Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fright Night

Trick-or-Treating is a Hair-Raising Experience!!!

It's hard to protect the world when your pants won't stay on...

Colony Collapse Disorder?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Best Story Ever!

Recently, we achieved a parental milestone of sorts - we went to parent-teacher night. Our oldest son is Jason, and Jason is attending Kindergarten this year in a general education classroom. He has a full-time shadow to help him through the more difficult moments, and everyone seems to agree that Jason is doing very well with this placement. Especially Jason...

During the parent-teacher meeting, when we asked how, in a general sense, Jason is doing, Jason's teacher burst into a big smile and told us the following story:

The class was gathered around Ms. D'Nealian, who was holding their attention with some sort of information sharing game. She was engaging the students to say something about themselves, or about her, or about whatever they chose. She elected to start at the beginning of the semi-circle - her left - and work her way around giving each student an opportunity to talk. As the students took their turns to talk, and the speaking job moved closer and closer to Jason, he began to get very fidgety.
{Aside: Jason is almost always fidgety. He shows an extremely inquisitive nature, and asks a LOT of questions during the school day. So many, in fact, that he constantly walks around all day with his right arm upright at the shoulder, bent 90 degrees at the elbow, forearm resting on the top of his head. This way, when he has a question, he can efficiently raise his hand in .0000057 seconds and ideally receive his answer much more quickly.}
As each student in the arc ahead of Jason did their speaking bit, his movements became more pronounced. First his hand would shudder in an effort to hold it back from shooting upwards to question-mode...
Student A would stand up, say "Ummmmmm, Ms. D'Nealian, I have socks that look like your socks" and sit back down. Jason would begin to "jog in place" with anticipation...
Student B would stand up, say "Ms. D'Nealian, my daddy has lots of tools and, and a truck that's fast and stuff" and sit back down. Jason was hopping by this time.
Student C would stand up and say, "Ms. D'Nealian, I saw a frog this weekend. He was green." and sit back down. Jason, whose turn was next, by this time was hopping and jogging in place, both hands straight up in a 'touchdown' signal...
"Jason, what would you like to say?" asked Ms. D.Nealian....

Out from my little boy bursts - the kind of BURST that can only take place after holding back for a while - "I LOVE YOU!!! I LOVE THIS CLASS!!!!" He is now jumping up and down wildly, his enthusiasm infectious! All the little kids leap up from the floor - "I love you too!" "I love this class too!" It was a storm - a perfect storm of unleashed goodwill! It was as if the proverbial crowd stormed the playing field. Love was in the air!

And - amidst the chaos of 5 year-olds and 35-year olds celebrating their very existence in the wonderful classroom known as K5 - Ms. D'Nealian stopped a moment to observe my son. My son Jason - who has his whole life ahead of him and will carry the things he learns in Kindergarten with him every moment of that journey - was standing there amidst leaping kids and grinning teachers/aides/volunteer moms with his hands on his hips, beaming from ear to ear, looking from side to side, being as smug as can be as if to say "I DID IT, damn it! I caused this glee! I am Jason! Join me in celebrating!!!!! I LOVE this class!!!!"

If you've ever seen the end of the movie Rudy, you'll know how I felt when she told us that story. Its a moment that will never leave me.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pardon the Interruption...

Despite all expectations, the sun rose. Though weak, its rays slowly soaked through the roiling gray-brown skies. There was no sound but the persistent breath of the Santa Ana wind. The cloying taste of fear and ash clung to my throat, which was made raw by dry smoke and heat......

A post-apocalyptic vision? No, a description of Tuesday morning here in Southern California.

Every now and then, I depart from the topic of autism to talk about something else. This is one of those occasions. This post is about the wildfires that plagued Southern California this week. This post is about how my family's life was temporarily jacked up by Mother Nature. I am highly cognizant of the fact that we did not lose our home. Perhaps 1800 families here did. We are very lucky to not be included in that number, and my heart goes out to those who have suffered terrible loss this week.

