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mental health mondays :: a little about autism

today is autism awareness day, something that deserves a much higher profile than it gets. autism is one of those strange conditions like fibromyalgia and lupus, that seems to manifest differently in just about everyone it affects. in fact, it's not a single condition, but a spectrum and its definition was most recently expanded to include four previously separate disorders. probably the most widely seen autistic character of all time was dustin hoffman's savant in rain man, but that's an extreme example. [about 10% of all autistics have these sort of abilities, but even then, there is a range.] a lot of the time, autism is much more difficult to understand, because the behaviours associated with it can seem peculiar without seeming disordered. a person who is constantly interrupting and talking over others will most often be taken for rude [and most often, they probably are], but not understanding the unspoken rules of communication is a common feature of autism as well.

unlike most other mental disorders [and there's room for argument whether autism should be grouped with other mental disorders at all], autism manifests early on. children exhibit symptoms as soon as they start to communicate, or when their need to communicate exceeds their capacity. there are a number of early signs, like being slow to develop speaking skills, discomfort with being touched, or a tendency to repeat sounds or motions. none of those is a confirmation, however, so as upsetting as it is, it can take months or years to receive a diagnosis.

unlike many mental disorders, autism is permanent and treatment is about managing the condition rather than curing it. studies have shown that children fare best when they start treatment early, and such interventions are often about teaching parents and others how to provide the necessary support structure for their autistic child.

unfortunately, autism is usually part of a larger set of problems; most sufferers have comorbid conditions like sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety or even epilepsy. so treating the condition often involves treating the "extras" that come with it. there is some evidence that the types of comorbid conditions tend to appear in clusters, but it's not yet clear why.

that last line is something you see repeated a great deal when it comes to autism, because it is still mostly mysterious. we don't know why people develop it, although there appear to be both genetic and external factors that play a role. that's the case with all mental disorders, though. there does appear to be an increased risk for older mothers and premature babies, but risk is different from cause. and no, no matter what you read online or heard from someone on television, or had a skeptical friend tell you, autism is not caused by vaccines.

autism remains relatively rare, occurring in about 1-1.5% of the population. that makes it rare even by the standards of conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, let alone depression and anxiety. although there was a significant increase in the number of diagnosed cases between 1996 and 2007, that doesn't necessarily mean that the number of cases went up. during that time, awareness increased, the process of identification improved and the condition came to be understood as a spectrum, rather than a series of similar but separate things. the perceived explosion in the number of cases has provided fodder for some outlandish conspiracy theories but the facts are, as ever, pretty mundane.

as a group, people with autism may suffer more than any other with cultural ideas of what is normal. our communications with each other form the basis of how we understand ourselves and feel a sense of commonality, but people who can't interpret our vast range of nonverbal cues, or linguistic devices like metaphor, where the words we say have a meaning beyond the literal, those people are going to start any social interaction as an outsider, like someone lost in a foreign country who has only a basic understanding of the language.

it's difficult for me to find a way to wrap this post up, because there is a lot more that i could say, but i'm not sure it would make things any clearer. this is just an area where far more study needs to be done. and the voices of those who try to link the condition to pharmaceutical malfeasance, government experimentation or alirn dna need to be excised from the conversation. i hope that i'll be able to post something in the not too distant future that deals with a breakthrough in our understanding, or improved prognosis, or some other happy news. until then, though, i'll stick with the awareness of autism. because while there isn't a lot we know right now, we can at least educate ourselves a little on what it is and how we can help those who have it.


as long as you're here, why not read more?

presidenting is hard :: nato

oh donald, i've been slacking on my promise to help you out with your duties as president. [yes, you may take a moment to giggle at the word "duties". but make it quick.]

it's not because i think you don't need the support; you are every bit as ignorant and inept as i'd feared/ expected and the erstwhile presence of "adults in the room" hasn't made you any better. it's just as well that you've dispatched of them. you weren't listening to what they said 95% of the time and on those few occasions when you did try to listen, you didn't understand what they were saying. increasingly, we're getting to see you for the complete intellectual non-entity you are and to see how someone who knows nothing about history, geography, culture or military tactics addresses the challenges of foreign policy.

the latest development on that front is that i've heard that you're planning on leaving nato. we all know that you've never be…

making faces :: written in the stars, in lipstick [part two]

it's the middle of september already? i'm not prepared for that? i mean, i am prepared for it because the heat this summer has been murder on me and i've been begging for a reprieve for months but i'm still bowled over by the speed at which time passes. this year, i've been measuring time through the launches of bite beauty's astrology collection, which arrives like the full moon once a month. [the full moon arrives every four weeks, which is less than any month except february -ed.] earlier this year, i took a look at the first four launches of the collection and already it's time to catch up with four more.

the most important thing for you to know is that after several months of problems, bite and sephora appear to have sorted out their inventory planning. for the last several releases, information has been clear and reliable as to when and where each lipstick will be available [pre-orders taken for a couple of days on bite's own website and a general…

making faces :: written in the stars, in lipstick [part three]

and lo the earth has completed another journey 'round the sun, passing through all of the signs of the zodiac. well, in lipstick terms, it won't have completed its journey until later this month when it moves from capricorn to aquarius, which is where bite beauty chose to start its turn of the wheel last year. i still feel a little unnerved that they followed the calendar rather than the astrological year [which would have meant starting their astrology collection in march with the sign of aries] but i suspect that that's because their financials also follow the calendar.

after some truly infuriating times early in the calendar and collection year, bite was able to get their inventory issues sorted, which means that all four of the lipsticks reviewed here are still available through bite's website, sephora, or both. hallelujah.

i have some thoughts on the overall collection that i'll share afterwards, but let's just get started on the final four shades of the …