An account of my latest visit to the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, with a mention of my website, http://www.londontu.be and plenty of photographs from today.
Today I paid a visit to the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge to participate in a study entitled “VISUAL AND SOCIAL RESPONSES IN PEOPLE WITH ASC”. Just in case anyone failed to work it out, ASC is shorthand for Autistic Spectrum Conditions. If you have an ASC, can get to Cambridge, and would be interested in participating you could email Jan Freyberg for more details.
I decided, in keeping my usual rule for such situations, to take the earlier of two possible trains and be certain barring a major incident of being able to be there in time. I was therefore at Cambridge train station before nine, the train having run like clockwork on this occasion. I took a slightly longer than necessary route to the Autism Research Centre, getting some interesting photos along the way…
This study was monitoring electrical activity in the brain, which meant me wearing what was effectively a bathing cap with connections for 64 electrodes. After a preliminary which involved keeping the eyes open for a minute and then closed for a minute and repeating that process, the proper tests began. The first featured white and grey lines flashing across the centre of the screen while I kept my eye on a cross right at the heart of the screen. There was then a sequence of trials in which real pictures flashed up on the screen very fast, for a minute at a time. The final trial involved grey and white “gratings” once again, but this time the box in which they would appear had a solid black border.
There were also of course various bits of paperwork to fill out and sign.
Once I had finished everything, Jan showed be back into the main building and I headed to the exit, making a single stop en route due to something I had noticed on the way to the testing room…
On the way to the testing room I had noticed an intriguing poster, which on closer inspection was entitled “Tastes of London” and was a very interesting variation on the classic London Underground Map. I photographed it, and made it the centrepiece of this post on www.londontu.be.
The journey back was uneventful, save for a small delay between Littleport and Downham Market. I conclude withe the photographs from the return journey…
A sequel to the most popular post in this blog’s history, “Autism”.
Welcome to this post, which you may consider to be the official follow up to my most successful ever blog post, which was posted on Saturday under the title Autism.
WHEN BEING AUTISTIC GIVES ME AN ADVANTAGE
Yes – there are situations where having an autistic spectrum condition gives me a positive advantage (or so I see it anyway).
Having a very logical mind goes with the condition, and this works in my favour in several situations, including at the bridge table and in some situations at work. For example, when I am scanning lots of small items I place the packaging organised in the order in which the images will appear on the screen (and if you are scanning a dozen separate items in one go this is very useful). Also, this ultra-logical mindset comes in very useful when working on computers and indeed when (as I have done on a volunteer basis) helping others to learn how to work effectively on a computer.
My skill at mental arithmetic, which also relates directly to the condition. If I wish to ensure that, for example, a grocery shop does not exceed a certain limit that I have in mind I can tot up the bill as I pick out items and guarantee to be close.
Problem solving – precisely because a number of situations are problematic for me that would not be so for a neurotypical person my problem solving skills get more practice than the neurotypical persons.
SOME AUTISM RELATED LINKS
A couple of links here that relate to my subject matter:
My other link, courtesy of scienceblogs, and therefore reflective of one of my biggest interests, about a victory in the war against quackery. Even if the treatment that has earned the person pushing it a jail sentence was not cruel, invasive and abusive (and in fact it is all three, in spades) it would still be bogus. Indeed, as those who read the original post to which this one is a sequel will be well aware I believe that it is based on an idea that is itself bogus – namely that autism should be regarded in the light of a disease and that therefore a cure should be sought.
I hope you have all enjoyed this, my second full-length essay in writing about autism from the viewpoint of an autistic person, and that some at least of you will share it.
This autistic person’s view of autism and autistic spectrum conditions, leavened with a few photos.
This post is by way of a public response to two blog posts that I have recently encountered. I am writing this because in twitter speak I am #actuallyautistic.
TWO IMPORTANT BLOG POSTS
The post that first planted the germ of an idea for this piece in my mind was published by Autism Mom under the title “Sometimes I don’t know what to think”. In it she mentions being at an autism related event and hearing someone talk about “curing” their son’s autism.
Be wary of “cures” and “recovery.” One of the first books I read about autism was a “recovery narrative.” It was well-wrttien, but what it told me was that if I just worked hard enough, poured enough money into chasing a cure, and found the right combo of supplements and therapies, my son would get over his autism. It’s a destructive mindset to have, and it caused me and my child heaps of stress. Autism is a neurology, it’s a different way the brain is wired. You can’t recover from neurology, and a more productive focus for everyone is helping your child become his or her best self.
