James Durbin Cruises to the Top 24 on American Idol

On Thursday evening, American Idol viewers watched as judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler eliminated and advanced contestants, ultimately comprising the show’s coveted "top 24" spots. Included in that group was James Durbin, who along with his fellow contestants, will now be performing on live television beginning next week.

In his final solo performance before moving on, Durbin performed a rendition of  “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, clearly impressing the judges with a wide range of vocals.

Durbin, who has been diagnosed with both Tourette’s and Asperger’s Syndrome, was visibly nervous prior to learning his fate, with his grimacing and wincing tics clearly noticeable to viewers.

As Durbin celebrated the news of his advancement, Steven Tyler quipped, "Take that sh** Tourrette’s!" and noted that he was "a lightning bolt." All three judges seemed pleased to see him advance and in an indication that Durbin is one of the frontrunners this season, Ryan Seacrest said to viewers, “We now turn James over to you."

James Durbin has been impressive since the audition rounds began but based on some comments on Twitter and elsewhere, it appears he has a few haters as well. Earlier this week, even TMZ tried running a "gotcha" piece on Durbin that involved some unflattering comments he made last year, all while insensitively referring to him as the "Tourrette’s Guy." Clearly, TMZ isn’t well educated on Aspies and their lack of "filters."

As Durbin advances, it’s likely that the insensitivity and cruelness of others will continue to emerge, as is usually the case when someone is different. However, James now has the opportunity to silence his critics and show the world that individuals with autism and other special needs are capable of achieving extraordinary things in their lives, regardless of circumstances.

Awareness of High Functioning Autism Lacking in Schools

The seemingly endless reports of unethical and opportunistic individuals related to autism seem to be occurring on a regular basis and where there’s money to be made, there will always be those who are willing to take advantage of the misfortunes of others.

I myself received a rude entry into the world of autism and because of a scamming therapist, my twin sons lost the opportunity for early intervention. Their diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism didn’t come until they were in the fourth grade. Through my tears of grief, I also felt relieved that they would finally be in an appropriate program with a teacher who knew what she was doing. 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.

After transferring to a school with an inclusion program for autism, the first thing my sons’ new teacher told me was that she didn’t know anything about Asperger’s, but she would Google it when she got home. Their social skills consisted of one period of playing a board game they could never finish by the bell. To make matters worse, the primary function of their classroom aide was to make my kids produce as much work as their neurotypical peers, raining down punishment if they didn’t. 

I found out that special education teachers in my state are not educated in autism, nor are the teachers who host children with autism in their mainstream classes. And, of course, neurotypical classmates have no preparation for having a person on the autism spectrum in their midst.

Today, my boys are in their first year of high school. One is doing okay, but the other is struggling. His school week is punctuated by spectacular meltdowns, leaving him humiliated before his teachers and peers. 

It’s the same story year after year — glazed looks at the mention of best practices for Asperger’s, power struggles with teachers who don’t know what they’re doing and constant efforts on my part to assure that his condition is helped instead of exacerbated. 

A breakthrough may come in the form of a DVD entitled, "Intricate Minds: Understanding Classmates with Asperger’s Syndrome." It is available at elementary, middle and high school levels and designed to help neurotypical kids understand and appreciate their classmates with Asperger’s Syndrome. Peppered with facts about the disorder, most of the video consists of children speaking openly and poignantly about what it is like to have this high functioning form of autism. While their stories are different, the common yearning for acceptance and respect is very clear. 

Although geared for students, this DVD is also an important training tool for all adults who encounter children with Asperger’s and high functioning autism. It can be adapted for families, schools, counselors and health care professionals to help raise greater awareness about their peers who struggle with these disorders.

My suggestion is that "Intricate Minds" become part of the curriculum at my son’s high school – both for his teachers and his classmates. The DVD is now in the principal’s inbox. As a very tenacious advocate, I’m determined to sweep the sensory and emotional land mines from my son’s school environment so he can reclaim his self image as a capable and sociable young man.

Disney World Addresses Autism Bullying Incident

Last week, we reported about an incident involving blogger Amanda Broadfoot while she was on vacation with her family at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. While eating at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve, Broadfoot’s 4-year-old son with autism was harassed and bullied by a group of teens, causing the youngster to become visibly upset and repeatedly hit his head. The situation escalated, but a manager eventually claimed there was nothing else that could be done to help the family.

