Saturday, August 3, 2013

What Causes Autism?

It's been a long time since I wrote in this blog.

What causes Autism? What makes someone become Autistic? Nobody knows for sure. Let me tell you what doesn't cause Autism:

Alcohol. When I was a freshman at Utica College, some scientists came in for a presentation. They believed that Autism was caused by the mothers drinking alcohol when they were pregnant. As ridiculous as that sounded, I'm sure they did plenty of research and had a good explanation for it. The scientists said that they fed mice alcohol when they were pregnant (that's animal abuse!) The mice had the babies which acted unusual compared to the typical mice. They were running in circles and banged their heads on the wall. Thus, they concluded that the mice had possible Autism. I am not kidding, I am not lying, and I am not exaggerating. They somehow made that connection to Autism. Did they ever think that maybe the mice weren't autistic, maybe the mice were drunk!! Plus, there is a disease someone does get when they are born that is caused by mothers drinking beer when they are pregnant. It's called Alcohol Use Disorder. Maybe that's what the baby Mice had. Thankfully, about a year later, Alcohol was officially eliminated as the cause of Autism.

Many years ago, scientists felt that the cause of Autism was mothers who were too mean to their kids. These mothers were refereed to as "Refrigerator Moms."Thankfully, brain studies proved that the scientists were wrong again. Why are mothers getting blamed for people having Autism anyway? We should be thanking Moms for raising children with Autism and respect the struggles they face while praising them for helping the child get accustomed to the world.

My friend sent me an article explaining that head injuries as a young child could be a possible cause for Autism. The article said that an autistic person has brain patterns that are similar to someone having a head injury that has been healed.

Apparently the courts believe that vaccines cause autism. Even if that was the case, vaccines prevent a lot of serious illness and diseases. Not getting the vaccine for your child would not be wise. Would you rather have someone who is autistic or someone with a severe sickness/disease? In recent years, there have been many cases of parents believing that vaccines cause autism so they didn't want their children receiving the vaccine. Those children ended up dieing due to different diseases that the vaccine would have prevented. I don't know about you guys, but I would rather have autism than to have a life-threatening disease.

We still do not know what really causes autism. Thankfully, we know some of the theories that don't cause autism.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nicky and I Play Sonic 3

It's been a while since I last posted. Nicky and I are both autistic but we have a lot in common. We love the same shows and video games plus we love Nostalgia.

A couple of nights ago Nicky and I played Sonic 3 for the first time in years. We both played it all the time when we were younger but we are now adults. We always played it on Sega Genesis but this time it was the gamecube version on the Wii.

I played as Sonic and Nicky played as Tails. We made an incredible team. We both destroyed enemies, got hits off of Dr. Robotnik and destroyed him each time. Out of instinct, Nicky as Tails would fly and pick me up to get to the hard spots that I couldn't get to by myself. I had no idea that he could or would do that but he did.

The game was a lot easier than it had to be because we worked so well as a team. We only died one time before the final level. After we beat the sixth Robotnik boss of the game in the final level I (Sonic) had to fight the final battle alone. Tails had to stay behind meaning that Nicky couldn't help me out. It's the rules of the game for some reason that I had to fight the final boss by myself. Nicky helped me so much but he wasn't going to be there this time. He said "Goodbye Sonic" when Tails departed from the game. Nicky watched me fight the final boss.

It was no coincidence that I kept losing by myself. It was hard to adjust without Nicky having my back. After about the sixth try, I finally got enough practice and beat the final boss to beat the game. We were both really happy. We hi-fived each other. Sonic (Me) couldn't have done it without Tails (Nicky). We made a great team.

The Super Autistic Brothers struck again!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Back to trying to make this Blog Active

Hey guys! It's been over a year since I last wrote in this blog. However, I will start writing in here again. I have a lot to share with you guys so stay tuned.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nicky and I found Aladdin and the Magic Lamp!

My younger brother Nicky and I have a lot in common. The main thing we have in common is that we are both autistic. We also watch the same shows, play the same video games, and have the same sense of humor.

When Nicky and I were really young we watched an old VHS tape with the movie Aladdin and the Magic Lamp on AMC (American Movie Classics). It was an anime from Japan dubbed in English. We watched it all the time.

When we moved from Long Island to the Bronx back in the year 2000, we lost the tape (probably left it at the old house). For the past few years, Nicky and I tried searching for it all over the internet but no luck. We found videos with some scenes in it but they were in Spanish. It was hard to find because not many people in the U.S have heard of it.

Every-time I was up in college and when I talked to Nicky over the phone, he would always say to me "I miss Aladdin and the Magic Lamp 1982 on AMC with the voices Christopher Atkins, Kristy McNichol, John Carradine, June Lockhart and The Samuel Goldwyn Co. version with 'Angel's Flight' opening and ending credits." He has been saying that for a long time.

Then on December 9th, Nicky gave me a call. "AJ, I found Aladdin and the Magic Lamp Samuel Goldwyn Co. version in 1982 with Angel's Flight opening and ending credits!" I couldn't believe it. It turned out that someone posted the entire movie into five parts on YouTube. When I got home from Christmas break, Nicky and I watched the entire movie, just like old times.

It just goes to show you, no matter how old someone gets, you can never outgrow situations and memories that bring you and the people close to you together.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Article I wrote for a College Program for People with Autism and Other Disabilities

College Program for Students with Disabilities by AJ O’Hagan

Utica College is now opening its doors for students with disabilities. The program called College Works helps current High School Seniors with disabilities that are looking for jobs, friends, and even social skills. It’s a program is high school seniors moving from High School to employment.

