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Re: [xmca] Aspergers/ASD

Greg, et al, my experience is that meso-level organizations 
absolutely can go a long way toward scaffolding the 
development of a wider range of social practices (including 
those that function as competencies in the wider culture) in 
people on the autism spectrum. I have a lot more experience 
with people on the "higher-functioning" end of the spectrum 
(which basically means people who use spoken language fluently 
and have approximately normal-range or above IQ - it doesn't 
say a lot about how well one is actually able to function in 
regular life). But I can give a few examples of very rich and 
successful (teaching-wise, not financially; most of them have 
gone out of business) meso-level organizations, both those 
deliberately crafted and those that emerged as subcultures 
around specific interests or practices. 

Science fiction fandom and live-action roleplaying games 
(LARPing) are two such communities. At many sci-fi cons, 
social interaction is structured around topics and activities 
of interest, and social bonds can be formed based on whether 
you have and can share expert knowledge. This is a huge change 
from "mundane" sociality where social life tends to appear 
free-form and in fact be structured by expectations that are 
implicit rather than explicit, and where social bonds are 
often formed based on inspiring certain affective states in 
the other person. There is also an ethic of acceptance that 
includes a broader range of behaviors that might elsewhere be 
thought of as odd. 

Some organizations have tried to deliberately create this 
ethos in a treatment setting. I worked one summer at a 
delightful summer camp (and I've written about it here: 
http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b9f09939#/b9f09939/48) . 
It was a collaboration between a community center for people 
on the spectrum based on principles of autistic culture and 
self-advocacy, and a collective of youth passionate about 
swords-and-sorcery style role-playing games as a means of 
personal transformation. This was as exhausting and weird and 
wonderful as one might imagine. I'm currently trying to 
develop a program like this at the group practice I'm working 
at in Northbrook, IL, SociAbility. It's hard to do without the 
infrastructure and socialization already done by these two 
organizations and their long history of cultivating particular 
skills and dispositions - but I'm trying. 

Interestingly enough, I am writing this email from a hotel 
room in Cleveland, where I am attending Notacon, "an annual 
event that focuses on people who like to build, make, break 
and hack stuff" that "focuses on technologies, philosophy and 
creativity often overlooked at other hacker conferences". 
There's a lot of talk about how to raise children who learn 
differently "as hackers". I'm curious to learn whether hacker 
spaces could be another such scaffolded space. 

Greg, thank you for asking these questions that give me the 
opportunity to rant about stuff I'm excited about!


>Mike just sent around the lab an early document from LCHC 
(1982) that
>articulates an early vision of what the 5th Dimension spaces 
were all
>about. Interestingly, the paper poses the question: "Why are 
>disabilities so often identified only when a person is in 
school?" I think
>that this is precisely the kind of question that Liz seems to 
be pointing
>to, albeit on a slightly larger scale (i.e. she appears to be 
>across much larger contexts than "school").
>Tying back to my prior post about "seeing" vis a vis 
aesthetic experience,
>I think there is something quite similar going on here. Just 
as history and
>sociocultural context make it possible to "see" a work of art 
in a
>particular way, so too do these kinds of things make it 
possible to "see"
>other people in particular ways.
>The argument here is that cultural context is constitutive of 
WHO someone
>IS, because it makes it possible for that person to be SEEN 
in particular
>ways. If schizophrenics are SEEN as having a unique access to 
the divine
>(which, in a Durkheimian sense, I think they do - b.c. of 
their heightened
>awareness of the poetics of language, cf. Jim Goss, an LCHC 
lurker, who
>works on the poetics of schizophrenics), then, in that 
culture, are they
>really "schizophrenic" as we know it? If their "delusions of 
grandeur" are
>seen as contact with an other worldly realm, then how does 
this change WHO
>they are? The argument here is that this kind of social 
seeing (aka
>"recognition") matters.
