Putting That Autism To Good Use

Orthrozanclus_2010_6 I'm in love with this blog about arthropods and its author, a seven-year old boy with autism. The boy, known as ABC, dictated the information to his mom. PZ Myers linked to it and brought over 9,000 people. 

Maybe this boy will take that obsessive personality and be able to do amazing things in the future. Like this woman who mapped out the neuron patterns of roundworms. 

Related: Here's the list of the speakers at the special needs mini-conference for BlogHer

A local high school teaches kids how to be more empathetic towards kids with disabilities. 

A group in Mass. diverted funds intended for special ed kids into their own pockets. 

8 thoughts on “Putting That Autism To Good Use

  1. I was a nanny for a boy with aspergers … I didn’t know what I was doing. None of us did (us being me and the parents). Just a constant motion of winging-it and not getting too caught up in the label. Love these links. Great info.

  2. I’ve always been a fan of obsessive interests, with the hopes that they can also serve an useful purpose, but also with the recognition that they can bring much joy to the right group of people.
    Arthropods are not my thing, but I understand it being someone else’s (not so forgiving, I’ll admit, about video games or pokemon cards). Todays xkcd comic hits the phenomenon on the nose:
    “How do you stand this cheap wine?”
    “Wine all tastes the same to me.”
    “You’ve just never had good wine. If you paid more attention, you’d realize there’s a whole world here.”
    “But that’s true of anything! Wine, House music, fonts, ants, wiiipedia signatures, . . . ”
    I’ve never understood why some focal interests (wine) are considered snobby and sophisticated while others (arthropod or maybe roman fish sauce) are considered odd. I attribute it to the classist past, where a particular person, say the king, set the focal interest of everyone, and he chose wine.

  3. BJ, I’ve always felt that the “geek factor” of any given topic was related to its accessibility to the general public. People accept a love of wine because many of them drink wine themselves. Get them up close and personal with the truly wine obsessed and these same folks often roll their eyes.
    That said, I look at my kids and I think, how can I model moderate behavior in a world that so clearly venerates the extreme? Enjoy wine? You don’t count as a wine snob until you have a cellar with 6000 bottles. Love arthropods? You must devote your life to obsessively studying them. What ever happened to the middle path?
    Like it or not, our American tendency to plow directly from “I like this” to “I’m making this the center of my life” is the dynamic that leads to addiction.

  4. Love arthropods?
    If you make certain ‘revealed preferences’ types of assumptions like the economists, my basement means I must.

  5. This is not at all the point, but I always grate at the faux anonymity we want to give children on the internet — like using initials has significantly lowered this child’s risk of being kidnapped. I have Facebook friends who only use their kids’ initial, or won’t post pictures of them, or whatever, and I can’t help but think that it is “signalling that we protect our kids” more than actually protecting them. We all know your kids!
    We must keep all parts of ABC’s name a secret, so we won’t inadvertently find out Louise Bach-Capps’s son’s last name. (If you google the article, older versions have the son’s first name — likely changed at her request.) It’s like the teacher in The Simpson’s saying, “An anonymous student, who I will just call ‘L. Simpson,’ — no, wait, we’ll call her ‘Lisa S.'”

  6. On point, I think we’re ready to move beyond Rain Man to the first real Asperger’s RomCom. “Must love Arthopods” seems like as good a title as any.

  7. Referring to names by initials does, sometimes, avoid the search engines, though. Simple pseudonymizing certainly doesn’t prevent people who know you, or know a little bit about you from finding out who you are. But, it does avoid the casual googler from landing on your name.
    11d’s comments, for example, are indexed. If I wrote my full name (or actually either of them) here, my comments would be index-able. So I get the desire to use initials, even if I don’t think it makes the child anonymous. It’ll hamper the casual googler who knows the child as an energy trader at 30 from finding his obsession with arthropods as a youngster.

  8. I’m happy to celebrate the generalists, too, the folks who don’t have intense passions for one thing. It’s not my way, but I think there’s room in the world for generalist skills, too (teaching, for example, or as a CEO).
    I also agree that the current obsession with “passion” for college admissions is a bad thing, especially for those who are required to manufacture passions, or limit other interests in order to jump through the hoops.

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