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The Bastard Autism


illustration by Troy DeShano[/caption]

Sometimes i forget that you’re there.

It was once so obvious. He was here with us, and then he was just gone. You’d stolen him.

You threw the first stone, and we stepped up to the fight.

But you are crafty, aren’t you? Deceitful.

The way you camouflage yourself to avoid our attention and distract our sense of urgency.

The rescue operation becomes more of an exercise in tolerance.

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Odorifous: Miller Mobley

Earlier this year there was a bit of a buzz about an article in The Atlantic about Donald Gray Triplett—who in 1943 was the first child to ever be diagnosed as “autistic.”

The article itself (by John Donvan and Caren Zucker) is really fantastic. Even though it is a bit long for a web piece, it is totally worth your time. I love the introductory story where Donald’s talent (in other words—savant capabilities) for math catches the attention of a travelling entertainer who asks if Donald can join him for his travelling show:

whether they spoke this aloud to their guest or not, [there was] the sheer indignity of what Polgar was proposing. Donald’s being odd, his parents could not undo; his being made an oddity of, they could, and would, prevent. The offer was politely but firmly declined.

I really can’t say enough about this article. I haven’t read anything on the topic that I’ve appreciated so much.

But of all the connectedness of an article like this to my own heart’s strings, it is this image that invoked the most emotion.

For even in a photograph you can see his eyes are so piercing that they’re transcendent. Like the eyes of most individuals whom I’ve met with autism—on the rare occasion that they happen to look straight into your own, they’ll see right through into your soul.

After years of practice I’m lucky to now get a chance to look my son in the eye at least once every day and it still gives me butterflies every time.

Luckily it took very little research to discover the man behind this particular lens—Miller Mobley.

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Traverse City Walk for Autism

Northwest Michigan Autism Walk

I’ve been involved with the Northwest Michigan Autism Resource Network for the past 4 years.

The tricky part about an autism community/support group is that everyone is so busy with their own kids (babysitters are rarely an option) that meetings are difficult and volunteer involvement has to be spread thin across a lot of people.

I wish I could be involved more, but the least I can do is create some cool designs for ARN from time to time…

(like the logo and the art-show poster and a few other pieces)

This year I got to do this super-fun poster for our first Autism walk fundraiser that features some iconic halloweenie costume characters.

(and for some reason reminds me of that Neil Young lyric “Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me”)

Help us out!

I’m trying to raise $500 for my Autism Walk team. ARN has been such a great resource to me over the past few years and I would love to help them do more for the NW Michigan community.

If you’ve enjoyed the writing or illustration or whatever on Strong Odors and you’d like to show your appreciation, would you consider supporting us in this event?

Just visit the ARN website to donate via PayPal and mention “team Gideon” in the comments section.


Join Us

Do you live in or around Traverse City? How about Petoskey or Benzonia or another northwest Michigan town?

Come on out on October 30th and walk for autism! You can download the registration form and support-raising forms on their website.

See you there!

The Truth about Autism

A couple big news stories in the world of autism have parents frustrated once again.

First, the infamous Dr. Wakefield was stripped of his license by Britain’s medical council, and then later in the week Reuters published an article suggesting that early intervention may not really make a difference when treating children with autism.

Which is in direct contrast to the only one absolute we’ve ever had… that your best hope is to intervene early.

Early. Early. Early.

So parents everywhere are reacting in anger, throwing emotionally charged adjectives in support of their personal intervention strategies, and pediatricians everywhere can be a little more smug once again, repressing those feeling of guilt that had sneaked in after failing to diagnose so many children earlier than they did.

Here’s the thing… these studies must be done. Their results must be published.

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Six Benefits of LEGO Play for Children with Autism

When my kids were finally old enough for LEGOs, I was glad.

Pretty much everything about LEGO is awesome.

What was interesting (though not totally surprising) was how beneficial LEGO play seemed to be for my 6-year-old who has autism.

Interestingly enough, some serious studies are now being done to develop LEGO-based therapy for children with autism.

It makes a lot of sense:
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The Real Wolverine

Illustration by Troy DeShano

Received an article today about Autism in the workplace.

How certain behavioral skills characteristic of individuals with (high-functioning) autism may make them more adept at particular occupations than the rest of us, and how some new companies and non-profits are providing training to foster the strengths of these individuals by providing specialized training with their unique minds in mind.

At first it seems fantastic.

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Inclusive Education


Our son has Autism.

This fall, he transitioned from an ECP (early childhood special ed) classroom to a typical Kindergarten class.

We did so for a variety of reasons, one of which is the theory that Inclusive Education is beneficial for both the special-needs student and his classmates.

PBS released a really great article about this today.

We never really doubted that inclusion is best… the real question is…

are the public schools equipped for inclusive education?

When our son’s Kindergarten teacher already has 23 children to not only maintain, but to guide, teach and grow… how can she be expected to fully serve my son?

It doesn’t matter how great of a teacher you are, that order is just too high…

When everyone knows it is best… why does my wife have to fight through blood, sweat and tears to get him the aid that he is entitled? (any aid… even one without ASD training)

Of course it’s about money… the scary thing is that with Autism rising and school funding on the decline the future looks very bleak for any possibility that the public schools will be able to meet the needs of their communities.

I guess it’s a good thing that I believe in prayer… because I don’t know what else to do from here on out.

Zev on Amazing Race


Editorial Note: This original post was written in 2009, during Zev and Justin’s first appearance on The Amazing Race. I’m excited they’re back in 2011 and glad more people are discovering the same hope that I discuss in this article.

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum have never had a voice in the media.

Of course there’s Rain Man (everyone’s first reply when I say “my son has Autism”)…

And the occasional savant on 60 Minutes or something… (which of course results in everyone’s second reply “so is he super good at math or the piano or something?”)

And that is about it.

There’s never been occasion in media where a character with Autism was actually a person… you know what I mean?

That is why I consider this season’s Amazing Race to be groundbreaking…

Because Zev Glassenberg is someone to watch.

As far as I can tell he is the first person ever in popular media to represent individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

While watching this weeks episode

I chuckled knowingly when he’s concerned about getting his shoes wet while traveling through knee-deep floods in Vietnam…

and I felt so proud… like he was my own son… when he masterfully shepherded a flock of ducks during one competition…

and gave his jacket to a man who had none…

and my heart cheered when his team came in 2nd at the finish line for that leg of the race…

But the thing that really gets me emotional…

is that he’s got a friend.

a real friend.

Because I know I’m in for a lot of heartbreak over the next decade as I try to watch my son relate to his peers… and none of them will really understand him.

But seeing Zev with his buddy Justin gives me hope… just a little hope… that someday my boy can have a friend that understands him and appreciates him the way I do…

a friend who loves his sense of humor and is humbled by his unselfish spirit and touched by his sweet personality and…..

You can follow Zev and Justin on the race via their webpage (which is mostly twitter status updates of funny stuff Zev says on the show)