Category Archives: icare4autism

Saying One Thing, Meaning Another

First – here is the video of Emma’s and my presentation at the ICare4Autism Conference on July 2nd in New York City – “My Body Does Not Obey My Mind”.

Emma ended our presentation by singing one of her favorite songs, You’ll never see me again.  We uploaded this separately and changed it from “public” to  “unlisted” as someone has already given her singing performance a “thumbs down”.  As with anything that is “public” on the internet, one can expect to get those who are so troubled and filled with self-loathing they cannot control their wish to hurt others.

We may make a new video that includes both the presentation and her singing. At which point we will remove this video of just her singing performance so that only those who watch the full presentation will be able to watch her singing at the end, but have not done so yet.  In the meantime here it is, though this link may only work until we’ve made the new video.

As Richard edited the video of our presentation I became uncomfortably aware of how, in my desire to amplify Emma’s voice, I tried to keep her from applauding and kept trying to read her words over the applause.  This presentation was the first full length presentation we’ve done together, so there were a couple of things I will be sure not to repeat next time.  In addition to my issues, the font size needed to be about 30 times larger for such a big room and the activated voice needed to be miked and next time you can be sure I will be applauding Emma right along with the audience, waiting until the applause died down before attempting to read her words.

This morning I was reminded of how Emma, when asked, “How old are you?”  will, without hesitation and in a matter-of-fact voice, say, “Nine.”  If I give her the keyboard she will then type, “I am 12.”  When I asked her to talk about what it was like to say something, knowing it wasn’t “correct.”  She wrote, “Hearing myself say words that cause confused reactions, solidifying doubt, makes people befuddled and causes me anxiety.”

I asked Emma if she was willing to say more.  She wrote, “The words are not friendly when they march purposefully from my mouth, ignoring my brain’s direct orders, like obstinate and unruly toddlers defying all.  Words pouring forth like water after a dam break, do not pay attention to me.  I am so used to it I no longer fight.  I dread the smiling talkers who insist on spoken language as proof of being and serious thought.  Humor and a reminder to not take themselves so seriously is my loving suggestion for all.”

I asked Emma why she chose this image for today's blog post.  She wrote, "I was so happy riding the horse and this post makes me happy too!"

I asked Emma why she chose this image for today’s blog post. She wrote, “I was so happy riding the horse and this post makes me happy too!”

 

Emma’s Presentation at The ICare4Autism Conference

Emma came up with the title of yesterday’s presentation – My Body Does Not Obey My Mind.  In preparation for our talk, Emma wrote, “how about discussing gleeful shouts and irreverent clapping as expressions of joy, but that many will see as indications of simple mindedness?”  I told her I thought this was a great idea.

During our presentation Emma found a number of people in the audience who happily engaged in making faces with her. One of her favorite faces is one she refers to as “fish lips”.   She proceeded to demonstrate “fish lips” and then, after successfully encouraging others to participate, she typed, “Doing fish lips to the audience is an expression of funny playfulness, but can be misinterpreted as simple mindedness.  Silliness is acceptable in those who are believed smart, but for those like me, it indicates stupidity.”  It was a powerful demonstration of yet another way in which someone like Emma is often misunderstood.

Before leaving to give our presentation yesterday,  Emma and I had the following conversation:

Ariane:  What other examples can you give that would demonstrate the body/mind disconnect, besides what you think and then what you might say out loud in contrast?
Emma:  Things like not being able to sit still and needing to jump up.   There are many examples like that.   In my mind I am graceful and move like a dancer and speak with passion and the articulation of an acting coach.
Ariane:  Aw… that’s really beautifully expressed, Emma.  Really, really powerful.
I need to be careful not to take control of our presentation, because you must take the lead.
Emma:  You will be very good.  Don’t worry, I will be charming and will have your back.
Ariane:  Oh, Emma, thank you for the encouragement, that means a lot to me.
Are you going to ask me questions if you think there’s something I’m missing or not talking about?
Emma:  Yes, thoughts of fear worry you, but I know what I want to say.

