And now, a mini-lesson in hard-core neo-neurodiversity

So what does a group of highly verbal people who identify as autistic have to do with facilitated communication—and why, as I suggested in an earlier post, do they support it?

The group of highly verbal people I have in mind identify not only as autistic, but also as members of a movement called “Neurodiversity.”

While this movement proclaims to be primarily about advocating for full acceptance of the gamut of neurological differences that constitute humanity, it has, over the years, narrowed down to a much more rigid ethos—an ethos that I’ve learned a fair amount about in a half-year of sometimes heated interactions on Twitter.

To appreciate why today’s hardcore neo-Neurodiversity advocates support facilitated communication, we need to begin by deconstructing this ethos. Here are its central claims:

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But first, an aside about support for Facilitated Communication in academia

In my last post, I mentioned several constituencies that have kept Facilitated Communication, for all its definitive debunkings, alive and well: hopeful parents, duped therapists, and well-intentioned philanthropists enriching unscrupulous institutes and their various gurus. I then ended with a teaser about a fourth constituency that has helped enable what is actually a major FC comeback: highly verbal adults who identify as autistic. But before I address their dogs in this fight, I need to showcase one more player that, until emailing with psychology professor James Todd, I’d kind of forgotten about: namely, academia.

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Housekeeping, Chrome edition

This is annoying.

The template we’re using doesn’t show up on Chrome.

Our blog posts are supposed to be framed by a sea-foam color.

Firefox and Safari both show a sea-foam frame. 

Chrome doesn’t.

Plus we now have a logo (designed by Katie’s artist daughter !) for the express purpose of posting stuff to Twitter & FB . . . and the logo doesn’t show up on Twitter & FB.

I foresee hours of instruction-reading and code-wrangling in the days to come.

Learning to write is good for STEM careers

John Bogle on learning to write in high school:

“My love for Blair [Academy] is pretty close to eternal,” Bogle told students during a visit in spring 2018. “It was at Blair Academy that I learned to use the English language and how to write. My teachers spent so much time with me, mostly with a red pen. But I got better and better under their tutelage. The result is that my writing ability, among other things, enabled me to go to Princeton and start Vanguard and watch it grow into a colossus.”

Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group and creator of the index fund, dies at age 89, CNBC, 1/17/2019

Carolyn J., a mathematician who co-created the first Kitchen Table Math with me (currently offline awaiting a new URL address) told me a story about leaving academia with her husband, also a mathematician, and trying to find work in the private sector. 

The transition wasn’t easy. Only colleges and universities pay you to do pure research in mathematics.

The company that eventually hired Caroline did so because she told the interviewer that she liked to write. That was true. She did like to write, and she was good at it.

After she was hired, the company hired her husband as well. Two new careers because one person knew how to write and liked doing it.

Being able to write is value-add. 

Teacher proofing and RTFM

Turns out Andrew and I haven’t been following directions. (See: Syntax is not so easy.)

I wasn’t actually aware there were directions, but now that I know I still haven’t read and/or watched them. 

This goes to one of the requirements of teaching apps–of any app–which is that people don’t RTFM

If you need a beta tester to help with that, I’m your person. 

This reminds me of a friend of mine whose husband was a composer with, she later suspected, the same learning issues their son had. 

She once told me that his studio work was a marvel of intuitive button pushing.

While the counter-evidence mounts, Facilitated Communication makes a comeback

Continuing from where we left off, Facilitated Communication’s lack of credibility is multi-faceted.

As we saw in my last post, the messages that FC typically generates are highly suspect. With their often perfect spelling, sophisticated vocabulary, figurative phrasing, bland messages, and stilted tone, they don’t sound like they’re coming from the young kids and teenagers being “facilitated”–especially as these particular individuals seem to lack the Joint Attention behaviors necessary for picking up even the most basic vocabulary.

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Syntax is not so easy

Poor Andrew.

Yesterday’s Sentence Weaver lesson featured the distinction between:

Which circles are biggest?


Where are the biggest circles?

The answers were things like:

the circles in the middle [are biggest]


the biggest circles [are in the middle]” 

He was not getting it at all.

Actually, I think he was getting one question & not the other, but I was too preoccupied trying to teach him what left-right-middle and top-bottom-middle meant to write down which question was which. 

Anyway, I could almost hear him thinking:

These are all the same words! 

What the hell?

Maybe I should be teaching him Latin instead. 

