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Quote of the day: on making a good impression

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Exploring Autism – A conversation with Uta Frith

The Autism Show left me with mixed emotions

The Autism Show

 

I have attended my first Autism Show in Manchester yesterday. I have been looking forward to this event because of the quality of the speakers and also because it presented a chance for me to meet fellow professionals, parents and individuals with Autism. While I have enjoyed learning about the current research findings (courtesy of talks delivered by Prof. Neil Humphrey and the folks from Research Autism) and have met lovely people including Kevin Healey- a leading campaigner for Autism Anti-Bullying, the event left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I did not enjoy the whole experience.

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I found the layout of the venue (EventCity, Manchester) too confusing. The exhibition booths are laid-out like a university open-day convention, where people came and went in every direction. The sound levels were too high as exhibitors and speakers competed with each other for the visitors’ attention. There was no place for visitors to relax quietly, apart from the toilets.

Understandably, parents of children with Autims were extremely annoyed. Those who I have spoken too have commented that the place was ‘not Autism-friendly at all’. These parents have the right to complain, considering that the even was about Autism. One would hope that the organisers would have made more effort to consider individuals with Autism, particularly those with sensory sensitivities.

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The Autism Theatre, Hubs 1 & 2, where various talks have taken place were not closed off. This meant that the noise coming from the rest of the venue can be heard and that the speakers have to speak louder in order to compete with the background noise. As a result, most of the audience found it very difficult to maintain their focus on the speakers.

Kevin Healey, one of the key speakers who also has Asperger’s Syndrome, have told me that he struggled to block out the noise coming from outside the Autism Theatre whilst he was speaking. However, despite the incredible challenge of blocking out these stimuli, Kevin delivered one of the most inspiring talks that I have ever listened to.

 

Despite the great wealth of information, I left the venue two and a half hours early with a headache. I do not have a diagnosis of Autism or any sensory difficulties, but I still found the event very strenuous. I can only sympathise for those with Autism. Needless to say, if the organisers do not make the necessary adjustments next year, I would not be coming.

A lesson from Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki (Leonard)

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The above was Johnny Galecki’s response when he was asked to address the rumours about his sexuality, a few years ago (fast forward the clip below to 4:10). This is definitely the best response I have ever heard from anyone regarding homosexuality. There is so much stigma against being a homosexual, and responses like this can help extinguish them. Johnny’s attitude about homosexuality can be extended to many different things such as one’s race, mental and physical (dis)abilities and socio-economic statuses.

Remember: eing who you are is not a bad thing. It’s others’ attitude towards you that’s the problem!

The Real Rain Man

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Just in case you still don’t know who the real inspiration for the 1988 film The Rain Man is yet, watch the videos below. This documentary is about an Autistic Savant named Kim Peek, who had an exceptional memory. He loved reading most of his life. It has been known that he was capable of reading and memorizing books very quickly. Some said that he could speed read a whole book in about an hour, and remember most of the important details in it.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

More on Autism:

Never EVER say these things to people iwth Autism!

He flaps his hands and screams a lot but he doesn’t mean to annoy you

Optimum Outcomes for people with Autism

DSM 5 and its implications to ASD diagnosis

Diagnosing Autism: What you need to know

Vote for Miss Montana 2012, Alexis Wineman

What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

Communication difficulties in Autism

Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

Still unsure if Sheldon has Asperger’s?

DSM-V and Autism

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Practical tips to make your classroom Autism-Friendly

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

Homo Florensiensis: The Real Hobbits

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Since the beginning of last month, it is pretty impossible not to hear about Peter Jackson’s movie interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel, The Hobbit. Written in 1937, this story was about Bilbo Baggins’ quest to reclaim their kingdom from a dragon called Smaug (click here for a better synopsis).

Homo Floriensis

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To my surprise, ‘Hobbits’ actually existed. Bones (not yet fossils) of Homo floriensensis, to give it its scientific name, has been discovered in 2003 by a group of scientists at the Liang Bua cave in the island of Flores in Indonesia (Brown et al., 2004; Morewood et al., 2004; Lahr & Foley, 2004). They were about 3 feet tall and just like us, were able to stand, walk and run on two legs although their limbs were said to have been more like those of Chimpanzees than ours (Brown et al., 2004).

Hunting and Tool Use

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Based on other evidence collected in Liang Bua, it has been suggested that Hobbits hunted pigmy elephants, 20-foot Komodo dragons and giant rats. The cut marks on these animals suggest that Hobbits fashioned tools for hunting and killing them. Indeed, there were stone tools such as pointed ones with refined edges, blades, choppers and cores were found in the island. Interestingly, this also suggests that they possessed the planning skills akin to us Homo Sapiens, which made skeptics skeptics suggest that these tools were made by Homo Sapiens, but were used by H. Floriensis. They theorised that since the Hobbits’ brains were so small (roughly 1/3s of the size of our brains), they could never have had the mental abilities to make such tools. However, there are no evidence to support such a claim.

Other theories

Some have suggested that the Homo Floriensis is not really a distinct species, but were Homo Sapiens with Microencephaly (a neurological disorder in which the affected’s head circumference is marginally smaller than average). Another theory put forward is that the size difference is because of the radical size changes associated with being isolated in an island (a.k.a. The Island Rule). The Island Rule posits that species who moves to a location where there is no significant threat and/ or food and other resources are scarce, their sizes gradually decrease (insular dwarfism).

One should note that only a careful examination of the Hobbits’ DNA will confirm one of the theories put forward above. The Hobbits’ bones are not yet fossilized, hence mitochondrial DNA may be still be extracted and studied.

References:

Brown P., Sutikna T., Morwood M., Soejono R.P., Jatmiko, Saptomo E.W. et al. (2004): A new small-bodied hominin from the late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature, 431:1055-61.

Lahr M.M. and Foley R. (2004): Human evolution writ small. Nature, 431:1043-4.

Morwood M., Soejono R.P., Roberts R.G., Sutikna T., Turney C.S.M., Westaway K.E. et al. (2004): Archaeology and age of a new hominin from Flores in eastern Indonesia. Nature, 431:1087-91.