This morning, we again discussed our presentation, which began with me asking Emma how she thought it went:

Emma:  Spoken words cannot compete with typed power house wording of dramatic charm.
Ariane:  You were charming!  And, as always, so insightful!  I’m so proud of you.
Emma:  Teaching by real life demonstration, pleases all.
Ariane:  I agree!  What was the experience like for you, sitting in front of such a large audience?
Emma:  Happiness, overwhelming joy to be able to show off my inner eloquent and funny self.
Ariane:  You were eloquent and very funny!  I think you touched a great many people yesterday.  I think many will rethink what they have believed about autism and those they care for, who are autistic, because of you.
Emma:  Brave honesty opens minds and hearts.  I hope people will question what they have been told.
Ariane:  I do too.
Emma:  Horrible ideas about people cause many to do terrible things, and treat someone like me with repetitive demands for compliance.
Ariane:  Perhaps meeting you, will make them pause and reconsider their approach.
Emma:  Showing humor and compassion for them is my belief and way of prodding them to venture down different roads.
Ariane:  You are such a wonderful example of loving kindness put into action!
Emma:  Worry and fear are fueled by furious words spoken harshly, humor soothes, shining sunny rays spreading hope.
Ariane:  It’s a much needed hope.  I’m so proud of you.
Emma:  Knowing pride brightens, giving gifts of hope dulls years of lingering sadness for schooling gone awry.
Richard videotaped our presentation and we are hoping to have at least a few clips of it available on our YouTube channel this afternoon.  Emma ended our presentation by getting up on the stage with the microphone and belting out a rousing rendition of September’s You’ll Never See Me Again.  We have that on tape as well!  Stay tuned…
Emma chose this photograph, taken last week while in Cape Cod, until we can pull some photos from the videotape of the conference.

Emma chose this photograph, taken last week while in Cape Cod, until we can pull some photos from the videotape of the conference.

Tomorrow’s Presentation

Emma and I are giving an hour-long presentation tomorrow at the ICare4Autism Conference.  We have been discussing our presentation and while I would be most comfortable writing everything out and basically reading from index cards, Emma has proposed that we do a much looser, more fluid type of presentation, one where I introduce us and then she will type some thoughts about the topic she chose, My Body Does not Obey My Mind, I will respond, she will type something else and on it goes, ending with questions from the audience.

Emma wrote, “How about making this presentation more meaningful by having me talk and then writing an answer to a question and showing them what we mean when we use the words “body/mind disconnect”?

I asked her if she was okay if I brought up the topic of stimming too.  Emma wrote, “Maybe we start with something less controversial like nice questions about the weather.”

I said, “You mean I ask you a question about the weather and then wait for you to give a spoken answer? And then after you’ve said something, you will type an answer to show the difference in real-time?”

Emma replied, “You ask me a simple question like – How do you like the weather today? – because talkers like that sort of thing.”

So to practice, I said to her, “What do you think of the weather today?”  Emma said, “Pool!”

“So that’s a good example, right?” I asked.

Emma then typed, “Beautiful blue skies with whispering air that rustling leaves answer.”

I said, “That is such a perfect example of what you’ve been talking about.  What else?”

“Vanity will be put aside so that others may learn,” Emma wrote.

When I suggested I write what I would say in response, Emma wrote, “How about you talk about how my talking voice confused you and made you think what I said was my intention?”

I told Emma this way of presenting is nerve-wracking for me, but that I think it will make for a far more compelling and powerful presentation.  She then typed, “You can lean on me.”  I told her I will be practicing mindfulness and breathing to relax.  Emma wrote, “Good work, Mommy.  I will be right next to you lending support.”

I’m counting on it, Emma.  I’m counting on it.

Emma and Me

Emma and Me

“Rethinking Your Beliefs About Autism”

Emma and I are speaking at the upcoming icare4autism conference  here in New York City, July 2nd.  Over the weekend I asked Emma what she thought the topic of our talk should be.  She wrote, “Let’s talk about mind/body disconnect and how that makes people misunderstand someone like me…”

I told her I thought this was an excellent topic particularly as this conference will most likely not have an audience familiar with the idea of there being a mind/body disconnect or if they are, what that actually means.  In fact this is one of those topics I wish I’d known about from the beginning.  It would have been so helpful had someone explained to me, when Emma was diagnosed, what it meant.  Perhaps more than anything it is the body/mind disconnect that caused me to make all kinds of assumptions about my daughter, which I now know were incorrect.  Because she did not look at me or turn her head toward me when I spoke to her, I assumed she wasn’t listening.  Because she said things that I couldn’t understand or were disconnected from my questions, I assumed she didn’t understand the question.  I believed the words she spoke were the words she intended and meant.  It didn’t occur to me that I was wrong.  It didn’t occur to me that she was thinking a great many things, but had no way of communicating all that she knew and thought.

