Autistry Studios Newsletter – June 29, 2009

| June 29, 2009

We will not have workshops over the July 4th weekend but … as so many of you have asked if you could come over we will be having a Drop In Session on Sunday July 5th from 12 – 2pm. Please let us know if you are coming so we can have plenty of cold drinks in the fridge and enough cookies to go around!

Dan’s Build Stuff Workshops are going great. All the projects are moving toward completion – a ways to go yet but well on their way!

We are thinking about having a small gathering at the end of the summer to showcase all the projects to friends and family. We may do it here at the house. So think about how you would like to display your projects and who you might like to invite. We will be asking everyone to help organize this event. In September Autistry Studios (formerly known as The Barn Project) will be one year old so maybe we can think of the event as a birthday party!

Nate’s July Filmmaking Workshop will begin on Monday, July 6th. Classes will be Monday and Wednesday 10am to 2pm. This should be lots of fun!

We didn’t get enough folks signed up for Jen’s July Workshop so we’ll do another Fabric/Fine Arts Workshop in the fall. Maybe we’ll do a Costuming class leading into Halloween!

Dan has been thinking (a dangerous past time I know!) about new project ideas. To see some of the things he has in mind go to: Project Ideas . Click on the title of each blog post to read the full blog and to see the photos.

We have new photos:

Friday Build Stuff Workshop
Sunday Build Stuff Workshop

Have a great 4th of July! Janet, Dan, Nate and Jen

Project idea: Puddle Duck Racer sailboats

| June 24, 2009

Puddle-Duck Racers (also PDRacers or just PDR) are a class of racing sailboat designed to be easy to build and sail.


Because they are required to be less than 8 feet in length and sail powered they do not require registration in California.

Official Site for the class
Puddle Duck Racer at Wikipedia
Free Boat Plans

Project idea: fan-powered skateboard

| June 23, 2009

Oh my. This looks dangerous (and fun). A skateboard powered by a 3.7 HP model airplane engine.

Propeller Powered Skateboard – Test Day! from Crazy Builders on Vimeo. Another cool project found at the MAKE blog.

Project idea: back yard “yurt” hideaway

| June 19, 2009

I knew someone that had a yurt in their back yard where they would go to be “away” from things — telephones, computers, TV, family, etc.

I thought this was just a little weird. Maybe it’s just that it is so… overt. After all, I know I need some alone time each week or I get pretty cranky.

Anyway, I’ve always loved the idea of little out buildings: tree houses, sheds, gazebos.

I love these high-tech camping cabins by British architect Philip Crewe.



Project idea: things to do with old TVs

| June 19, 2009

As you upgrade to digital and HD in your house those old TV sets can make cool projects.


We are down to one 13-inch “old” (non-digital) TV set in the house. I also have a Samsung 17-inch LCD monitor that is an old-style analog tuner.

As Usual, MAKE Magazine has bunches of projects:

Ask MAKE: surplus TVs from the DTV switch

Halloween projects… for your TV!

Autistry Studios Newsletter – June 18, 2009

| June 18, 2009

Time Warp! It’s been 2 weeks since the last Newsletter. We’ve been crazy busy around here with the end of school, getting ready for summer sessions and other time consuming stuff. But we have had two good weekends of workshops and the projects are all moving forward.

Thank you for the wonderful letters of support. And a big thank you to Kitty (also known as Phoebe’s mom) for her help in getting these done. We managed to pull the grant together and get it to the post office by the due date – Monday! We will be writing more grant proposals in the coming weeks so if you wanted to write a letter and just didn’t have time feel free to send the letters in and we’ll keep them for the next round.

Nate is on vacation but the Saturday class will be meeting this week anyway – that’ll teach him to go out of town!

Nate’s July Filmmaking class (Mon/Wed) is now full. He would consider opening another class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As usual all classes are limited to 4 students.

