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Old 04-17-2009, 03:13 AM
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Default Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

General catch-all thread. A side-effect of some recent conversations is the discovery that:

* At least one person here is clinically autistic.
* At least one person here has a coworker or friend who is autistic.
* Many people don't know that much about autism.

So. Ask questions! Post book recommendations! Go wild!

I'll kick it off. I was diagnosed only recently as high-functioning-autistic. (The difference between this and Asperger's is, in practice, that the term Asperger's was coined to keep parents from freaking out upon hearing the word "autism".) I had seen a shrink previously and raised the question, only to be told I was obviously not autistic.

I finally figured it out as a side-effect of reading a book with an autistic character; the absolute failure of the character to seem strange to me in any way was convincing enough to get me to go see a specialist.

I was tested for a suspected learning disability when I was 6 or 7, but this was before Hans Asperger's paper (written in the first half of the 20th Century!) was translated into English. I'm also very noticably ADHD -- but curiously, each of these traits suppresses some of the more obvious diagnostic criteria of the other.

Even without diagnosis or treatment, I was mostly functional by my mid-30s, although I had a lot of trouble when I was younger. I am stereotypically good with computers and mathematics, and there's usually money in these. I took a degree in psychology in college because I wanted to know more about how people thought -- a curiousity which makes more sense now than it did then.
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Old 04-17-2009, 03:19 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

Is there a known aetiology?

"High functioning" seems to intimate that there are variations in levels of function. Are there variant types of function?

This is all new to me.
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Old 04-17-2009, 03:21 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

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Originally Posted by godfry n. glad View Post
Is there a known aeitology?
No.

The MMR vaccine theory hasn't just been disproved -- it's been found to have been based on faked data. (This offends me greatly; people have died because some asshole wanted to make money coddling people who wanted someone to blame for their kid...)

There does seem to be some kind of family predisposition, and it's more common in people whose fathers were older when they were conceived. That seems to be about it. It's not vaccines, it's not (probably) heavy metals. The arguments about it being an allergic reaction to wheat gluten are very hard to test, but don't seem to be holding up under scrutiny. There may be more than one underlying cause or interaction. I don't know off the top of my head of any twins studies results; it's rare enough to make that hard.
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Old 04-17-2009, 03:37 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

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Originally Posted by seebs View Post
* At least one person here has a coworker or friend who is autistic.
I'm sure it's a lot more than that. My 18-year-old first cousin is autistic and I don't know whether you'd call it low-functioning or what, but he's certainly nowhere near high-functioning. He can talk and read and write, but he will never be independent. He's been in special schools for disabled kids all his life, in fact he still is and probably always will be. He works two hours per day at Ross, sorting out shoes, and he was placed in that job through a program at school. He lives with his parents and he always will.

He was born with water on his brain and as a result, he only developed 27% of the volume of a regular brain. He has gray matter lining the inside of his skull, but in the middle is just a big empty hollow. The autism is a side-effect of this, I think.

I could tell tens of stories about him, about half heart-warming and half heart-breaking. Not right this minute, but maybe eventually. I do know that he has a strong capacity to feel and to love, and I've heard/read some stuff about autistic kids not really getting the love or emotion thing, but that's totally not the case with him.
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Old 04-17-2009, 03:42 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I have no idea whether I feel emotions strongly or not. How would I tell? There's no metric for strength-of-feeling. If something makes me all weepy and unable to function, is that because I feel it really strongly or because I'm unusually poor at handling emotion? I have no idea.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:11 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I've heard that autism as a category really entails numerous different conditions as a catch-all, with many different levels of functionality. Are there any books that people here have read and would or would not recommend on the subject? Like I mentioned in the other thread I started John Elder Robison's novelLook Me in the Eye: My Life With Asperger's, but I haven't gotten far enough yet to get a solid impression.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:28 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

Quote:
Originally Posted by seebs
I finally figured it out as a side-effect of reading a book with an autistic character; the absolute failure of the character to seem strange to me in any way was convincing enough to get me to go see a specialist.
What book?

So what if I think I might be (high functioning, obviously) autistic, what should I do? Read something? get diagnosed? not worry about it? I seem to be doing alright with it, if it were the case. :shrug:
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:29 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

There's a TON of variance.

Basic overview: Difficulty with the automatic social instincts.

How that plays out varies HUGELY. Some people are autistic and also fairly smart; others are autistic and fairly dumb. Smart people can often work around the limitations relatively well, especially once they're aware of them.

So... Like anything else, it gets affected by the environment. Autism+ADHD is wildly different from autism without ADHD...

Book recommendation: Autism Spectrum Disorders, by Chantal Sicile-Kira. It's not perfect, and I think it has a bit of woo in it, but it's pretty good as overviews go.