>In addition to these social forms of recognition qua classes 
of people,
>there are more micro-interactional cultural practices that 
seem to make a
>substantial difference (here I step away from "recognition" 
and into
>micro-interaction). I once saw Elinor Ochs present some 
fascinating work on
>low functioning autistics in the U.S. vs. India. She was 
arguing that very
>small difference in habitus-as-interactional styles made a 
major difference
>to outcomes for the autistic children. In the U.S., when 
teaching these
>students, teachers would sit facing these students and would 
insist on eye
>contact ("look at me"). The woman that she studied in India 
took a
>completely different approach. She would sit alongside the 
child and would
>have joint gaze with the child at some third thing, e.g. a 
book. For
>writing, she would place her hands with his on the keyboard 
as he typed and
>would orient ALONGSIDE of him. The differences in functioning 
>striking. Where the U.S. kids were barely learning to talk, 
the child in
>India was writing books. I'm sure that the picture is not 
quite so simple
>as this, and maybe some more familiar with the literature 
will be able to
>say more (I think the India case was a famous one), but I 
think that the
>argument is an interesting one to consider how very local 
social context,
>i.e. the face-to-face and explicit instruction, as a cultural 
pattern (I
>suspect this is true of how most U.S. schoolteachers approach 
students) can
>make a dramatic difference.
>Scaffolding seems like a good way to think about this, but it 
seems that in
>doing so, we should recognize that we all live in social 
contexts that
>scaffold us up in various ways such that if we were in a 
different context
>that lacked the ongoingly present scaffoldings of our present 
culture, we
>might turn out to have, perhaps biologically based, 
"conditions" (which the
>locals would likely call "disorders").
>The question quickly becomes a micro- macro- question about 
>practices, cultural beliefs, histories, and institutions. 
Returning to the
>5th D mention at the beginning of this post, I think this 
>particularly well to the current interest in designing meso-
>organizations. The meso- level organizations are those that 
exist most
>proximally to the people who are around the child. The 5th 
>programs provide something of an ideal-type meso-level 
>But both sides of the meso- are important. How does the meso- 
organize the
>micro-? and on the other hand, how does the macro- constrain 
or enable the
>So, with autism, we might ask: how can we create meso-level 
contexts that
>will support persons on the autistism spectrum, particularly 
the so-called
>"low-functioning" autistics? What would such an intervention 
look like.
>Liz, maybe you have some sense for this? Perhaps an example 
or two?
>P.s. on a different note, I was just reading Pickering's work 
where he
>describes R. D. Laing's Kingsley Hall: "Kingsley Hall was 
thought of as a
>space of revealing, where, as Laing put it, the sane could 
learn to go mad
>from the mad, where new sorts of selves could emerge." Seems 
like it would
>be a nice exercise to imagine learning how to be autistic.
>On Sun, Apr 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM, David H Kirshner 
<dkirsh@lsu.edu> wrote:
>> My son is high-functioning autistic (has been diagnosed and 
is being
>> treated/educated under that label), and my father had 
>> difficulties that made it impossible for him to hold a 
>> turn-taking conversation. Watching my father, who was a  
>> innovator in visual motor training for kids, and myself, 
who also has
>> processing difficulties, negotiate our social worlds helps 
me understand
>> how the autism continuum gets socially constructed and 
>> reified as a binary: a disability that one either does, or 
does not
>> have. Social sanctions for autistic behavior are severe. 
One loses many
>> social opportunities. As a result those who are closer to 
>> current demarcation point work very hard to simulate 
>> functioning, creating a fairly wide gap in the behavioral 
>> between those who "are" and those who "are not" disabled. 
My son's
>> degree of autism precludes him from participating 
effectively in
>> self-disguise. Presumably, over sociocultural history, 
>> demarcation point can shift, placing fewer or greater 
numbers of
>> individuals into the disabled category. But my guess is 
that the recent
>> uptick in autism diagnosis is too abrupt to be accounted 
for entirely in
>> sociohistorical terms. I think something biological is 
going on.
>> David
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
>> On Behalf Of Deborah Rockstroh
>> Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2012 6:15 AM
>> To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
>> Subject: RE: [xmca] Aspergers/ASD
>> Elizabeth, biological/genetic/neuroscientific arguments 
aside (which are
>> way out of my field, but more than likely quite critical to 
a full
>> discussion of this topic), I feel sure there are a minimum 
of two
>> (academic) arguments that can be framed from the cultural-
>> perspective to support the suggestion that 
>> conditions *might be* contributing towards the *rise* of 
>> spectrum disorders:
>> 1) the concept that development does not occur in a vacuum 
- widely
>> understood as interaction of nature and nurture (including 
the role of
>> learning as leading development); and
>> 2) the notion that those who present the 'symptoms' of 
>> 'disordered' is itself a construct of a particular culture 
in context,
>> that is (with some
>> imagination) in other times and places perhaps such traits 
may have had
>> value to a particular group, but in western society, these 
traits become
>> redundant.
