Life: March 2004 Archives

Permissive Parents

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New to the Blogdom of God Alliance is What in Tarnation?!?!? (Note the symmetrical, palindromic punctuation.) He's got a post about his observations from parent-teacher conferences (he's a third grade teacher) about parents who won't get their kids to do homework but say they can't. Further probing shows that the parents refuse to discipline their kids or give any consequences. The reason? They don't want to take away something the kid really likes. Wait, wasn't that the point?

He's also got a lesson on grace from his geometry class, and he uses Mad Libs to reinforce the parts of speech!

Tipping

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One Hand Clapping has some nice thoughts about tipping. He starts with an extremely small sample and observes that a significant sample of those in that subset who are not tipping are Christians and concludes (via a clear logical fallacy) that Christians tend not to tip (or not to tip well). Just to be clear on this, let's look at the structure of the argument.

1. Those who tend not to tip are often Christians.
2. Therefore, Christians tend not to tip.

I see no way to conclude 2 from 1. You'd need to look at most Christians to see if most Christians tip. You don't start with the group of people who don't tip and then notice that many of them are Christians. There may well be a much larger group of Christians who tip and tip well.

Aside from that obvious mistake (which many people in the comments also made about Christians and other groups), there's plenty of good stuff in this post, mostly on the ethical reflections. I wish he wrote more on everyday ethical issues, because he has some great wisdom on these matters, and he often writes about issues most people wouldn't think to include in an ethics book.

Update on Ethan

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Ethan had a language evaluation yesterday, so the fluctuations in diagnosis continue, with little bits of clarity shinging through the thick layers of darkness that the evaluative community has shed on Ethan's status. See Adventures in Misdiagnosis for the story up to this point.

On language matters, this woman said he probably has some neurological reason for some of what he does and doesn't do. He clearly has some of the most obvious traits of autistic communication deficiencies, but he doesn't have all of them all the time. Based on what she saw today, which isn't the way he is all the time, he fits into the autistic category, but she doesn't know where he is on the spectrum. She thinks he has some of the basic skills there, but he finds it very hard to communicate. The problem is mainly in expressive language. Other elements of his language are much higher-functioning.

How manly are you?

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Joe at Evangelical Outpost had a post a while back with two tests for autism and autistic spectrum traits. One involves mind-reading by looking at someone's eyes, with the rest of the face occluded. [It's a little funny to call it a mind-reading test, given that these pictures are of people faking certain faces to look like they have certain emotions that they don't really have.] They tried to remove some of the subjective factors by trying to find common enough agreement on which emotions the eyes showed, but I doubt it's as objective as they'd like. Either way, it does test some differences between people with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) or high-functioning autism (HFA) and the average person (with differences between males and females.

The other is a personality test somehow labeled "the autism quotient test" that picks out ISTJ traits as autistic traits and then saying that the test reveals who has autistic traits. [Note: Asperger's is a high-functioning autistic spectrum condition with higher-functioning, though not necessarily completely normal, cognitive and language abilities, sometimes even better than normal, but with delays in social and communicative delays with obsessional, repetitive, and routine behaviors.]

On the mind-reading through eye-reading test, there were 36 questions. The average score among AS/HFA people was 21.9. The average male score was 26. The average female score was 26.4. My score was 24, right between the normal male score and the AS/HFA average, just slightly closer to the average male score. (I should say that I got all 20 questions right on the whole face emotion recognition test, but I couldn't find the statistics on how people in general do on that one.)

The AQ test had an average score of 16.4. 80% of AS/HFA people scored at least 32, though the average AS/HFA score was 34.4 on one study and 35.8 on another. I scored 28. I wonder how the male/female differences turn out among the normal score group. The only data I have are for a group of Oxford University students who scored a little better on the mind-reading test than the average person did. The male average among them was 19.5, the female average 16.6. Both averages are higher than the 16.4 overall average, so this select population doesn't set a baseline standard. Again, my score was between the average male score and the AS/HFA average, though this time a good deal closer to the AS/HFA side.

Now there's important new research suggesting that the autistic spectrum is just one side of the male-female spectrum in terms of a number of traits, with males tending to be better at systematizing intelligence and females tending to be better at empathizing intelligence. Autism is a disorder that's even more extreme in the male tendency toward systematizing with difficulty on the empathizing end. There's also a disorder that's the reverse (but it's extremely rare) called Williams syndrome. Given that, I seem to me more male than most men. In other words, I'm quite the studly dude. So take the tests at the link above and see how manly you are!

We've been trying to figure out some developmental problems our son has. We've gotten some very different stories from professionals, and some of it has been basic incompetence, as far as I can tell. (I've always been distrustful of the general medical community, and my experiences tend to support that distrust more often than not, even though the doctors we regularly see our excellent and trustworthy on most things.) We've been trying to discover just what the problems are and how we might go about addressing them and helping him to learn in the areas where he's been delayed.

First, our pediatrician told my wife (I wasn't present for this one) that everything she was telling him was consistent with normal development, but he referred us to a neurologist who (supposedly) would know more about developmental disorders. He later told us that he has no idea what to say about this sort of thing, so at least he acknowledged his inability to diagnose it.

It turns out I knew more than the specialist in this area. The neurologist was fairly incompetent, asking us some general questions and drawing unwarranted conclusions without probing into many areas that would have given a different story. He told us that Ethan is most definitely autistic, with no question at all in his mind. Then he told us that this was all based on what we told him, and nothing Ethan did while we were there contradicted it. What he didn't say is that what we told him was based on what he asked us, which I didn't think covered the spectrum nearly enough, and what Ethan did was based on the limited kind of interaction the neurologist tried to encourage (basically nothing). All the books and internet sources we've looked at suggest many areas that need to be explored to get a fuller sense of Ethan's capabilities and even interests that this guy didn't even bother to ask us about. What really got me is when I asked him if it could be Asperger's Syndrome and not autism, and he basically said that there's never any difference in language ability with Asperger's, which isn't true. Asperger's is defined as being like autism in many ways (though usually not as severe) except with no language issues in principle. There are still effects on language development (particularly with pronoun reversal, repetition rather than compositionality, etc.), but autism has language trouble in principle. It wasn't clear to me whether Ethan had troubles simply because of language inabilities or if it stemmed from other things. My first guess is the latter, which doesn't at all rule out Asperger's.

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