When circumstances of the event began to circulate through Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere, families of special needs children became outraged at both the incident itself and Disney World’s response in the aftermath.

Earlier this week, on her blog, Broadfoot reported that a Disney World representative finally followed up with her and clarified the correct procedures in dealing with these types of incidents. The Disney rep or "cast member" as they are called, apologized to her and acknowledged that proper protocol was in fact not followed during her ordeal. She also assured Broadfoot that steps would be taken in the future to ensure all Disney cast members are reinforced with existing policies on how to handle belligerent and harassing guests.

The Disney representative invited Broadfoot and her family back to Disney World with complimentary tickets, and she is now completely satisfied with how the matter was resolved.

While incidents like these are rare in family-friendly environments such as Disney World, they are a great reminder that children with autism are frequently susceptible to bullying, regardless of where that may be. And as parents, it is our job to continue fighting and advocating on their behalf so these situations become less and less frequent in the future.

As unfortunate as this was for Broadfoot and her family, it does have a silver lining. It will give Disney World an opportunity to review its policies with staff on how to deal with unruly guests, as well as better equip them to further protect visitors in the future, including those with autism and other special needs.

Neurodiversity vs Disorder: The Other Great Divide of Autism

Andrew Johnson

With all of the attention the autism-vaccine debate has received, often overlooked is another source of infighting within the autism community that involves neurodiversity vs. disorder. Neurodiversity is a movement commonly seen among those with high functioning autism and adheres to the notion that people with autism experience the world differently, not pathologically. As such, they are not looking to be "cured" and advocate for greater acceptance and awareness for themselves and others who are "different." 

Ari Ne’eman is the director of The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and a strong advocate for neurodiversity. His organization’s mission statement reads:

ASAN seeks to advance the idea of neurological diversity, putting forward the concept that the goal of autism advocacy should not be a world without Autistic people. Instead, it should be a world in which Autistic people enjoy the same access, rights and opportunities as all other citizens. Working in fields such as public policy, media representation, research and systems change, ASAN hopes to empower Autistic people across the world to take control of their own lives and the future of our common community. Nothing About Us, Without Us! 

Mr. Ne’eman (aged 22) has Asperger’s Syndrome and on December 16, 2009, was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on Disability, the first person with an autism spectrum disorder to do so. However, his Senate confirmation unleashed a firestorm and even death threats against him.

Ne’emen’s outraged opponents contend that treating autism as an alternate way of "being" rather than a debilitating condition will reduce research and funding for finding a cure. Simply put, children with low functioning autism don’t have the luxury of joining an "autism pride" movement and parents worry about the negative effects this type of attention will have on their children’s futures. 

Andrew Solomon, author of “The Noonday Demon," actually sees three sides to the debate: those who believe autism is caused by environmental toxins (particularly vaccines), those who believe autism is genetic and those who contend autistics are neurodiverse and feel they should be left alone.

There is a real fear by many that the heredity model will take precedence and lead to eugenics as more and more parents opt to abort fetuses with a chromosome marker for autism, following the path of Down Syndrome where approximately 92% of all diagnosed fetuses are aborted. Do we really want to prevent the birth of the next Temple Grandin?

As for the neurodiversity movement, there is heated debate of whether or not it can exist without impinging upon the quest for a cure to autism. Perhaps the answer lies with taking into consideration the messages from all groups. Most likely, heredity establishes a predisposition to autism, while environmental factors produce triggers. 

Impartial research into the safety of our current vaccine schedule and other drugs such as obstetric and birth control medications should be given priority, as well as the elimination of mercury and other toxic substances from our general environment. Geneticists should continue to unlock the mysteries of the genome, which can’t help but to expand our understanding of autism. Additionally, high functioning individuals should continue to galvanize their autism civil rights movement. 

I recall my high functioning son being asked to write a two-page essay in school about what it’s like to have a disability and he summed it up in a single sentence, “It’s like having brown eyes." To have reached that level of self-acceptance after all he had been through was nothing short of amazing.

No one can deny the tragedy of a child with autism who is self injurious, nor a high functioning young person who has "aged out" of their support systems and is cast adrift into a neurotypical world. 

