Mighty Jack: a new series from Ben "Zita the Spacegirl" Hatke

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Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl trilogy was one of the best kids' comics of the new century (and it's headed to TV!), and he's been very productive in the years since, but his new series, Mighty Jack feels like the true successor to Zita: a meaty volume one that promises and delivers all the buckle you can shake a swash at, with more to come.

UK to extradite hacker with autism to US to face trial for breaking into state computers

Lauri Love (L) reacts as he leaves after his extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London,  Sep. 16, 2016. REUTERS

Today a court in London okayed the extradition of a British hacker with autism to the United States, where he will face trial for breaking into high-security U.S. government computers.

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Antidepressant use by moms during pregnancy linked to increased autism risk

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Researchers examining a possible link between antidepressants and autism found that women who took the psychiatric medications while pregnant were far more likely to have autistic kids.

Women in the study who took antidepressants during the last six months of pregnancy were 87% more likely to have a child later diagnosed with autism. Researchers say the link was most prevalent with women on the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are some of the more common SSRI drug brand names.

Does the new study prove antidepressants cause autism? No. Correlation is not causation, and science is complicated. But increasingly, autism research is focusing on factors that may contribute to the disorder before birth.

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Boy with autism saves choking classmate with cool trick he learned on SpongeBob SquarePants

Jessica, L, and Brendan, R. Image: Staten Island Advance.

The Staten Island Advance reports that Brandon Williams, 13, was eating his lunch at Barnes Intermediate School on Oct. 28 when he saw that his classmate Jessica Pellegrino was choking on a piece of apple.

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Donald Trump is an anti-vaccine autism truther who doesn't understand science

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At last night's GOP Presidential Debate Theatrical Funtime Special on CNN, a brilliant moment of shining stupidity from the abundantly stupid Donald Trump.

He said:

“I am totally in favor of vaccines, but I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. … We’ve had so many instances — people that work for me, just the other day. Two years old, 2 ½ years old, a child, a beautiful child, went to have the vaccine, and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Ladies and gentlemen, burn all of the things.

Politico's wrong-o-meter is a good roundup of all the crazy shit these megalomaniacal rich liars said on TV last night, and how wrongfully wrong all of it is.

Donald Trump stuck to a position that’s totally unsupported by medical evidence — that a link exists behind autism and vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical authorities have said repeatedly that science has demonstrated there is no link between vaccination and autism. Giving children multiple vaccinations at the same has also been proven to be safe, the CDC said.

Here's how we felt last night, watching the debate:

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Autism has always been with us

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One in sixty-eight children are now on the autism spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control. We argue over whether this is a diagnostic or epidemic phenomena, but either way, neurodiversity has always been with us, shaping history. Read the rest

The UK's premier autistic rock group

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The Guardian followed The Autistix as it rehearses and heads off on tour: "We don't want people to feel bad or sorry about us. We want them to come to our gig and enjoy the music. You can also headbang if you like." Read the rest

Genetic links between creativity, schizophrenia, and autism

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How is creativity related to schizophrenia and autism? Psychology professor Scott Barry Kaufman looks at a scientific paper suggesting that "creativity and psychosis share genetic roots" in the context of his own research on how different forms of creativity might relate to the schizophrenia spectrum and the autism spectrum. Read the rest

Kickstarting a US show of pieces by Japanese weavers with autism

Gabrielle writes, "Saori weaving is the perfect craft for happy mutants. You can't make a mistake and all variation is considered part of the personal expression." Read the rest

How Disney movies gave an autistic boy his voice

In Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism , Pulitzer-winning writer Ron Suskind tells the incredible story of how his son Owen disappeared into "regressive autism" at the age of three, losing the ability to speak or understand speech and developmentally degenerating across a variety of metrics, only to reemerge a few years later, able to communicate through references and dialog from the Disney movies he obsessively watches.

A long excerpt in the New York Times, generously illustrated with Owen's expressive fan-art, hints at a book that is wrenching and inspirational by turns. It reminds me of 3500, Ron Miles's memoir of raising a son with autism who was able to engage with the world through thousands of re-rides of Snow White's Scary Adventures at Walt Disney World.

