Rewriting Autism History

From the Atlantic:

History is dotted with simultaneous independent discoveries. From the Möbius strip to the electric telegraph, great minds sometimes do think alike. And for decades now, the Asperger-Kanner mind meld has been the accepted wisdom of the discovery of autism.

Steve Silberman, a writer for Wired, had worked on a book about autism for about a year. It was a topic with which he was familiar; he’d written a widely read story in 2001 on the prevalence of the disorder, which is estimated to affect one in 68 children. The new project aimed, in part, to document the history of autism research, and Silberman had a hunch that the conventional wisdom surrounding the allegedly serendipitous discovery of autism by two clinicians working independently was, at best, incomplete.

It’s a famous story, frequently told, including in The Atlantic. As Silberman put it, fourteen years ago:

In one of the uncanny synchronicities of science, autism was first recognized on two continents nearly simultaneously. In 1943, a child psychiatrist named Leo Kanner published a monograph outlining a curious set of behaviors he noticed in 11 children at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. A year later, a pediatrician in Vienna named Hans Asperger, who had never seen Kanner’s work, published a paper describing four children who shared many of the same traits. Both Kanner and Asperger gave the condition the same name: autism—from the Greek word for self, autòs—because the children in their care seemed to withdraw into iron-walled universes of their own.

Amazing! But not entirely crazy, either.

Homecoming

Kara Tippetts is with Jesus:

Kara Tippetts went Home to Jesus on March 22, 2015, after a long battle with breast cancer.

Born Kara Lynne Thewlies on July 14, 1976, she grew up in Noblesville, Indiana, and earned her BS in English Education at Indiana University. She met her husband Jason Tippetts at Eagle Lake Camp, a Christian camp located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They were married on May 16, 1998.

Kara was led to Christ in high school after a youth leader read her a tract about Christianity and a friend invited her to youth group. Hearing a message about forgiveness prompted her to seek a relationship with Jesus, where she found total acceptance, kindness, and Grace. While she didn’t experience instant change in her life, dramatic changes were softly, slowly occurring in her heart as she trusted Christ’s love for her and allowed it to alter how she viewed the world and the people around her. She saw the difference a gentle word could make in response to an ugly remark, how an outstretched hand could break barriers of a hardened heart. Kindness became Kara’s passion; it defined her relationship with Jason, and then her four children: Eleanor, Harper, Lake, and Story Jane.

When Children with Autism Grow Up

From Buzzfeed:

The heat that afternoon was intense. Weather maps across Iowa were deep red, and warnings flashed across the screen. A high school football player on the other side of the state had died from heat exhaustion the week before. Cornfields wilted and shrank into hills of despondent brown.

I was running late as I parked and shuffled to a dilapidated satellite classroom building. I introduced myself to a teacher sitting at a desk and told him that I was there to meet a 21-year-old man named “Scooter” — a childhood nickname, I’d later learn, that had stuck. (I’ve changed all names and some details to protect him and to comply with privacy laws.) I needed a summer job after my first year of grad school, and he needed staff.

My experience with autism had been limited to movies and anecdotes from friends who worked in “the field” — care industry shorthand for post-institutional residential and community-living nonprofits supporting people with developmental disabilities. (“We’re always looking,” the agency had said, and hired me without any sort of drug screening and a cursory, astonishingly fast background check. The drug screening was my only concern while filling out applications.)

The teacher looked like he was close to retirement age and wore a hearing aid. He asked about my experience working with people diagnosed with autism. “None,” I said, and his face dropped.

“Don’t stand directly in front of him,” the teacher said, “and avoid making eye contact. He might perceive that as a threat. He’s very keyed in on body language. Introduce yourself, but let me take the lead.”

Testosterone is the Drug of the Future

From Fusion:

The sleeves on Dr. Paul Campion’s maroon shirt are rolled back, revealing paisley cuffs, a passel of bracelets on his right wrist, and an elegant watch on his left. His knick-knacks rest in wooden cubbies behind him: a conch shell, a decanter, an ostrich egg, a Japanese warrior sculpture, two beakers, and a molecular model of glucose.

At 56, he’s in better shape than he was in his 30s. He flips through pictures on his iPhone 6 showing me the belly he carried three years ago, before he began taking testosterone supplements. In recent photos, his abdominals look like a sculpture of Morse code.

The old, pre-testosterone Campion was an ophthalmologist, an eye doctor, in the wooded wonderland north of San Francisco. “I was just at the gym watching the 30-year-olds at the pull-up bar building muscles in three weeks. And I’m at the pull up bar and nothing’s happening,” he recalls. “I’m not feeling good. I’m sleepy all the time. All I want to do is sit down and eat potato chips and watch TV. Something’s not right.”

So he went to Cenegenics, a medical start-up that trains physicians to run their own “age management” practices. They updated his diet, put him on a new workout regimen, and started giving him testosterone. Within six months, his body fat was down to nine percent. “That’s pretty hard to maintain—I’m closer to 12 percent now,” he humblebrags. After his personal success, Cenegenics asked if he’d like to take their training course, so he did, and quickly, he found himself switching specialties and business models. He became a testosterone doctor.