Don’t get bogged down in the debates in the autism community. There are a lot of camps in the autism community. Some people want cures, other blame vaccines, and others demonize autism. Autism self-advocates are changing perceptions of the disorder through their advocacy. People will tell you to cut gluten, try cod liver oil, and the fights can grow nasty. I align with certain views, and I try to live those. But I tell my friends to keep the focus on their child as they wade through all the extra noise in the autism community. I also always recommend that parents new to a diagnosis read what writers with autism are saying as a way to navigate some of this debate.
A BRIEF PICTORIAL INTERLUDE
Here are a few of my recent photographs from in and around King’s Lynn
DISEASE OR DISORDER?: A FALSE DICHOTOMY
The common usage of the phrase Autistic Spectrum Disorder can lead to a suggestion that Autism can be treated like a disease and thence to talk of “cures”. Therefore save for the single sentence I have just written I used Autism or Autistic Spectrum Condition. In each case, although I have emphasised the words that I change in the phrase the key word of the whole phrase is “spectrum”, which implies, correctly, a broad range of attributes.
An Autistic Spectrum Condition is neither a disorder nor a disease – having one makes us different not lesser, or in some way incomplete. This is, if you like, my take home message to neurotypicals: learn to see beyond the condition we have and to appreciate the things we can do, rather than making the things the we cannot into impassable obstacles.
As I hope I have made crystal clear, I believe that any talk of a “cure” for autism is fundamentally misguided. I for one can say with no shadow of a doubt that even if some wonder drug was devised that had the power to make me neurotypical I WOULD REFUSE TO TAKE IT.
I end with a request to any and all of you who make it this far: please share this piece.
An account of an autism related meeting in Norwich, loads of links, some quality dragon pictures, some infographics and some other pictures.
Although this post is based around my attending a meeting to do with Autism at the Charing Cross Centre in Norwich I have lots of other stuff to share as well, in the form of photos, infographics from various sources and a plentiful supply of links.
The purpose of the meeting was to contribute towards a wide scale report on improving Mental Health services across the board. The speaker, who has been travelling around the country listening to ideas from people emphasized that one of the things his report would contain was a statement that it must be shared with contributors.
One of the (many) disastrous things that has been happening over the last few years has been a removal of investment from preventative care in favour of crisis management.
One of the commissioners for the Norfolk and Suffolk PCT actually told the manager of Asperger East Anglia that she should tell staff “to stop working with people after three months”, which demonstrates a scandalous lack of understanding of Autistic Spectrum Conditions.
As the only person in attendance to be actually autistic rather than either a professional working in the field or a parent/ carer of someone with an Autistic Spectrum Condition I made several contributions.
The final report should be complete by the start of October, and if we have not heard anything by the start of November we have been given a green light to contact Jane Sayer at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.
HERE BE DRAGONS: A PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE
I have already dedicated a whole blog post to the dragons that can be seen in and around Norwich at the moment, but yesterday I was in parts of Norwich not covered in that post, so I have some more dragons for you…
My first two links are both related and come courtesy of Dr Marquis Grant. They are both to do with a survey for autistic people:
A petition that I have referred to several times previously in this blog is Fiona Paddon’s petition calling on the NHS to provide free tests from Group B Strep, which now has over 180,000 signatures. The next step is to pile on the pressure bby writing to MPs, to which end I have two links for you…
Finally in this subsection, a petition calling for the mayor of London to get dangerous lorries off the roads (so far this year lorries are responsible for the deaths of eight cyclists in the capital).
BLOGS AND BLOG POSTS
In this subsection are links to the some of the best blogs and blogposts I have found recently…
A personal account of taking part in a study at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge,, accompanied by photographs, with some interesting and important links and some more photographs.
The main body of this post is a personal account of my involvement in the study whose title I have used for the whole post, run as so often at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. I also have a variety of links and a few photos that are not directly connected with the title piece but which I wish to share. I hope you will all enjoy this post and that you will take the opportunity of sharing it.
ATTENTION AND PERCEPTION IN AUTISM SPECTRUM CONDITIONS
i found out about this study just five days ago, and made contact with the person conducting it. A brief exchange of emails concluded with an arrangement for me to attend at 11AM today. As part of the preparation I had to answer various questions and solve various puzzles online.