Both Ido Kedar and Naoki Higashida talk about how their bodies do not do as their brain requests.  Tracy Kedar, Ido’s mom, writes in the introduction to Ido’s book, Ido in Autismland, “Imagine being unable to communicate because you have a body that doesn’t listen to your thoughts.  You want to speak and you know what you want to say, but either you  can’t get words out, or what comes out are nonsensical sounds or the same embedded phrases you have said thousands of times.  Imagine your face staying flat and blank when inside you are furious, sad, or wanting to smile in greeting.”  Later Tracy writes, “Since you cannot express your thoughts, only you know that you are intellectually intact.”  And still later Tracy writes, “Imagine being stuck in an educational program, year after year, that is designed for a preschooler who learns slowly.  You are bored, frustrated, angry, misunderstood and more than a little hopeless.”

Emma has written about some of this before, but in the next month will be writing about her experience with the “mind/body disconnect” more.  I will be reading her thoughts and insights at the conference and adding my experience of what I once believed.  Emma will then answer questions from the audience time permitting, by writing on her keyboard.

I asked Emma what she wanted to call our presentation.  She wrote, “Let’s call it – Rethinking Your Beliefs About Autism”

And so we are…

Em strikes a pose

The UN and Henry’s Struggle To Be Heard

Another short post today as I have a meeting in another two hours.

As I wrote yesterday I went to a meeting at the UN – The Fifth Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities moderated by Juan Carlos Brandt, Chief, Advocacy and Special Events, Department of Public Information, United Nations.  The specific event I was invited to attend entitled:  “Urgency and Hope, Report from Global Leaders in Autism Research, Education, Treatment and Policy” Joshua Weinstein, CEO and Founder of the organization, icare4autism, presented with Stephen Shore, Beth Diviney and Eric Hollander presenting as well.  ICare4Autism is the organization that invited me to attend their conference in Jerusalem this past August, which I wrote about.

Juan Carlos Brandt and Joshua Weinstein 

I asked an Autism group I’m a part of whether anyone had messages for me to take to the event and a number of people wrote things such as A. who asked that I say something about “using a functioning level (usually an assumed one) to silence someone is never ok” and S. who wrote “Disability Rights are Human rights.  More specifically Autistic Rights are Human Rights.  We deserve to be treated as equals.”  Several asked that I stress the need for all to presume competence and P. asked that I be sure to say, “don’t assume I have nothing to say, just because I do not speak.”  But the first person who reached out to me was Henry who sent me this:

He wrote:  “Could you please tell them I would like to be included and learn with friends my age and where I live? I wrote this.”I am a self advocate. I want the same rights as everyone. 

Today I read about Martin Luther King.
The worksheet said because of Dr King’s work, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave equal rights to all people.
I am a person.
I want these rights.

I want to go to school in my neighborhood.

Why can’t I?

Joshua Weinstein and Juan Carlos agreed to allow me to show Henry’s video, but when they tried to run it, they weren’t able to as evidently the internet was down in the entire building.  (It’s the UN!  And we think we have technical problems!!)  So as they were trying to get the video up and running I read some of the quotes from others.    I’m sorry Henry! But I’m going to keep trying.  I know many others are too.  To everyone reading this, please watch Henry’s video and “like”, comment and share.  This is one person’s struggle, but it represents the struggle of so many.

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The Intense World Theory Of Autism And An Interview With The Markrams

At the ICare4Autism Conference, held in Jerusalem August 1st & 2nd, I had the opportunity to interview the neuroscientist team Henry and Kamila Markram who created The Intense World Theory for Autism.  Henry Markram is also director of Blue Brain, and is a coordinator on The Human Brain Project.  Both were at the conference presenting.  The Intense World Theory for Autism states autism is the result of a “super charged brain.”  Feelings, visual, auditory and tactile sensations are felt so intensely they are painful.  These intense feelings, coupled with extreme pain memory causes the child to become overwhelmed and shut down, withdrawing from stimulus.

