It appears Yahoo! has put something into place to block any suggestions from coming up when you search “need” or “should” in relation to autistic people. Good for them! And I was pleased to see the positive choices that come up when searching about autistic people. So besides a few that still slipped through (which I hope Yahoo! will address and delete), Yahoo! offered significantly more positive options, and significantly less hateful ones.

Next, I tried Bing. Here’s what I found:

Bing1

Ugh. Several suggestions of death, danger, and evil. Not good!!

Bing2

Okay…now we’re getting somewhere. Still mixed results, but at least I’m seeing some positive ideas like “smart” and “superior souls”…

Bing3

Ah-hah….just like Yahoo!  it appears Bing has blocked any results from popping up for a couple of those phrases. Good effort! Unfortunately, although they’ve safe-guarded “autistic kids should”, searching “autistic people should” still resulted in a death suggestion. So, they’ve still got work to do! Bing certainly needs to clean up some of the suggestions they offer up regarding autism.

Overall, Yahoo! seemed to offer the least damaging results when searching about autism. In comparison to Google, their results were significantly less inflammatory. Google remains the most saturated with hateful suggestions. And Bing seems to be in the middle, offering both very negative and some positive results.

My take-away- The fact that these search engines are displaying disturbing content in regards to autism boils down to the simple fact that THOSE are the most common searches conducted. The search engines need to take responsibility for what they are allowing on their websites, and should be actively working to eliminate the hatred they are promoting. But the bigger picture is not about a website that automatically offers popular searches…. it’s that the most popular searches about autism are hateful, violent, and just plain evil. It’s that the world at large still has dangerous attitudes and beliefs about people with ASD.

I cannot wrap my head around what would possess someone to sit at their computer and type that any people group should “die” or “be killed”.  I’m baffled at why ANYONE would say those things, much less why A TON of people would say those things.

It’s depressing that with all the knowledge out there that people are still so uninformed and so aggressive towards people with autism. How could people out there think these horrible things about people like my little brother? I don’t understand.

All I can hope is that once these search engines have fully erased all the hateful suggestions, people will start seeing positive things pop-up about autism. And, maybe…just maybe…that exposure will change people’s minds. Beyond that, we in the autism community can continue to do our best to promote acceptance and understanding, letting our patience and love be an example to others.

We live in such a sad and broken world….

Search Engine Nightmare

1 Mar

Some of you may have already heard about this…

I read an article today stating that Google’s “auto-complete” feature (which gives you suggestions as you type to help finish your sentences, based on the most popular searches) is working to get rid of hateful suggestions for autism related searches. Apparently when Googling about autism, some horrible things would come up. I had no idea. The article I saw said Google would fix this issue. Phew! But, I decided to Google various autism related word combinations and see what suggestions would appear….Just in case….

And unfortunately, I can say with 100% certainty, that Google has NOT resolved this issue yet. This is what I found when I searched…

***Disclaimer*** Please be advised: The language and suggestions below are disgusting.

Google1

 

And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse…

 

Google2

 

So… who’s to blame? Google??? Well… partially. There are certain phrases that just shouldn’t pop up when you’re searching something. They should take responsibility for what they are actually “suggesting” that people search. But how do they even come up with these suggestions? They’re based on the most popular searches! So who else is to blame?? Whoever is searching these phrases!

Is this real? Do people really type these things into their browsers? Who is searching these things? What are they trying to find online by typing these things? I don’t understand.

But, I guarantee that these “suggestions” popping up when people are searching OTHER autism related phrases is only helping to perpetuate the myths and fears and misconceptions. Heck, if I Googled a disorder I knew nothing about and the first things that came up were “violent”, “evil”, “dangerous”, “retarded”, “rude” and “should die”…I’d be freaked out!!! I’d be pretty afraid and I’d want to keep my distance!

So…my guess is, by Google offering up these choices for people to select from when they’re typing about autism, people end up clicking on those options, even if that’s not what they intended to search for originally. Therein lie the issue. People clicking on these suggestions (because they’re what pops up) likely contributes to making those phrases the “most searched”. Thus, they keep showing up as suggestions. It’s a terrible cycle!

So…short of every person who is outraged by this Googling POSITIVE autism related phrases in an attempt to make those the most searched terms… what can be done?

Fluency

27 Feb

One of the presentations I attended last week was on the topic of Social Significance. Dr. Mary Jane Weiss, BCBA-D, discussed how we as behavior analysts need to make sure our goals are producing socially significant results. We should not teach skills for the sake of teaching them, but rather we need to be sure what we are teaching will be functional.