An scheduled start of 11AM meant getting the 8:57 from King’s Lynn, and to make sure that I got my travel expenses reimbursed I carefully got a receipt. It was shortly after getting on to the platform that I brought the camera into action for the first time of the day…
Pictures taken through the windows of moving trains are tough to get right, but these two worked out okay…
Arriving in Cambridge I decided to take a longer route than usual to the Autism Research Centre, heading towards town as far as this church…
Turning on to the link road that connects to the town end of Trumpington Road I passed the Scott Polar Research Institute, named in honour of Robert Falcon Scott, one of the most famous runners up in history. Scott also gave his name to an itinerant cricket team some of whose deeds are chronicled in Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson and Rain Men by Marcus Berkmann. Although I could not get a shot of the whole building without crossing to the wrong side of a busy road I did get these shots…
Next up was the Cambridge University Chemical Laboratory…
At the very point of turning onto Trumpington Road I passed Hobson’s Conduit…
This is the first major building on Trumpington Road itself, on the opposite side of ti to me…
A shot of the water alongside Trumpington Road…
I next passed the public entrance to Cambridge Botanic Gardens (the admission price convinced me to go no further than the gates)…
A little bit further along I passed a locked gate into the same establishment, with some red flowers growing next to it…
The last shot I got before arriving at the Autism Research Centre was of this dragon fly (or similar), which although quite large was moving exceedingly fast, hence why I got only the one usable shot…
AT THE AUTISM RESEARCH CENTRE
I arrived at the centre at about 10:40, and did not have to wait too long for Owen Parsons, who was conducting the study, to put in an appearance. After the usual preliminaries of form signing and checking the experiment itself ran in three parts…
MIND YOUR TS AND LS
For this test one had eight seconds in total to view an intermittent display of red and blue letters, most of which were Ls but one of which was a T. The task was to identify which colour the T was and click the appropriate button to record that identification. A wrong identification, or wrong button pressed, or being timed out generated a horrible beep.
For this part of the process one was required to press the space bar each time the same image was shown twice consecutvely. The images were all of full scenes, but shown at thumbnail size. Again, a misidentification or a failure to identify within the time limit generated a beep. There was then a second part to this section, involving familiarity. One was shown sequences of three images and asked to identify the set that looked more familiar. The pictures were similar in nature and size to those previously shown, but some were definitely new.
WHICH BOX WAS THAT X IN?
For this third and final part of the experiment, there were four boxes in which an X could appear. When it appeared one had to identify the box as follows: X for leftmost, Z for left-centre, N for right-centre, M for rightmost. Thus, the duration of this section of the experiment was spent with the index and middle fingers of each hand poised over the keys in question. There was then a second subsection, involving pattern identification and made more complicated by two factors:
1)Obviously enough, not knowing about this in advance I was not especially looking for a pattern in the first stage of the process.
2)The pattern was not adhered to at all times (about 15% of the time, the X appeared in a box it was not ‘supposed’ to).
All in all, I quite enjoyed performing these tests, and would say that it is a worthwhile study. If you are aged 18-45, have been diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Condition and can get to Cambridge, contact Owen Parsons: email@example.com about taking part in the study.
There was a small delay getting back to the main building from the place where the study had been set up as Owen initially came out without his swipe card, during which I snared this shot…
On my way back to the street I took a shot of the front of the main building…
I opted for the short route back to the station,along Brooklands Avenue and past the new bus interchange to approach the train station from that angle. I got these shots in the course of that walk…
I got a couple of shots en route to the platform as well…
On my way off the train at King’s Lynn I took the opportunity to capture this plaque on camera…
As regular readers of this blog or those who follow me on twitter will be well aware I regularly sign and share petitions, and my first link is to a piece from Huffington Post detailing the success of one such, concerning the Henry family.
I have a good haul of photographs from today, and some interesting links to share with you, as well as the main story…
ELECTRODES AND FLICKERING IMAGES
Being signed up to the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge’s email alerts I get a lot of details of studies into Autistic Spectrum Conditions for which they need volunteers and being passionate about reducing the ignorance about Autistic Spectrum Conditions that continues to bedevil our world I nearly always agree to take part.