I first read The Intense World Theory in March of this past year.  I was also just beginning to find blogs written by Autistics.   My world completely changed.  It was the first time I heard anyone working in the field of autism who did not speak of it as a deficit.  I remember reading every paper they’d written, making Richard read everything I was finding as well.  We stayed up every night for weeks discussing what this might mean, how it changed our view of our daughter, how it completely upended how we worked and communicated with her.  It was as close to a spiritual awakening as I’ve ever had.  I felt as though everything I thought I knew about Emma opened up and I was introduced to a vibrant, new and hopeful world.

So it was with great excitement that I sat down with Kamila and Henry Markram after their presentation on August 1st.  I have not delineated who was speaking, other than to write my questions in bold, as the conversation was a casual one and the dialogue often overlapped.  What follows is an edited version of my interview as we spoke for close to an hour and I didn’t want to repeat much of what was covered in their terrific interview with John Scott Holman of Wrong Planet.  For a more thorough reading of The Intense World Theory of Autism read his interview ‘here‘.

In your presentation you spoke about neuroscience and how the biggest impediment to Autism is that it continues to be listed in the same category as mental retardation in the DSM.  (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)  Can you talk about that a bit more?

“Autism is not a form of mental retardation. If parents approach their child as mentally retarded, then naturally they will apply a whole program of hammering the brain. If the Intense World Theory is correct, and the brain is already hyper-reactive, then this could just accelerate autism.  We have a grant now to study this for the Swiss National Science Foundation.  We hypothesize that you need an environment that is filtered from surprise.  Surprise can be painful.  You can’t easily undo the pain.  Memories shape your life.  normally, it is difficult to undo them, but for an autistic it is much more difficult to forget.  The other problem with Autism being listed as a form of mental retardation in the DSM is that it directs the way scientists research the problem. For decades, they have just been looking for deficits. So, the biggest impediment to Autism is the way it is classified in the DSM.  This should change.”

So what do you think of ABA as a recommended therapy during early intervention?

“It can be very dangerous and irresponsible.  ABA is for mental retardation.  Evidence points to the fact that ABA could be very dangerous for autistic children.  We don’t have proof yet, we don’t have an animal model, but the risk is very high. From our analysis of it, ABA, especially in the early phases, the critical developmental stage of from birth until about 5, is very dangerous.  You cannot know the intensity in which these children see the world and they are seeing things you can’t see.  There is a hyper emotionality.   ABA at an early age is definitely a no–no.”

How do parents facilitate the transition from this early phase of a filtered environment to the real world?

“The main critical periods for the brain during which time circuits form irreversibly are in the first few years (till about the age of 5 or so). We think this is an important age period when autism can either fully express to become a severe handicap or turned to become a major advantage. We think a calm filtered environment will not send the circuits into hyper-active modes, but the brain will keep most of its potential for plasticity. At later ages, filtered environments should help calm the autistic child and give them a starting point from where they can venture out. Each autistic child probably will first needs its own bubble environment before on can start mixing bubbles. It should happen mostly on its own, but with very gentle guidance and encouragement.  Do all you would want for your child ….but in slow motion…let the child set the pace…they need that control to feel secure enough to begin to venture off into any other other bubbles.”

Given that Autism is not a psychiatric illness, that it should not be in the DSM to begin with, but rather is a difference in neurology, what do you say to psychiatrists who are coming up with theories that people then believe as though these theories were fact?

“It is very difficult.  There are lots of theories , not so many facts.  Theory of Mind is a deficit model.  I think it’s been a very distorted interpretation.  When we first came out with the Intense World Theory people were quite opposed to it.  But now people are starting to move away from the deficit model.”

Your son is Autistic?

“Yes, he is now eighteen years old, living in Israel.  The opposite of what people tell you about autism, he is so emotional, he feels so intensely.  The smallest thing happens, he is mortally wounded.  He doesn’t know how to organize himself.  He has hyper memory.”   Henry:  “I’m pretty much also autistic.  I learned all kinds of tricks,  all kinds of strategies and I was able to develop tricks.”  

It seems a great many Autistic children also have GI issues.  What do you say to that?  