An interesting aspect of teaching skills of social significance is FLUENCY.

Fluency can be defined as a, “combination of accuracy plus speed […] that enables competent individuals to function efficiently and effectively in their natural environment.” (Binder, 1996)

Fluency is the true mastery of a skill. It is something retained, and that can be done in the face of distraction.

Think about it this way… when you’re riding a bike, you don’t have to focus on what step comes next to perform the skill. After practicing for a while, bike riding became a natural. You no longer needed to plan when to press down on the left pedal, when to press on the right pedal, how hard to turn the handle-bars. No, none of that requirs intense concentration. You can ride your bike while listening to music, talking with a friend, and watching for cars. It’s just fluid and natural.

So how does this relate to autism?

Imagine you have taught your son or daughter how to greet peers. They go to school, peer #1 says, “Hi Johnny!” 1 second….2 seconds….3 seconds….4 seconds….5 seconds… then your child responds, “Hi, Tommy!” A delay in greetings like that can be very detrimental to forming relationships, especially for young children! The child greeted back, so yes, it looks like they have mastered that skill. But the extended delay between the peer’s greeting and your child’s response was so long that by the time they did reply, the peer was already off saying hi to another child.

I have actually seen the above scenario play out many times. And, I have also seen what longer-term effects it has. The delayed child becomes labeled as “slow” or, “he doesn’t answer when I talk to him”. Peers lose interest if there is not immediate feedback. It can damage or even preclude friendships. And this is just one example of how fluency would be very important.

Imagine the skill of counting money to pay at a cash register, or getting your credit card out and swiping it…. or preparing a snack or meal…. how about showering or getting dressed…. washing your hands…. ordering off a menu…. coming over to someone when called…. All of these things are done relatively quickly and naturally for most of us. But the fluency of these skills has to be taught to many people with autism.

Mary Jane Weiss listed the following as Consequences of Dysfluency:

– missed social opportunities

– inability to keep up with the group

– difficulty being competitive in a job environment

So, I encourage everyone (parent or practitioner) to consider the importance of making kids FLUENT in their skills (as opposed to just “mastering” skills) so that they might have more, and better, social interactions and opportunities to thrive in future.

How do we do this? Same way you learned to ride a bike… practice. Give the child lots of opportunities to practice the skill. And as always, reinforcement is key to teaching any new behavior.

Some new letters…

23 Feb

I have had an amazing past week. On Thursday and Friday I got to attend my states regional ABA conference. I heard lots of thought provoking and informative presentations. (More to come on this!)

Our Keynote speaker was Julie Vargas. Julie just happens to be the daughter of BF Skinner. Skinner, of course, is one of the most influential behaviorists to ever live. His discoveries and theories are still widely used today.

Then, as if my day could have gotten any better…it did!

I found out that I get to add some new letters to my name. I passed my BCBA exam! I am now a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

After years of hard work and studying, I’m celebrating this big success and looking forward to the new opportunities this will afford me. I’m also relishing that this huge milestone along the path I’ve chosen goes all the way back to my little brother being diagnosed 7 years ago. 🙂

There is a reason for everything.

Yours Truly,

Angelina, MS, BCBA, MFTI 😉

Premack Principle

9 Feb

I’m working with a mom who’s young son was recently diagnosed with autism. In helping her think of ways to help him eat protein, I mentioned the Premack Principle (based on David Premack’s research). I did my best to explain it to her, but I wanted to provide her with some type of handout on this strategy; a little cheat sheet perhaps. I searched online and found nothing of the sort. Some definitions and Wiki pages, sure. But no quick-guide to give to parents. So, I created one. Feel free to share with anyone you know who might find this helpful.  The awesome thing about this is that it can be used with people of all ages and abilities! (Click to enlarge)

PremackHANDOUT

Change

25 Jan

Change is bad good. Change is scary exciting. Change is uncomfortable healthy.

Yeah, this ^ is my internal thought process right now; trying to reduce my fear-based aversion to change and ramp up my enthusiasm about new opportunities, growth, and what lies ahead.

After 6  ½ years at my place of work, I have resigned and taken an offer from another ABA agency.

I’m a mixed bag of emotions; sad to say goodbye to people I have grown close to. Eager to start fresh and take on new responsibilities. Nervous to learn new ways of doing things. Happy to get to be around a new set of professionals in my field. Apprehensive to start over somewhere new. Ready to break away. Scared. At peace. And overall, I am hopeful about what’s to come.