Fiction books: Some people really liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (named after the Holmes story), some hated it. Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark is excellent.

Here's the big thing:

It is not acceptable in our culture for someone to be mentally disabled. So a LOT of bandwidth goes into portraying autism as a difference, rather than a disability. Except that you have people who can't dress themselves, and at some point I think you gotta face facts.

Similarly, the field is HUGELY swamped by woo as people try to make autism go away and/or argue that no one should have to make it go away. Basically, they either want to cure it, or prevent it, or say that it's all fine. Which is dumb; cures and prevention might be useful things to look into, but so's being able to deal constructively with the reality of people who happen to be autistic.

Speaking only for myself: I've no idea whether I'd be happier or sadder if I weren't autistic. I've never been anything else. I'm happy. (At least, I enjoy... er, I like... uhm. I have an experience which I'm pretty sure is what people mean when they talk about being happy.)

In people who are basically functional, autism can be a bit of a disadvantage, but it can also be a bit of an advantage; learning to play to your strengths is crucial to success, moreso when you have a very unusual weakness. It has been observed that, in many cases, autism is a disadvantage only because other people aren't autistic -- if no one were expecting you to read faces, inability to do so wouldn't be a problem.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:35 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

Autism spectrum disorders are interesting to me because they are one of those disorders that defy clear cut causes. I suspect we will eventually find multiple causes.

Such as rare conditions aggravated by vaccines.
Ga. girl helps link autism to childhood vaccines | ajc.com

There certainly seem to be a wide range of functions.

What we do have is a plethora of treatments.

I found this one to be the most interesting lately.
DVD Helps Kids With Autism Read Faces, Emotions : NPR

As a parent I'm always interested in whatever makes childhood easier.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:41 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crumb View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by seebs
I finally figured it out as a side-effect of reading a book with an autistic character; the absolute failure of the character to seem strange to me in any way was convincing enough to get me to go see a specialist.
What book?
Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark.
Dr. Fornum, crisp and professional, raises an eyebrow and shakes her head not quite imperceptibly. Autistic persons do not understand these signals; the book says so. I have read the book, so I know what it is I do not understand.
...
I know some of what she doesn't know. She doesn't know that I can read. She thinks I'm hyperlexic, just parroting the words. The difference between what she calls parroting and what she does when she reads is imperceptible to me.
...
"Hi, Marjory," I say, and turn around. She is smiling at me. Her face is shiny. That used to bother me, when people were very happy and their faces got shiny, because angry people also get shiny faces and I could not be sure which it was. My parents tried to show me the difference, with the position of eyebrows and so on, but I finally figured out that the best way to tell was the outside corners of the eyes. Marjory's shiny face is a happy face. She is happy to see me, and I am happy to see her.
Extremely accurate, at least to me.

(And no, I can't explain how I made it through three chapters of this without thinking "gosh, this guy's autistic!")

Quote:
So what if I thin I might be autistic, what should I do? Read something? get diagnosed? not worry about it? I seem to be doing alright with it, if it were the case. :shrug:
Advice: Get a diagnosis, either way. Don't rely on a garden-variety shrink, check with a specialist. Because Jesse was vaguely upset with my behavior, I went to see a shrink, who dismissed the notion that I was autistic. After talking to me for a couple of sessions he concluded that my parents had probably not been good at expressing love, since I didn't seem confident that I was loved. (He's not the only person to have formed that theory about me.) In fact, the explanation is much simpler; confidence that you're loved usually relies in part on the certainty granted by experiencing other people's moods and states as raw data rather than as supposition.

It is useful to know. For one thing, it gives you a way to explain rudeness if you sometimes inadvertantly offend people. I told my coworkers that I'm autistic and if I do something really rude, it's probably unintentional. Bam, problem solved; even if I am rude no one will care. (They're engineers, this actually works with them.) It also means that I tend to get shunted away from, say, meetings with customers I don't know (which I'd find very stressful) and into things like "make the compiler work" which everyone else would find stressful and I find very relaxing.

Interestingly, simply knowing the name of the pattern of my "coldness" and tendency to not express empathy makes my friends much more comfortable too. Jesse isn't offended if I don't seem to be listening; after all, I can seem to ignore an entire conversation about yarn, but then I know everything that was communicated by it, so apparently I was listening after all. (For that matter, it really helps to have an explanation for "why does your husband sometimes shy away violently when you touch him" that doesn't involve any negative implications for your relationship.)
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:41 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I score very high on Asperger's tests, which is odd because I also score very high on tests of reading people's emotions based on facial expressions. I also don't have any significant problems with empathy; I find it easy to imagine myself in their position. Yet, I do share many common traits with high functioning autistics. I realize I am different than other people, not normal in so many ways, but don't consider myself to be disabled for the most part, other than that whole discomfort in social situations thing.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:44 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I am at this point >99% sure that the vaccine link is 100% fake. The initial research was faked, and there is NOTHING showing any kind of statistical variance now. Changes in which vaccines are used have no effect. None, not positive, not negative. If it were vaccines, I'd think something woulda been found.

