The first Targeted, the last Commemorated

Friday was Holocaust Memorial Day. On January 27 1945, Allied troops liberated the Auschwitz Death Camp.
A few months ago, I learnt something that gave me a new picture on the Holocaust. It was the story of a baby named Gerhard Kretschmar.
Gerhard Kretschmar was a German child born blind, with either no legs or one leg, and with one arm. His parents, both Nazis, petitioned Hitler to allow him to be euthanased. Hitler consented, and on 25 July 1939, Gerhard was murdered. In October 1939, Hitler signed a “euthanasia decree” backdated to 1 September 1939 that set up the programme of involuntary euthanasia now known as Aktion T4.
Aktion T4 was the true beginning of the Holocaust. A lot of the excuses (I refuse to call them justfications) for the program were also applied to the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and other “undesirables”. Advertisements depicting the disabled as a drain on resources were run. Many of the technologies later used in the Death Camps were first implemented in Aktion T4. The term “Life unworthy of life” was first used to refer to the physically and mentally disabled. After strong protests by the German Catholic and Protestant churches, on 24 August 1941 Hitler ordered T4 cancelled. Despite this, the murders continued right up till the end of the war. The last victim of Aktion T4, Richard Jenne, was murdered on 29 May 1945.
In 1944, an Austrian psychiatrist named Hans Asperger described autism. Asperger’s Syndrome is now used for high-functioning autistic individuals. It has been hypothesised that Asperger played up the advantages of autism to safeguard his patients and prevent them from being killed. I find this plausible. It is almost certain that Asperger, as a psychiatrist, would have been aware of Aktion T4 and what it entailed.
In 2014, the German National Memorial to the people with disabilities murdered by the Nazis was dedicated. Once again, the disabled were the first to be persecuted and the last to be commemorated.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A possible explanation for “Refrigerator Mothers”

And I’m back.
Yes, I know that I said I was done, but after several people who are close to me expressed their worries, I decided to hold off dropping blogging. And then this article appeared in my Facebook feed.

A “hidden pool” of women who have grown up with undiagnosed autism is coming to light as mothers researching their children’s spectrum disorders recognise themselves in their findings.

“There are far more undiagnosed mothers out there than we have ever thought,” said Dr Judith Gould, lead consultant and former director of the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism who developed the first and only female-specific diagnostic tests, and who trains doctors in how to recognise late adult female diagnosis.

When autism became known, one of the things that was blamed for causing it was the “refrigerator mother”. The belief was that emotionally distant mothers caused their children to become autistic.
I’ve long wondered if the reason behind this mistaken belief was because in several cases the mothers were themselves autistic and thus a little socially inept. I suspect this would appear to a psychologist or psychiatrist as coldness. This article seems to support my hypothesis.

Posted in Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged

A few last words, and goodbye

Earlier this year, I put up a page for antivaccine P.R.A.T.T.s (Points Refuted A Thousand Times). A few minutes ago, I added two more (the “Amish Anomaly” and the “Susceptible Subgroup”). This is almost certain to be the last time I do that.
Very often, I would read something related to the topics I blog about and would want to post on it, but by the time I had time to blog, the window of opportunity had closed. There is so much I could still blog about. The live trials of an HIV Vaccine which will be held in South Africa. Rogue One. Sepp Blatter’s ban from sports administration. Kirsten Nematandani and other SAFA officials also getting banned for match fixing. Yet I’ve learnt that the best time to leave the stage is when everyone is still cheering.
So on that note, goodbye.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Background Data | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

That’s all. I’m out.