Monday morning I got up at and went to work as usual. The top radio news story on the way in was that Highway 15 - the major inland north/south expressway in SoCal - was closed due to smoke and embers from a wildfire. No big deal, as we occasionally run into this condition in San Diego County. A few minutes later, another story runs that a fire is burning behind California State University-San Marcos and is forcing the evacuation of a few neighborhoods at the base of the hill upon which the University is located. Hmmm. 2 fires now. I also recalled that the Santa Ana winds (The Devil Winds, in which an atmospheric high pressure zone migrates to the Mojave desert, forcing hot desert air to rapidly traverse Southern California in its effort to seek the low-pressure zone sitting over the cool Pacific Ocean) were expected to prevail strongly for a few days. Uh-oh. This could be trouble.
But not for me! Wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, and "storms of the century" happen to other people, not me and mine. So no worries.
I settle in to work, with several co-workers commenting on the fires. One office clerk leaves, as her neighborhood is being evacuated due to the proximity of the fire and she needs to tend to her kids. Okay, so we'll be a bit short-handed. At least there is no fire in the area that I live, about a 40-minute drive away. Then someone mentions that a new fire has been reported in my area. About 30 minutes later my wife calls and confirms this, but that it is burning on the other side of the interstate a few miles away. Close, but no imminent danger ... yet. As a precautionary tactic, she began to assemble those belongings we would take with us in the event of an evacuation.
A few hours later, news reports had the fire "jumping" the highway. That is 8 lanes of highway with a very wide median - probably 50 yards of distance.
This is what can happen when the hot desert winds push a fire - burning embers are forced way out in front and ignite areas far removed from the source flames. This is how fires "jump" huge swaths of land so quickly. If the wind is travelling 70 mph like it did in gusts that day and the next, then the fire can also travel at 70 mph. Scary, if you think of it.

Anyhow, with this news I was quickly out of work and on the way home. I have an excellent and trustworthy staff, a staff that was heroic in maintaining compsure and business activities in the ensuing three days.
I barely avoided getting caught in a major snarl on the highway as it was unexpectedly closed due to the fire roaring around it and the resulting smoke. Since I had to get home in a hurry, I burned a U-turn into the median and drove back against stopped traffic to find an emergency access break in the center divide, I squeezed through there and headed back to the prior exit so I could wind through some surface roads to get home.
Keep in mind that the area I live in is very hilly - it is actually a foothill range that includes a series of ridges and valleys. Roads are limited, usually windy, and not heavily travelled.
Soon after I got home, our bright sunny day degenerated into a brown, choking haze due to the smoke from the nearby conflagration. And, obviously, since the smoke was coming our way so was the fire. We packed up my wife and kids and decided I would stay behind to watch the house and the animals. Though our area was under official "mandatory evacuation" orders issued via reverse-911 phone calls and door-to-door Sherriff visits, and the resulting exodus had begun in earnest, our situation was probably a bit more complicated than many others. Only if it became obviously dangerous would I leave. Dragging around 2 dogs and three cats to unknown shelter locations for unknown periods of time is not an appealing scenario, hence our decision. Plus, it is hard to walk away from your house not knowing if you will see it again. She and the boys safely arrived at their destination - the home of some wonderful friends (thank you!) up North of us, so now I only had to worry about the proximity of the fire.
As night fell, I began to look for a good vantage point. I found one nearby, further down the ridge that our house sits atop, and several other "stay-behinds" found the same spot. Thus began a very long night of fire-watching.
The fire line approached from the East. I live on the Western ridge of a North-South-running valley. From ridgetop to ridgetop is probably a mile or two. The valley is about 2 total miles in length. The firehad burned all day on the opposite side of the Eastern ridge. At that point, it had destroyed maybe 40 or 50 structures and a golf course.
At home, I made pots of coffee to keep the caffeine flowing. Every hour or so I would drive over to the vantage point to watch the glow from the other side of the ridge, hoping to see it diminish. Firefighters had been on it all day, so I was hoping they would beat it.
At 11:00 it was still just a steady orange glow. When I returned at 11:45 much had changed. The wind had picked up dramatically, fueling the fire. In that 45 minutes, it had crested the ridge and burned about 2/3 of the way down to the base of the valley where the road runs. It was now hard to watch as the wind was hurling embers and debris and smoke up our ridge. The crackle-pop was vaguely audible now. As the fire marched down the hill, it was the only thing you could see on an otherwise night-darkened hillside. Except ... sometimes a giant ball of fire would develop within the wall of flames. And a huge plume of black smoke would burst upwards. The adjacent flames would bend towards these intense flare-ups, drawn to them by the rush of oxygen. These were homes. Families' homes, burning to nothing in a matter of minutes. Wow. I wish I had pictures of this, but the camera was packed with our evacuation 'valuables' and was therefore, well, evacuated.
At this point, the small group of us watching this happen were of a mind to get going. None of us had any intention of getting into serious danger, and none of us had any illusions about our own ability to defend our homes from fire.
We knew that if and when we left, we would have no way of knowing what happened to our homes, had no way of knowing when we could return, and had no way of knowing whether we would be able to meet up with our families in the interim. These were powerful motivators to stay put as long as was feasible.
But ... just at the crucial moment when it seemed we would have maybe 10 or 15 minutes to clear out before the wall of flames reached us ... the wind died down. Then it picked up again - from the West. The Santa Ana had momentarily given way to a coastal breeze. This ceased the forward progress of the flames, though they still hungrily consumed avocado groves, homes, and ancient Live Oaks without compunction. Immediately thereafter, a stream of emergency vehicles gushed into our valley along the road that ran along its nadir. As I heard on the news the next day, this was a contingent of firefighters freshly arriving from Northern California, and assigned to our location as it was designated a "last line of defense". If the fire broke through our valley, authorities were concerned it would enter an estuary valley that runs directly to the coast about 10 miles away, and there would be no stopping it. I could see their vehicles wind up the narrow lanes cutting up the opposite ridge by tracking their flashing lights. They arrayed themselves above, around, and below the 2 major rivers of fire descending into the valley and valiantly defended their chosen turf. The end of the story is good - they stopped the advance and saved hundreds of homes. God Bless our firefighters.

