Autism in America: gratuitous barriers to productive employment

 I wrote this Out In Left Field post some time ago, but the concerns I express here endure. However, I’d like to add two additional points:

1. The job prospects of many higher-functioning autistic individuals have been even further compromised by the ongoing expansion of “autism” to include two groups: 

  • people formerly diagnosed with Asperger’s
  • people who advanced through school without any special supports and who were diagnosed only after reaching adulthood (despite the fact that the symptoms of autism, as per the diagnostic criteria, must be present in childhood). 

This means that companies who’ve made it their mission to allot a certain percentage of their job openings to “autistic individuals” are often filling their quotas with hirees who barely meet the criteria for autism.

2. There are, on the other hand, some superb and dedicated job coaches at some of the more truly autism-friendly colleges and universities who have made it their priority to work with *all* their autistic graduates, including those with more significant autism symptomology, to help them find gainful employment.

Autism in America: gratuitous barriers to productive employment

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Is there really nothing inherently atypical about language development in autism?

(Cross-posted at

In 2015 and 2016, Gernsbacher, Morson and Grace published a pair of articles on language development in autism. In these papers, the authors try to make a case that there’s nothing inherently atypical about language development in autism as compared to (1) typical language development and/or (2) development in non-autistic children with general language delays. The notion that there is no autism-specific language deficit, if true, would lend support to the notion that there’s nothing suspect about the linguistic skills outputted by individuals being subjected to FC/RPM/S2C.

Today I continue my critique of Gernsbacher’s FC-friendly papers with the 2015 paper, Language Development in Autism.

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Weaponizing “open-minded”

I realize I’m participating in an occasionally problematic trend when I say that something has been weaponized. These days, more and more things are said to have been weaponized:

But one term that I really do think has been weaponized as never before is the term “open-minded.” For proponents of pseudoscientific practices (like, say, Facilitated Communication, Rapid Prompting Method, and Spelling to Communicate), open-minded seems to mean, specifically, open to pseudoscience.

That is, if you insist on scientific evidence and rigorous, controlled testing, you have failed to be open-minded.

Getting ready for a researchED talk on reading comprehension in autism

And, free-associating from “autism” to “Austen,” was reminded of this old Out In Left Field post.

(This Saturday in Frederick, MD, meanwhile, I’ll be talking about the challenges of resolving anaphora and definite noun phrases).

The imperiled pleasures of parsing Austen

How many of today’s middle school students (or older students), I wonder, can properly parse the second sentence in the excerpt below?

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Response to a pro-FC speech-language pathologist

It’s alarming enough to see speech-language pathologists (SLPs) expressing support for discredited schemes like Spelling to Communicate (S2C) and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) that have been denounced by their own leading professional organization (ASHA). But when SLPs actually become S2C/RPM practitioners, it’s truly disheartening.

I just posted a response to one such SLP here, but thought this was worth a post of its own.

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The far-reaching consequences of universal translation

 A recent article in CellOver-reliance on English hinders cognitive science, reviews  

an emerging body of evidence that highlights how the particular characteristics of English and the linguistic habits of English speakers bias the field by both warping research programs (e.g., overemphasizing features and mechanisms present in English over others) and overgeneralizing observations from English speakers’ behaviors, brains, and cognition to our entire species.

Trained as I am (as a post-Whorfian linguist) to be suspicious of claims that the distinguishing features of different languages result in significant cognitive differences between different linguistic communities, I’m not sure I buy every claim in this article. However, the domination of English as the world’s lingua academica surely has had some distorting effects on research–as well as imposing significant limits on research accessibility.

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Autism, figurative language, empathy, and “autistic culture”

(Cross-posted at

This post is a sequel to my September 7th post on an article by Gernsbacher and Pripas-Kapit entitled “Who’s Missing the Point? A Commentary on Claims that Autistic Persons Have a Specific Deficit in Figurative Language.” This post is also the latest installment in my series on a set of FC-friendly articles by Morton Gernsbacher.

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Misrepresenting Russian Math: yet more excuses for US “Progressive Math”

 I was recently talking about Russian math and was reminded of this old post.

Misrepresenting Russian Math: yet more excuses for U.S. Reform Math

In a recent article in the Atlantic entitled The Math Revolution, Peg Tyre discusses the growth of extracurricular math programs. More and more students, Tyre reports, are able to advance to levels far beyond what their school math classes are taking them.

An article like this one presents an opportunity to critique the shortcomings of school math classes; unfortunately, Tyre misses the mark. Notice, for example, the subtle bias in this paragraph:

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And now, a blast from the past

Charles Dickens on discovery learning

‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’

When people turn to Dickens for a critique of educational practices, what they cite is almost always this opening passage from Hard Times. And, like all of Dickens’ parodies, its a great one, gaining momentum as it continues:

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