About this blog.

My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 24 months. I created this blog to bring meaning to the often-confusing label. Sometimes I have answers. Other times, just more questions.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Out of nowhere...

...Brad counted to 10 this weekend. I had never heard him count to three before, much less 10. My husband and I were literally in disbelief. Yay Brad!

Saturday, May 17, 2008


From Autismville:

List ten great things about your child with autism. If you think your child would like to participate, let them express themselves. Maybe ask him or her to list a few things about themselves they would like to share. They do not have to answer in words, feel free to share photos, artwork, or upload video or audio. Anything goes, in the name of self-expression!

1. He proudly says his name, when asked "La-leee!" (Actual name: "Bradley.")

2. His enthusiasm for playing rough-house with his brother.

3. His appreciation for the group I call his harem, consisting of his various female therapists. (Brad loves his girlfriends.)

4. His love of sweet potato and squash.

5. He's a bruiser, in the 97% for height and 90% for weight. (Take that, would-be high school tormenters.)

6. He follows directions like a champ.

7. He blows kisses.

8. His booty shake.

9. He likes to pretend he's a kitty cat.

10. His cheeks.

Thinking in pictures, thinking in words and...?

As I blogged, Professor Temple Grandin describes her thought process as thinking in pictures. Speaking for myself as a neurotypical thinker, I think in words. Grandin explores the possibility of yet another way of thinking in her essay "Genius May Be An Abnormality." She writes:

There appear to be two basic types of thinking in intellectually gifted people who have Asperger's or high functioning autism...The two types are totally visual thinkers like me; and the music, math and memory thinkers which are described in Thomas Sowell's book, Late Talking Children. I have interviewed several of these people, and their thoughts work in patterns in which there are no pictures. Sowell reports that in the family histories of late talking, music math and memory children, 74 percent of the families will have an engineer or a relative in a highly technical field such as physics, accounting, or mathematics. Most of these children also had a relative that played a musical instrument.

As I've blogged about here, Sowell asserts that the subjects of his book, including Albert Einstein, are not autistic. While Grandin disagrees with this point, she appears to acknowledge that there is a fundamental difference in the way a Sowell late talker thinks versus the way she thinks. Which begs the question: is "music, math and memory" thinking a third category of thought process, or is it really just neurotypical thought? Or maybe late talkers are just A Little Bit Autistic, thus the distinction in thinking process?

Latest entry in my one-person book club: Thinking in Pictures

While many autism books recite the DSM-IV checklist and objectively describe the condition from an outsider's perspective, they offer little by way of insight. To date, science hasn't discovered the biological markers for autism, so we're left comparing empirical observation of "symptoms" to a checklist (DSM-IV). But empirical observation is unsatisfying. For example, one can observe that Brad doesn't consistently respond to his name and has a communication impairment. But what does it mean? What's going on in there, in his brain?

Thinking in Pictures provides insight in this regard because it was written by an insider. As the title denotes, Grandin thinks in pictures. She writes:

My imagination works like the computer graphics programs that created the lifelike dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. When I do an equipment simulation in my imagination or work on an engineering problem, it is like seeing it on a videotape in my mind. I can view it from any angle, placing myself above or below the equipment and rotating it at the same time. I don't need a fancy graphics program that can produce three-dimensional design simulations. I can do it better and faster in my head.

I create new images all the time by taking many little parts of images I have in the video library in my imagination and piecing them together. I have video memories of every item I've ever worked with -- steel gates, fences, latches, concrete walls, and so forth. To create new designs, I retrieve bits and pieces from my memory and combine them into a new whole. My design ability keeps improving as I add more visual images to my library. I add video-like images from either actual experiences or translations of written information into pictures.

Further, Grandin recalls that she did poorly in math as a student. Math is pure abstraction. Without a visual association, she appears to be at a loss.

Before I read Thinking in Pictures, I watched this video of Grandin, in which she displays modest wit, charm and humor. So I was surprised to learn that, by her admission, she has almost zero social intuition. That is, she doesn't intuit social cues. She studies them, like a scientist, and has learned to mimick them.

While Temple Grandin's accomplishments are extraordinary, I'm not certain that her mind isn't ordinary in the autistic sense, or generally representative of the way many autistics think. Research seems to suggest that her thinking is rather, for lack of a better word, typical. For an atypical thinker.

Follow-up appointment with developmental pediatrician.

It's been four months since Brad was diagnosed. At the developmental pediatrician's advice, I brought him back for a follow up visit last week. Because Brad's significantly more verbal than he was when he was first diagnosed, I had a fantasy that she was going to un-diagnose him. As I type, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but this blog is a record of my subjective state and not an exercise in reason.

Well of course that didn't happen. The focus of the visit was on the services he's receiving, rather than his progress. The developmental pediatrician wasn't happy that he was just at 12.5 hours. (Of course, I think 12.5 hours is a lot, but I'm new to the game.) She suggested that I lobby for more hours with my specialty provider - the one who admininsters Floortime, except that it's really not Floortime.

I'm not going to do that, but I am going to take a different suggestion of hers - milking my insurance. Brad's covered by Blue Cross, and as luck would have it, the coverage is pretty good. He qualifies for 60 OT and SLP (combined) visits per calendar year. So I have added another hour of OT to Brad's schedule, starting on Monday. I'd like to add another hour of private SLP, although those services are in high demand, so there's a wait.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Quick hit from Brad's Dad.

Besides being Laura’s husband and Brad’s dad, I’m also an MIT graduate. Since I’ve learned more about autism, one thing I wonder is just how many people I encountered back in my MIT days were “autistic.” I kind of thought about it in the back of my mind only, but then this past week I read an article in the current issue of Boston Magazine about Richard Stallman, one of the acknowledged founders/contributors to Linux and I saw cues all over that suggest, at least to my completely untrained mind, that here’s a guy who some might argue is on the spectrum. That in turn led me to remember one fellow student I knew well – he kept to himself, did little to initiate or retain eye contact, and, for lack of a better word, was quirky. At the time, I figured he was just shy and a bookworm type. Now I have to wonder whether he was autistic (he made millions by the way in the Internet boom circa 2000). Did he “know” he was autistic? If he is, does he realize it now? I can think of at least a dozen similar people like him, from professors to students, that I met back in the day. It’s amazing. Has it dawned on people like these that they might be autistic? Am I just being na├»ve to think that (a) all that many people are autistic yet don’t know it, and/or (b) would be profoundly affected if they learned later in life (i.e., well into adulthood) that they were autistic? Somehow this fascinates me. Anyways, for now, I’m just happy reading things like the comments by anonymous in one of Laura’s SLP vs. BE posting here about some of the largest, most successful US companies having environments that enable autistics to make valuable contributions, and knowing that there is more room than ever in today’s “wired” universe for autistics to cope, and often even thrive. Now, more than ever, companies should focus on true talent and intellect, rather than the ability to schmooze interviewers and stereotypically play well with others.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


  • We retested Brad's hearing. The verdict: no hearing loss. The fluid in his ears is gone.

  • Brad's speech continues to improve. He's labelling everything now, and putting two words together. But a new symptom is emerging: scripting. Brad has block letters that spell his full name "BRADLEY". I was holding the E, and it landed on his face. I said "I'm sorry" in a sing-songy voice. Now, every time he sees a capital E, he says "I'm sorry."

  • Brad's SLP called in sick last week. The smackdown has been rescheduled to this Wednesday.

Update: The BE and the SLP had their tete a tete; no blood was drawn. The SLP remarked that the BE isn't administering Floortime, in the true sense. No surprise here. Status quo will continue because I'm not going to complain.