The Georgia case is pure ambulance chasing. No evidence, no support, just that it was cheaper to settle. (It used to confuse me that people would apparently admit to obviously false statements under such circumstances.)

Oh, and for the record: The autistic people I know think it is fucking hilarious when people on the internet get all excited about defending autistic people from ridicule. Seriously, what the fuck. The defining characteristic of my state is my lack of caring what other people think of me...
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:47 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

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Originally Posted by Dingfod View Post
I score very high on Asperger's tests, which is odd because I also score very high on tests of reading people's emotions based on facial expressions. I also don't have any significant problems with empathy; I find it easy to imagine myself in their position. Yet, I do share many common traits with high functioning autistics. I realize I am different than other people, not normal in so many ways, but don't consider myself to be disabled for the most part, other than that whole discomfort in social situations thing.
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

I sometimes talk to management-level people. There is no fucking WAY that I could do management-type work. I couldn't handle the stress. I couldn't handle dealing with people.

But.

Come to me with a specific, concrete, people problem. Point out the actors, show me the emails, tell me about their personalities. Ask me how to resolve the problem. I can probably do it. I will see ways to shift people that the normal people, even the very talented people-person people, won't spot.

I read facial expressions extremely well in some contexts -- I suck at reading cartoon facial expressions, for instance. I can't tell whether people are lying or not -- but I can spot habitual liars almost immediately.

Similarly, I'm extremely empathic -- but it's learned. I can, to use your phrase, imagine myself in other positions or circumstances.

But if I don't think to do it, I have no idea what people are like. Someone over at TalkRat mentioned raising an autistic kid, and I asked what it was like; she said it was sometimes really frustrating wanting to hug him when he didn't feel like being hugged. It had never occurred to me that people who want to hug you might be sad if you aren't huggy. If someone had said "how do you think people feel if they want a hug and you don't", I would have answered correctly -- but it has to be an explict question for me to think about it.
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  #14  
Old 04-17-2009, 05:06 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I hooked up with an old high school friend on FB, and read a bit of her stuff. Her son is autistic. He had a traumatic, premature birth, and almost died. ES just talked about her cousin having water on the brain...could one possible cause in at least some cases be brain damage?
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:08 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

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I hooked up with an old high school friend on FB, and read a bit of her stuff. Her son is autistic. He had a traumatic, premature birth, and almost died. ES just talked about her cousin having water on the brain...could one possible cause be brain damage?
Quite possible. (Interesting trivia point; I was born in Switzerland, and my mom had been up in mountains a month or so before I was born -- however, that probably means nothing, because it's very, very, hard to oxygen-starve a woman enough that the baby she's carrying gets an oxygen shortage without her fainting.)

It's quite possible for lack-of-brain-function to produce specific deficiencies. What's especially poorly understood is the case where you have otherwise-smart people who are clearly defective in a very consistent way.
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:14 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I'm not a huge fan of this one, but:

Understanding Neurotypicality - Asperger's Syndrome - tribe.net

A common theme in autism literature is to refer to non-autistics as "neurotypicals". (I dislike this term because it is obviously not accurate; Beloved Spouse has extreme ADHD and gender dysphoria, and cannot be fairly or accurately described as "neurotypical", but is not in the least autistic.)

Reading a description of how the non-autism state might be described as a disorder, were mild autism the norm, can be very interesting. Excerpt:
People with neurotypicality tend to communicate in a very vague manner. They make guesses as to the level of knowledge of the listener, and omit parts that the listener is presumed to know. It is rather obvious that this guessing will often be wrong. Unfortunately, the listener that does not understand will generally not ask for clarification of such ambiguities, for fear of the speaker thinking that he is stupid or ignorant. As is usually the case with neurotypicals, image and status is more important than effective communication and the truth in general. Communication between neurotypicals is very limited in this way, and the fear of being seen as stupid prevents either party from verifying the content of the conversation. As such, most miscommunication goes undetected by at least one, if not all, neurotypicals that had engaged in such a conversation.
And to be fair, yes, this really is (although exaggerated) how most people look from here. (You'll also notice, reading this, that it's a nearly flawless point-by-point repetition of mick's claims about this forum...)
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Old 04-17-2009, 06:41 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I'm self diagnosed autisic or 'aspie'. It's in my family. I only came to realize it about 6 or 7 years ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life to find out that that was what was 'wrong' with me.