And see:
Syntax is not so easy
Looking at the same thing at the same time with Andrew
Looking at the same thing at the same time with Andrew, part 2

Request and protest

I’m making headway on my New Year’s resolutions (7,000 steps a day for me,  GrammarTrainer for Andrew, and possibly for Jimmy, too).

This morning I showed the folks at Andrew’s day program how he uses Katie’s program. They were amazed. Everyone is always amazed when they see Andrew using SentenceWeaver (must get videos loaded): thanks to SentenceWeaver, he is one of the few people on the planet who knows what a function word is.

This is a nonverbal person with severe autism. Knows he needs a function word to connect red to green when he’s saying an oval is red-and-green.

I’m still amazed myself, watching him.

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What messages does Facilitated Communication communicate?

And now for my promised but much-postponed discussion of the actual messages generated by Facilitated Communication (FC).

Some of these messages can be seen being typed out in real time (via the links I inserted here, here and here). These include:

  • “Forget labels. My autism does not define me”
  • “I think I was lost in some way. I know I was retarded meaning I acted like my worst nightmare.”
  • “I find that only FC allows for fully telling people what I want to say.”
  • “I find that I need a lot of practice to become fluent”
  • “Took a year before I was able to type with fading support”
  • “I am not stupid as some people used to think”
  • “I would not get to this stage if I did not get full support initially”
  • “The truth is I am always trying to promote open communication to show that is what I do all day and I am getting really tired of people insinuating that I wear a puppet string because this is hard enough without people rooting against me.”
  • “My voice works it’s the words that come out that throw people off the intelligence trail.”
  • “The beauty of my mind is often ignored by my difficult body that is very childlike in movement.”
  • “Doing fish lips to the audience is an expression of funny playfulness but can be interpreted as simple mindedness. Silliness is acceptable in those who are believed smart but for those like me it indicates stupidity”

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System 1 and System 2 compete

3/17/2020 UPDATE: No! They don’t compete! They cooperate! They are “dissociable,” but they don’t compete. more t/k

I’m putting this here so I won’t lose it again:

Dual-system models of visual category learning posit the existence of an explicit, hypothesis-testing reflective system, as well as an implicit, procedural-based reflexive system. The reflective and reflexive learning systems are competitive and neurally dissociable.

Chandrasekaran, B. et al.Dual-learning systems during speech category learning.” Psychonomic Bulletin Review, 2014 Apr 21, pp. 488-495.

re: 2 kinds of learning inside the brain

Compete,” as I understand the term, means that when one system is on, the other is off. Each system can suppress the other.

That’s the meaning I glean from the various studies I’ve read.

Dissociable” is an important term in cognitive science: it means that the two systems actually are two separate systems, not just two different aspects of the same fundamental process. The breakthrough study of “dual-system theory” in category learning was Smith et al’s study showing that when you experimentally disable one learning system, the other still functions.

The two systems can be “dissociated,” and are therefore two separate and dissociable systems, not one.

So I gather.


Progress report

re: 7,000 steps and dry January

Number one: 7,000 steps is a huge number of steps when it’s 30 degrees out. 

Why is that?

Also, why is it no trouble at all racking up mileage anywhere except your house?

Take the train into the city, and you score 9,000 steps just walking outside Grand Central. 

But walk around your ranch house in Tarrytown, and you have to keep moving a good 12 hours to hit 7K, the equivalent of 1 hour walking in midtown. I think Fitbit must be padding the numbers for urban dwellers and un-padding them for folks here in the suburbs. Because they can. 

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GoogleMaster is the Google Master

GoogleMaster found it!

I’m trying to remember if I named GoogleMaster GoogleMaster.

It was either me, or Carolyn, back at the original Kitchen Table Math, which is languishing in Internet limbo because someone stole the URL & tried to sell it back to me for $400. 

Since I don’t negotiate with terrorists, I have to pick a new domain name before GoDaddy can restore the site elsewhere.

Actually, I do negotiate with terrorists; I think I told whoever it was that took the name I’d pay them 200 bucks to get it back. I didn’t feel like paying them $200 any more than I felt like paying them $400, but I figured what the hell. At least we’d both be unhappy. 

They blew me off, so I blew them off. 

Now I have to pick a new domain name, and it’s taken me two years not to get around to doing it.


And see:
All guess, no check
Not a potted plant
No guess, no check
Google Master is the Google Master