This particular project was to do with responses to visual stimulation and required me to visit Cambridge. My appointment had been arranged for 11AM today, carefully avoiding any clash with work commitments…
The train journey from King’s Lynn to Cambridge takes almost exactly an hour, which given that they leave King’s Lynn just before the hour strikes meant that I had to be on the 8:57AM. Arriving at the station in King’s Lynn in very good time, and purchasing my ticket without undue difficulty I was able to take some photos at the recently restored station…
The train journey was uneventful and (mirabile dictu) ran exactly according to schedule. Although it is far from straightforward to get good photos through a train window one or two of my attempts are worth sharing…
From the station, it was a walk through past the bus stops and on to Brooklands Avenue, which goes straight through to Trumpington Road, picking up some more photos en route…
AT THE AUTISM RESEARCH CENTRE
Having dallied sufficiently that I would not be crazily early I rang on the doorbell of Douglas House 15 minutes in advance of my appointment time, signed in as requested and waited. It turned out the researcher who should have been conducting the experiments was not around that day, so someone else took charge of me. The preliminaries (paperwork) attended to, it was time to set me up for the tests. This involved me donning an electrode cap (effectively a swimming hat with points for attaching electrodes), each electrode point being filled with a conducting gel before the electrodes could be attached, and then the electrodes being attached. A second set of electrodes were attached around the eyes . The purpose of this get up was to monitor electrical activity in my brain while I responded to various visual stimuli.
Everything, be it lines or proper pictures, was flickering so that I only got fleeting glimpses. There was one set of exercises that involved proper pictures, one that involved viewing arrows and then clicking a button as soon as white box appeared on the screen, and several involving flickering lines.
At the end I was quite relieved when the wires were all detached and I was able to wash the gel (which is water soluble) out of my hair and take my leave.
Although the gel feels cold when it first makes contact with you, and when all the electrodes are fitted to it the cap weighs quite a bit I feel that this set of experiments are no great imposition. If you are 18 or over, have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, feel that you could undergo this and are able to get to Cambridge you could send an email to: Sarah Kaarina Crockford” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A combination of the fact that I finished at the Autism Research Centre at 12:15 and that I wasted no time getting back to the station meant that I was able to catch the 12:35 train back to King’s Lynn, and was sat down to a late lunch at 2PM. A last couple of photos…
I am going to start with the part of the blog that has given this post its title, before sharing some links and other stuff.
KP BRILLIANT, ECB RUBBISH
I had hoped that the appointment of Andrew Strauss as director would lead to some better decisions being taken. Sadly, that hope has been almost instantly dashed. Kevin Peter Pietersen, playing county cricket for Surrey in a bid to win back his England place, produced the sixth highest score in county championship history, 355 not out, against Leciestershire at the Oval. The last 200 or thereabouts of these runs were scored in the company of numbers 10 and 11 in the Surrey batting order. Surely then, having demonstrated that he still has the appetite and commitment to play big innings in the long form of the game it was time for the ECB to bring him back into the fold.
Instead Mr Strauss effectively slammed the door in Pietersen’s face citing issues of trust. In 30 years of being an avid cricket fan (and therefore including the dark days of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s) I have rarely if ever seen a pettier, more short-sighted decision Listening to the second day of this match (later today I will tune in for what is left) I was simply amazed by the quality of the batting. During the afternoon and evening sessions I was reminded of the line that Jemmy Shaw is alleged to have uttered when called up for another spell against an apparently immovable WG “Noa point boolin’ good uns now, it’s joost a case of ah puts where ah pleases an’ ‘ee puts it where ‘ee pleases”.
When after work yesterday I read the accounts of what had happened at the ECB I could barely believe it. If England, having turned their backs, apparently for good, on Kevin Pietersen do anything less this summer than beat both New Zealand and Australia then it is my belief that Strauss as the author of the final decision against Pietersen must go. It is after all, without a shadow of a doubt, the bowlers for those two countries who will be happiest about this announcement.
While the Pietersen decision covered above rankles, it is as nothing compared to a decision that Charlton Athletic FC may be about to make. In the continuing absence of rules regarding the signing of convicted criminals, this football club may be about sign someone who was part of a gang that raped a 14 year-old girl. If, like me, you consider this an utter outrage,, here is a link to a petition for you to sign and share.
My second link is to another very important petition, this time against the repeal of the Human Rights Act.
My final link in the mini-section, before a pictorial interlude, is a to an interesting post from Faraday’s Candle
The first two pictures you will see here are not mine, but come from other sources, however, I also have some of my own after that…
AUTISM RELATED MATTERS
I am finishing this post with a few things that relate to autism, as I am on the autistic spectrum, and take a close interest in such matters. First of all, a call to keep the pressure on Katie Hopkins to apologise to the autistic community. Then I have two blog posts relating to autism to share with you: