Why does Joint Attention look Atypical in Autism—and does it matter?

(Cross-posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org.)

This is the second in a series of occasional critiques of a series of articles co-authored by Morton Gernsbacher. Collectively, these articles attempt to present evidence for the redefinition of autism upon which the plausibility of FC depends: namely, the notion that autism is not (despite eight decades of research to the contrary) a socio-cognitive disorder, but rather a motor disorder.

Today’s article, Gernsbacher, Sauer, Geye, Schweigert, and Goldsmith (2008), is titled Why does Joint Attention look Atypical in Autism. Joint attention, discussed here, occurs when two people jointly attend to the same object or stimulus.

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Irony in autism: even when unfacilitated, it’s within reach

…Actually, while metaphors proliferate in facilitated communication (as in “My senses always fall in love / They spin, swoon”, attributed to Deej), I’m not sure I’ve seen a single good example of irony in facilitated speech.

Anyway, my post on metaphor naturally segues into another old post from Out In Left Field, this one on irony.

Autism Diaries: Irony and Jokes

“Yeah, right.” 

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An alternative autistic graduation narrative

Here’s an alternative to the narrative we keep hearing about.

My son was not the valedictorian of Drexel University.

He did not stand at a podium and output a speech.

He did not win a single prize.

He did not graduate with honors.

It took him 7 years to graduate.

He got zero media coverage.

He does not have a $90,000 grant from the Soros Foundation to get an advanced degree at a prestigious school, and his next steps remain unclear.


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Autism and Theory of Mind: a critique of Gernsbacher & Co

(Cross-posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org)

In a series of occasional posts that start today, I’ll be going through a half dozen articles co-authored by Morton Gernsbacher, a psycholinguist at the University of Wisconsin. Collectively these articles attempt to present evidence for the redefinition of autism upon which the plausibility of FC depends: namely, the notion that autism is not (despite eight decades of research to the contrary) a socio-cognitive disorder, but rather a motor disorder. More specifically, autism is, purportedly, a disorder in which intentional motor movements, including speaking and pointing, are difficult or impossible to perform.

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Your children are not your children–an old blog post on a forgotten book

Your children are not your children.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.

–Kahlil Gibran

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Metaphors in autism: even when unfacilitated, they’re within reach

Facilitated communication has extracted all sorts of figurative language from minimally-speaking autistic individuals, for example, this, from Deej:

The ear that hears the cardinal / Hears in red;

The eye that spots the Salmon / Sees in wet

My senses always fall in love / They spin, swoon;

They lose themselves in / one another arms.

Of course, all the evidence suggests that facilitated metaphors come from the facilitators.

Meanwhile, the evidence-based research on autism suggests that autistic individuals have actually have difficulty with metaphors.

But there’s a catch. Here’s on old post from Out in Left Field that I just put back up:

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The real reason I fear the Common Core (and the new California Mathematics Framework)

This OILF post, from March, 2014, feels timely–especially in light of California’s new Common Core and social justice aligned Mathematics Framework.

The real reason I fear the Common Core

The reason that I fear the Common Core State Standards, as it turns out, isn’t that the Standards are so vague that they further enable the Powers that Be in education to promulgate practices at odds with controlled experiments and peer-reviewed research on how children learn, or that the Standards impose expectations that are unreasonably high for most students while providing no strategies to help teachers and students attain them, or that the Standards’ one-size-fits-all expectations end up depriving both gifted and special needs students of appropriately challenging material. No, apparently the reason I fear the Common Core State Standards is loneliness.

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Edutrends and classroom management

I just re-posted a post on Out in Left Field about whether whether student-centered learning is driven not just by Progressive ideology and Constructivist learning theory, but also by a combination of expedience and exhaustion. Perhaps, given the attention spans of today’s students, it’s less exhausting to be the Guide on the Side than the Sage on the Stage.

Friends who’ve tried teaching in non-magnet secondary schools in Philadelphia have told me that the moment they turn their backs to their students to write something on the white board, all hell breaks loose.

But it occurs to me that, since I wrote that post, we’ve entered a global learning pandemic in which nearly all students have tablets or laptops. Nowadays, it may be easiest of all to manage a low-attention classroom when everyone is glued to a screen.

Social motivation in autism: a critique of Jaswal & Akhtar (2019)

(Cross-posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org.)

In a piece entitled Being versus appearing socially uninterested: Challenging assumptions about social motivation in autism, Jaswal & Akhtar (2019) set out to challenge the long-established view that many of the behavioral characteristics of autism indicate a lack of social interest. They propose “alternative explanations for four such behaviors: (a) low levels of eye contact, (b) infrequent pointing, (c) motor stereotypies, and (d) echolalia.”

Rita.obeid6, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Should students learn about the Holocaust?

How much has changed in the last decade! When I first re-read the title of this archival post from Out in Left Field, the issues that popped into my head were trigger warnings and student mental health; not the notion of a canon of historical facts that everyone should know.

Are there people out there now, I can’t help but wonder, who think that today’s students are too fragile for this topic?

Here’s the old post:

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