Fast forward to the next day - Wednesday. Now it is midday, and I decide to check out the area. At the time I leave home, I feel like the only person in the world. As I walk out to my car in the driveway, every footfall results in a little cloud of rising ash. I flip the windshield wipers to clear the ash and create another little cloud that will eventually settle on the driveway. I leave home and drive past the vantage point from the night before - no one there now. The radio says the fireline is still being defended at the bottom of the valley, but I can no longer see the flames since it is day. Smoke roils by in great black and brown belches stinging my eyes and throat.
As I drive into various areas I see nothing but emergency vehicles. Fire trucks, Cal. Dept. of Forestry trucks, Ambulances screaming by with sirens blaring. Overhead, a chopper repeatedly goes back to the worst of the fire after refilling its water tank from a nearby pond. I am passed by two Army Hummers, complete with visored soldiers perched atop the roof with M-16's - guarding against the inevitable looters. There is no other movement or activity, just these vehicles with their missions. Truly bizarre, as this is my town, my little agricultural haven amidst the hubbub of Southern California. Very few stayed behind, and those who did were home indoors avoiding the choking atmosphere.

The story, for me and my family, has a happy ending. My wife and kids were able to return home Wednesday night, just two nights after flames tore through our valley. We cleaned up the ash around the house as the fire burned North into an unpopulated river valley, and eventually burned itself out.

This fire burned 9000 acres. It destroyed 206 homes and 42 other buildings.4 firefighters have been injured out of 967 assigned to the fire.
And that is just my town. In all of Southern California, the combined force of the wildfires since Monday have consumed 410,000 acres and over 1,500 homes.

This last picture is just one little area of my town that used to be lush, green growth. Suffice it to say that we're glad this week is over in Southern California.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Autism ... Continuum?

If you were to perform a PubMed search for studies that include "visuo-spatial" and "autism", you might come up with 15 studies that indicate differences between the way autistic people process visuo-spatial stimuli versus control groups of neurotypicals. Perhaps this goes a long way towards explaining why many autistic folks - and many of their allies in academia and parenting communities - object to the use of the term "Autism Spectrum". Let me explain.