We still have space available in Jen’s July workshop (Tuesday and Thursdays, 2pm – 6pm). If you know any teens/young adults who would like to make cosplay costumes or work in Polymer clay have them call Janet: 415-235-3217.

REMINDER: Dan’s Sunday Workshop now meets (by popular demand) from 12:00 – 4:00

Dan’s two workshops will continue through Sunday August 2nd. There will be no workshops on the weekend of July 4th.

Dan has been busy blogging on the Autistry Studios site – check out his latest: ASD or just typical male (or typical teenager) behavior?

Photos from the Weekends:

Friday Build Stuff Workshop

Saturday Filmmaking Workshop

Sunday Build Stuff Workshop

See you all on the weekend, Janet, Dan, Nick and Jen

ASD or just typical male (or typical teenager) behavior?

| June 18, 2009

Are many of the issues we identify as part of Autistic Spectrum Disorder really just typical male or typical teenager/young adult behavior? Emily Bracken recently posted an article at the Huffington Post Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) Or Typical Male Behavior (TMB)?

Now, I don’t mean to belittle those with Aspie -as it’s known in the lay-community, but to me, these “symptoms” sound a lot like the characteristics of your average, red meat-eating American male.

As I read Bracken’s article I was intitially irritated and then increasingly amused because she actually identifies some painful truths. When we meet with others and discuss our experiences with ASD I almost always hear back:

“But *I* (“normal” person speaking) do [insert ASD behavior] too.”

Which carries the obvious unspoken:

“And *I* am not handicapped by this behavior — so what’s the problem??”

Bracken’s article is doing the same thing, point by point.

Bad social skills?
Poor listeners?
Intense focus on things or activities (or work) at the expense of relationships?
Typical Male Behavior (I add: Typical Teenager Behavior.)

This is funny because it is painfully TRUE.

It is a question of degree and success

Here’s the thing: Typical Male Behavior is SUCCESSFUL. It is rewarded. the guy gets the girl. The guy gets the promotion. The guy builds a company.

When someone has ASD what we are talking about is how these behaviors occur to an extent and in a way that they cause the man or woman to be completely UNSUCCESSFUL.

To me the most painful thing about ASD is that it very often causes complete failure in the very things the person with ASD may want the most and in areas the person clearly has talent.

These failures are not only painful for the person with ASD but these failures in areas where the ASD person clearly has interest and talent are what family members, teachers, and friends find the most frustrating and confusing.

A person with ASD may love drawing or painting or building things but cannot manage to complete (or even start) any real work.

A person with ASD may feel very lonely but is unable to initiate or negotiate healthy relationships.

Autistic Spectrum Disorders are real, they cause real failure and real unhappiness.

“But, ASD is just a label. Surely you just need to try HARDER and everything will be fine.”

ASD *IS* just a label but it gives you insight into where the difficulties will lie and where you should push to be the most sucessful.

I like to think of ASD as a fortess around the mind. The ASD diagnosis gives you a diagram of where the walls will be thickest — where you will be wasting your time. The ASD diagnosis also tells you where you can push and gain entry and make progress.

We have always felt that the student’s interests are the best place to make progress and work hard. The students WANT to succeed at what they love doing.

Our attitude in our work with teenagers and young adults with ASD at Autistry Studios is that focusing on gaining success in the activities where the students have interest and talent is the path toward happiness and success.

Project ideas: cool kind-of steam punk cars and robots

| June 17, 2009

Found at MAKE blog: Baron Margo makes all kinds of whimsical metal objects of art.

see more at

David Kirby: seven studies to watch

| June 15, 2009

David kirby in Huffington Post comments on Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Christopher Smith’s (R-NJ) calls on HHS to fund comparative studies on vaccinated vs. un-vaccinated children but i think the most interesting part of the article is tacked on at the end:

Seven studies to watch


1) The National CADDRE Study — This 5-year project of the CDC’s Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) Network will “help identify what might put children at risk for autism,” the CDC says. Among those risk factors: “specific mercury exposures, including any vaccine use by the mother during pregnancy and the child’s vaccine exposures after birth.”

