Saturday, January 31, 2009

Graduation from the Lego School of occupational therapy

The 7 yo had problems with planning, spatial orientation, sequencing and fine motor manipulatives.

He also disliked occupational therapy.

On the other hand, he liked the idea of working with Lego, even though he couldn't complete the simplest project. So we enrolled him in the Lego school of occupational therapy. Heck, it was vastly cheaper anyway.

We've been working on our Lego projects for a bit over 2 years now. At first I did everything but push the piece into place. Then I would select the piece and orient the target and the piece, silently pointing out where it ought to go. Then I'd select a piece and point to the diagram. Then I'd present a piece and point nowhere. Then two pieces. Then all the pieces for a given "move".

Abruptly, I didn't need to select anything at all. My only role was to scratch his back.

Today, he completed the last third of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull (age 8-14, he's 9). I was called down for two consultations, including locating a dropped piece.

He's graduated.

The Lego School of Asperger's OT probably cost us $600 or so over the years, but at least 2/3 of that was spent on birthday and Christmas presents and some rewards for special achievements. It was also great fun for both of us.

A success.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Autism Society of America has lost our donations – anti-Vaccine madness

The ASA has turned from the best available science. There are no roads on the trackless wasteland they’re traveling now (emphases mine) …

Autism Society of America: research_envirohealth_vaccines

Individuals living with autism need help today. There is a clear and present need for the government, scientific, medical and autism communities to probe further into all possible environmental causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in a fair, unbiased and thorough way, particularly because findings may help us approach treatment and prevention more effectively. Research needs include, but are not limited to, research into the causal or contributory relationship to autism that may be attributed to thimerosal containing vaccines (TCV’s), the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) inoculation and/or a combination of the two. The interaction of these vaccines with other potentially contributory environmental factors and vulnerabilities also needs serious investigation.

ASA strongly believes that:

  1. Vaccines administered to children, teens and adults must be safe;
  2. More unbiased and credible research needs to be done to:
    1. ensure and optimize safety,
    2. identify those who are at higher risk of injury and develop and implement appropriate accommodations for them,
    3. avoid injury altogether, and
    4. prevent unnecessary overexposure;
  3. All those who are vaccine injured need to be justly compensated;
  4. Development and availability of treatment for injuries from environmental factors, including but not limited to vaccines, needs to be prioritized.


This is worse than a distraction from understanding the causes, prevention, treatment and management of the range of cognitive disorders we currently label as “autism”, it is going to cause harm to children and families by reducing immunization levels.

Science is never perfect, but it has a vastly better track record than the alternative. It’s an imperfect guide, but it’s the best guide we have. The science is as clear as it gets on thimerosal and MMR vaccination – they don’t make significant contributions to autism. We need to look elsewhere to understand the genetic and environmental interactions that alter brain development.

The ASA has done good things, but we can’t send them financial donations knowing that they going to use our contributions to, unwittingly, cause great harm.

This is a shame.

Update: The Executive Director of Autism Speaks has resigned over their anti-vaccination obsession.

Update 10/16/09: See also Jim Carrey - enemy of the enlightenment

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Computer support for persons with cognitive limits: CoPilot

When it comes to keeping computers running smoothly, we all have "special needs". I am known as a "geek-of-geeks", and yet even I can, on occasion, be stymied (more often as I age).

In general, the computer situation for special needs persons is getting worse. Fifteen years ago "Simple Finder" for Mac OS, or the short-lived GEOS for DOS, had very simple environments that would be accessible to most people. Those don't exist now, though "Simple Finder" for OS X is irritatingly close (partly finished work that nobody seems to care about [1]).

On the other hand, baseline computer expertise is rising. A child I know with a fairly limited IQ is surprisingly facile on almost any device -- from a Wii to OS X to iPhone. There's a certain level of intuitive knowledge similar to knowing how to open a book or navigate a room.

So I can set up environments that will work pretty well for someone with special needs, or someone who grew up in pre-computer era (i.e. my mother). The problem is maintaining those environments.

I need to be able to connect, control and maintain their computer environment without any action at all on their part. I need, for example, to connect to my mother's Mac Mini while she sleeps.

The good news is that products are emerging to help with that remote maintenance for persons with either congenital or acquired (including by age - like me) special needs ...
Fog Creek Copilot

... Copilot OneClick is a new feature that makes it even easier to support the people you help most often. Install Copilot OneClick once, then connect to their computers with just a single click. Whether you are helping your parents each weekend or running a corporate help desk, Copilot OneClick makes it possible for you to help people quickly without them having to do a thing...
[1] Anyone want to sue Apple under the ADA to fix Simple Finder? They really don't have that much work left to do ..