“When you alter something in the brain it alters the communication in the body.  It is very difficult to separate them.  All of these things could be secondary to a neural insult.”

What about diet?

“Some respond better to diet than others.  Some may be very sensitive to diet, not necessarily because of their autism.  Allergies can affect all people.  A diet can help the symptoms of autism if that is a stressor.  You need to lower the stressors, diet, sleep, all those things are stressors, combined with their sensory overload it’s going to exacerbate everything.  These aren’t treatments for autism, they are things that can place stress on an autistic child.”

What do you say to the parent who is considering drug treatments?

“Drugs are being given by doctors who have no idea how the neurons are affected. We are living in an illusion that we can easily treat brain disorders.  The human  brain project will change everything in the way we think and treat autism.”

Care to weigh in on the ongoing vaccination controversy?

“There is no evidence to support the connection.  The idea of toxic effects after the first trimester and the idea of toxic effects after birth seem very unlikely.  Parents should not avoid vaccinations.  I think the insult has to be in utero.  The first trimester is the danger.  Avoid anything extreme, no extreme stress.  That should be taken as a black out period for women from the moment they know they are pregnant.  Stay calm, sleep well, eat well.  All we can do is guess.”

Given the intensity of an Autistic child, how can we help manage their environment?

“In the early phase of the child’s life..  Repetition is a response to extreme fear.  The Autist perceives, feels and fears too much.  Let them have their routines, no computers, television, no sharp colors, no surprises.  It’s the opposite of what parents are told to do.  We actually think if you could develop a filtered environment in the early phase of life you could end up with an incredible genius child without many of the sensory challenges.”

Kamila Markram

Henry Markram

 

ICare4Autism – An Opportunity to Make a Difference

I attended the ICare4Autism conference in Jerusalem last week.  I wrote about this not long ago in the post Synchronicity, Jerusalem and Autism. As a quick recap Jerusalem was the place Richard and I had intended to go for our honeymoon.  Not six weeks before we were due to leave, the intifada broke out, forcing us to abandon our plans. That was thirteen years ago.  This past May I received a letter from the “State of Israel” inviting me to be their guest.

In addition Dr. Henry and Dr. Kamila Markram were presenting at the conference.  They are the neuroscientist team who came up with The Intense World Theory For Autism, the only theory to date that has validated my observations of my ten-year old daughter, Emma.  When I read they were going to be in Jerusalem this past winter I joked with Richard about how amazing it would be to meet them AND go to Jerusalem.  At the time we just laughed at the insanity of the idea and went on with our lives.  Then the invitation arrived.  I knew it meant I would need to write about the conference.  Writing about the conference was why I’d been invited.

Except I do not consider myself a “journalist.”  I am not an impartial, unbiased observer, prepared to provide an even-handed summation of my observations.  I am highly opinionated and exceptionally biased in my ever evolving perspective on autism.  I regard the motivations of most so-called autism advocacy organizations with suspicion and even outrage.  I am frequently hostile in my view of the self-appointed Autism experts, medical charlatans and other “professionals” who make a living off desperate parents, like myself.  If I had all the money I’ve spent on the various “cures,” biomedical interventions and dubious therapies we have employed over these past eight years, I wouldn’t have cared about an invitation providing me with airfare and hotel accommodations.

In less than a year, my perspective has radically changed.  Had I attended this conference last August my focus would have been on meeting as many researchers and doctors as time would allow.  I would have spent each break roaming through the many tables set up outside the conference rooms selling all manner of goods purported to help a child with Autism (and yes, that is how I would have described my daughter – a child with Autism) hoping for something that would cure my daughter with the same longing and desperation that had dragged me from one “specialist” to the next for all those years, not so very long ago.

But that was before.

That was before we began implementing Emma’s literacy program.  That was before Emma showed signs that something we tried could and would work.  That was before I read Henry and Kamila Markram’s Intense World Theory.  That was before I began reading the blogs of Autistic adults and as a result began communicating with a number of them (see yesterday’s post).   Suddenly, and it really was relatively quick,  I began to view my daughter through the eyes of someone seeking to understand rather than fix.  I began to see her actions, whether it was stimming or echolalia or self-injurious behavior – as her attempts to communicate rather than aberrant behaviors that needed to be quelled and eliminated.

