I had an amazing conversation with Fergus Murray, a Scottish science educator, writer, autistic advocate and author of the Monotropism.org website.
We talked about the concept of monotropism, which was co-founded by Murray’s late mother, Dr. Dinah Murray, as well as Fergus’s experiences growing up in a neurodivergent household and the joys of Autscape! We also discussed the problems of the Spectrum 10k project and aspie supremacy, the future of neurodiversity and the importance of being weird.
Listen to the podcast by playing the audio file below, or on streaming sites like Spotify, Stitcher or iTunes.
Bio Fergus Murrayis an autistic science teacher, writer and community organiser–a co-founder, and the current chair, of AMASE (Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh). Fergus’s mom, Dinah Murray, was a pioneering autistic researcher and activist as well as co-creator of the theory of Monotropism. Fergus has authored the websitemonotropism.organd is the founder ofweirdpride.day.They also createslow-motion videos of water, andgiant puppets.
Bio Matthew Smith is a professor at the University of Strathclyde and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) in Scotland. He is the author of The First Resort: The History of Social Psychiatry in the United States (Columbia UP, 2023). He has also authored many articles and several other books and monographs including: Hyperactive, The Controversial History of ADHD;Another Person’s Poison, A History of Food Allergy; An Alternative History of Hyperactivity; and Pathologies and Politics, Dietary Innovation and Disease from the Nineteenth Century(co-edited by David Gentilcore).
Bio Kristina House has been as an active member of the Toronto homeschool community for more than a decade, including work through the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents and as a co-founder of the Toronto Homeschool Symposium. She worked as an American Sign Language in English Interpreter for over 15 years and is now the executive director ofPassages, a learning space founded in 2020. Passages offers in-person programming for kids between the ages of 11–18, learning at a pace that’s right for them.
My guest this episode is Alicia Broderick, author of the new book The Autism Industrial Complex: How Branding, Marketing, and Capital Investment Turned Autism Into Big Business. Her book traces the cultural, political, and economic history of autism. We talk about the history of autism services, how industry greed often gets in the way of useful approaches that can help families and some advice for families of newly diagnosed kids on how to find the best approaches and sift through all the hype.
Listen to the podcast by pressing Play on the audio file below. Also available on Spotify, Stitcher or iTunes. Read the transcript at the link below the audio file
This is a fascinating interview with Alfie Kohn, who has been researching and writing about education, parenting, authority and co-operative learning for years, driving home a simple fact: rewards and punishment are two sides of the same coin –and they’re not helping us to raise the kind of children we say we want to raise.
“The problem with ABA,” says Kohn, “is not just with the method, but with the goal. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when these kids grow up they are struggling to try to figure out how to make decisions, be assertive and advocate for themselves …because the whole precondition for the temporarily effective use of rewards is the opposite of independence—it’s dependence.”
Bio: Alfie Kohn is an expert on the problem of compliance-training and reward-based systems in the schools, the work world and in the family. His many books include the classics PUNISHED BY REWARDS (1993) and BEYOND DISCIPLINE: From Compliance to Community in which he explores alternatives to our merit-based approach at work and school. He has also critically examined the influence of behaviorism on our education system and the power of cooperative learning, altruism and empathy.
I recently talked with Sam Himelstein, the president of the Center for Adolescent Studies , about the pitfalls of pop-culture “mindfulness” and the importance of trauma-informed care. We also talked about the problems with behaviourist approaches that focus only on measuring outcomes for compliance rather than quality of life.
Bio Sam Himelstein, Ph.D., is a Licensed Psychologist specializing in working with juvenile justice-involved youth, addiction, and trauma. He travels the country speaking at conferences and conducting professional trainings and is the president of the Center for Adolescent Studies. His mission is to help young people become aware of the power of self-awareness and transformation, and train professionals with similar interests.