"What?" the casual observer may ask, "I didn't even realize that the use of the 'spectrum' was controversial". Well, its not really elevated to the level of controversy yet. But as the realization of the need for protection of the rights of autistic people grows, so too does the need to consider the language of the topic. And 'spectrum' is one word that deserves consideration.

Consider, for example, my first exposure to the word. This is a brief outtake of the story of the day we received our son's autism diagnosis:

After standing by while my son completed a battery of behavioral and performance-based tests, I was asked by the psychologist to take Jason downstairs for a while so whe could complete her analysis of results. After about 45 minutes, I brought him back up to the Pediatric Neurology offices for the diagnosis. She worked with me through the initial process of diagnosis, describing each diagnostic criterion and asking if I agreed. After 11 affirmative responses, she knew she had brought me to the point where I understood where she was going with this. And so she continued with a description of the Autism Spectrum - the first I had ever heard of it:
"On this third, you have Asperger's Disorder. In the middle, you have PDD-nos, and the most severely affected are in the Top Third, called Autism Disorder or Classic Autism. Your son is in the top third, probably somewhere in the middle of that segment. This means that he has less of a chance of living independently and functioning normally in society than if he were in the other two sections."
It was as if she had a special "Autism Sextant" that pinpointed precisely where he fell, at the ripe old age of 39 months, on the linear spectrum. And, being totally new to the diagnosis and having a complete void of any competing knowledge, I bought the whole line.

So this was my working knowledge of the autism spectrum - as a linear spectrum going from 'mild' to 'severe' - for maybe a year or so after my son's diagnosis. How simplistic this view now seems to me.

You see, the Autism Spectrum is not just a linear representation of behavior, with one end being the "best" and one end being the "worst". Instead, it describes a continuum of subjective experience and behavior, resulting from neurological atypicalities, which can vary significantly over the lifespan of any individual who is labelled autistic.

Notice that I have selected the word Continuuum here.
Description: Continuum theories or models explain variation as involving a gradual quantitative transition without abrupt changes or discontinuities. It can be contrasted with 'categorical' models which propose qualitatively different states.

So by viewing autism as a continuum, we can incorporate the concept of fluidity of behaviors or experiential factors, thereby creating an increased ability to understand and discuss autism issues in a more realistic fashion. At the same time, we avoid the Spectrum's push towards 'grading' behavioral presentation to the detriment of potentially diminishing the value of the individual.

Too often, productive discussion on the topic of autism is limited by term usage such as "high-functioning" or "low-functioning." You will occasionally see comments such as "Person A is just Asperger's or HFA, and therefore can't be considered alongside Person B, who is non-verbal with SIB's." And there is something to this, as everyone I think agrees that some autistic individuals' symptoms or characteristics are much more debilitating than others. But to simply compare HFA to LFA is far too simplistic. Such a view ignores tremendous variation in "clusters" of abilities and disabilities related to autism. I have read or spoken with several autistic adults, and a common theme is that "some days are better than others". Or, to put it another way, a person can appear to function at different levels at different times. I think the continuum concept captures this fluidity.

Another criticism I would offer of the linear spectrum concept is adopted from a researcher-friend of mine. She has stated (paraphrasing here) "Spectrum? Bahh. That's just something the Behaviorists cooked up to separate those they could help from those they couldn't figure out."
I think what she means by this is that allowing ourselves to label an individual as being in the lowest functioning category provides a wealth of excuses for ourselves to consider them outside the realm of "help-able".

Here's another angle, albeit somewhat Sophist by nature. Taking this idea of a Spectrum to its extreme, then at any given moment ONE PERSON is the most autistic in the world. One person is also the least autistic, and is just one person away from no longer being considered autistic. This is purely conceptual and has no pratical application other than to highlight how the Spectrum can result in a "ranking" of behavioral presentation.

