Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Meeting Professor Tony Attwood

Yikes. I really shouldn't be posting again as I have pre-clinical finals 2 weeks from today but I really thought I had to update you guys on a very exciting meeting I had with the one and only Professor Tony Attwood. He's currently touring the UK and today he was giving a seminar hosted by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's group. 

I felt immense honour to see these two absolute legends of ASD research meeting for the first time since the early 80s, when they were only PhD students both studying under the supervision of Utah Frith. There was a definite sense of mutual respect and friendship as the two of them chatted whilst waiting for people to arrive.

Professor Attwood talked about his specialist area of Asperger's diagnosis in girls, his newly developed cognitive behavioural therapy programme for showing affection and also gave his opinion on the upcoming DSM-V diagnostic criterion (he thinks its b****cks)

Afterwards, Professor Baron-Cohen, who diagnosed my HFA just last month, was kind enough to introduce me to him. That's right, I was introduced to Professor Tony Attwood by Professor Baron-Cohen!! I half-expected Hans Asperger himself to walk through the door and complete the party lol.

I aske Tony about practicing medicine with an autism spectrum disorder, and just like SBC, he was extremely positive saying there is no reason why someone with Asperger's cannot become a specialist in any area of medicine. He says he knows for a fact that there are "loads of them" out there. He light-heartedly said I'll basically be like House

I was kinda hoping to carry on asking him about the distinction he makes between HFA and Asperger's but he was quickly hounded by the other people attending the talk. Luckily, I was able to get him to sign my copy of his book which SBC himself describes as one of the best resources for parents of, and people with Asperger's. He also requested that we stay in touch so if all goes to plan I can arrange a Skype interview which I shall  then report back on for this blog. In the meantime, here's one that was made earlier.

Signing out

Friday, 17 April 2009

I Guess This Would be the Christening

I know I promised myself I wouldn't post again until after my exams but this is just so exciting that its been keeping me awake and I just had to share it. Basically, if you care to scroll down to my very first post you'll note that I said there were many reasons I didn't want to start my blog until some time into the future. The main reason for that is because at that point I hadn't actually been formally diagnosed with Asperger's yet! 


Thats right. When I started this blog and wrote my first two entries I was not "officially" aspergic. Some of you might think it was fairly preemptive of me to take the name Aspie Medic and also this blog title; but as I'm sure those readers who are themselves aspergic would understand, once I realised and accepted that I was on the spectrum, so many things in my life, both past and present, finally made sense and fitted the traits of this remarkably complex syndrome that diagnosis simply became a formality.

So anyway, yesterday, I had a 3 hour meeting with none other than Professor Simon Baron-Cohen who gave me a formal assessment and told me that I was "without a doubt" on the spectrum. After a very slight hesitation as to whether it qualified as Asperger's or High Funtioning Autism, he ultimately settled on HFA, on the basis that my pediatrician's notes described a language delay when I was a toddler. In that sense this blog was preemptive as it should technically be called "The HFA- or The Autistic medic"  but I'm simply too relieved at the minute to be caught up in semantics!

I really should try and describe how it feels to be diagnosed and to have my long standing suspicions confirmed. In a word, LIBERATING. It might sound cliched but its like this huge weight as been lifted from my shoulders. No longer do I need to ask myself why I can't handle certain social situations and try and search for excuses in the way my parents brought me up, or in my own character flaws for which I am solely responsible. I'm not claiming a diagnosis of Asperger's is an excuse to be anti-social, but there were some times when I genuinely felt alien and distant and autism was a soul-relieving explanation.

Anywho, I'm gonna go to bed cos its been a long day but let me leave you guys with this song which popped into my head as I sat in my room after coming home from Baron-Cohen's clinic and I just had to listen to it on my iTunes. I guess this must better explain how I feel deep down even if I can not express it outwardly with words, neither verbally nor in this post. Enjoy...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

A Premature Birth

OK so strictly speaking it isn't summer yet, thus my last post was a bit misleading; but I thought today, April 2nd , would be an idea day to start my blog proper, because as I'm sure a lot of you are aware, today is World Autism Awareness Day! Apparently, they were gonna make it April 1st but something about that really didn’t seem right. Oh have you heard, soon we're gonna be able to catch up on the Apprentice on our toasters and YouTube have changed their layout to suit those with arachnoid superpowers- I do love April fools day!