2) The National Children’s Study – This HHS-EPA joint effort will investigate “the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States,” including autism. As part of their work researchers will track medical records, including vaccinations and their impact on neorodevelopment.

3) The Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) – This network of NIH agencies (NIEHS, NICHD, NIMH, NINDS) and affiliated sites will follow 1,200 pregnant women who already have a child with autism, to identify the “earliest possible environmental risk factors and their interplay with genetic susceptibility during the prenatal, neonatal and early postnatal periods.” Potential risk factors in the study include vaccines, thimerosal, and heavy metals.


On June 2, 2009, the Federal Government’s National Vaccine Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend a sweeping list of vaccine safety studies, including four related to vaccines and autism. The CDC had previously proposed studying autism as a “clinical outcome” of vaccination, and NVAC concurred. The document can be viewed at:

4) Study the Feasibility of Comparing Vaccinated, Unvaccinated and Alternatively Vaccinated Children – NVAC recommended asking an expert panel, such at the Institute of Medicine, to weigh in on the strengths, weaknesses, ethical issues and costs of studying and comparing vaccinated, unvaccinated, and “alternatively vaccinated” groups of children for a number of disorders – including autism. Prospective clinical trials, where children would be randomized into vaccinated and placebo groups, would be unethical.

But NVAC suggested one publicly submitted idea to conduct an “observational study” looking at, “natural variation in vaccination schedules, including some children where vaccination is declined through parental intent.”

5) Study Vaccine-Mitochondria-Autism Links – “Recent developments around mitochondrial dysfunction reinforce the importance of studies of vaccine adverse events in rigorously defined subsets of the ASD spectrum,” the NVAC wrote. The rate of mitochondrial dysfunction in autism has been estimated at somewhere between 7%-to-30% of all ASD children. “Mitochondrial dysfunction carries an established risk of brain damage subsequent to infectious disease,” the NVAC wrote. “Thus, a small and specific subset of the general population (such as those with mitochondrial dysfunction) may be at elevated risk of reduced neurological functioning, possibly including developing ASD, subsequent to live virus vaccination.”

6) Study Vaccines and Regressive Autism – “In the context of vaccination research, the ASD clinical subset of particular interest is regressive autism” the NVAC wrote. Estimates of ASD regression range from about 15 to 50% of all ASD cases, depending on the definition used. “Regressive autism does fit the recommendations of the IOM (immunization) committee for further research in rigorously defined subsets of ASD,” the NVAC said. Such studies might entail, “prospective vaccination response profiling in siblings of children with regressive ASD, a subpopulation who are at higher risk.”

7) Study Vaccine Injuries and the Risk of Autism – Another autism subpopulation that should be included in vaccine studies is what the NVAC called “the intersection of ASD cases with (clearly defined vaccine outcomes) such as fever, febrile seizure, or hypotonic-hypo-responsive episode (HHE).” Do these adverse effects correlate with ASD? “It would be worthwhile to assess,” the NVAC wrote. “On a molecular level, it might be feasible to compare ASD cases with history of adverse events following immunization against cognitively normal controls with a similar history of adverse events, to assess whether there are significant differences in immune response profiles between groups.”

Going gluten-free at age 13

| June 15, 2009

NPR had a piece this morning about a boy who found he had celiac disease at age 13 and needed to go on a gluten-free diet. They noted that there are many more products available today to help provide a “normal” assortment of foods like sandwiches and cookies.

We have been on a Gluten Free Casein Free (GF-CF) diet for over ten years and have found it to be well worth the effort. GF-CF effectively means no wheat and no dairy and that pretty much eliminates 90% of the products found at a typical grocery store.

We have had many requests for details of how we do our diet and I’ll kick off that series soon.