Was ICare4Autism going to be different than any of the other organizations out there promoting interventions, therapies and the ever illusive and questionable promise of a cure?  The information I compiled prior to the conference did not look promising.  But, I kept reassuring myself, the Markrams would be there and if nothing else, I had set up an interview to speak with them.  Beyond that there seemed little to distinguish them from any of the other organizations using “autism” in their name.  Still I went to the opening dinner with an upbeat, hopeful attitude, eager for a better idea of the organizations intentions.  When the opening video played I consoled myself that at least the distraught parents filmed were not openly weeping and talking about their distress in front of their children.  By the way, just in case anyone misunderstands me, less than two years ago I could have been one of those sobbing parents and I would have wept in front of my daughter and spoken of her with the mistaken assumption that she couldn’t understand.  It would not have occurred to me that hearing her mother speak of a desire to cure her might have made her feel horrible, sad and depressed, things she wouldn’t be able to communicate to me, which would only further her sadness and feelings of isolation.  I get it.  Really I do.

The conference began with a Welcoming Ceremony with a speech from the founder and CEO, Joshua Weinstein, who called for communication and collaboration.  He spoke of plans to move their headquarters to Jerusalem, a city with a long history of misunderstanding and strife, making his call for communication and collaboration all the more significant. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat spoke of his pride in hosting the ICare4Autism conference and eagerness in it becoming a world center for Autism research.  Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization spoke briefly as did a number of others.  And then the Autistic Boys Choir got on the stage.  Seven teenagers began to sing, their voices rang loud and clear, their pitch was perfect, their enthusiasm and joy infectious and the audience began to weep.  I was right there with them, madly rummaging around for my kleenex, trying not to let out too much noise other than the odd sniffle.   I wept from sheer gratitude, because these teenage boys/men were like my daughter.  One young man in particular who clearly reveled in performing reminded me of Emma.  So yes, I wept from relief, from joy, from seeing Autism shown not as a tragedy, but as difference and of hope for what can only be described as the possibilities, not just for our children, but for us as a society when we hand the microphone over to those we say we care about and want to help – Autistics.

Over the course of the next day and a half I tried to meet with Joshua Weinstein, but for a variety of reasons, wasn’t able to.  Then finally in the afternoon of the last day of the conference, I saw Joshua Weinstein and mustered up the courage to approach him.  I spoke to him about why the Autism = Tragedy model needed to be discarded, that while it may get people to write checks it was an unbalanced view, completely disregarding the feelings of Autistics (our children) who are being sent the message that they make their parents and families desperately unhappy, the very people who are supposedly trying to help them.  Josh was not only kind and receptive, but later thanked me for coming over to him.   He assured me that he really was interested in communicating with Autistics and would take me up on my offer to introduce him to a number of people I know, both verbal and nonverbal, and am in contact with.

Josh invited me to be on the advisory board, which I’ve agreed to.  He is working with a number of people at the UN, as well as WHO (World Health Organization) and asked that I attend the UN meeting.  He has, since we spoke at the conference called and we are in email contact demonstrating his sincere desire to follow through with his promises and words.  Am I surprised?  Yes.  I am.  But more than that I am hopeful.  Hopeful that ICare4Autism will actually include the very people they say they care about by putting them on their advisory board and by listening to them as they develop and attempt to fulfill their mission in becoming a world-wide Autism organization that does more than pay lip service to those who are Autistic.

“Caring about autism – what we know of it and how we put it in our narratives – is something from which all manner of people can and must benefit.”  Representing Autism Culture, Narrative, Fascination by Stuart Murray

Autistic Boys Choir

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The Aftermath

Richard and I returned from Jerusalem and the icare4autism conference Friday evening.  It was so good to see Emma again after being away for an entire week. The three of us spent the weekend in NYC and then flew to Colorado where we were reunited with Nic (whom I haven’t seen in a month) looked after by my doting and wonderful mother.  I have at least three hours of recordings from the conference to transcribe.  I must write about the conference in greater detail, I have a great deal of work to do for my business, the one that actually brings in money, and I want and need to spend time with my family.  I’m tired.  That’s what I keep thinking.  But there’s more to it than that and I haven’t figured out yet what that exactly means.  There’s panic.  How am I going to get everything done?  But there’s something else, something I haven’t put my finger on yet.

