Jobs for Autism

July 16th, 2016

I’m pleased to get word of a revamp of the Jobs for Autism site. The new editor is going to be posting testimonials of autistic professionals who found career paths in various professions and at which companies. This is highly useful information that is simply not available online, and certainly not curated into one resource. Autistic job seekers have an extremely difficult time communicating and demonstrating their competence and talent in a way that shouts louder than the long held stereotypes that continue to plague many minds. So any victories over those backwards worldviews will be fuel to keep trying and create awareness to the business owners and decision makers in the corporate world.

Looks like Chinese researchers had no red tape to cut setting up an experiment that could easily be characterized as unethical. Western researchers don’t have that privilege.

To find a better animal model of autism, Chinese researchers generated monkeys that “overexpress” the human gene, known as MECP2. In humans, having too much MECP2 leads to a condition called MECP2 duplication syndrome, which shares core symptoms with autism spectrum disorder.

The research team injected macaque monkey eggs with a virus carrying MECP2. Once fertilized, the resulting embryos were transferred to surrogate monkeys, yielding eight live births. All of the monkeys carried the human gene.

While the monkeys’ mental abilities appeared largely normal, their behaviors did not. Normally, monkeys sit together and groom each other, but the transgenic monkeys in the study were less socially engaged. They also moved about more frequently in repetitive, circular motions. And, they exhibited increased levels of anxiety when faced by a human, as if they were “trying to defend their territory more,” Qiu said.

Ref: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/can-monkeys-help-unravel-the-mysteries-of-autism/

As long as the full data set is made public to the community, I’m not going to criticize or judge.

Aaron the Internist is awesome

January 24th, 2016

One of my good friends and fellow Harvard alumni is an internist and part time champion of rare disease prevention and awareness. For those not in medical field, an internist is a internal medicine physician (read more) with a strong focus on diagnosis. Ohhh proper diagnosis, how rare it is!

Aaron’s been helping me lately with contacting medical centers to learn more about their procedures for detecting and diagnosing autism in patients. Obviously without someone on the inside, this is a futile pursuit. We basically contacted any clinics hiring IM physicians in several states using job listing sites (Florida, California, Massachusetts, Chicago, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania) and were able to find someone willing to talk to Aaron based on his credentials and existing connections. I fielded the questions and took notes and will be thinking through my follow up writing ideas to address others in the autism community.

The life of an internist is a highly engaging hustle and bustle. I’m glad I have someone to ping thoughts and ideas off of, thanks Aaron.

 

I’m a pretty huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s full of wit, intellect and shows a vast passion for teaching about space. He’s been pejoratively labeled a “celebrity scientist” by people jealous of his success, but nothing shakes his mood to education and interact with his fans.

That being said, this was a highly entertaining interview with Dr. Temple Grandin. A very suitable guest on StarTalk for autism awareness month.

http://www.startalkradio.net/show/autism-and-animal-science-with-dr-temple-grandin/

If you keep an eye on Capitol Hill festivities, then you probably saw this week that congress has successfully pushed through a bill requiring health insurers to cover autism detection and treatment.

Not surprisingly, the bill hit resistant amongst Tea Party senators. Their argument “why not let the free market decide for itself what to cover” speaks volumes of their lack of awareness, empathy, and understanding of ASD – maybe better to just call it plain ignorance. The reason the free market can’t choose to cover ASD is because it is one of the most misunderstood and disproportionally studied disorders that exists. Health insurers have a huge blind spot and they know looking left or right will only cost them profits that are difficult to pass onto insurance plans. Over the past decade, the detection and treatment of ASD has been slowly creeping into physician fields requirements for new hires in areas such as Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, so I don’t see any reason to fret and marginalize this disorder as cherry-picking or “special treatment”.

Primary Care to the Rescue?

September 21st, 2014

I ran across this dated article today on Medscape and was surprised by the optimism it presented to the Primary Care setting. Hoping that ASD screening could be fully integrated into a Family Medicine, Family Practice, or Internal Medicine role was a noble but impractical objective. There exists a continued growing rise of hospital medicine needs with more and more primary care physicians choosing to enter that role because the job market is exploding, leaving little pressure to expand the scope of those medical specialties. The field of medicine needs FM, FP and IM physicians more than ever and compelling them to take on more adjunct industry knowledge must wait until the field stabilizes, if it ever does.

Davis Health System at UC just published a study that further validates the associations between having a a child with autism and prenatal exposure to agricultural chemicals.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-06/uoc–sfa061014.php

I forwarded this to my organic chemist friend from Andhra University who has been very vocal in past ICATPN (International Conference on Agricultural Technology and Plant Nutrition) conferences in New Delhi. I like to spread this type of truth at every opportunity.

Autism Speaks Makes the Cut

June 20th, 2014

Looks like my favorite advocacy organization, Autism Speaks, made the short list of organizations that could fit on a 4×6 notecard. I was elated to see the hyperlink and hope their traffic is hitting new records.

Andrew-Garfield-Autism-Speaks

I thought I’d outline the four most common career routes to a medical profession working with autistic children.

Speech-Language Pathologist
Since language and communication hardships are two primary aspects of the autism spectrum disorder, individuals with this specialty training are in high demand in the clinical setting. Speech-language pathologists work with children to improve their motor speech and lessen their cognitive-communication delays. These professionals usually have a master’s or doctoral degree in speech-language pathology.

If you are curious about your potential compensation, you can always browse data on the Bureau of Labor Statistics or just search for current related job postings on MedWorking.com.

Applied Behavior Analyst
Less affectionately known as “behavior modification”, this practice designs systems of interactive backed with positive reinforcement. This is the most common method of behavioral treatment for autistic children. To enter this specialty you’ll want to become a licensed clinical psychologist or achieve a doctoral degree in behavior analysis. Board certification would also be required here.

Occupational Therapist
In this medical specialty we take a step back from direct behavior analysis and look at how an individual relates to their environment. An occupational therapist’s primary goal is to help people feel and live independently. Obviously this is a hugely necessary part of treating autism. A master’s or doctoral degree in occupational therapy is required.

Educator of Special Needs
For those wanting a more fast-track path to a career, consider a non-medical setting. A special education teacher is trained to assist children with a vast array of learning disabilities. Your workplace will almost always be a public or private school. A BA or BS in special education is all you need here.

Has it finally started? Hopefully we will soon at least move past that level of public perception in which people believe the average autistic person can’t tie their own shoelaces.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/03/28/autism_at_work_companies_like_sap_and_freddie_mac_are_hiring_people_with.html

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304418404579465561364868556