I have also been part of numerous discussions on the topic of a cure where this linear spectrum concept is inadvertently interjected into the conversation. Usually the commenter will say, in reference to their efforts to provide a cure for their child's autism, "All I want to do (with treatment X or intervention Y) is to move him/her up the spectrum. Is that so wrong?" What the parent is insinuating, though probably unintentionally, is that their child's current 'level' of autistic functioning can be incrementally, quantitatively improved by degree and the progress can be tracked. This is almost never the case. Typically, when parents talk about their children's progress, it goes something like this,
Parent A: "Well, she has started talking now in single words, still isn't forming sentences. But her use of sign language is improving all the time. Unfortunately, it seems that she has a lot of anxiety since school started, and her sleep patterns are very erratic and unpredictable."
Parent B: "My son is not talking at all, and has never really had significant anxiety problems. He's always very calm, like an old soul. His fascination with airplanes is really taking over his other hobbies right now - he won't read anything but that topic. And ever since we moved out of the city, he doesn't scratch or bite his arms anymore like he used to."
In both of these examples, there is no clear delineation of improvement or regression. The changes in the kids are Fluid. They are on a Continuum.

This discussion, as do so many others, boils down in large part to the fact that we don't have a very good working definition of autism. Autism Disorder is still, from an academic standpoint, a term used to describe a set of observable symptoms. I hope the academics consider the importance of defining and endorsing a better way of describing the tremendous range of individuals that carry the label of Autism than placing them all on a linear Spectrum.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Sometimes something happens at the right time, and it penetrates the chinks in the armor that we build around ourselves.

I'm a bit down about recent goings-on in the online autism community. I need cheering up, but all my colleagues are similarly afflicted with negative feelings. Where do I turn?

Where indeed?

A few moments ago an email came to us from one of our son's former behavioral therapists. It's a video that I will post here.
This video is Christian, and it is tremendously inspirational. Regrdless of your feelings about religion, Christianity, or anything else, I think you will find this to be enlightening, applicable to your daily life, and just really intensely wonderful to watch. Though the context is Christianity, it is a skit about life, about right and wrong, about trials and successes, about love and hate, about ups and downs, about danger and safe harbor, about many of the things we all have been dwelling on the last few days.

Even if you are unable to identify with Christian values or symbolism, try to set that aside for 5-1/2 minutes while you watch this - you won't likely regret it.

Click here for video

Hate is Unmistakeable

Do you ever feel like the bad guys have won?
That's how I feel today after reading Kev Leitch's farewell message, and witnessing the closure of his blog, Left Brain/Right Brain.

Kev's reasons are his own, and for no one to question. He is acting in the way that he feels necessary to protect his family, and I support him 100% in that.

Kev's daughter has been the target of impersonation and dehumanizing insults by John Best for quite some time now. John is the despicable person who writes the Hating Autism blog. His derogatory writing too often crosses ethical and moral boundaries that are easily recognized and avoided by more decent people. Over the last three days, John has committed himself to a campaign of hate against Kev and His daughter that is unprecedented in its depravity, and Kev has reacted accordingly.

Many, many people like me have directly benefitted from Kev's work in establishing a central point for autism blogging, many of whom are autistic bloggers who were able to benefit from the Hub's high traffic to get a message out to the world that Autism is not necessarily what it has been thought to be. That autistic folks are whole persons, people deserving of our respect and admiration for abilities and attitudes that were dismissed, ignored, or overlooked by most professionals until recently.

I hope Kev will still contribute his voice and efforts in other ways - ways that will provide some insulation between his family and those who would do them harm through words or deeds.
I hope the autism community realizes that we are diminishing ourselves if we let the outrageous actions of the offending person go without condemnation and censure.
I hope we can organize ourselves to continue the Autism Hub, so that there is always a place for Autistic bloggers and their allies to gather and share ideas.
I hope that Kev knows how much I and so many others appreciate his efforts over the years. And I hope that my Autistic son grows up in a world full of people like Kev Leitch, and bereft of haters like John Best. I will keep blogging to do my part to see these things happen.
And if anything occurs that causes Kev to reconsider, I will be the first in line to welcome him back.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blogging and Responsibility

Monday, for the first time, I dropped in on Autism Speaks' Message Boards. It was, predictably, the home of some rather heated conversations. So I jumped in a little bit, in a typical Steve way of trying not to step on too many toes but trying to state clearly how I felt on some issues (specifically, what is Neurodiversity's "message").

