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Thomas Armstrong
I'm an educator, psychologist, and author of 14 books on learning and human development, including my forthcoming Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain DIfferences.
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The following review of my book Neurodiversity appeared in the April 26, 2010 edition of Publisher's Weekly: Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences Thomas Armstrong. Da Capo, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7382-1354-5 "Armstrong (7 Kinds of Smart), an educational consultant turned author, argues that there is no “normal” brain or “normal” mental capability and that we are making a serious mistake in assuming that the kinds of differences we see in people with conditions like autism or dyslexia involve only deficits. People with these conditions also have strengths, he emphasizes, and by focusing on... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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An article in the New York Times yesterday reported that neurodiversity advocate Ari Ne'eman's nomination to the National Council on Disability was being held up in the U.S. Senate because of an anonymous hold placed by one or more senators. While it is not certain as to why the nomination is being opposed, it may be reasonably supposed to be due to the fact that Ne'eman's support of an "accept-us-for-who-we-are" perspective has rattled conservative forces in the autism community who operate according to a "find the cure" methodology similar to that used in campaigns to fight heart disease, cancer, and... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Mar 15, 2010
Your statement about neurodiversity being a threat to intelligence tests is right on. You probably are familiar with Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, which attacks the notion of I.Q. and suggests that everyone has at least eight intelligences (e.g. words, logic, music, the body, social, emotion, nature, spatial). Thinking about the neurodiversity of people with intellectual disabilities, for example, raises the question, in which intelligence(s) are they disabled. Usually not in all of them, so it provides the possibility of identifying strengths in some intelligence areas. This also applies to autism or dyslexia, which shows strengths in spatial (picture thinking) intelligence. I go into a lot of this in my book Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences, which will be out in May 2010. One of neurodiversity's greatest strengths is that it focuses on strengths!
Toggle Commented Mar 8, 2010 on Smart Magic at The Standard Review
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I want to thank the readers who have come from the CRSTE Cyberconference, and especially those who made comments on my posts, for participating in this i-event. The comments have all been very positive and insightful. One commenter, for example, suggested that while the Industrial Revolution marginalized people with disabilities, the Technological Revolution puts them right back in the game. We've noted that a neurodiverse classroom is a classroom that has a wide range of technological tools to enable individuals, whatever their disability, to access information and express their acquisition of knowledge effectively. These tools include touch screen technology, virtual... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Back in the early 1970's, I remember reading a book by George Leonard (who just passed away last month) called Education and Ecstasy. The book was in part a futuristic look at education. In one section, children faced a giant screen and all they had to do was touch it and they could learn practically anything they wanted. Clearly Leonard (who, by the way, helped "invent" the 1960's consciousness revolution), was peering into the future. The internet has come and provided us with access to knowledge in a way unparalleled in human history. And increasingly, touch screen technology has provided... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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An article appeared this last week in the New York Times, that attempted to answer the question: why is depression still in the gene pool if it leads to despair and even suicide? I was very interested in the piece because I've suffered from depression since adolescence, and believe me, it's been no picnic. The author cited some authorities that have been using evolutionary psychology to come up with an explanation of why and how depression might have some role in helping human beings adapt to the stresses of being human. The main idea proposed was that mental rumination during... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Yesterday we looked at the impact that Universal Design for Learning tools can have for a neurodiversity classroom. Today, we examine the role that assistive technologies can have in promoting "niche construction" for neurodiverse brains. As we noted in our earlier post on neurodiversity and niche construction, one critical ingredient in improving the lives of those with mental health labels (e.g. autism, dyslexia, schizophrenia etc.), involves creating an environment or "niche" that meshes with the way in which those individuals' brains work. In other words, rather than having to adapt to a given environment, the environment is made to adapt... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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What does neurodiversity look like in a classroom? First, it provides an inclusive membership, where people of all labels and those without labels are able to learn together. In order to bring this about, we need to abandon the "one size fits all" mentality that has guided education for too many years. Instead of a cookie cutter classroom, we need to craft a dynamically integrated approach that provides many different ways for students to absorb and express their knowledge of the curriculum. A key tool in this endeavor is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL originally emerged from the fields... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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In my forthcoming book Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and Other Brain Differences, I explore the idea of niche construction as a way of thinking about neurodiversity. When I suggest that neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism or ADHD, might have been labeled gifted in other times and in other cultures, the quick retort is: "Well, we don't live in other times or cultures. People have to adapt to the culture they're in right now." So what does the person who is a round peg have to do to fit into a square hole? Answer:... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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On Friday, February 12, 2010 Temple Grandin presented at the cutting-edge TED Conference in Long Beach, California. She shared some unique insights about being autistic, putting special emphasis on the ability to think in pictures and to home in on details, and illustrating these points with stories from her own life, including her work as an engineer/inventor of machinery to handle cattle. She expressed her concern that the gifts some children on the autism spectrum have, which might lead to a career in Silicon Valley, could be lost if parents or the schools focus only on what they can't do.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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I was a special education teacher for several years, and during my time teaching, I became aware that not enough emphasis was being placed on the strengths of children who had been sent to my special classes. This made me resolve to do some research, and I had the opportunity to do this when I did my doctoral work at the California Institute of Integral Studies. I focused on the strengths of children labeled learning disabled, because that was the label I most often saw in my special ed classes. I used Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences as a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Yesterday I talked about "blurring the boundaries" in categories (e.g. learning disabled, gifted etc.). As one participant in our cyberconference put it: " Nobody experiences disability 100% of the time, in every situation; nor is someone ALWAYS "gifted and talented". Consequently, from a lived perspective, from a contextually rich perspective, labels don't really have a place. There are just unique students with their unique strengths and weaknesses, which change dynamically when they are applied to specific situations. The idea of labeling, then, is an artifice. It's something that we place ON TOP of the contextually rich child to accomplish specific... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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I'm happy to have received some comments already from participants in the CRSTE Cyberconference 2010, and would like to make some reflections on them in this post. One issue that came up was the deficit-oriented paradigm that is too often used in special education. One participant shared the experience of a friend who had attended special education as follows: "They thought I was bad at something, so they tested me to find exactly how bad I was at it, and then spent the next years of my life making me do what I was bad at as much as possible."... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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I want to wish a hearty welcome to participants in the CRSTE CyberConference 2010. What we're going to do over the next few days (with the exception of three days on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday when I travel to speak in Atlanta) is explore the concept of neurodiversity. This is a relatively new word, coined around ten years ago. It emerged from the autism community as a way to speak up for the rights of the "differently wired." Up until now, the word has been used primarily on blog sites concerned with issues related to autism. However, even those in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Over the past sixty years, we’ve witnessed a phenomenal growth in the number of new psychiatric illnesses. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, first published in 1952, originally listed about 100 categories of illness. By the year 2000, that number had tripled. We’ve become accustomed to hearing in the news about “learning disabilities,” “ADHD,” “Asperger’s syndrome,” and other conditions that were virtually unheard of fifty years ago. A report from the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that about one-fourth of the American population suffers from a psychiatric disorder in any given year, and an article in the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Public release date: 1-Feb-2010 [ Print | E-mail | Share ] [ Close Window ] [ Close Window ] Contact: G. Paul Amminger, M.D. gpamminger@gmail.com JAMA and Archives Journals Individuals at extremely high risk of developing psychosis appear less likely to develop psychotic disorders following a 12-week course of fish oil capsules containing long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. "Early treatment in schizophrenia and other psychoses has been linked to better outcomes," the authors write as background information in the article. "Given that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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TV movie 'Temple Grandin' traces passion, perseverance of autistic genius By Cassandra Szklarski (CP) – 23 hours ago TORONTO — When actress Catherine O'Hara came face-to-face with the remarkable woman whose life story is told in the made-for-TV movie, "Temple Grandin," she says she was overcome with a desire to hug the brilliant scientist. Trouble is, she knew that Grandin's autism meant she had an intense aversion to being touched. "When you hear her story, you really do, you just want to hug this woman," the gregarious O'Hara exclaims during a recent stop in Toronto to promote the film. "Just... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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A recent interview on the blog Technoccult with neurodiversity advocate Kassiane (she didn't wish to give her last name), highlighted some key points about neurodiversity. In defining neurodiversity, she made an important distinction between the word and the movement, explaining: "Neurodiversity, the word, simply means the whole variety of different brain wirings people have…from the different kinds of normal to the different kinds of not so normal. Then there’s Neurodiversity, the movement which is the shocking idea that people with non standard wiring are human and deserve to be treated as such without being “fixed” first." Also significant was her... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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A new interview with autistic cattle expert Temple Grandin, the subject of a new biopic on HBO, reveals her own reactions while on the set of the movie. “I was very involved in the cattle parts of the movie to make sure that was all accurate,” Grandin said. “They bought 32 head of nice Angus feeder calves for the movie. They bought really nice Angus heifers. They had a guy train them so they wouldn’t freak out on the set.” She observed people working on the set and speculated that many of them probably had Aspergers syndrome. “Down on the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
Thomas Armstrong is now following Cathie Bird
Feb 1, 2010
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While autistic individuals are known to suffer from deficits in social communication, it is less often recognized that they possess specific strengths in other areas. One strength relates to their ability to see details. In fact, they can pick out details in a more complex visual design better than so-called "neuro-typical (e.g. "normal") people (see examples at left). In studies of the Embedded Figures Task, people with autism (and "normal" males) are faster and perform better than control subjects. In a sense, one can say that they have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees, but they are much better... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Temple Grandin is probably the most famous autistic person living today. Her life will be chronicled on an HBO special starting in February, 2010. Among her many achievements is the development of a "squeeze machine." Because of her autism, she resists the touch of others and doesn't like to be hugged. But she craves the feeling of being held. When she was eighteen, during a summer vacation, she saw a herd of cattle being passed through a squeeze chute (a mechanism used to keep cattle still while a veterinarian gives them their antibiotic shots). "Watching those cattle calm down, I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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Starting on Feburary 6, 2010, HBO will lauch a new biopic starring Golden Globe award winner Claire Danes, based on the life of Temple Grandin, designer of livestock machinery, best-selling author, and autistic individual. Grandin has punctured the stereotype of autism as a disorder locking a person into isolation from the rest of the world. Instead, Grandin is articulate, inventive (she has designed roughly one third of the machinery used to manage animals in slaughterhouses around the country), and a strong supporter of neurodiversity, or the idea that autism and other mental disorders should be viewed as part of the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book
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T he Economist had an article in its September 28, 2006 issue that featured a California psychiatry professor who used the Internet to demonstrate the inner experience of schizophrenia: "Peter Yellowlees, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Davis, has been teaching about schizophrenia for 20 years, but says that he was never really able to explain to his students just how their patients suffer. So he went online, downloaded some free software and entered Second Life... Mr. Yellowlees created hallucinations. A resident might walk through a virtual hospital ward, and a picture on the wall would suddenly... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2010 at Neurodiversity - The Book