This is my Farewell Post. I’m done.
In January 2010, I read a news report while googling news stories about autism and autistics. A gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield had been found guilty of misconduct for a case study he’d done on 12 autistic patients. Also found guilty were John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch. Curious, I researched more. I found that there were two viewpoints on Wakefield. Some regarded him as a hero crushed for taking on a bent system. Others saw him as a charlatan who had got what he deserved. As I researched more, I came to realise that the latter view was correct. Wakefield had been hired by lawyers to find evidence linking the MMR Triple Vaccine to autism. To obtain it, he subjected twelve autistic children to invasive tests – lumbar punctures; colonoscopies; blood draws. Despite this, the data didn’t yield the results he wanted, so he distorted it. He also tried to set up companies to profit from scaring people away from MMR.
I also learnt that despite the overwhelming evidence of vaccines’ efficacy and safety, there were people who feared and vilified them. They believed that vaccines were more dangerous than the diseases they prevented. To justify their beliefs, they fitted the evidence to them instead of the other way round. They abused and even threatened those who supported vaccines. They insisted that vaccines were responsible for all sorts of ills. They also hijacked autism advocacy and used the lies of Andrew Wakefield to steer research away from things that could assist autistics and to vaccine causation.
I became angry, and that anger motivated me to speak out. So in May of 2010, I set up my first blog. It was called “African Jungle” and it was on the domain. The “Jungle” was a nickname given to me. My tagline was “A blog on Autism, Anti-antivaccination and life by a South African Autist”. A lot of people on other sites could not access iBlog (it seems that in some areas, .za domain sites are blocked), so I created another blog on the WordPress domain.
My first series of posts were background data. After Wakefield released his “case study” in 1998, people in the U.S. approached the Vaccine Compensation Programme to win awards for vaccines causing their children’s autism. I also posted about how journalist Brian Deer exposed Wakefield as a fraud and liar.
Some 5000 families approached Vaccine Court. To expedite proceedings, the Special Masters whose job it is to make rulings in Vaccine Court combined the families into the Omnibus Autism Proceedings (OAP). The lawyers became the Petitioners’ Steering Committee, and were tasked with selecting the best candidates to use in Test Cases. Had the candidates been successful, autism would have become a Table Injury and automatically qualified for compensation. In the end, all six Test Cases lost resoundingly, with the Special Masters heavily criticising the petitioners’ “experts” and “theories” of causation. The Test Cases fared just as well on appeal, with higher courts upholding the Special Masters’ verdicts.
In 2010, some well-meaning but misguided people put forward a “Communication Shutdown”. The idea was that on November 1 2010, people would stop using electronic communications for 24 hours in support of autistics. This was stupid, as electronic communication forms like blogging and social networks are a boon to autistics. Kathryn Bjornstatd and Corina Becker proposed “Autistics Speaking Day”. The idea was that on November 1st, autistic bloggers and social networkers would post. I was one of the bloggers who posted that day. The counter-idea worked so well it became a yearly occurrence. I have posted on November 1 every year since then.
I’ve written and published 268 posts in total over the last six and a half years. And it’s become tedious.
I’ve spoken about the same things over and over again. The stupidity and mendacity of antivaccinationists. Parents murdering their autistic children. Sensory Processing Disorder. The films I’ve seen. Testing software. My work testing software. Seeing Tori Amos live in 2011. My presentations to the Special Interest Group in Software Testing (SIGiST). SIGiST Presentations I’ve attended. Politics, including the corruption riddling South Africa. Vaccines. Children too young to be vaccinated and those intentionally not vaccinated dying of vaccine preventable diseases. Antivaccinationism starting and flourishing in South Africa. People from history who may have been autistic. The ableist and dead wrong belief that autistics have such terrible lives that death is sometimes better. The failures of “Autism Speaks” advocacy. And I’m done.
I’m tired and fed up. I’m done with saying the same things over and over. I’m done with banging my head against a wall.
ETA: I mentioned my Twitter Account @AfricJungle. I’ve deleted that too.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Background Data, Fun Stuff, Life, Segue, Software, Work | Tagged

SSPE claims another young life

I learnt this very sad news from the “Just the Vaxx” website.
Aliana, a child suffering from SSPE, passed away last month.
Aliana was born in 2010 and caught Measles at just six months old. She appeared to recover fully, but in 2014 SSPE was diagnosed. Now, a little over two years later, she has died.
What angers me is the persistent self-deception I have seen antivaxxers engage in. They say that Measles is harmless in a well-nourished child. That getting Measles helps with children’s development. That vaccines are ineffective and harmful, more so than the diseases they prevent. And finally, that if a child dies from Measles there must have been something wrog with him/her. Aliana’s story gives the lie to this hogwash. She was a healthy child born in a First-World country with excellent quality of life.
I feel for Aliana’s family. They had to watch while their happy, healthy, lively daughter lost her abilities. They could do nothing while she entered an irreversible decline. They were subjected to a wait of more than two years until the inevitable occurred and she succumbed.
I am so frustrated. I have beaten the drum over and over, and still tragedies like this occur. Vaccines are safe and effective, and the diseases they protect against are killers even today.
Get vaccinated.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination | Tagged , ,