I was quickly responded to by one "SamsDad", who apparently holds a low view of Neurodiversity and those who are associated with the Autism Hub. That's okay, as he doesn't know me from Adam and I really don't care what he thinks, as we don't really know or impact each other in any meaningful way. But ... a portion of his comments gave me some food for thought. And the result is this blog post on the topic of ... responsible blogging.

In response to my statement,

"The whole philosophy appealed tremendously to me - and still does - on any number of levels. Here are what I consider to be a few facets of the ND point of view as I see it. I speak for no one but myself."

SamsDad replied:

"You speak for no one else, but blogging speaks to everyone else, including people that have not yet formed an opinion. As KevLeitch has pointed out, that's a pretty substantial audience. I know blogging isn't supposed to be as "objective" as the media per se, but it can be as influential. Is there a moral responsibility there then? I think so, but I'm naive and somewhat idealistic. So, like it or not, all of you that "publish" these blogs, are in the public eye, by your own volition, and are thereby viewed as "representatives", with all the trials, tribulations, criticisms and responsibilities that come with such a position, as well as the very loud voice that accompanies it. "

Which is an interesting point of view that deserves further discussion. And, yes, this will follow my typical pattern of discussion that leaves me with more questions than answers. Its a good thing I named this blog "One Dad's Opinion" because had I named it "One Dad's Indisputably Known Facts" there would be like two or three posts, and the only topic would be that I love my family. How boring that would be.

I don't think I agree with the basic premise of SamsDad's statement - "I know blogging isn't supposed to be as "objective" as the media per se, but it can be as influential." I think the flaw here is the intimation that blogging operates under the assumption of objectivity. Blogging, instead, is the epitome of subjectivity, in that it is a person or group of people writing in a way that they feel comfortable with, unfettered by any hard-line ethical and professional codes (actually, that sounds a lot like today's news media). So we are responsible to ourselves, as bloggers, to keep it honest and real, and ultimately our own self-imposed code of conduct determines how we choose to use our words.

I stated in the first post I ever wrote:
"It occurs to me that, years from now, these words will be accessible to all three of my sons. At this very moment these words are able to be read by the other people who I value so much in my life."

That is my guiding principle, my own self-imposed code of conduct. My boys will read this someday. I want them to know that Dad cared. My wife reads this, and I want her to know I love and appreciate her. I also stated my goal very clearly in the title bar: "This is one Dad's opinion of various subjects, most of which involve the reality of raising a child who is autistic." and in the sidebar: "This blog is for discussion of all things related to autism. I especially welcome the input of autistic individuals." I don't think I have any moral imperative to forewarn my readers (all 37 of them) beyond that. Do you? At some point, someone has to read what I or anyone else on the Hub or anywhere on the Internet wrote and decide for themselves if they agree or disagree. And here are some of the topics I have covered. Maybe SamsDad can decide for himself if I am worthy of my self-appointed soapbox:

  • Our son's school district doing a particularly good job of adjusting to increasing numbers of autistic students.

  • My favorite post, in which I compare my three boys to newly founded cities.

  • How great my dog is.

  • What an ... unsavory guy JB Handley is and how he changed his story instead of owning up to his premature declarations of "mercury poisoining is autism!".

  • I joined in "Blogging Against Disablism Day" by writing a post about how having an autistic son changed me as a person.

  • Some great conversations with Mark Twain.

  • I wrote about my son's preschool graduation and included some pictures.

  • I did a write-up of a great conference I attended at University of San Diego. (Just yesterday I got a response on one of those three posts - from one of the presenters, Stephen Hinkle. I recommend that people read his comments.)

  • I examined the Autism Speaks-sponsored study on Prozac as a pharmaceutical support for autistic individuals.

  • I did a three-part series on Evidence-Based Interventions.

  • I posted an essay by Martha Leary about Movement Differences.

  • I talked about the controversial topic of recovery in the context of Jason's progress.

  • I criticized a Fortune Magazine blogger who had coined the term "Blackberry Autism".