Suskind is a brilliant writer, and the excerpt is deeply moving. I've pre-ordered my copy. Read the rest

Scientists learn more about the fascinating connection between our brains and our bowels

Bacteroides fragilis — one of the many "friendly" bacteria that live in our gut — seems to be capable of altering the behavior of mice, according to a new study. In a mouse model for autism, exposure to Bacteroides fragilis improved the mice's gastrointestinal function and, along the way, reduced some of their external behavioral symptoms, including obsessive behaviors and anxiety. Read the rest

Leslie Lemke: blind, savant piano player on That's Incredible! (1981)

As regular BB readers know, the original That's Incredible! television show had a big impact on me, with its coverage of curiosities, strange phenomena, stunts, and amazing and unusual people. I distinctly remember being moved, even as a ten-year-old, by the episode featuring Leslie Lemke, a blind autistic savant with cerebral palsy who was a fantastic piano player at a young age. According to May Lemke, Leslie's adoptive mother, Leslie sang a lot as a child. Then, when he was 14, she heard piano music in the middle of the night. She thought they had left the TV on but it turned out that Leslie was playing a Tchaikovsky piano concerto that he had heard in a TV movie that evening. Above is the 1981 segment I remembered from That's Incredible! Leslie was also seen in a 1983 episode of 60 Minutes on savant syndrome, and he still performs concerts around the country. "Leslie Lemke: An Inspirational Performance" (Wisconsin Medical Society) Read the rest

Things that correlate with autism

"Things that correlate with autism" is basically an entire genre of scientific research, in and of itself, and nobody does a better job of breaking those studies down than Emily Willingham. Her latest piece is about a recent study that correlates induced labor at birth with autism diagnosis later in life. Read the rest

Memoir of raising an autistic boy who found himself with Disney World's help

Back in June, blogged about Ben, a young man with autism who had a fierce devotion to the Snow White ride at Walt Disney World, and who was the last person to ride it, after more than 3,500 turns on it.

Ben's father, Ron Miles, has published a memoir of his life with Ben, in which he narrates his journey as the father of a child with a profound mental disability, his love affair with Disney parks, and Ben's development through the extraordinary adults in his life (including some very special and caring Disney cast-members). It's an unflinching -- and sometimes unflattering -- account of the challenges of parenting and the special challenges of parenting a child with autism.

I read it very quickly, and often had to dab at my eyes, but it's not a weeper, really -- there's plenty of hilarity and thoughtful wonder and appreciation of the sweetness of parenting as well as the difficulties. Here's the blurb I sent to Ron for the book: "Brimming with heart and tragedy overcome, this is a book that captures the tribulations of parenthood, the magic of Disney World, and the wonderful online communities that allow us to lend aid and comfort to strangers around the world."

It's called 3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White, and it's just out, and I heartily recommend it to you.

3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White Read the rest

Pedagogy of the Depressed: my experiences as a special ed student in the 1990s.

In May 2013, "Asperger's Syndrome" will be removed as a diagnosis from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), leaving "high functioning autism" in its place. I agree with this change. Given the importance of the manual, however, it's caused a lot of consternation and caused me to reflect upon my experiences.

Epidemic, or awareness?

Here's some evidence supporting the idea that the increase in autism diagnoses is just that — an increase in diagnoses, not an increase in incidence. Increases in autism diagnosis aren't evenly spread around the country. There are hotspots. Researchers found that kids who move into these hotspots — even after an age where autism might have been normally diagnosed — have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with autism than kids to didn't. It suggests that awareness and resources might play a big role in rates of autism diagnosis. (Via Micah Allen) Read the rest

Physical, sexual abuse documented at FL facility for autistic and brain-injured

Investigative reports released under a court order to Bloomberg News show that caregivers at a Florida center for brain-injured and "non-neurotypical" adults physically and sexually abused patients, in a systematic and brutal manner. Caregivers "goaded them to fight each other and fondle female employees and in one instance laughed at complaints of mistreatment." At least five patients have died at the center in question, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, from alleged abuse or neglect there since 1998. Two patients died in just the last two years. (Bloomberg) Read the rest

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