What’s In Those Supplements?

From the NYT:

The New York State attorney general’s office accused four national retailers on Monday of selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and in many cases contaminated with unlisted ingredients.

The authorities said they had run tests on popular store brands of herbal supplements at the retailers — Walmart, Walgreens, Target and GNC — which showed that roughly four out of five of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels. In many cases, the authorities said, the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies.

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward

From Pacific Standard:

The first time I saw my wife walking around the Georgetown campus I shouted out “Buongiorno Principessa!” like a buffoon. She was Italian, radiant, way out of my league, but I was fearless and almost immediately in love. We lived in the same freshman dorm. She had a smile bello come il sole—I learned some Italian immediately to impress her—and within a month we were a couple. She’d stop by my room to wake me up if I was oversleeping class; I taped roses to her door. Giulia had a perfect GPA; I had a mohawk and a Sector 9 longboard. We were both blown away by how amazing it feels to love someone and be loved back.

Two years after graduation we married, when we were both just 24 years old and many of our friends were still looking for first jobs. We packed our separate apartments into one moving truck and told the driver, “Go to San Francisco. We’ll give you an address when we find one.”

Vermont’s Single Payer Failure

Avik Roy:

Last week, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D.) announced that he was pulling the plug on his four-year quest to impose single-payer, government-run health care on the residents of his state. “In my judgment,” said Shumlin at a press conference, “the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families, and the state’s economy.” The key reasons for Shumlin’s reversal are important to understand. They explain why the dream of single-payer health care in the U.S. is dead for the foreseeable future—but also why Obamacare will be difficult to repeal.

Leading left-wing economists worked on Vermont plan

Shumlin’s predecessor in Montpelier was a Republican, Jim Douglas. In 2009, Douglas announced that he would not be seeking a fifth two-year term; five Democrats joined the contest to replace him. Progressive activists demanded that each candidate promise to enact single-payer health care if nominated; all five complied. Shumlin got the nod, and assumed office in January 2011.

Shumlin got right to work. In Feburary 2011, a trio of health economists, including Harvard’s William Hsiao and MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, sent Vermont a203-page report describing the feasibility, and the alleged virtues, of single-payer in the state. Gruber signed a $400,000 contract to work with Vermont on the project.

Will an app replace your doctor?

PEG:

You’ve probably read some widespread sillinesses about how technology is moving us toward a world split between “high-skill” and “low-skill” jobs. Worriers claim that people with high-skill jobs will gobble up all of the economic pie, and those with low-skill jobs will be left with mere crumbs. This notion was perhaps best exemplified by economist Tyler Cowen’s book Average is Over.

This is nonsense. Because high-skill jobs are in peril, too. And sometimes, their death will make way for a raft of new “low-skill” jobs.

For example, look at the future of the general practitioner of medicine. This is considered the epitome of the high-skilled, secure, remunerative job. Four years of college! Four years of medical school! Internship! Residency! Government-protected cartel membership!

And yet, this profession is going the way of the dodo bird.

A Natural Fix for ADHD

Interesting piece from the NYT:

ATTENTION deficit hyperactivity disorder is now the most prevalent psychiatric illness of young people in America, affecting 11 percent of them at some point between the ages of 4 and 17. The rates of both diagnosis and treatment have increased so much in the past decade that you may wonder whether something that affects so many people can really be a disease.

And for a good reason. Recent neuroscience research shows that people with A.D.H.D. are actually hard-wired for novelty-seeking — a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage. Compared with the rest of us, they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits, so much of everyday life feels routine and understimulating.

To compensate, they are drawn to new and exciting experiences and get famously impatient and restless with the regimented structure that characterizes our modern world. In short, people with A.D.H.D. may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture.

From the standpoint of teachers, parents and the world at large, the problem with people with A.D.H.D. looks like a lack of focus and attention and impulsive behavior. But if you have the “illness,” the real problem is that, to your brain, the world that you live in essentially feels not very interesting.

The Secret History of the Pill

From Vox, of all places:

It’s hard to decide which is the crazier part of birth control pills’ journey from experimental contraception to a federally approved drug. Was it when they were tested on non-consenting, male patients at mental hospitals — or when some women were given the pill as a treatment for infertility?

Development on the birth control pill began in 1950, when Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger approached a scientist named Gregory Pincus to begin work on a reliable, easy-to-use contraceptive. Pincus was working at an independent lab in Massachusetts, the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology.

What happens next is, honestly, a bit unbelievable. The pill ultimately became an integral and important resource for millions of women, allowing them to take control of their fertility, their families, and their lives. But the path to building this-now ubiquitous drug was paved with questionable ethics and dodgy research methods that would never pass muster today. The creators of birth control are responsible for developing a revolutionary contraceptive — but they misled their test subjects, many of whom were not equipped to give consent, along the way.