Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Unlike the writer of the post below, I am verbal, although somewhat clumsy at times, especially prior, during, and after a migraine attack. Sometimes during an attack, I’m unable to comprehend the speech of others as well as being limited in my ability to express myself. At such times my cognitive skills are limited and I have no idea whether or not I find such situations distressing.

However, there are times where I am fully aware of my surroundings and can fully understand those around me, but due to migraine induced ataxia, my ability to communicate is compromised. Fortunately these occurrences are infrequent and short lived – typically no more than a few hours, but they are extremely frustrating.

At such times, I know what it’s like to be talked about, to be treated as though you have limited mental capacity. In my case, this may be understandable, as outwardly I guess I appear that same as when my cognitive skills are limited.

However for many people who are non-verbal, and in particular autistic people who are nonverbal, their mental capacity is not compromised, only the ability to express their thoughts in a way neurotypical people demand. To make matters worse, their very attempts at communicating are written off as non-consequential.

Ido in Autismland challenges neurotypical people to “experience”, even for a short while what people who have communication difficulties must face every day. After reading through the terms of the challenge, do you think you could do it?

You work with autistic people. You have an autistic relative. You are adventurous and into new experiences. If you fall into any of these groups, my… 912 more words

via The Autism Experience Challenge — Ido in Autismland

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The Debate over an Autism Cure (7 min read)

Autism is not the problem. Hate, ignorance, and stubborn resistance to reflection, education, and self-improvement are the problems

I see the debate over a cure for autism similar to that with regards to a cure for homosexuality in the mid to late 20th century. Personally, I see no reason why I need to be “cured”. Sure autism does cause some difficulties for me – my hyper sensitivity to external stimuli and my hypo-awareness of nuances of language and non-verbal forms of communication. But I am who I am because of the way I process and interpret the world around me.

The following article is by patrickmagpie published over at THE ASPERGIAN. Unlike Autism Speaks, which does not speak for me, the article does speak for me, and is well worth the read…

Few things cause more feverish reactions in the autism community than talk of a cure. While the majority of autistic people hate the C word, some cling to the idea of a cure as if it’s their only hope. Meanwhile, parents of autistic children are often the most vocal about finding a cure for autism.…

Source: The Debate over an Autism Cure7 min read


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Herd immunity: we have lost it!

Countries around the globe are beginning to loose their elimination status with regards to measles. Aotearoa New Zealand has not lost its elimination status – yet. But according to the director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, we have lost our herd immunity. For measles, a 95% immunisation rate is required to maintain herd immunity. We are no longer have the rate of immunisation. This doesn’t bode well when it comes to eliminating the current outbreak, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

So far this year, around 850 cases have been reported, most occurring in Auckland. In the last fortnight, there have been 10 new cases reported outside of Auckland, but within the city there have been 230 new cases.

Child immunisation is free in this country, so why are fewer parents immunising their children than in the past? Complacency is possibly a major reason. We have been officially measles free for such a long time that some parents simply don’t see the need to make an effort. These parents simply ignore or fail to understand the herd immunity concept.

I wonder how the anti-vax movement has formed opinion in this country? A Pew research poll in the US indicated that anti-vaxxers were almost evenly distributed between conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, rich and poor. I don’t think there’s as many conspiracy theorists here as in America, but if there is, they hide themselves better.  Has there been any research into identifying what sections of the community have lower rates of immunisation, and have there been any programs targeting those sections, particularly where immunisation rates are lower than that required for herd immunity?

While there have been no deaths attributed to the current measles outbreak, health officials have stated it’s only a matter of time, before someone succumbs – probably where age or a medical condition that prevents him/her from being vaccinated and who must rely on herd immunity for protection.

What really makes me angry is those parents who avoid vaccinating their children because they believe there’s a link between vaccinations and autism. For goodness sake, even if there was a link, which there isn’t, is the death of your child (or someone else’s due to that lack of herd immunity) or a life time of problems resulting from a serious infection a better option than your child being autistic?

What is so terrible about being autistic? While it’s true that we experience the world differently, that in itself does not make our life a burden nor should it be one for a parent with proper resources. Our struggles as autistics are due to society being unwilling to accommodate our needs. If the tide was turned and non-autistic people were a tiny minority in an autistic world, they too would find life very difficult at times.

If you believe we are facing an autism epidemic, you’re wrong. I’m not convinced that autism is anymore prevalent today than it was a century ago or even a millennium ago. I did not become autistic when I turned 60. I have been the same all my life. I was not misdiagnosed as not being autistic when I was a child. The thought never occurred to those who loved me. If I had been presented for an autism diagnosis I would not have got one when I was a child. The reality is that the clinical definition of autism has changed. Turn it back to what it was in the 1950s and bingo! The “epidemic” will disappear overnight. Would that be wise? Hell no! It would be turning the clock back to the bad old days. We’d still be the same, but our difficulties would be ignored, punished, or hidden away in institutions

On the other hand, the measles epidemic is real. It’s not something that has been created with smoke and mirrors. Isolation wards are real. Herd immunity is a real phenomenon. It relies on everyone who is able to play their part. That means being immunised. If you or your children haven’t been immunised, do it! Now!


