Larry Welkowitz's Radio Weblog
Discussing Asperger's Disorder and other Psychology topics


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Sunday, April 13, 2003

History of Asperger's

I am sitting in my office (yes on a Sunday) with my student, Jeremy, talking about the history of Asperger's.  It's interesting that Kanner (in the US) and Asperger (in Austria) came up with similar descriptions of what they called Autism in 1944, which lead to different focus of clinicians across the continents (with the US focusing on more severe types of autism and Europe focusing on the milder end of the spectrum as well).  We really owe a lot to Tony Attwood, Lorna Wing, Uta Frith, Ami Klin, Fred Volkmar, and Teresa Bolick for integrating these two positions and bringing the US "up to speed."  These individuals have affected the history of psychology and should be included in updated texts on Systems and History of Psychology.
11:32:16 AM    comment []

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, The War in Iraq, and Campus Wide Strikes

I won't be blogging on Wednesday March 5 in support of the Keene State College campus wide strike to stop the war in Iraq.  "Books not Bombs" will be the message that Professor Tony Stavely and I will push when we speak at 4:30 on campus. 

I don't think it takes a psychologist to see that our President is "working through" his conflicts with his father and trying to prove his worthiness by taking out the evil guy that his father let slide.  We'll be trying to override our President's psychoanalytic struggles by outlining the criteria for a "Just War."  We may have to remind people that Saddam Hussein is not the same person as Osama Bin Laden (recent polls show that many Americans are confused about this).  We'll also talk about better ways to spend billions of dollars going to the war (why not provide Ben and Jerry's ice cream to college students throughout the country?!?).  So, come to Keene on Wednesday afternoon...and bring your own spoon!

1:01:52 PM    comment []

Friday, January 31, 2003

Just Bloggin..


This may be a bit over the top, but my former student asst. with AS really liked it:

tellio II : How I Teach and Why It Is So Hard. Quote: "I have tried to convince them that weblogs are the most protean tool for learning ever made. Like a furnace and anvil, a weblog can make most of its own learning tools. It is self-contained yet all-connected. It is portable yet it is rooted. It is an imaginative journal with a lock and key yet it is fearlessly open to modification and criticism. It is self-governing yet is subject to social control. I am almost afraid of what it will do to certain of my students. Tools transform us whether we will or no. What will this do to them? And more to the point, will it, on balance, do more for them?" [Serious Instructional Technology]

5:08:08 PM    comment []

Asperger's, sense of self, Magnolia

I spoke with a young woman college student yesterday who talked about "feeling lost" since shedding many of her AS qualities.  "I miss being alone with my books and being able to lash out at people whenever I please."  She also said that she misses her "obsessive" special interests.  Now she mostly thinks about her friends and social activities and so on.  She says that she's depressed and no longer has a real sense of who she is.

I've heard a similar story from another male college student with AS.

This raises an important question of whether we are really helping by "successfully" integrating them into "neurotypical" society.  One of my AS students tells me that this blog reminds him of a specific character (William H. Macy) in the movie Magnolia.

4:41:33 PM    comment []

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

AS and Spriitual Issues

I've made mention of the "spiritual lives" of AS individuals in past Blogs, but I'm increasingly convinced that the concepts are "too vague" or ambiguous for most AS individuals to be attracted to.  Their concerns are more "real world" following the dictum, "If I see it, then I'll believe it," rather than "If I believe it, then I'll see it."  Of course, my inquiries are limited to just a few AS individuals so far.
2:32:23 PM    comment []

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Asperger's versus Non-Verbal Learning Disability or NLD

So what's the difference between non-verbal learning disability and Asperger's Syndrome?  The NLD line defines non-verbal learning disability (NLD) as follows:

What is NLD?  Nonverbal learning disorders (NLD) is a neurological syndrome consisting of specific assets and deficits.   The assets include early speech and vocabulary development, remarkable rote memory skills, attention to detail, early reading skills development and excellent spelling skills.  In addition, these individuals have the verbal ability to express themselves eloquently.  Moreover, persons with NLD have strong auditory retention.  Four major categories of deficits and dysfunction also present themselves:

motoric (lack of coordination, severe balance problems, and difficulties with  graphomotor skills).

visual-spatial-organizational (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial  perceptions, difficulties with executive functioning* and problems with spatial relations).

social (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and deficits in social judgment and social interaction).

sensory (sensitivity in any of the sensory modes: visual, auditory, tactile, taste or olfactory) 

*definition of executive functioning:  Neuropsychological functions including, but perhaps not limited to, decision making, planning, initiative, assigning priority, sequencing, motor control, emotional regulation, inhibition, problem solving, planning, impulse control, establishing goals, monitoring results of action, self-correcting.  From

But these are all signs of AS, as well.  A difference may lie in repetitive behaviors (including rigid adherence to routines, etc.) which is mentioned in DSM-IV as a hallmark feature of Asperger's (but I don't see it mentioned with reference to NLD.  Also, with AS, we see early childhood signs reminiscent of autism (lack of engagement; rocking or flapping, and other "soft" neurological signs, such as walking on toes, etc.).  My colleague, Linda Baker, says that NLD is the school system equivalent of DSM's AS diagnosis (i.e., same thing, different source).  I've heard Tony Attwood say that the only difference is the spelling.

4:05:26 PM    comment []

Friday, January 17, 2003

More on Asperger's in College

Dawn Prince-Hughes is an adjunct prof. of anthropology at Western Washington University and has just written a nice piece of the Chronicle of Higher Education on Understanding College Students with Autism.  Unfortunately, I can't link you to the article because the Chronicle requires membership to read the online version (you'd think higher ed. folks would be more enlightened!).  She supports my idea that we can't just change the student with Asperger's/Autism, but must educate those around the person about the nature of this problem.  I just ordered her new book, Aquamarine Blue 5 which includes personal stories of college students with AS and autism.  Before I ordered the book on Amazon, I of course used Jon Udell's Librarylookup to see if the book was in my local library!
5:45:09 PM    comment []

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Deception and Asperger's

Ok, so I wasn't completely on target about ALL programmers failing deception tricks.  Nonetheless, it seems true that autism/asperger's works against deception...Why?  Because people with autism assume that all people have access to the same information (one reason why there is no reason to talk to other people).  They don't differentiate among people, assuming we're all carrying the same stuff in our heads.  Programmers, as a geeky friend of mine tells me, may be ok at figuring out some deceptions, since that's inherent to the trade. 

British autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen says that inability to deceive is linked to deficits in inferring others' thoughts and intentions or what he calls theory of mind.  I've noted possible problems with this model in previous blogs.

8:09:52 PM    comment []

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