The key is for all segments of the autism community to keep working on finding common ground so that the future is brighter for all of our children.

Autism-Vaccine Debate Reaches Toxic Levels

In Sunday’s Doonesbury comic strip, even famed cartoonist Garry Trudeau decided to weigh in on the autism-vaccine debate, taking swipes at Jenny McCarthy in the process. McCarthy, who has become the de facto face of the anti-vaccination movement, has taken a beating in recent months, particularly when charges of fraud surfaced from a 1998 study attempting to link the MMR vaccine with gastrointestinal disorders and autism. McCarthy often cited the Andrew Wakefield study in her debates, making her an easy target in the messy aftermath.

A lot of the criticism McCarthy has endured is arguably self-inflicted. However, the viciousness of the attacks towards her and other parents within the "vaccine safety" movement has been unprecedented. As a result, autism has unfortunately become an incredibly polarizing issue, creating the type of divisiveness that is typically reserved for politics.

One example of some of the mudslinging can be found over at a science-based autism blog. In the comment section of a recent McCarthy story, a visitor wrote:

"I find it really hard to belive [sic] she’s still in the public eye at all!  Former porn actress who had a small part in a mildly amusing film about ten years ago (and that was several years after her ‘previous’ career), she probably just got a bit carried away when she realised she was getting coverage for opening her mouth."

David Kirby, a former New York Times reporter and author of "Evidence of Harm," is another person who has found himself in the crosshairs of pro-vaccine and science groups. His book, which addresses the thimerosal-autism controversy, has been derided by many and he has since been portrayed as a biased and delusional conspiracy theorist

The vitriol has not been one-sided, either. Vaccine safety advocates and even McCarthy herself have been just as complicit in fanning the flames of the now-toxic autism-vaccine debate. In a 2009 Time magazine interview, McCarthy stated the following:

"I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their fu**ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s sh**. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism."

Additionally, there have been countless parents who have accused doctors, pharmaceutical companies and others within the scientific community of knowingly "poisoning" and harming children in the names of profit and greed, often with little or no supporting evidence to back their claims.

It’s extremely disheartening to see the issue of autism, and those affected by it, getting dragged so much through the mud. As members of the "autism fraternity," parents and families who are affected by the disorder should be unified for a single cause to improve our children’s conditions and help the many others that will soon follow our paths. Instead, autism has become a catalyst for a tremendous amount of division and hatred.

Even Autism Speaks, one of the largest autism organizations in the world, has not escaped the autism-vaccine debate unscathed. 

Katie Wright, daughter of organization founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, was interviewed by David Kirby in 2007 and suggested that vaccines may have played a role in her son’s autism. The interview put Autism Speaks in damage control mode and caused her parents to post a statement to the organization’s Web site. The older Wright’s distanced themselves from their daughter’s comments and stated that Katie’s views "do not represent or reflect the ongoing mission of Autism Speaks." This came, despite the fact that it was her son, Christian, who was the reason the organization was founded to begin with.

As more and more studies continue to emerge disproving a connection, it is becoming much more difficult to solely place the blame on vaccines as a cause of autism. However, it is also hard not to sympathize with parents who are unequivocally convinced that their children’s autism was caused or triggered by vaccinations. 

Regardless of where we find ourselves in the autism-vaccine debate, it’s clear that the attacks coming both sides need to be toned down. The time spent bickering, quarreling and vilifying one another is time that can be spent with our children, helping to improve their condition. Because in the end, it is they who will ultimately suffer the most as a result of the infighting within the autism community.

Shocking Study Links Brain Erosion to Antipsychotics

This month, a shocking claim was made by the former chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry, Nancy Andreasen, when she published her findings that antipsychotic drugs, such as Risperadone, actually shrink the brain over time.

Ms. Andreasen began a long-running study in 1991 on schizophrenia patients taking antipsychotics, periodically measuring their brain volumes with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Two years later, she reported "progressive brain volume reductions" in her patients and initially concluded that the shrinkage was associated with "a worsening of negative symptoms, functional impairment and cognitive decline." At that time, her premise was that the shrinkage was due to the disease and that the antipsychotics failed to stop it.