Abortion law reform passes first reading

The first reading of the abortion reform legislation has just passed 94 votes to 23. It was a conscience vote, meaning MPs were not required to vote down party lines.

Source: Abortion law reform passes first reading


Although 94 votes to 23 might seem like overwhelming support to non-Kiwi readers, this is not how we do things. After a bill passes its first reading it’s referred to a Select Committee where it is considered in detail and where interested parties can make submissions. This process can typically take around six months. This is the forum where the issues are debated, and the public are listened to. Rarely does a bill pass through this stage without some changes. Shutting down debate does not resolve issues – it’s more likely to harden prejudices.

The Committee process will see and hear submissions from all sides including health professionals, women’s groups, the legal profession, social workers, members of the public – in fact, anyone who wishes to have a say on the matter. MPs (Members of Parliament), whether they support or oppose the legislation understand this, and realise that without reasoned discussion, an informed decision cannot be made. Many, but not all, are open to persuasion based on the facts presented.

I expect the vote at the final reading will be much closer, perhaps 65 votes to 55.


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Practicalities of abortion law reform

Somewhere between one in three and one in four women in Aotearoa New Zealand will seek and have a legal abortion at some time in their life. A decade ago, there were almost 21 abortions per year per 1000 women of child bearing ages, but  has been declining since. Last year it was 13 per 1000. Better education and contraceptives have seen a dramatic drop in teenage abortions while abortions in women in their twenties and thirties have risen slightly. Our abortion rates are not too different from countries in North America or western Europe, but unlike in the US, abortion here is a crime.

The law as it is now

The Crimes Act 1961 determines the grounds for an abortion under 20 weeks, which can be serious danger to life, any form of incest or sexual relations with a guardian, mental sub normality and foetal abnormality. Extremes of age and sexual violation can also be taken into account but aren’t grounds in themselves.

After 20 weeks gestation the grounds are different. Abortions can only be performed to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother.

The law is an ass

Around 98% of abortions are perform on mental health grounds, and are essentially a means of getting around the current criminal nature of abortions. The Dunedin longitudinal study reveals that the most common reason given for having an abortion was not being ready, followed by relationship reasons, including being in the wrong relationship and being alone. In other words the law is an ass. The law should be either enforced or changed.

And here we differ markedly from the trend that we observe is going on in America. In early 2018, Andrew Little, the Minister of justice, asked the Law Commission to provide advice on what alternative approaches could be taken to ensure New Zealand’s abortion laws are consistent with treating abortion as a health issue.

Law Commission recommendations

Earlier this year, the Commission presented its ministerial briefing paper and offered three possible models:

  • Under Model A there would be no statutory test that must be satisfied before an abortion could be performed. The decision whether to have an abortion would be made by the woman concerned in consultation with her health practitioner.
  • Under Model B there would be a statutory test. The health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Under Model C, there would be no statutory test until 22 weeks of a pregnancy. After 22 weeks, the health practitioner who intends to perform an abortion would need to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Regardless of which model may be preferred, the briefing paper sets out several other changes that could be made to align the law with a health approach to abortion. They include:

  • Repealing the current grounds for abortion in the Crimes Act.
  • Removing the requirement for abortions to be authorised by two specially appointed doctors called ‘certifying consultants’.
  • Repealing the criminal offences in the Crimes Act relating to abortion. Instead, other offences in the Crimes Act and health legislation that currently exist would protect women from unsafe abortions. If Model B or C is adopted, an additional offence could be introduced in health legislation for people who perform abortions that don’t meet the statutory test. In no case would the woman be subject to an offence.
  • Allowing women to access abortion services directly, rather than having to get a referral from a doctor as they do under the current law.
  • Removing the current restrictions around who may perform an abortion and where abortions must be performed. Instead, the provision of abortion services would be regulated by appropriate health bodies, the same as any other health care procedure.
  • Moving the Abortion Supervisory Committee’s oversight responsibilities to the Ministry of Health.
  • Requiring health practitioners who do not wish to provide health services in relation to abortion because of a conscientious objection to refer women to someone who can provide the service.

The full briefing paper can be found here.

The art of the possible

The legislation that is to be introduced into the parliament is essentially model C with all the suggested changes, but with the statutory test being at 20 weeks instead of 22. Andrew Little would have preferred model A, but politics is the art of the possible. It’s unlikely that a bill based on model A would be able to make its way through all stages of the process required to make it law. He’s indicated that the 20 week threshold was another of those compromises he needed to make to gain support from some members of parliament, notably members of the New Zealand First party. While the reforms might not be ideal, it’s certainly far better than keeping the status quo. As the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern commented “Ultimately, it is about putting something to Parliament that has the strongest likelihood of succeeding. This issue should not be in the Crimes Act.”