>> My understanding of autism is limited, but these points 
describe my
>> understanding about ADHD/ADD, which I've spent an extensive 
amount of
>> time studying.
>> Cheers,
>> Deborah
>> Deborah Rockstroh
>> Southern Cross University
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
>> On Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky
>> Sent: Sunday, 8 April 2012 5:28 AM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: RE: [xmca] Aspergers/ASD
>> Good article, Martin--thanks for sharing. The author does a 
nice job of
>> noting the tension between "faddish" hyperdiagnosis and 
real attention
>> to people's differential makeups.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
>> On Behalf Of Martin Packer
>> Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2012 2:40 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Aspergers/ASD
>> <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/sunday-review/the-
>> =1&p
>> artner=rss&emc=rss>
>> On Apr 7, 2012, at 12:40 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
>> > Elizabeth, I'd say it's possible, but a long way from 
>> > documented. p
>> >
>> > -----Original Message-----
>> > From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
>> > On Behalf Of Elizabeth Fein
>> > Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2012 1:09 PM
>> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> > Subject: [xmca] Aspergers/ASD
>> >
>> > This seems like a great time to introduce myself to the 
list, where I
>> > have been lurking for a while. I actually began looking 
into CHAT (at
>> > Greg's encouragement, after a paper I gave on the 
subject) as a way of
>> > understanding how social/cultural/historical conditions 
might be
>> > contributing to the rise of autism spectrum conditions. 
Peter, I am
>> > looking forward to reading your articles. And I'll put my 
question out
>> > there, as I am very curious to hear the responses of this
>> > group: Do you think there is any possibility that 
>> > conditions
>> might be contributing to the rise in *actual cases* of 
autism spectrum
>> disorder (not just their detection). (I'm thinking in 
particular of
>> factors such as the individualization of society, the need 
to adhere to
>> social norms that are less explicit/structured and more 
based on
>> flexibility in order to win and maintain a social place, 
and the
>> increased role of mimetic media technology as a means of 
>> So,for example, the two observations David made (that 
people may be
>> losing opportunities to learn the art of social reasoning 
at the same
>> time that there is a heightened demand for facility with 
>> discourses) might be causing more people not only to be 
>> also to DEVELOP in a way that comes off as socially awkward 
>> excessively "rote".
>> >
>> > Thoughts?
>> >
>> > Elizabeth Fein, MA
>> > Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago Department of 
Comparative Human
>> > Development Psychology Fellow, SociAbility
>> > (773)860-7275
>> >
>> >
>> > ---- Original message ----
>> >> Date: Sat, 7 Apr 2012 16:33:36 +0000
>> >> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu (on behalf of Peter
>> > Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>)
>> >> Subject: RE: [xmca] Piaget in Vygotsky 1962
>> >> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" 
>> >>
>> >> Greg, I'm puzzled by your autism observation. The 
increase in
>> > autism spectrum conditions (and by calling it a disorder, 
you buy into
>> > the deficit view of mental health difference) is 
generally attributed
>> > to better diagnostic efforts in light of continued 
research into
>> > mental health generally, including autism. I say this as 
someone on
>> > the spectrum (Asperger's syndrome, which runs in my 
family). I've had
>> > one paper published on this topic and have a couple more 
in press and
>> > a few more in the conceptual stage (awaiting time to 
write them). I'd
>> > be happy to share with others any of the following, if 
you write me
>> > off-list. I was supposed to give one at ISCAR but 
couldn't make the
>> > trip; I'll give another at AERA next weekend. p
>> >>
>> >>      Smagorinsky, P. (2011). Confessions of a mad
>> > professor: An autoethnographic consideration of 
>> extranormativity, and education. Teachers College Record, 
>> 1701-1732.
>> >>      Smagorinsky, P. (in press). Vygotsky, 
>> > and the inclusion of people of difference in the broader 
>> stream.
>> Journal of Language and Literacy Education.
>> >>      Smagorinsky, P. (in press). "Every individual has 
>> > own insanity": Applying Vygotsky's work on defectology to 
the question
>> > of mental health as an issue of inclusion. Learning, 
Culture and
>> > Social Interaction
>> >>
>> >> -----Original Message-----
>> >> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-
>> > bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
>> >> Sent: Saturday, April 07, 2012 11:53 AM
>> >> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> >> Subject: Re: [xmca] Piaget in Vygotsky 1962
>> >>
>> >> Larry,
>> >> and perhaps the incredibly high rates of "Autism 
>> > Disorder"
>> >> diagnosis in the U.S. is a sign of the times?
