A Year Ago at Shift Journal

Nut grafs or otherwise relevant excerpts from entries which appeared last year at this time.


•  Neuropsychology and Autism

Heterochronic principles describe the effects of relative rates of development and maturation on species evolution.  I believe these concepts can be used to describe specific developmental trajectories in individuals vulnerable to neurological conditions such as autism.  Geschwind and Galaburda’s (1987) observations form the foundation for the patterns I have discerned.  They noted the connections between handedness; immune and autoimmune disorders and conditions associated with maturational delay.  The following patterns have been particularly noteworthy.

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Eight) The timing of the onset of puberty, the heterochronic principle of progenesis (Gould, 1977), has powerful correlations with neurological and cognitive variation.  Diet, percentage of body fat and physical activity are primary variables responsible for pubertal timing.  There are studies (Saugstad, 1989) that suggest that specific forms of schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder are directly related to the timing of the onset of puberty.  The relationship between pubertal timing and an individual’s location on the developmental arc may reveal in greater detail the etiology of specific diseases.  Depression may be directly related to the worldwide curtailment of the final stage of cognitive development, abstract thinking, caused by an earlier onset of puberty.  There has been a drop in the age of puberty by three to four years over the last 100 years in urban cultures worldwide (Eveleth & Tanner, 1976) caused primarily by changes in diet.  These dietary changes signal our bodies that increased fat, carbohydrate, and protein resources are available for an increase in birth rate, accomplished by lowering the age of procreation; a naturally selected response.

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I am hypothesizing that autism has evolutionary origins made understandable by recent discoveries in neuropsychology.  Central to this understanding is the insight that humans evolved primarily do to sexual selection, not natural selection.  Click here for details.  Click here for citation sources.

•  10 Myths About Autism

Autism and its lesser-known relatives in the autism spectrum of disorders has found itself on the receiving end of a generous amount of attention lately. Affecting around 3.4 out of every 1,000 children between the ages of 3 and 10 every year, the controversies surrounding autism usually involve the mysteries behind the staggering rise of diagnoses over the past five years as well as its heavily disputed origins. Not surprisingly, a number of myths and misconceptions drown out the realities of individuals and families who confront autism on a daily basis. A proper understanding of what constitutes and how to work with and against autism and autism spectrum disorders allows patients to seek the necessary treatment and move on to live happy, productive, and stable existences.

1. Autism is a form of mental retardation.
Individuals with autism and autism spectrum disorders actually harbor average to above average intelligence. The conditions are considered neurodevelopmental in origin, and diagnostic criteria include communication issues, difficulty in social situations, and repetitive behavior patterns. At no point does mental retardation ever factor into an autism diagnosis – any possible cases where both conditions are present have nothing to do with one another. Some patients with autism perform excellently in some academic areas and very poorly in others, which some mistake as full mental retardation.

•  He’s Canadian, You Know

People with high social status and “good life outcomes” will come to be seen as having been autistic all along, in a way that has the potential to cast the current hysteria over the “autism epidemic” in a very different light. Those who are most sensitive to this coming change though, and are feeling it perhaps earlier than others are those autistics who find their social status and life outcomes lacking when compared to those of these “newfound” autistics and their happy socioeconomic outcomes.  It’s not hard to anticipate that blame will be cast on those of us whose achievements fall short of others to whom we will inevitably be compared:  “If they could overcome theirautism, why can’t you?”

The appropriate response to this framing of the issue isn’t to run, hide, and deny the emerging reality; it is to frame that reality—that of autism’s prevalence across all levels of society—more accurately, more humanely, and more usefully.  For all the solemn pronouncements which might be made about how no one should ever have to justify their autism, produce compensation to society for their autism, or be expected to “overcome” it for the convenience or benefit of others, there is another way to re-frame autism which to be honest is just a lot more fun.

on 12/13/10 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | No Comments | Read More

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