April 8, 2010

I first heard about autism about 10 years ago from someone telling a story about someone else’s kid. Since then, I have been around several autistic children and met a highly functional autistic adult. If you are still wondering what autism is, I included the definition from

Autism is a severe developmental disorder that begins at birth or within the first two-and-a-half years of life. Most autistic children are perfectly normal in appearance, but spend their time engaged in puzzling and disturbing behaviors which are markedly different from those of typical children. Less severe cases may be diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) or with Asperger’s Syndrome (these children typically have normal speech, but they have many “autistic” social and behavioral problems).

As hinted by the definition, autism is a spectrum. Some people explained that kids with autism, especially in the lower functioning spectrum, keeps growing physically, but the emotional and psychological development stayed at age 2 or so. Autism was also popularized by the movie “Rainman” played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman.

Some of the early study linked autism with children vaccine. It has been a controversial subject on whether or not vaccine causes autism. If you are a parent, would you take a chance of giving your child a vaccine, or facing a higher risk of damage caused by the diseases, which the vaccine will take care of. About 2 months ago, the research that linked the vaccine and autism has been retracted. Draw your own conclusion:

But the reason I’m blogging about this, besides to bring awareness of what autism is, is to show how autistic people can be productive and contribute to society. They tend to be considered genius or savant. In fact, there’s a thriving Denmark-based software company in that only hires autistic people.

To top it all, one of the speakers at TED named Temple Grandin has autism, but because of her autism and how she overcame that by having therapy early on, she is able to use her unique gift and made immense contributions to science.

A personal interview with her can also be found in NPR.


Leading by Following?

April 6, 2010

I think it’s just simply fascinating to realize that leaders (the people who start the movement) are the ones who cause other people to more likely to follow by showing them it’s ok to follow.

Modern Slavery

March 31, 2010

I ran across this talk at TED about modern slavery.

For those of you who don’t know what TED is, it stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to spread ideas from all sort of intellectual arenas. (

Here’s the short summary from the ted website about this talk:

“In this moving yet pragmatic talk, Kevin Bales explains the business of modern slavery, a multibillion-dollar economy that underpins some of the worst industries on earth. He shares stats and personal stories from his on-the-ground research — and names the price of freeing every slave on earth right now.”

If you think slavery is the problem in the past, think again. That’s what I thought and boy am I wrong. I’m struck with how many slaves we still have today. Some may argue that we actually have more slaves around the world today than ever. Not only that, I’m also struck with how much little money is needed in the global context to abolish the entire world’s modern slavery (~27 million slaves).

After watching the talk, I’m conflicted inside. Have I done enough to make a difference? Have I cared enough to lift a finger? or am I too overwhelmed that the only way to cope with the reality is to push it aside and ignore it? Am I guilty of complacency? Maybe I can start by blogging it to raise awareness. Would that be enough? it’s a start, right?