Concurrent to Andreasen’s findings, other studies in both animals and patients with schizophrenia indicated that the drugs might very well aggravate or possibly even cause the shrinkage. Further studies then concluded that the occurrences of shrinkage were in fact caused by the drugs themselves and were dose-related. Her findings were recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association.

The reason these discoveries are so alarming is that antipsychotics are now widely prescribed to control behavioral issues and treat other "non-psychotic" conditions such as ADD and autism. Journalistic investigations have shown that antipsychotics are widely dispensed to children on Medicaid at a much higher rate, mostly in lieu of individual therapy and family counseling. Additionally, Medicaid reimbursements for the drug are much higher than that of traditional therapy, creating many instances of overprescribing. Courts also often order the use of antipsychotics for those within the criminal justice system.

Even more upsetting, antipsychotics generate huge profits for pharmaceutical companies, to the point where they find it cost-effective to absorb the many lawsuits and false advertising complaints that emerge from their widespread usage.

Long-term use of antipsychotics must be stopped and their use on the still developing brains of children should be banned. There can be no justification for giving antipsychotics to someone who is not even psychotic.

Where is the public outrage and mainstream media coverage on this issue?

These findings, along with the horrible side effects of massive weight gain, permanent tremors and diabetes that are already associated with antipsychotics, should prompt an immediate review of their rampant, off-label use. 

Additionally, the media needs to do a much better job of disseminating this type of information to the public once it’s known, so individuals with neurological disorders and their families are better informed of the potential health risks associated with these types of drugs.

Autism and IEPs: When Knowledge is Power


It’s that time of year again when parents will meet with their school districts and write their Individualized Education Programs or IEPs. These are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and outline the individual educational needs for each child with special needs. My close friend, who has her Masters in Education once told me, “if every parent knew their IDEA laws, the school systems would go broke.”

Parents and caregivers of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need to be educated as an advocate in many areas of their child’s life. Picking up, reading and understanding the IDEA fundamentals from a recent copy of “Wrightslaw: Special Education Law,” will give invaluable insight for parents. There’s no excuse for being unprepared for these meetings, which will ultimately play a large role in determining a child’s functionality and success.

I recently read about a mother whose argument with her school district was related to her son’s handwriting. Her struggles to have her child use assistive technology had merit.

A recent Japanese study involving middle and high school aged children showed that children with autism, along with Tourette’s Syndrome, ADD and other co-morbid diagnoses, had substantially lower grades when forced to handwrite their assignments. The implementation of computer keyboards and typing devices raised their grades from C and D averages to A’s and B’s.

Furthermore, studies showed that by allowing these students to complete homework assignments at school and not at home, grades also increased as a result.

Parents and caregivers who come prepared to IEP meetings are a far stronger force than most realize. By law, they can never be excluded from these important decision-making meetings. Parents have the right to be heard and research before meetings take place will prove to be invaluable.

Knowing when a transfer to another school or district is allowed is extremely important. Each state has its own interpretations of how and when they are willing to transfer or contract out for appropriate services. Knowing these rules will keep parents from spinning their wheels and show school administrative teams that they are well-informed and know their child’s educational rights.

My oldest son has a 504 plan, which is not as powerful as an IEP, but certainly provides for appropriate accommodations. His 504 plan includes having no homework, the use of a keyboard instead of handwriting, allowing for quiet time and allowing for frequent healthy snacks. These stipulations can all be a mandatory part of a child’s program, but will rarely be offered. I even learned to bring in a supportive advocate at times when I knew it would be a struggle.

If the system does not provide, they must accommodate. Test scores and a specific diagnosis are the baselines for constructing a plan that will be therapeutic, stimulating and educational for a child’s special needs. The IEPs and 504 plans also offer greater protection than those of typical students.

Leverage lies within the laws and a child with special needs is entitled to as much as double and triple the tax monies as the funding for a typical child. This should put parents in a position of empowerment, not groveling. 

I moved all the way across the country to New York where my son’s IEP would finally be written to accommodate his special needs. He was then able to take advantage of New York’s five-day-a-week speech program with a speech therapist who was fully acquainted with current autism research and therapies, along with every other imaginable accommodating resource. My son went from mumbling and speechless to fully conversational in two-months. 

He also began playing board games, making eye contact, singing, dancing and most of all, was happy — all within only two months. I was completely in awe of the provisions given to my son by the state of New York. I was also in disgust of the state where I came from. 

