The art and science of autism

wiltshire_frame.jpgABC Radio National has a Health Report special on the science, myths and realities of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The show talks to psychiatrists Dr John Constantino and Dr Eric Fombonne who discuss the features and attributes that a diagnosis of autism describes.

They also tackle the evidence for claims of an autism epidemic and the controversial link between autism and mercury-based vaccinations.

On an artistic note, the Wisconsin Medical Society has some online video of artist Stephen Wiltshire MBE who has autism and was featured in Oliver Sacks’ book An Anthropologist On Mars.

Wiltshire is taken for a helicopter ride to view Rome, and subsequently demonstrates his startling artistic talents by drawing an almost perfect, four metre long aerial panorama of the city.

mp3 or realaudio of Health Report on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Link to page with transcript.
Link to page with video on Stephen Wiltshire.

Electricity, let it rain all over me

Robinson_Electricity.jpgI’m just reading Ray Robinson’s breathtaking debut novel Electricity (ISBN 0330444506) about Lily O’Connor – a young woman with epilepsy and a troubled past who’s trying to track down her lost brother.

Robinson wrote the novel as part of his PhD in creative writing and spent a considerable amount of time reading scientific literature on epilepsy and interviewing people with the condition.

Although the book doesn’t attempt to explain the science behind it, it does brilliantly capture the idiosyncratic experience of epilepsy in the sometimes wonderfully poetic language from the book’s protagonist – an otherwise plain speaking northern girl.

the room cracks and shatters, the colours wrapping their arms around me but I can’t hold them back, it’s like rain running down windows, the air’s melting in front of me, colours like feelings inside, suffocating but nice
   like storm clouds up there
   like bullies, black lightning off and on in their fat bellies and I need to pull at everything, need to touch and tug and twist and poke and push because it’s all slipping away from me
   and I know
   – Mel?
   I know she’s here in my room, but I can’t let go of the chair, my fingers crack-cracking the corners and I

   can’t catch my
   can’t catch my

Link to review from The Guardian.
Link to review by The Independent.
Link to information on the novel from Lancaster University.