  • I posted a discussion of and, later, a form letter for people to use, that encouraged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to not stop funding transportation for Special Ed students via the school districts.

  • I wrote two posts about my feelings on how the whole Jenny McCarthy thing went down.

  • I talked about Hyperlexia and reading comprehension.

So there you have it. Apparently, upon reviewing this list, I am an extremely boring blogger. Not much controversy here! Yes, there are other topics as well, but I think it can be agreed by many that mine is not the stuff of severe conflict. Or maybe some perceive that it is. Should that be of concern to me?

Some bloggers, such as our friend Harold Doherty in New Brunswick, take a far more ideological approach than some class-B Hub blogger like myself. Harold watches news feeds all day keyed to the term "autism". Once he sees a good one, he quickly spins the news to make the Evil Neurodiverse out to be the source of all that is bad in the world of autism, then posts it. He actually uses horrible stories like the one I just linked to as an ice-breaker for another attack on the "ND's". He spends the rest of his online time sniping at people on their own blogs, then moderating out comments they choose to make on his blog. How does this approach fit in with SamsDad's view of responsible blogging? Also, while Harold and I agree on some things and disagreeon others, I would never want to take away his right to talk about anything he wants to. He deserves the same platform as I or anyone else has, and it is up to him to do what he wants with it.

( I wasn't going to post a link directly to Harold's blog since sending traffic there seems irresponsible, but I only have 37 readers so I thought the impact would be minimal)

And there is (at least) one more thing that I think devalues SamsDad's analogy between blogs and journalism: Unlike developing a network to compete with Viacom, anyone can write a blog! Even me! SamsDad could be a blogger within 5 minutes of reading this post if he chooses to. He can attempt to reach, to use his own words, "... people that have not yet formed an opinion." If he were to do this, we would potentially provide counterbalancing viewpoints (assuming we disagree on things).

So SamsDads' point, though interesting, may have been a bit misplaced. I guess he identified me with the Autism Hub and jumped to the conclusion that I oppose all he holds dear or something, which amounts to painting a whole group with a pretty broad brushstroke. After all, when he made his comments, all I had done was identify myself as a Hub blogger and describe several aspects of what I feel are apects of Neurodiversity's message.

I'd like to hear other opinions on what constitutes responsible vs. irresponsible blogging.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hyperlexia and Comprehension

It has been stated that hyperlexic kids often have tremendous difficulty with reading comprehension once their peers catch up to their reading level and academic expectations tighten up. An SLT who worked very well with Jason and really helped him a lot 'warned' us of this. I recently recall Ms. Clark alluding to this with one of her kids as well commenting on another blog.
This is not always, however, the case.

My son's school began a new program yesterday called Book-It. It works like this:
A child has one month to complete ten books.
Completing a book means reading it themselves or having an adult read to them.
If they successfully complete 10 books in the month's time, they receive a coupon for a free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.

Keep in mind that my son started Kindergarten just a few weeks ago. Keep also in mind that they happened to pick a powerful motivator - Pizza. Jason loves Pizza the way Pandas love bamboo, the way Spongebob loves Crabby Patties, the way ... you get the picture.

It is now approximately 30 hours (hours, not days) since the program was announced. Jason has read 8 books. All by himself. We can't keep him away from books right now. He finds one in one of our household's kids' book stacks (they're everywhere) and races off to a quiet spot to read. A short time later he will reappear and request that this book be added to the Book-It list.

Last night he brought me an old Disney publication of "Peter Pan and Mary". This book was 24 pages long, maybe 40-50 words per page. I was skeptical that he had done more than look at the pictures, so I quizzed him.
"Jason, what is the dog's name?"
"How does Peter Pan help them fly?"
(Excited, flapping hands) "Dust!"
"What are the boys in Neverland called?"
"The Lost Boys."
"Who is Hook's enemy?"
"No, Smee is Hook's mate. Who is Hook's enemy?"
"Hungry Crocodile!"

I can't wait to take Jason for his victory Pizza at Pizza Hut. Thing is, we'll have to wait a month for his peers to finish their books first.