If I had to pay out of pocket in my former state for the services he was receiving in the curricular year, it would have cost me in excess of a half-a-million dollars. Very few families have this type of money, which is why so many get deprived of services in non-friendly states. By the time my son has finished his two years of Early Intervention before starting Kindergarten in NYS, he will have received well over a million dollars worth of therapy. I did not have to beg or borrow, these services were given to my son on a silver platter.

Had we not moved, my son would not have received appropriate therapy and would have cost taxpayers anywhere between 3.7 and 77 million dollars in his lifetime, depending on the eventual long-term services he would have required such as assisted living, medical, educational, personal and other therapeutic needs.

If I wasn’t educated about the laws, I wouldn’t have known what he could and should be getting. It’s despicable and injurious that so many states allow for this. A fellow parent of a child with ASD in the state where I lived has successfully sued the school systems at least four times. Despite this fact, the schools have not changed and are still non-accommodating.

Clearly, knowledge and leaving the door open to move are essential. Keep in mind, because of the imbalance of services across the country, the state a child lives in will determine the rest of his or her life. In many cases, even just a move to another county will make the difference. In other cases, like mine, moving over 3,000 miles away did the trick. If you don’t know what your child needs and what you can and cannot ask for, in most cases they won’t tell you either. Therefore, you need to be prepared and educated.

Many head-start programs are beginning to accommodate the early intervention needs of a child with ASD. Each program is unique, and each teaches a child with ASD in different ways.

Be prepared. A child’s autism diagnosis changes lives forever and getting accommodating therapies from school systems will typically ensure that a child realizes his or her high functioning potential, which will prevent them from falling between the cracks.

Knowledge of the IEP process and IDEA laws will enable parents and caregivers to be an excellent advocate and resource for their child’s growth, future, functionality and ultimate success.

Successful Careers and Marriages Likely for Many with Autism

The Autism Society of Minnesota recently hosted an "Autism and Employment" conference in which managers from 3M, Cargill and Best Buy took to the stage in praise of their employees with autism, counting them "among their very best."
With a looming shortage of workers due to the retirement of baby boomers, more companies are finding it advantageous to make accommodations in the workplace for their employees with ASD. In turn, those employees are becoming known for their extreme focus, ingenuity and dedication in the artistic and technological fields to which they are innately drawn. Their love of routines and specialized interests become assets when applied to the workplace environment.

At the conference, Temple Grandin, celebrity author and autism spokesperson, was on-hand to share her wealth of experience, even offering some advice to job seekers with autism. Since reading social cues is difficult, she recommended presenting a portfolio or examples of one’s work as the best course of action during the interview process.  "I never got a job based upon my personality," she quipped.

Grandin also exhorted parents to help their kids build skills well before they would be entering the job market, such as having them order their own food at restaurants, purchasing their own items at stores or having them run their own small businesses such as mowing neighborhood lawns.

Fostering independence for children with autism is creating a promising trend of doors being opened that were once closed.  The intersection of employer need and autism enlightenment is heartening news and will have a ripple-effect throughout our society. For example, a parent with a co-worker on the autism spectrum will be less likely to object to their child having a classmate with autism. And since children mirror their parents’ attitudes, bullying at school will be also diminished as well.
Another myth currently being dispelled about individuals with autism involves their inability to sustain meaningful marital relationships.

Autism expert Tony Attwood has laid this falsehood to rest by quoting studies on the attitudes towards marriage.  Asking what marriage meant to them, neurotypical individuals typically responded with "being in love," while those with autism consistently cited the elements of having a lifelong friend and helpmate.  Many marriages come undone when one or the other spouse falls out of love or becomes bored. People with autism, whose core values in a mate are an abiding friendship and routines, are actually much better suited for the lifelong commitments of marriage than their neurotypical counterparts.
Dr. Attwood believes that people with autism are the forerunners of a higher evolution and that it is incumbent upon the rest of us to realize this fact. Their burgeoning and continuing success, both professionally and personally, bears out this wisdom.

And as our society continues to embrace the widespread acceptance of those with autism, we will continue to see shattered stereotypes and misconceptions laid to rest, as is currently taking place in the areas of employment and marriage.