These past 3 months have been a big, huge, giant, I’m talkin’ ENORMOUS, transition for me. After my long-time clients terminated services, it left major gaps- in my heart first of all, and in my schedule second of all. It gave me time to think. It gave me perspective. It gave me clarity. It gave me motivation. It gave me a peace about leaving my current job that I wouldn’t have had if they didn’t leave first. You see…I was (am) so attached to those kids that I couldn’t have imagined leaving them. But, that decision was taken out of my hands; it was made for me.

Now, this is not to say I am leaving my current job because my long-time former clients left. No, no. That is certainly not why. Those clients leaving simply gave me the chance to really think about what I want for myself, and to have the guts to make those hard decisions.  Their absence gave me time to reflect; time to examine my life and my goals. Their absence gave me the push I needed to pursue my future.  And after much thought, prayer, and consideration I realized my future in this field lies elsewhere; at another company.

I’m a cynical person by nature, but I always try to find God’s purpose, or the silver lining, in every situation. So…even though I am still very pained by losing my all time favorite clients, I recognize that they have unknowingly helped me face my fear of change.

These last few months have stretched me, and grown me. I’ve halted my trend of just staying with what’s familiar. I’ve been brave and ambitious. And, I’m ready.

So…in a few short days I will start a new adventure. I will go into this new job with a lot of tools in my belt, and wisdom in my head, that I gained from this current job. I will always be grateful for all I learned from my boss, and the chance she gave me to turn a little college job into a lifetime career. I am excited to see what new opportunities await me, and to use my skills to help more and more families. Wish me luck!

caterpillar-to-butterfly

Autism Tattoos

20 Jan

A few months back my sister surprised everyone when she got a tattoo for her birthday. I never suspected her as ‘the tattoo type’. But what she got, and why she got it, is really heart warming, and shows just how much our brother, and his diagnosis means to her. This is her tattoo, and her story.

Lyss

“I got my Autism tattoo for my little brother Dylan. I decided to get the tattoo after a rough transition he was going through last summer. The tattoo reminds me why I work so hard as an ABA therapist and as a sister. No matter how hard things get, he is still so amazing to me. Dylan and I used to spend every Wednesday together. I would pick him up from school, play, swim, bake, and snuggle on the couch with him. I no longer get those days with him because of work, and that’s another reason I got my tattoo. I still see him frequently and still do my traditions with him like take him to the pumpkin patch, go trick or treating and wake up early with him on Christmas day. I do a lot more than the average sister would, but its all worth it in the end. Today Dylan is doing amazing, he just received his second award from school for reading/ writing. I couldn’t be more proud of him. So even though we will have more hard days to come, I will always look past them and remember it’s all worth it.”- Alyssa

I reached out on my Facebook account to find others who had autism related tattoos, and the response was incredible. So many people made it their mission to decorate their bodies with some symbol of autism. Whether for spreading awareness, or as a personal reminder, parents and siblings show their love in their tattoos. Here is the autism artwork that was sent in. (Click to enlarge)

(EDIT: Click here to see my follow up to this post…Autism Tattoos 2!)

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Miss America

10 Jan

alexis

Alexis Wineman is 18 years old, and will be competing in Saturday’s Miss America pageant, representing her home state of Montana. She’s not only the youngest contestant, but also the first ever autistic contestant.

She is a beautiful young lady, and she has set out to do amazing things. She is already involved with several autism related organizations, speaks at various conventions, and her platform “ Normal is Just a Dryer Setting: Living with Autism” centers on building autism awareness and acceptance.

As she said, “Being on the spectrum is not a death sentence, but a life adventure, and one that I realize has been given to me for a reason.”

Amen sister! I feel the same way, even being on the other side of the coin. I’ve always known my brother’s autism diagnosis was for a reason.

So, count me in as one of the millions of Miss Montana supporters. This girl is going to do great things, and already has.

Way to go Alexis!!

And, don’t forget to tune into the Miss America pageant Saturday January 12, at 9 PM EST.

Links to her story:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2259242/Alexis-Wineman-Miss-America-hopeful-opens-life-autism-makes-bid-national-title.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/01/10/miss-montana-alexis-wineman-to-become-first-autistic-miss-america-contestant/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/alexis-wineman-miss-america-montana-autistic_n_2448848.html

http://thelook.today.com/_news/2013/01/10/16447581-miss-montana-is-first-autistic-contestant-for-miss-america

http://helenair.com/news/local/miss-montana-speaks-at-autism-convention-in-helena/article_b3eae75c-09f8-11e2-bb92-001a4bcf887a.html

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