It’s 4 AM (I’ve been up since 3) but you could tell me it was 1 in the afternoon and I’m so turned around I’d just nod my head.  So rather than say any more I’ll end with this – a little scene from last night.

Em:  Play duck, duck, goose?

Me:  Yeah, okay.

Em:  With you (points to me) and me (points to herself) and Nicky and Daddy and Granma?

My mother: What’s duck, duck, goose?

Nic:  You’ll see.

Everyone sits at the dining room table as Emma stands waiting. 

Em:  (Going around the table, while placing her hand on each person’s head)  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.

My mother:  Should I do something?

Nic:  No Granma.  You have to wait.  She’ll say something different.

Em:  (Grinning, pats Granma on the head)  Raining!

Richard:  Oh no!  Emmy you have to pick someone else, Granma can’t run.

My mother:  (Looking horrified) I’m suppose to run?

Me:  (Laughing)  Yes, you’re suppose to run after her.

Em: (With mischievous grin)  Granma run?

Richard:  No, Emmy pick someone else, Granma can’t run.

Em: (Continues to go around the table) Snow. Snow.  (Puts hand on Richard’s head and hesitates.  Then shouts)  Raining!

This game continued for several rounds with Emma occasionally directing when things weren’t going as she felt they should.

Em:  Okay.  Last time for duck, duck, goose.  

When she’d finished going around the table, picked someone and after lots of screaming and laughing my mother said, “That was a great game!”

Em:  Play again?  (Looks around the table grinning)  Okay, okay, later.  Play duck, duck, goose later.  Tomorrow.

It’s good to be home.

Em on the High Line Sunday

The icare4autism Conference in Jerusalem

The icare4autism conference ended this afternoon.  It was a whirlwind of activity spanning 48 hours of discussions and presentations led by scientists, therapists, neuroscientists, policy makers, parents and advocates.  Stephen Shore, who is Autistic, gave the single most entertaining presentation, entitled:  Employment Opportunities for People with Autism: Observations on Promoting Success.

On the first day I interviewed Henry and Kamila Markram, the neuroscientists who came up with the Intense World Theory of Autism, the only theory I’ve read and heard that makes any sense and which validates my own observations of my daughter, Emma.  Yesterday I spoke with Joshua Weinstein, the CEO and President of icare4autism.  He seemed genuinely interested in hearing from people.  He actively sought out suggestions, made himself available to anyone who approached him.  He seemed sincere in his desire to bring scientists, therapists, parents, researchers, educators and advocates  together.

The organization’s weakest point is in having Autistics on their advisory committee.  According to the sheet I received there aren’t any, and only one Autistic person, Stephen Shore, was at the conference presenting.  Perhaps after today’s conversation that will change.  I hope so.  I would like nothing more than to write glowingly about an organization that carries the word “autism” in it’s name.  I spoke out whenever it seemed even remotely appropriate.  But by the end of the conference I had made my – Autistics must be included in this organization -speech more than a dozen times.  Only once was I met with any argument and interestingly enough, that one time was from a parent of a “severely autistic child” as she described him, who was furious with me for suggesting we needed to move beyond the autism = tragedy model.

There is tremendous misunderstanding surrounding labels and the designations of low, high, severe and mild.  It was clear that people do not understand why these labels are unhelpful and the terms were thrown around a great deal during a number of the presentations I attended.  Another huge misperception surrounds intelligence or “lack” of in Autism.  I was astonished to hear the words “mental retardation” used in connection with autism during a couple of the comments from the audience.  I hadn’t realized that was still thought, by many, to be synonymous with autism.

The really good news is, I heard questions surrounding the “ethics” of various treatments and interventions for Autism and I was relieved to hear a number of people talk about the abuse, mistreatment and need for greater advocacy among the Autistic population.  Of course the best advocates are Autistics themselves and so I hope icare4autism will heed some of my suggestions.  I was not the only one making these suggestions, by the way.  There were a number of people, including Stephen Shore who was wonderfully articulate in his opinions and ideas, who brought up the need for Autistics to represent themselves and the importance of Autistics to be involved in all levels of any organization that carries the word autism in its title.

Finally, I miss Emma terribly and cannot WAIT to see her this afternoon.

Em in the playground