Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year In Review

Today is the last day of the year 2010. It is something of a tradition on this day to spend some time looking back on the year that has gone by, thinking and reflecting on the events which have occurred.

Normally, I do so privately. This year, I am doing a portion of it publicly -- on this blog.

For me, the year started off with the Zakh Price case. There are some situations that you just can't leave alone; for me, that was one of them. I won't discuss what my role in the whole matter was, but I did play one. I don't know if I, personally, made a difference... but I don't really care. As of the last I heard from the family (which was late summer or early fall), Zakh was doing quite well... and the situation had been resolved in a favorable fashion. In my honest opinion, that's all that really matters.

In other news, Andy Wakefield lost his medical license that month, and I very much enjoyed the 2010 CARD conference (although it was marred by one highly bigoted pseudo-scientist pretending at a neurology presentation). I was actually at the conference (or, more accurately, in my room at the conference hotel) when I found out about Wakefield, and it was all I could do to avoid waking my neighbors with a whoop of joy.

Then I got back and immediately (i.e. the very next day) went in for a much-needed knee surgery. I was on crutches for more than two months.

I discovered that the James Randi Educational Foundation is physically located not that far from my house... down the street from a psychic and across the street from a chiropractor. I've very much enjoyed their periodic open houses... and Randi himself is quite entertaining (and a breath of fresh air).

On the advocacy front, the Geiers moved into my metaphorical backyard and started peddling the "wonders" of chemical castration to the parents of local autistic children, shielded by a number of highly-influential political figures and using a local radiologist as their local patsy. I've been trying to "deal with" them ever since.

I got into a long and protracted series of misunderstandings that I still can't figure out a way to rectify (and that is still bothering me). Actually, that technically started last year... but it continued (and got a great deal worse) this year.

I resumed the MS Counseling program at Nova Southeastern University... and promptly had my first major issue with a postgraduate professor. It says something when it takes a flat-out written statement of intent to discriminate (in the form of deducting points for autistic literalism) for me to consider something a "major issue". I also got my first postgraduate B... in his class. Had it been any lower, I'd have challenged it; as is, I have the written notice available and thoroughly documented to show anyone who questions me about it.

Honestly, what sort of professor does something like that in writing? Seriously!

In a bit of irony, it was actually a bit worse: I received that written statement literally the week before I was scheduled to speak at Autreat. I'll get back to that in a bit, but the sheer hilarity of the timing has lead to a number of jokes since... especially since the professor was aware of both my diagnosis and my presentation.

I also did a brief internship at a small local school for individuals with severe developmental and intellectual disabilities. The kids there were very interesting (and very different from any population I'd previously worked with). Incidentally, for any parent from here on who tells me that I don't know what kids like theirs are like (to insinuate that their child is more severely disabled than any I've worked with)... yes, I do. Working with that population can be a serious mind-fuck, and I do not shy away from the use of that particular vulgarity in this case.

Then my internship ended (with the end of the academic year) and I started working for a behavior services company in Dade County. I've been doing part-time human resources work for them... which does, at least, help pay my expenses.

And, of course, I gave my first conference presentation: a presentation on pseudoscientific medicine in the field of autism. I've done related blog posts here and here, and I posted the PowerPoint slides to the Autreatinfo Yahoo group. I've also uploaded the slides here, if anyone wants to take a look. (Note that I verbally departed from them at several points. I'd be more than happy to explain in more detail if anyone asks in the comments.)

The presentation was two hours long, involved one hundred and fifty-five PowerPoint slides (of which five were references and suggested further reading), and contained thirty reference citations (not counting duplicates). During the preparation, I read far more than this -- my lit review for the thing involved over two hundred peer-reviewed articles and five books... of which, two were med-school textbooks.

Thinking back to that time, I am astounded that I managed to keep my sanity. I was, for a while, not only recovering from knee surgery (on crutches), but doing that internship, preparing that presentation, continuing my advocacy work, and taking a course load and a half of postgraduate classes. Yes, I took 150% of a semester's postgraduate coursework over the summer... on top of everything else. It was not particularly smart of me, and I really haven't quite fully recovered from all of that. The fact that most of my "recovery" time was spent working part time while taking a full course load (not, fortunately, the extra-full course load I took on over the summer) of classes while working part time certainly didn't help. My active participation in various student organizations and continuation of my advocacy work didn't help, either.

Fall, by contrast, was fairly... routine. There were a couple of crises which I can't really talk about, and work has been rather frustrating for reasons that I also can't talk about here, but I tried to use the time to recover. I failed.

I also grew pretty thoroughly sick of the MS Counseling program for a variety of reasons, most of which focus on the high bullshit content of many of the courses. I will be reviewing my "diversity studies" textbook later, but I've already reviewed my so-called "ethics" text. Of the two, the "ethics" book was the better one.

As the year pulls to a close, though, I'm filled with some degree of renewed optimism. For one thing, I've switched programs as of the upcoming semester (and I sincerely hope that the MS General Psychology program will actually involve considerations of evidence!). For another, my new program is a thesis program... which means actual research as part of my graduation requirements!

I suspect that several of my regular readers will find my thesis of interest... and yes, I do already know exactly what I'm going to be doing for my thesis. I will comment more on it after I've actually started doing it... but I suspect that one reader of this blog will find it very interesting: it falls under the category of behavioral sciences meta-research and was actually inspired by some of her comments.

The change won't delay my graduation too much... but my new classes are ones which I can hopefully actually enjoy. I am very much looking forward to them.

Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on my accumulated e-mails sometime next year. I'm something like three thousand behind...

So, in conclusion... for everyone reading this, happy new year!

Edit: Corrected a really embarrassing typo.

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