The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

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Conversion complete

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I see that despite not blogging for the last several months, I still manage to draw interested readers eager to learn more about autism’s prevalence in news coverage.

For now, I have devised a strategy to successfully convert the content I used to report here on my Examiner account. Examiner.com is a website where reporters can file stories and receive compensation for viewership. 

Readers who wish to see my newest contributions can get an up-to-date feed through this link. I will still highlight and dissect articles and press released related to autism, as well as other forms of mainstream media exposure.

I won’t say I’ll never return to WordPress, but I want to thank the audience who continued to visit as my writing and reporting career evolved.

Written by TheSportsBrain

August 29, 2012 at 8:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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Software does all the talking for autistics

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Even if you’ve only followed autism in the headlines for a short time, you’ve likely discovered that a good percentage of autistic people are non-verbal, meaning they don’t communicate through spoken word.

Some do nothing, some dwell on what could have caused a child to become truly speechless, but one British father decided to create a software program to help his son communicate. Speaks4Me is compatible with Windows from XP onward, and plans are underway to sell a software-only platform and a version for gaming consoles and mobile devices. As of now, Speaks4Me is only available through a touch-screen media player. The program works by dragging and dropping images from one area of the screen to another. When a sentence is complete, the user presses “verbalize” to have the computer program audibly repeat what the user wants to say. Stephen Lodge, designer of the software, believes the program would also benefit stroke survivors who can no longer speak.

The fact that Speaks4Me could benefit several communities of disability makes the story noteworthy. There’s also a secondary message of how addressing issues of a disability versus gloating about them can lead to real changes in the way people handle those who fall outside the neurotypical realm. The article also highlights a rare connection between autism and technology. Often, technology is mentioned only when vaccinations are included in the article’s storylines (and that’s a stretch in terms of defining technology). However, the last instance of technology relating to autism on this blog wasn’t that long ago, when I discussed how movie theaters were offering autism-friendly screenings.

Speaking of screens, this program stands to have a very good chance of success because of the visual nature of the program. Verbal or not, autistic people are often visual learners. They enjoy repetitive tasks because they’ve observed and memorized them. They use visual images to understand messages because it requires little or no interpretation (live sports coverage is a sightly heaven if there’s an interest in athletics). Users can quickly associate images with words or phrases on Speaks4Me, which also could spark a creative surge beyond using a computer to speak.

The United Kingdom will remain a fruitful source for autism stories, but don’t be surprised if you see a report or two on this software pop up in the states, especially if the software itself can be sold for installation on our home computers. If successful, expect at least a possibility of a cross-platform version for Mac compatibility. In the whirlwind of autism, technology will constantly remain a bright spot, offering hope that otherwise may not exist.

Written by TheSportsBrain

May 10, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Rational behaviors…fascinating

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I’m beginning to discover how tricky anticipating female behavior is. A friend of mine called to vent her frustrations about getting locked outside her apartment after getting drunk the night before and not bringing her keys. Part of her anger was directed at her roommate for locking the door. I was quite baffled. No matter how angry I’d be, I’d want my roommates to lock the door, because I’d get more angry if I found out my possessions were stolen because my roommate didn’t take the time to do so. I attempted to calm her down saying nothing could be done until someone was able to open the door and that getting angry wouldn’t do anything to solve the problem, only to get a response that doing so only makes people angrier. That may be the case for some, but others do really need a reminder that the world isn’t ending. Oddly enough, as she was ranting, she did acknowledge that her emotional reaction may have been irrational.

I’ve had my share of irrational reactions, but I’ve seen what can happen to people who are impulsive instead of logical, and I’m concerned that yesterday’s incident was a foreshadowing of what’s to come. My evidence is anecdotal, but people who act on impulse are generally crankier, more irritable and more likely to make questionable decisions But sometimes logic isn’t always enough and ethical factors must be considered. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered human irrationality, but something tells me I may have to choose based on what feels right, not necessarily logically right. After all, people don’t like to be told what’s logical, especially if that option comes in the face of dark decisions.

There’s some similarity to this scenario and my observations in the bar atmosphere. More and more, I feel that I would have to sacrifice my character and conform to the conventions of impulsive emotions in order to fit in. Problem is, those choices are more likely to undo themselves.

Interestingly, this blog serves as a nice segue for my next post, since my demeanor may resemble that of a popular fictional character.

Written by TheSportsBrain

May 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized