The August SitP Tour

The folks at Edinburgh Skeptics have been organising a skeptics on the fringe festival since 2010 and have seen fit to ask me to do my talk on definitions of autism, interventions, cultural representations and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) on August 22nd, 2012.

I’m also booked to speak at Royal Tunbridge Wells Skeptics, Brighton Skeptics and Horsham Skeptics in August and I turn 27 on the 9th, so it will be a very busy month indeed!

UPDATE:  booked at Nottingham for September 4th. 

As the information on the Skeptics on the Fringe website points visitors to this here website, I thought I’d provide a bit more information on what I’m going to be talking about and why. Dates, links and details of the upcoming August dates are at the end of the post.

Studying and working

In 2004 I was studying psychology and noticed a sign on the uni psychology noticeboard about ABA. I was learning about Skinnerian behaviourism at the time and doing a module that included Autism on the syllabus. I’d seen the film Rainman and had a few ideas about what Autism was. I was also vaguely aware of the MMR vaccines scandal but wasn’t fully aware, at that point, how bad it was or would get.

I applied to be a tutor for the child, (who I’ll call Jack, to preserve his anonymity) and started learning more about ABA. I was very lucky and, I feel, privileged to work with such a delightful, wonderful child. Jack completely confounded all my expectations about what Autism is and I loved working with him. I worked with Jack until he went to a mainstream nursery and his available one-to-one home tutoring time clashed with my lectures and seminars.

Getting skeptical

In 2008 I left Cambridge to come back to Reigate, where I still live, and embarked on a period of self-employed work as a freelance writer, editor and part-time ABA tutor. In 2011 I joined Guildford Skeptics, which I now run. It was after I started identifying as a ‘skeptic’, in around 2010, after finding the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe and Skeptics with a K podcasts, that I started realising that some of the interventions and ‘treatments’ that many Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) children were undergoing were pseudoscientific, often actively harmful and sometimes downright dangerous. And I got angry. The list is almost endless, but treatments involve Acupuncture, Ayurvedic, Chinese Medicine, Chiropractic, Chelation*, Homeopathy, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy* (HBOT), Holding/Hugging Therapy, Energy Medicine, Facilitated Communication,  Secretin* and Lupron*.

* Chelation, HBOT, Secretin and Lupron are the treatments I’ve chosen to focus on for my talk.

Taking action against quacks

One evening I resolved to do something about it, even if it was just raising awareness, and my idea for a three-part talk was born. The first part of my talk is about the results from 700 people who completed my autism survey. In a further post, sometime in the near future, I will present my results in full, but not before I present them live, on stage, at Horsham, Brighton, Edinburgh and Tunbridge Wells (date of the latter yet to be confirmed).

I’ve now done my talk twice – at Guildford and at Hackney and I’ve had some good feedback from some ASD people and from some representatives from HiPHackney, an  independent forum for parents and carers of children with disabilities in Hackney:

Hackney skeptics tweeted: I gather lots of you were here for the first time and were coming more for autism than skepticism? Hip Hackney tweeted: through the ASD grapevine locally. We run a forum for parents of kids with disabilities; a couple of parents saw your poster. Hip Hackney tweeted: yes but maybe not for the last time! ASD parents need skeptics! Well done for spreading awareness through evidence. Hip Hackney tweeted: @HackneySitp @tannice_ yes massive thanks to Tannice. She did an amazing job dealing with all us obsessive ASD parents. Well done all. HipHackney tweeted: in reply to @RDGrainger (how did the skeptics talk go?) just fab - she did a great job - all about the evidence really. Some treatments for ASD are nothing more than child abuse...

Image has Alt Text or click here to read the tweets pictured above.

If you represent a charity or organisation for children with disabilities or a specific group for Autism, please do get in contact as I have further plans afoot. Watch this space and, if you can, come along to see my talk on any of these dates:

Talk dates

August 2, Tunbridge Wells, The Grey Lady

August 13, Horsham, The Tanner’s Arms

August 14, Brighton, Caroline of Brunswick (ticketed event)

August 22: Edinburgh Skeptics on the Fringe, Banshee Labyrinth 

September 4: Nottingham Skeptics, Fellows Morton and Clayton (details not on website as yet)