We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
The women who don’t know they’re autistic
This is an important understanding. I would also add that high functioning male autistics are also poorly understood as well. We have mostly identified the low functioning types, but the high functioning types of both sexes are completely able to create and implement coping mechanisms and get on with it. Since in the past it was not identified anyway even by the affected individuals this allowed it to remain unremarked. I would remark that the subset of male math over achievers typically must be high functioning autistic. I do bring that up simply because the meta statistics of math SAT exams showed a male bump at the extreme end back in the sixties. There were way too many males in the top one percent.
I am no longer certain that autism is a physical flaw or highly useful variation that needs to be seriously worked with. I have worked with low functioning autistic boys and all of them were handicapped genius level talent. Their obsessive nature could potentially be channeled at worst..
The women who don’t know they’re autistic
July 19, 2017 9.43am EDT
This article was co-written by Adeline Lacroix, who works with
Fabienne Cazalis and was recently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. A
second year master’s student in psychology, she is working on a
scientific literature review about the characteristics of
high-functioning autistic women.
Let’s call her Sophie. The description we’ll give could be that of
any woman who is on the autistic spectrum without knowing it. Because
they’re intelligent and used to compensating for communication
impediments they may not be consciously aware of, these women slip
through the cracks of our still-too-inefficient diagnostic procedures.
Studies reveal one woman for every nine men is diagnosed with
so-called “high-functioning” autism, that is, autism without
intellectual disability. If we compare this to the one woman for every four
men diagnosed with the more readily identified “low-functioning”
autism, we can easily imagine many autistic women are left undiagnosed.
Today, Sophie, who lives in France, has a job interview. If you could
see her nervously twisting her hair, you might think she’s anxious,
like anyone would be in the circumstances. You would be wrong.
actually on the verge of a panic attack. At 27, she just lost her job
as a salesperson due to repeated cash-register mistakes – and it’s the
eighth time in the last three years. She loved maths at university and
is deeply ashamed. She hopes the person hiring will not bring up the
subject – she has no justification for her professional failures and
knows that she is incapable of making one up.
Learning accounting by herself at home
Sophie’s wish is granted: the interviewer asks her instead about her
time at university. Relieved, she happily launches into an explanation
of her masters thesis on meteorological modelling, but he cuts her off
abruptly, clearly irritated. He wants to know why she is applying for a
temporary job as an accounting assistant when she has no experience or
training. Although her heart is racing wildly, Sophie manages to keep
her composure, explaining that she taught herself accounting at home in
the evenings. She describes the excellent MOOC (online course) she found
on the website of the French Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers,
and tells him how one of the questions she asked the teacher on the
forum led to a fascinating debate on the concept of depreciation
Sophie is not good at guessing what people are thinking, but she
understands from the way the man is staring at her that he believes she
is lying. Overwhelmed, she feels weaker by the minute. She watches his
lips move but does not understand what he’s saying. Ten minutes later
she’s in the street, with no memory of how the interview ended. She is
shaking and holding back tears. She curses herself, wondering how anyone
could be so stupid and pathetic.
She climbs into a crowded bus, swaying under the heavy odours of
perfumes worn by those pressed up around her. When the bus brakes
suddenly, she loses her balance and bumps into a fellow passenger. She
apologises profusely and hurriedly gets off. In her rush, she trips
again and falls to the pavement. “I must get up, everyone is looking,”
she thinks, but her body refuses to obey. She can no longer see properly
and doesn’t even realise her own tears are blinding her. Someone calls
an ambulance. Sophie wakes up in a psychiatric facility. She will be
misdiagnosed with a psychological disorder and given medication that
will solve none her problems.
A unique way of thinking, a taste for solitude, intense passions
Sophie’s story is typical of the chaotic lives led by women whose
autism remains undiagnosed because they are on that part of the spectrum
where the signs are less obvious.
In spite of her impressive cognitive capacities – like the ability to
teach herself a totally new field of knowledge – Sophie has no idea of
her own talents, and neither do those around her, or only rarely.
Trapped in a social environment highly critical of what makes her
unique, such as her unusual way of thinking, taste for solitude, and the
intensity of her passions, Sophie is acutely aware that these are seen
If Sophie could be given the correct diagnosis of high-functioning
autism, she would at last understand the way her mind works. She could
meet other autistic adults and learn from their experience to help her overcome her own difficulties.
Autism is characterised by social and communicative difficulties,
specific interests that people with autism are capable of speaking about
for hours (like meteorological modelling, in Sophie’s case), and
stereotyped behaviours. There are also differences in perception, such as hypersensitivity to smells or sounds, or, conversely, reduced sensitivity to pain. Autism is thought to affect around one in one hundred people.
70% of people with autism have either normal or superior
intelligence. This form of autism is generally referred to as
high-functioning autism, as per the latest version of the “bible” of
psychiatric disorders, the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders). In this version, all reference to older categories
has been removed, including Asperger syndrome.
The term Asperger’s is still used today in some countries, however,
even though all types of autism are now grouped under a single spectrum
and classified according to the severity of symptoms.