Anyway, I'm getting distracted (perhaps I also have ADHD lol). So if you think of my earlier teaser post as the day this blog was conceived, then April 2nd, aka Autism Awareness day would be this blog’s birthday. April is also Autism awareness month but the UK NAS doesn’t appear to be acknowledging that there is whole month dedicated to making people aware of the existence of the autism spectrum. I guess an entire month is a fairly long time to try and keep the wider public interested on one particular condition.

So here’s an introduction to myself. I am a third year medical student at UK medical school and I am currently studying for an intercalated degree before going onto to clinical studies next year. My medical school has one of the most traditional courses around and thus for the last 3 or so years I’ve been taught almost pure science in a very structured manner revolving around (lots and lots) of lectures, practical work with microscopes, experimentation (of the biochemical and pharmacological nature), patient demonstrations, and of course, cadaveric dissection. 

Trust me when I tell you it was hard work but definitely worth it. Sure there were occasions, especially in my 2nd year, when it was easy to lose track of what the point of all this science was and not see how it could be relevant to becoming a doctor. Although this could be partly due to the widely repeated urban myth that this particular year was in the Guinness book of world records for the most facts needed to be memorised in one year for a particular degree (citation needed). I use the past tense because apparently it has now been surpassed by the final year of the astrophysics degree at Yale! (citation needed- ok stop being silly now, this isn’t Wikipedia-Editor).

Of course, I didn’t mind the huge emphasis on science and masses of rote learning required of me in these pre-clinical years. The former was one of the main reasons I opted for Medicine rather than maths, economics or engineering which would have obviously been more suited to my profile. And my memory for lists of facts (eg. Our infamous 2nd year drug list) has been one of my strengths, which has allowed me to get this far, and hopefully further.

Also, I do strongly agree with the analogy that most of our lecturers and supervisors use to justify this very traditional, science-orientated teaching of medicine. That is, whereas other less traditional courses that have less emphasis on science and introduce their students to patients from day 1 are producing mechanics, we at this medical school are producing engineers. So if you think of the human body as a very fancy car; would you rather have it fixed by a mechanic, who will make repairs based on previous experiences alone, or an engineer, who would not only have the past experience but also have a much deeper understanding of the inner workings of the car and therefore be more able to fix novel problems? 

I understand that this analogy can only go so far since being a doctor requires many additional abilities such as verbal communication and clinical skills which can only be learnt through patient contact. However it must be remembered that if it wasn’t for science we will still be treating headaches with bloodletting and using snake oil for just about everything else!

Anyway, so this was a longer introductory post. Next time, in the second half of my introduction I’ll tell you about how I came to realise I am aspergic and my experiences at the assessment and with life in general. This won’t be until June, as I seriously have to get down to revising for finals. So if any of you guys catch me procrastinating again by blogging (I really do think I have ADHD!) instead of studying like a good medical student, I give you all permission to scald me until I’m overwhelmed with shame and guilt.

In the mean time, let me express my sincere gratitude to my followers and people who have left me messages of support. It truly means a lot to me. One of the issues I had growing up with Asperger’s is getting people to listen to what I have to say and taking me seriously. It is quite a novel experience and I really hope that this blog will live up to your expectations.

Signing out

Monday, 9 March 2009

Coming Summer 2009....

Hello everyone. If you've somehow stumbled across this blog by googling the words "medical student" and "asperger's syndrome" then I hope you will be excited to hear that I have decided to start a blog about my life as an aspie studying medicine.

In the meantime, please leave any comments about what you'd like to hear about, any questions you might have about being an aspie, or perhaps what its like to study medicine with it. This is my first blog so it'll be interesting to find out what people want to read about.

I'm probably not going to start the blog for a looong while, for many reasons, the main one being the fact that I have project deadlines and exams looming over the horizon. So in the meantime, enjoy the youtube video i've posted and keep commenting with ideas about what you want to read about.