>> >> [At the very least, it should be noted that it is a 
>> > fit for the particular here and now that we inhabit (by 
>> >> -greg
>> >>
>> >> On Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 4:41 PM, Larry Purss
>> > <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
>> >>
>> >>> Thanks for the 2 versions of this response by Piaget.
>> >>>
>> >>> I was interested in Piaget's comments on egocentrism 
>> > 3] when he
>> >>> was talking about unconscious preferential focusing and 
>> > lack of
>> >>> differentiation of viewponts.  He gives the example of 
>> > beginning
>> >>> instructor who soon discovers that his first lectures 
>> >>> incomprehensible because he was *talking to himself*, 
so to
>> > say,
>> >>> mindful only of his own point of view. The second 
>> > Piaget gives
>> >>> is developing the capacity to place oneself in the 
shoes of
>> > the other
>> >>> [taking the point of view of one's partner] in order to
>> > convince the other *on his own ground*.
>> >>>
>> >>> As I read Piaget's explanation of egocentrism [and its
>> > continuing
>> >>> expression throughout the lifespan] I was wondering if 
>> > ability
>> >>> [achievement?] to decenter and shift perspectives can 
>> > viewed as an
>> >>> *art* form or a *skill* that requires certain 
>> > *ways* of
>> >>> expression.
>> >>> This leads to further wondering if the *distortions* in 
>> > current
>> >>> housing arrangements; for example how we are becoming 
>> >>> *self*-contained and living *solo* [50% of all 
>> > in New York
>> >>> city are occupied by a single occupant] may be  having 
>> > unintended
>> >>> consequence that we may be loosing the *art* form of
>> > *social* reasoning.
>> >>>
>> >>> I guess a counter argument could be made that living 
>> > requires
>> >>> more
>> >>> *skill* in decentering as we are constantly thrown into
>> > novel
>> >>> discursive situations.
>> >>>
>> >>> Just wondering.
>> >>>
>> >>> Larry
>> >>>
>> >>> On Fri, Apr 6, 2012 at 2:33 PM, David Kellogg
>> >>> <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com
>> >>>> wrote:
>> >>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>> Mike:
>> >>>>
>> >>>> Actually, the version up on the Marxists Internet 
>> > is missing
>> >>>> a page and Parsons' translation, although good, is not
>> > complete in places.
>> >>>>
>> >>>> Here's a version we did, alongside the standard
>> > translation. The
>> >>>> boxes
>> >>> are
>> >>>> part of a discussion we had in our group when we were
>> > doing T&S in
>> >>> Korean.
>> >>>>
>> >>>> I didn't answer your last on Basov, mostly because I 
>> > trying to
>> >>>> find some Basov beyod what was published in the JREEP
>> > myself.
>> >>>> Besides that,
>> >>> the
>> >>>> only thing I know about Basov is the (generally very
>> > favorable)
>> >>> references
>> >>>> in HDHMF.
>> >>>>
>> >>>> What surprises me is that both Basov and Vygotsky are
>> > indebted to
>> >>> Volkelt,
>> >>>> of all people, for the distinction between analysis 
>> > units and
>> >>> analysis
>> >>>> into elements! And where exactly did Vygotsky get the
>> > idea that
>> >>>> behavior evolves just as organs do, if not from Lorenz
>> > and
>> >>>> Tinbergen? It might be from Jennings, but in Jennings
>> > it's not
>> >>>> exactly behavior itself that evolves; only the
>> > affordances of an organism's internal organs.
>> >>>>
>> >>>> David Kellogg
>> >>>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>> --- On Fri, 4/6/12, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> 
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>> From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
>> >>>> Subject: [xmca] Piaget in Vygotsky 1962
>> >>>> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity"
>> > <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
>> >>>> Date: Friday, April 6, 2012, 10:43 AM
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>> Does anyone have a copy of Piaget's piece on Thought 
>> > Language
>> >>>> from 1962?
>> >>>> mike
>> >>>> __________________________________________
>> >>>> _____
>> >>>> xmca mailing list
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>> >>>> http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
>> >>>>
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>> >>>> _____
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>> >>>>
>> >>>>
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>> >>>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> --
>> >> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>> >> Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar Laboratory of 
>> >> Human Cognition Department of
>> > Communication University of California, San Diego
>> > http://ucsd.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>> >> __________________________________________
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>Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
>Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition
>Department of Communication
>University of California, San Diego
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