Polls indicate that around 70% to 75% of the NZ adult population favour decriminalising abortion, but to what degree liberalisation should occur is less clear. However, as elsewhere, those opposing reform are by far the loudest. In this country opposition is not entirely along religious or gender lines.

Passage through parliament

If the bill passes its first reading it will be referred to a select committee, which can then take months to hear submissions from all interested parties, and you can be sure that on this topic there will be a great many submissions. It’s most likely the the select committee stage will be a prolonged affair, as more that the usual numbers supporters and opponents will wish to make vocal submissions as well as written ones. This can be expected on issues where emotions run high.

After the select committee process the bill then has to pass the second and third reading before being passed into law, and as the minister of justice admits, there’s no guarantee that this will happen. However, it’s very unlikely that he would introduce the legislation unless he believed there was a better than even chance that it would get through all stages. Time will tell if he is correct.


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Update Aoteraroa 22nd May 2019

As selection of Aotearoa New Zealand news items I found interesting…

Member of Parliament is provided with security escort

Sigh. Even in our relatively liberal multicultural society and perhaps because of the Christchurch massacre, white extremists seem to be more confident about expressing themselves more openly, while still hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

Green MP (Member of Parliament) Golriz Ghahraman is being provided with a security escort any time she leave Parliament due to the nature of of online comments about her. Comments go so far as to discuss lynching. I don’t know what security is provided to legislators in other countries, but here the only other polititian to have a security escort is the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Read more (Reuters)…

Surge in Australians pondering move to New Zealand after election

There has been a spike in interest among Australians in moving to New Zealand since the Australian elections.

Immigration New Zealand says four times the usual number of Australians visited its website and information site New Zealand Now on Sunday, the day after the Liberal coalition’s surprise win.

Expressions of interest in moving to New Zealand were 25 times higher than the week before.

But as the video on the linked article suggests, there may be other reasons why Aussies want to move here 🙂

Read more (Stuff)…

What if NZ movies and TV actually included all New Zealanders?

Migration plays an important role in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand society. New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, is now “more diverse than London“, and one in four New Zealanders have come from elsewhere.

[The above link to Statistics NZ is broken at time of publication. Instead, refer to this news release]

The large number of arrivals from across the Pacific region has given Auckland the largest Pacific Islander population of any city in the world. Almost one-quarter of Auckland’s population is now classified as Asian. This itself is a catch-all term for a wide range of peoples and cultures covering half of humanity.

But while diversity in New Zealand is greater than ever, there is a gap between the society we see around us and what is reflected on screen.

Read more (NZ Herald)…

New Zealand-led research could change the way doctors treat asthma

New Zealand-led research on asthma treatment is being called a “game changer” for stopping mild asthmatics from having severe attacks, an author of the study says.

The four-country study conducted by the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It involved 675 people who had been taking medication to relieve their symptoms, and divided them into three groups: one just using a reliever inhaler when they had symptom, one using preventer and reliever inhalers and one using a combined preventer-reliever inhaler only when they had symptoms.

Study co-author Richard Beasley said the third group had half the risk of a severe attack compared to using the reliever inhaler alone.

Read more (TVNZ News)…

 


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Update Aotearoa – 8th May 2019

Some news items that are of significant interest to me personally:

Climate change bill, independent commission announced

The government has unveiled its plan to combat climate change, under which methane will be treated differently to other greenhouse gases, in response to push back from the agricultural industry.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill – introduced to Parliament today – sets out a plan for the next 30 years.

The government has also set a new emissions reduction target for all greenhouse gases, except methane, to net zero by 2050, in line with New Zealand’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“The government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Agriculture was “incredibly important to New Zealand”, Ms Ardern said, but also needed to be “part of the solution”.

“That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane” and adopted what’s known as a “split gas” approach.

Read more (RNZ News)

Should New Zealand history be compulsory in schools?

Is Aotearoa New Zealand alone in not mandating the teaching of its own history in schools?

A leading historian has renewed calls to make New Zealand history a compulsory subject in schools. Vincent O’Malley says the Ministry of Education’s reluctance to mandate the subject is not good enough.

He says the current curriculum was “failing” young people. “Any half decent education system anywhere in the world should deliver a basic introduction to the country you live in, that you grew up in. Ours is failing to do that. A lot of young people are asking to learn about this history.”

Read more (TVNZ One News)

Standards vital for new cannabis industry

MANU Caddie, chief executive of Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis Company, says a University of Otago academic is right to claim cannabis is unable to be considered a medicine because it contains multiple active ingredients.