James Durbin Advances to Vegas on American Idol

James Durbin (Fox / 19 Entertainment)

Last night, viewers didn’t get to see much of James Durbin, other than a quick glimpse of him emotionally celebrating in Room One, where he, along with a few dozen other American Idol contestants, learned they would be advancing to the next round, which will take place in Las Vegas. 

Durbin’s performance was not aired, which was most likely a tactical move on the part of the Idol producers (less is more).

James Durbin continues to be a frontrunner for the show, however, after viewing some of last night’s performances, it appears he will have his work cut out for him.  One would find difficulty in finding another American Idol season that was so stacked with this much talent.  In fact, there’s a good chance some of the contestants who don’t even make the Top 12 this year could have been winners in previous seasons (i.e. Taylor Hicks).

As for Durbin, his heartfelt story of overcoming Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette’s, unemployment and the death of his father, coupled with his high ranging vocal performances, still make him a strong contender to win it all.  However, it remains to be seen if he can continue his strong performances — singing in front of millions of people on live TV is quite different that what the contestants are currently doing.  But regardless, Durbin still has a significant amount of people supporting him, including a lot within the special needs community, making him a strong Season 10 favorite.

Next week’s round will incorporate songs from The Beatles and it appears Durbin already has a head start in performing songs from the band.  Posted below is a performance that has surfaced of Durbin performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," recorded in his hometown when he was 19-years-old.

Craig Nicholls of The Vines Copes with Autism

Craig Nicholls (Courtesy: thevines.com / Sophie Howarth)

In the Spring of 2004, an Australian group known as The Vines quickly became one of the hottest bands in the world, topping charts and mentioned in the same breath as bands such as Nirvana. Lead singer/songwriter Craig Nicholls was well-known for his unpredictable behavior and marijuana smoking, as well as his unhealthy burger-only diet. Rude and uncommunicative in interviews, Nicholls was prone to messing up photographs with goofy faces and his wild-eyed, guitar-smashing antics, enthralling a new generation of young music fans.

In support of a new album release, The Vines launched a grueling US tour followed by gigs in Japan. Nicholls’ onstage antics grew more out-of-control and dangerous as the tour wore on. He verbally abused the crowd, even kicking at a photographer, smashing her camera.  Assault charges followed.

Thrown off both Jay Leno and David Letterman for tearing up their sets, no one would book Nicholls. By May 2004, it was all over for The Vines and their great promise was laid to ruins by the seemingly inexcusable behavior of their twenty-seven-year-old frontman.

Then fate and a perceptive friend intervened. Having seen his share of crazy rock n´ rollers, the band’s guitar technician felt that Nicholls had an actual neurological problem and hypothesized it was Asperger’s Syndrome. Dr. Tony Attwood, the pre-eminent authority on the subject, was brought in and confirmed the layman’s diagnosis.

Nicholls expressed relief at finally being able to make sense of his life. While growing up, his obsessive and reclusive behavior concerned his parents enough that they took him to see a psychologist at age fifteen, but no mention of autism had ever been made. 

Called as an expert witness in court the following November, Dr. Attwood announced his diagnosis and explained that after performing, Nicholls suffered from sensory overload and physically lashed out as a result.  He did not intend to hurt the photographer, he just couldn’t bear her intrusion into his personal space. Assault charges were dropped on condition of immediate therapy.

Dr. Attwood explained to Nicholls that the lifestyle of a touring rock musician with its erratic schedule, constant changes and sensory overload was the worst career he could have possibly chosen for someone with his condition. He then recommended that Nicholls curtail his touring, create a recording studio in his home, improve his diet and stop smoking pot. Attwood emphatically stated that smoking marijuana was one of the worst things a person with Asperger´s can do to themselves.

Nicholls has spent the last seven years coming to terms with being a rock star on the autism spectrum. He’s taken long breaks, punctuated by the release of excellent new music and a smattering of live performances. No longer a pot smoker, he can’t even recall the many incidents that lead to the turning point in his life. When told of them, he is contrite.

Some of Nicholls’ best work came after his diagnosis, such as his ¨Get Free¨ performance two years ago, which is posted below. His amazing stage presence is a testament to the gifts that autism bestows, even as he continues to shoulder its burdens.  Look for the release of The Vines’ new album ¨Future Primitive,¨ in April of 2011.

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
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