Not done yet, but…

I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.
Blogging, I mean.
In a few days, I turn 40. All that talk about staying “forever young” is naive bullshit. Even if you live an exceptionally healthy life, as you get older, your energy falls and you have to make decisions about how and where you’re going to apply it.
I’ve been blogging for over six years now. In January 2010, I read of a gastroenterologist named Andrew Wakefield, who had been found guilty of gross misconduct in a hearing held by the United Kingdom’s General Medical Council. As I learnt more about the case and about antivaccine views in general, I felt I could no longer remain silent, so in May 2010 I set up my first blog on South Africa’s iBlog website. It was called African Jungle. Several people had problems viewing iBlog as some areas appear to block South African websites, so in November 2010 I set up a sister blog on WordPress named Autism Jungle (the African Jungle name was for some reason unavailable on the WordPress domain). Currently, African Jungle is one of the most popular blogs on iBlog, and consistently features in the “Most Popular” list. Quite often, it is the top blog. Thank you dear readers.
Over the last six and a half years, answering antivaccine commentators around the ‘Net has become tedious and repetitious. They have precious few talking points, all of which I’ve seen and seen disproven multiple times. In fact, I’ve written a page (P.R.A.T.T.s) listing and refuting their most common claims.
I might just be feeling this way because 2016 has been a bad year for me generally. In July, Neotel started having problems with their Network. Data rates were terrible. On numerous occasions, I would open a page, it would start loading, and then bomb out because Neotel’s network failed to transmit any data. As someone who uses the internet for entertainment a lot, this stressed me out. The issue persisted until quite recently. Eventually, I tweeted about it (I tweet at @AfricJungle, if you’re interested). Neotel responded and asked for more information. I sent them proof of their shocking data speeds. To their credit, Neotel appears to have fixed the issue, but I’m monitoring things.
I lost my job. By a sheer stroke of amazing good luck, I was able to get another and spent a grand total of one weekend unemployed. I’m financially secure, but any change in job is stressful, and right now I am feeling very stressed.
I’m also very worried for the future. In November, Donald Trump won the election and will become the next President of the United States of America. Trump treats women as little more than living sex toys, has said the most astonishingly racist things about various ethnicities, and holds mindblowingly ignorant views on global warming and vaccines causing autism. I fear that he will disrupt plans to tackle global warming, with disastrous effects for all humanity.
In South Africa, it appears that the plan to build Nuclear Reactors will be going ahead no matter what. This is in the face of evidence from the Government’s own Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that electricity from renewables and gas will be far cheaper and will adequately fulfill all our needs, including baseload and off-peak. It is abundantly clear that the Nuclear Build is being pushed because of the potential for bribery. The build will cost over R1,000,000,000,000 and take years, even decades, to come on line. If the corrupt succeed in pushing this through, South Africa will go bankrupt.
Two voices in the blogging community I like have gone silent. Matt of “Dude, I’m an Aspie” last posted in January. Krebiozen regularly commented at Respectful Insolence but his last comment was on February 28, and nothing since then. I hope that for both the reason they are silent is that they’re too busy, but few people go silent for that long without saying goodbye unless something bad has happened to them.
Maybe I’m just having a bad time. I believe that the second wisest words ever said were “and this too shall pass”. Good times don’t last forever, but neither do the bad.
If I decide to stop blogging, I will put up a farewell post.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Autistics’ Speaking Day: Autism in South Africa – an opportunity lost

[This is an edited version of an article I wrote two years ago.]
South Africa is a nation with a Constitution hailed as one of the most progressive in the world. It states that discrimination on the grounds of Race, Religion, Gender, Sexual Orientation and physical and mental disability is prohibited. With that, one would think that Autistics in South Africa are quite well off in comparison with other countries. Sadly, that is not the case. The state’s capacity to uphold the rights of the disabled has been undermined by historic factors, bad recent choices and current realities.
In 1948, the National Party won the General Election and introduced apartheid. This was a system of laws intended to discriminate against non-white South Africans. Skilled, highly paid jobs were reserved for whites only. Non-whites were given inferior facilities, treatment and education. Black South Africans had it the worst but Indian South Africans and Coloureds (mixed-race South Africans) also faced discrimination.
In the 1960’s the international community began placing sanctions on South Africa to force the government to abandon apartheid. Various boycotts were applied. Research and technologies were no longer shared with South African scientists and institutions. Despite this, apartheid persisted until F.W. De Klerk became president in 1989. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison and in 1994 he became South Africa’s first ever democratically elected president. In 1996, Mandela signed South Africa’s Constitution into law.
As the Constitution proclaims the rights of the disabled, the state is supposed to enforce them. Due to our racist past, the priority has been to rectify race based inequalities. This has often been at the expense of the rights of other marginalised groups, particularly the disabled.
Because of the sanctions applied during apartheid, a lot of research into autism did not reach South Africa. In addition, technologies that could have helped autistics were prevented from coming here. Apple briefly had a presence in South Africa before disinvesting. It returned after the end of apartheid and has a full scale presence now. This is fortunate, as Apple products, especially the iPad, have been used in teaching autistics.
The Key School, founded in 1973, is the oldest school for autistic children in South Africa. In 2011, it pioneered the use of iPads as aids for autistics in South Africa. In 2012, it nearly had to close down due to a lack of funding. The National Lottery Fund initially refused help, then reconsidered. The Els Foundation and Oppenheimer Memorial Trust also gave funding.
One of the downsides of South Africa’s reintegration into the world community is that antivaccination propaganda has begun springing up. An increasing number of comments making false claims about vaccines (including the nonexistent correlation between vaccination and autism) have shown up on local news websites. Some have repeated the “Bill Gates admitted that vaccines are to depopulate the world” lie. Disreputable sources of “information” like Natural News have also been cited.
The situation of autism awareness and accommodation in South Africa is the story of an opportunity lost. When I think back to my childhood, I know that things are far better now than they were then. However, I am also keenly aware that they are not nearly as good as they could have been.

Posted in Autism Awareness | Tagged , , ,