And by 'wrong' I mean, I was told I was different and odd. I knew I was different but never knew why. I myself thought most everyone else wasn't making much sense. There are an incredible variety of autistics, even in my own family.

I've come experience high functioning autistics to be some of the most annoying (to put it mildly) and some of the most enchanting people to engage with on the planet. Often combinations of both. The best part of discovering autism was finding some people that thought exactly the way I did and experienced life like I had experienced it.

If 10% of the population were autisic, only about 10% of those seemed to have experienced life the same way I do. It was really lonely out here until I found out I wasn't so alone!

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Old 04-17-2009, 07:14 AM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I don't know exactly why, but a clinical diagnosis changed my experience substantially, even though I was pretty much convinced before it happened.
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Old 04-17-2009, 12:44 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

I used to be autistic, now I'm just annoying. Ask anyone.

eta: I'm also making bean soup today. Soon, I will be annoying AND smelly.
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Old 04-17-2009, 01:06 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

RA is a person who is a computer/math person, but who is not autistic. His environment would be much more supportive of a person who is not tuned into social skills than most corporate environments that I have experienced, even those that do not require interaction with individual clients.

RA works on his own schedule, on mostly his own projects, where he wants, when he wants. He's judged mostly on the merit of his work. There is very, very little of what I think of as "business professional" game-playing. He doesn't have to put in face-time, stroke egos, outwardly show the worker bee persona that goes along, in my experience, in most corporate jobs--or at least to a significantly less extent than is usually expected.

It is a little bit of a chicken-egg problem, but I wonder if other sectors of the working world could be structured less as some kind of Survivor-esque battle if people with autism would be also drawn to those areas. Most non-client interactive jobs I've had did not need to be structured that way in order to be successful, and probably would be more successful if managed differently.
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:02 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

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I don't know exactly why, but a clinical diagnosis changed my experience substantially, even though I was pretty much convinced before it happened.
Changed your experience from what to what?

My experience after reading about autism changed the way I dealt with others. I no longer just watched them. I no longer allowed what I knew about myself to be over-painted by what they told me I should be. I was no longer floating down the stream letting myself be push this way or that.
I finally stood my little island. It was a transformation that met resistance from others and eventually an acceptance. I too came to accept their differences without so much internal animosity towards them.
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:11 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

In some fields, the social rules are more important. Engineering and science tend to use them less just because bridges don't care whether you worked hard...

Part of this is that, in most cases, the social rules are a viable proxy measure of general competence. It's like bilateral symmetry as a proxy for mating fitness. You don't have the time or resources to verify all the underlying results, so you look for a proxy.
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Old 04-17-2009, 05:14 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pinecone View Post
Changed your experience from what to what?
Rather than figuring out each individual social difference and rule separately, I can go through a large list of them checking whether they apply. I'm no longer trying to reinvent everything. I could probably have done this pre-diagnosis, but would have been less confident in it.

As a secondary thing, there is a huge difference between "I believe I am autistic" and "I have a clinical diagnosis of autism" in communication. The world is full of people on the internet who clame to be autistic so they can be jerks to people. A formal diagnosis makes peplle more inclined to accept the explanation. (This is a dangerous amount of power to give to someone who is capable of carefully consciously planning how to use social norms and constructs...)

Quote:
I finally stood my little island. It was a transformation that met resistance from others and eventually an acceptance. I too came to accept their differences without so much internal animosity towards them.
This makes some sense. It's easier to accept that other people really *can't* help being shallow and irrational. :P
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  #24  
Old 04-17-2009, 05:15 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

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Originally Posted by Pinecone View Post
I've come experience high functioning autistics to be some of the most annoying (to put it mildly) and some of the most enchanting people to engage with on the planet.
Like Pinecone! :aww:
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  #25  
Old 04-17-2009, 05:58 PM
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Default Re: Autism, Asperger's, ASD, and maybe people who are just annoying.

chunks, I'm not sure if this book will be of much help to you in your quest to understand your co-worker, but for general interest readers, The Siege by Clara Park is a fantastic book on raising an autistic child back when the diagnosis itself was new and parents were widely blamed for causing autism in their kids.

Clara Park was an English professor at my college and her daughter, Jessy -- the first book covers only her young childhood -- worked on campus. Jessy also displayed her amazingly detailed, colorful art, for which she's become very well-known.

The story is compelling and Park's writing exceptional. I would say this even if I weren't biased which I am.

Oh, and here's the sequel catching up with Jessy and the Parks 34 years later. I haven't read it but I will now that I remember it exists.
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