Michael began stand-up comedy at the age of 13. He has performed stand-up shows, keynote addresses and panel presentations across Canada and the US. He just published the book entitled “Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic” and recently delivered a TEDx Talk on the topic of autism acceptance. He has also consulted on the television show “Ransom” to ensure authenticity of an autistic character and has appeared on CBC television and radio.
Links mentioned in the podcast
Michael’s book: Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic
Canadian Down Syndrome Society: “Anything But Sorry” video
Pablo show: Pablo-Official YouTube channel
I had an amazing conversation with University of Strathclyde professor Matthew Smithabout the trajectory of the ADHD diagnosis in the last half of the 20th century and shifts in child psychology as well as Ritalin marketing and sales.
We discussed the impact of society’s responses to ADHD in kids, as well as the problem of teaching to the test and the current use of ADHD drugs for performance-enhancement or as an “easy fix” replacement for meaningful inclusion. I also asked Matt about an innovative new pilot approach to schooling in Musselburgh, Scotland, where many children had been receiving the ADHD diagnosis.
Matthew Smith is Professor of Health History within the Centre for the Social History of Healthcare. He is Vice Dean Research for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde. He has written many books about the history of medicine, including two about ADHD and Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy –as well as co-editing the 2016 collection: Deinstitutionalisation and After: Post-War Psychiatry in the Western World (2016).
I was so honoured to have Emma as a guest on the podcast. She leads a UK-based campaign against autism pseudoscience: her work on autism pseudoscience established the groundwork for the UK Parliament to begin working towards regulation and enforcement against phony autism cures. Autism pseudoscience is a human rights issue. Right now, lax proxy consent laws and an absence of regulation and enforcement has allowed providers and parents to give autistic children “treatments” that could kill them. As the UK government concluded in its report: “Health care fraud is big business and autism is one of its many targets.”
Emma Dalmayne is a mom of six, a home educator and co-founder of Autistic Inclusive Meets, which organizes meetups for autistics of all ages, as well as activist actions on issues that impact the community and advocacy at the governmental level.
I had a great conversation with Alan Levinovitz about how the desire for empowering rituals around food can be twisted by marketers to sell a product or a plan, such as the GAPS, DAN or MAPS diets. We talked about the negative impact of restrictive diets on individuals, the problem with proxy consent and more. Alan also discussed food restrictions within the framework of world religions and the commodification of rituals: incredibly interesting!
Bio Professor Alan Levinovitz is an associate professor of religious studies at James Madison University. He specializes in classical Chinese philosophy and the relationship between religion and science. In addition to scholarly articles, he is the author of The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths about What You Eat –and The Limits of Religious Tolerance. He has also appeared on the Netflix seriesA User’s Guide to Cheating Death.
Transcribed by Julie Ann Lee: Transcript_ SteveSilberman-Noncompliant . Bio Steve Silberman is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in Wired, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and many other publications. His book NeuroTribes became a widely-praised bestseller, winning the 2015 Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction and was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2015 by The New York Times, The Economist, The Independent and many others. His TED talk, “The Forgotten History of Autism,” has been viewed more than a million times and translated into 35 languages. He lives with his husband Keith in San Francisco, where he is working on a new book, The Taste of Salt (discussed in this podcast).
The impact of Neurotribes Neurotribes really changed the public conversation about autism in some radical ways. It meticulously traces the history of the autism diagnosis, synthesizing a forgotten history of the residential institution era, while also giving detail and context to competing notions of the diagnosis in the medical literature across time (and the impact of that competition). The book traces shifting understandings of autism in society, explaining how medicine, culture and grassroots activism came together for both a rise in diagnosis and new understandings about autism and neurodiversity. Neurotribes creates a context for what we see today: how our social institutions and media interpret, respond and portray autism.
Since writing Neurotribes, Steve continues to speak and write about autism, but always with a mind to refer to “the real experts”: autistic people. We talked about this, as well as his new book project; neurodiversity; autistic history; platforms of communication; states of being; the rise of false news and our need for honesty; inspiring new youth movements; and the power of continuing the work of social justice when we have no choice but to carry on.