Appropriate support throughout schooling
Ideally, Sophie would have been diagnosed as a child. She could have
benefited from specialised support throughout her schooling, as is
legally required in France
and other countries. This support would have made her less vulnerable,
giving her the tools to defend herself from bullying in the schoolyard
and helping her learn with teaching methods adapted to her way of
thinking. Upon leaving school, her diagnosis would have opened up access
to labour rights, such as disabled worker status, which would have
helped her find an adapted employment. Sophie’s life would have been
simpler and she would be more at peace with herself.
But Sophie’s problems are twofold. Not only is she autistic, but she’s also a woman. If getting a diagnosis is already tricky for men,
it’s even more difficult for women. Originally, autism was thought to
only rarely affect women. This erroneous idea, which emerged from a 1943 study conducted by Léo Kanner
(the first psychiatrist to describe the syndrome), has been reinforced
by the long-dominant psychoanalytical approach. The criteria defining
autistic symptoms were based on observations in boys.
Later, when science replaced psychoanalysis as the dominant model,
studies were largely conducted on male children, thus reducing the
chances of recognising autism as it’s manifested in females. This
phenomenon, also present in other areas of science and medicine, has far-reaching implications today.
Similar test results for boys and girls
To diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD), doctors and psychologists
evaluate quantitative criteria using tests and questionnaires, but also
qualitative criteria, like interests, stereotyped movements,
difficulties with eye contact and language and isolation. But while
autistic girls show similar test results to autistic boys, the clinical manifestation of their condition differs, at least in cases where language has been acquired.
With social-imitation strategies, for example, autistic girls have
fewer troubles making friends than autistic boys ; they have seemingly
more ordinary interests than boys (for example horses, rather than maps
of the subway); while less restless than boys, they are more vulnerable
to less-visible anxiety disorders, and more adept at camouflaging their stereotyped and soothing ritual behaviors. In other words, their autism is less obtrusive, which means their symptoms are less obvious to their families, teachers and doctors.
Biology and environment explain these differences, and in this case
it’s impossible to separate nature from nurture. On the nature side of
the argument, some hypothesise that girls are better equipped for social
cognition and more apt at caring roles. This would explain why they
appear to be more interested in the animate (cats, celebrities, flowers)
than the inanimate (cars, robots, rail networks).
When it comes to nurture, girls and boys are not brought up in the
same way. Socially acceptable behaviours differ according to sex.
Although autistic children are more resistant to this phenomenon, the
pressure to conform is so strong it still ends up influencing their
behaviour, as illustrated by the case of Gunilla Gerland.
As a girl, this Swedish woman didn’t want to wear rings or bracelets
because she hated the way metal felt on her skin. Observing that adults
could not fathom that a little girl might not like these things, she
resigned herself to getting gifts of jewellery, and even learned to
thank the giver, before stashing the object away in a box at the
Skilled in the art of camouflage
As autistic girls grow up, the gap between how their condition and
that of boys manifests widens. As adults, some autistic women can become highly skilled in the art of camouflage,
which explains the use of the term “invisible disability” to describe
certain types of high-functioning autism. Incidentally, this is the
meaning of the title of Julie Dachez’s 2016 graphic novel, The Invisible Difference (Delcourt).
More and more women are discovering their condition later in life and sharing their experience. Since September 2016, the Francophone Association of Autistic Women (Association francophone des femmes autistes,
or AFFA) has been fighting for recognition of the specific ways autism
manifests in women. A learned society on autism in women is also being
created in France, bringing together the general and scientific
communities, with the goal of promoting dialogue between researchers and
A specific questionnaire for girls
Historically, major figures in autism research believed there was
significant prevalence in women. The Austrian Hans Asperger (for whom
the syndrome is named) put forward the idea as early as 1944, as did
British psychiatrist Lorna Wing, as early as 1981. But it’s only in recent years the scientific community has really started examining the evidence.
Some researchers aim to better understand the specific characteristics of autism in women. Since the beginning of this year, volunteers are invited to participate
in a study on “autism in women” conducted by Laurent Mottron, a
professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Montreal
(Canada), and Pauline Duret, a doctoral student in neuroscience, in
collaboration with myself and Adeline Lacroix, working at the École des
Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris (France). Adeline
Lacroix is a master’s student in psychology and has herself been
diagnosed with autism.
Other studies are attempting to adapt diagnostic tools for use with
female subjects. A team made up of Australian scientists Sarah Ormond,
Charlotte Brownlow, Michelle Garnett, and Tony Attwood,
and Polish scientist Agnieszka Rynkiewicz, is currently perfecting a
specific questionnaire for young girls, the Q-ASC (“Questionnaire for
autism spectrum conditions”). They presented their work in May 2017 at a conference in San Francisco.
While there has been an initial trove of interesting results, current research into the specific characteristics of autism in women
is raising more questions than it answers. However, the confusion could
be considered a necessary step toward the acquisition of knowledge,
provided the women affected can contribute to the research and share
their point of view on the direction the work should take.
Ordinary citizens can also work towards ensuring autistic girls have
the same rights as their male counterparts. By gaining a better
understanding of the different forms of autism, everyone can contribute
to a world in which children and adults with autism can find their
place, and help fight exclusion by creating an inclusive society.