Professor Michelle Glass published an opinion piece in the New Zealand Medical Journal last week suggesting there is no need for the Ministry of Health to develop new regulations governing cannabis as medicine because the Medicines Act already outlines the standards a product needs to reach in order to be considered a medicine.

Mr Caddie says recognition of cannabis as a medicine is challenging when whole plant extracts contain active ingredients in addition to THC and CBD.

Read more (Gisborne Herald)

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says anti-vaxxer parents are ‘pro-plague’

The education minister doesn’t think children shouldn’t miss out on school just because their parents are what he calls “pro-plague”.

The Northland DHB has suggested unvaccinated children stay home from school for the next two weeks, after two known cases of measles have been discovered. Northland has the lowest immunisation rate in the country at 85 percent.

Chris Hipkins said the DHB should be stepping up to ensure the region has sufficient immunisation levels. “Clearly there is an issue there that the DHB needs to address, they are responsible for that. I don’t believe that kids should be denied their right to an education, particularly if it’s a conscious choice by their parents not to immunise”, he said.

He said he uses the term ‘pro-plague’ for anti-vaxxers because that’s what they are. “It is a statement of fact. It is a ridiculous position, it is not based on science, there are very good reasons why we require a certain level of the population to be immunised, so that we’re not susceptible to massive outbreaks.”

Read more (RNZ News)

Mohua goes from rare to common in 21 years

The once rare mohua/yellowhead has for the first time become the most common native bird counted since predator control began in the Landsborough valley in South Westland.

Mohua numbers have risen more than 30-fold and overall, native bird numbers have doubled in the 21 years since monitoring began in 1998, recently analysed Department of Conservation (DOC) results show.

DOC Principal Science Advisor Dr Colin O’Donnell says the long-term study charts the response of 13 native bird species following sustained predator control to suppress rats, stoats and possums.

Read more (Scoop Sci-tech)

Celebrating New Zealand Sign Language Week and working toward an accessible future

For Deaf Aotearoa‘s executive assistant Erica Dawson access to political knowledge and information has “opened a whole new world”. It started in 2017 when a sign language version of the final debate between Jacinda Ardern and Bill English began.

For the first time the clash was aired  with a hand-to-hand battle between interpreters. Signs for policy words needed to be created, and people within the deaf community helped ensure viewers were given the correct messages from Ardern and English.

Last year Ardern announced all post-cabinet press conferences would be interpreted into NZSL going forward. That’s meant for the first time in Dawson’s almost 30-year life, she has been able to follow politics.

Read more (Stuff National)


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Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines

New Zealand is almost alone in the world in allowing direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines (DTCA). The United States of America is perhaps the only other nation that allows this form of advertising, although it is more heavily regulated in the USA than it is in NZ.

This state of affairs is rather unusual in that the health industry in America is predominantly in private ownership, whereas here in Aotearoa it predominantly in the public sector. Two health systems at opposite ends of the public/private spectrum, yet sharing similar attitudes to the advertising of prescription medicines.

So, how did this situation arise? In the case of the USA, regulations were relaxed during the 1980s and 1990s, whereas in NZ there appears that DTCA was overlooked altogether when the New Zealand Medicines Act was enacted in 1981.

The question is: Should NZ to continue allowing DTCA or should we adopt regulations similar to every other country, apart from the USA have established? I tend to agree with the conclusion reached in this article in the New Zealand Medical Journal:

Pharmaceutical companies have touted DTCA as a pro-consumer activity, encouraging dialogue, empowerment and choice. Whilst available evidence is incomplete, it generally refutes this view. DTCA is a biased source of health information and is associated with unnecessary prescribing, iatrogenic harm and unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.

What’s your view?


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As a male autistic, I was less aware of social norms than many females on the spectrum seem to be. I was in my early twenties before I learnt the hard way that I needed to make a more conscious effort to appear “normal”. Violence is a very “effective” teacher in that regard.

Although it would be some forty years later before I discovered I was autistic the effort of masking has had an impact on my health and that of my family. Here is a post from a female perspective about masking, although a lot of it applies to everyone on the autism spectrum to varying degrees.

This topic was requested by two different people in two different ways. One friend wanted me to talk about masking, and another asked what seemed to me to be a really challenging question: “How large is the area within the spectrum which is better treated by teaching coping skills and social conformity? Thinking of hyperactive […]

via Masks! — K807


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I find social events extremely tiring, not because people are unaware of autism, but because people fail to accept autism.

It is World Autism Awareness Day and my autism is making itself known. One of the most frustrating parts of my being autistic is the exhaustion and headaches that follow big events. All that processing, all that sensory bombardment, all that concentration on interactions, and no matter how wonderful and amazing the day, I shall […]

via All the Autism Awareness — Autism and Expectations