This program between Utica College and College Works started just last week here on campus. There are students participating in it, four boys and two girls. All of them have some kind of disability.

Joanne Donaruma, Director of Employment Services, the Arc explains the program in greater detail. “The students (in the program) go to class with an Art instructor. It’s a specialized class,” Donaruma said. Each Student is matched up with a (Utica) College student so our students can get to know college classes and the (Utica) College students can learn about students with disabilities.

Occupational Therapist majors at Utica College go to College Works classes with the College Works students and the College Work Students attend the Occupational Therapy classes with the Occupational Therapist Students. Donaruma explained that the reason the students attend each other’s classes is so that they can evaluate each other.

The Individuals in the program learn how to do laundry and do grocery shopping. Donaruma hopes that someday the students will be able to stay in one of the Residence Halls.

When asked how the program came about, Donaruma said she that the program first started at the Mohawk Valley Community College. “We have a partnership with MVCC and we wanted to expand our program with post-secondary schools,” Donaruma said. “We wanted students with disabilities to have college experience like their college friends with non-disabilities.” Donaruma chose Utica College as the second site. “We talked to Utica College and they were more than happy to.”

Nick Bonacci, an individual with Autism participates in the College Works Program at MVCC and describes what the experience has been like to this point. “Week 1, we had a fire drill lesson, scavenger hunt around campus, I knew where everything is because I'm familiar with the place, and we went to the Utica Brewery.” He also describes his classmates in the program. “They are okay, a little less social than me. We get along okay.” When asked if he would recommend this program to other individuals with Autism, Bonacci replied “Yes definitely.”

James Smith, an Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy thinks this program at Utica College will be a success. “One of UC's strengths is our ability to customize learning experiences to the abilities of our students,” Smith said. “I predict that students in that program will thrive here because of the quality of UC's environment and our culture of inclusion.”

Erin Higgins, Graduate Student Elementary Education/Special Education, also had positive things to say about the relationship between Utica College and the College Works Program. "Any program that opens doors for people with disabilities is a positive,” Higgins said. “I think that with the growing number of autistic people reaching college age it is obvious that colleges will have to develop programs that meet their unique learning styles.”

Donaruma also had nice things to say about Utica College. “Utica College has been very welcoming to us and our students.” Donaruma hopes to expand the program even more and include a post secondary program for high school students. She is also hopeful that the College Works Program will continue at Utica College for many years to come.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Autism Awareness in Boston

This past Wednesday, I went to Boston to give a lecture to 70 Emerson College RA's about Autism. Caitlin Courtney, former Resident Director at Utica College, is now the Resident Director at Emerson College. She wanted me to come because there are a lot of students at Emerson College who have Aspergers also known as High-Functioning Autism.

I took the bus there. While riding the bus and arriving in Boston, I noticed the large Citgo sign straight ahead. I reacted by shifting my head to the right, and there was Fenway Park. I was riding behind the Green Monster. As a person with Autism, I love structure and when I was watching games at Fenway Park during the 90's, I would always notice that Citgo sign beyond the Green Monster and thought that it was awesome that you can see a Gas-Station sign in front of the ballpark.

When I saw that Citgo sign while on the bus, I knew that I was right next to Fenway Park and that's why I turned my head to the right. If I never saw the Citgo sign, I would have never been able to look at Fenway Park. I also saw Fenway on the way back home as well during the pre-game and caught a glimpse of the people sitting in the Green Monster.

You can no longer see the Citgo sign when watching the games because of the seats that have been added to Fenway during the early part of the 2000's. It was cool to see Fenway Park in person.

The lecture at Emerson College was a great success. The RA's asked great questions and everyone was really supportive. One RA asked which type of Autism occurs more often? I answered that there are less diagnosis of people with High-functioning Autism because since the symptoms are mild, they think there is nothing wrong with them so they don't get evaluated. That doesn't mean that there are more people who have lower-functioning Autism than people who have high-functioning Autism. There are just more people with lower functioning Autism that are DIAGNOSED.

It was a great experience. Deciding to give lectures about Autism during my sophomore year of college has been one of the greatest and most important decisions of my life.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Autistic Pride Day

Today is June 18th which means it is Autistic Pride Day. I didn't know about this until last week. There are 31 days of the year dedicated to Autism. World Autism Awareness Day which is April 2nd, April being Autism Awareness Month, and Autistic Pride Day which is June 18th. That's about 1/12 of a full year.

I remember actually making a blog post entitled Autism Pride back in December where I was basically showing pride in myself, my younger brother Nicky. and everyone in general with Autism. At the time, I had no idea that there was a day dedicated to showing pride in people with Autism.

As I have said before, the creator of Pokemon is Autistic. I have known this for months but a couple of weeks ago, I was on a message board and learned that the creator of Pokemon loved to collect bugs. He was really interested in insects. As a matter of fact, he got the idea of creating the show Pokemon based on his passion for collecting bugs. That's how Pokemon trainers capture the Pokemon and place it in a poke-ball. People with Autism have high interests, obsessions, and/or knowledge in one particular hobby, object, etc. The Pokemon Creator's passion was bug collecting.

My younger brother Nicky and I have the same interests. We both love Power Rangers, Dragonball Z, Super Mario Bros, the Nostalgia Critic, Batman, old Nicktoons, etc. He is a great artist. He loves to draw characters from movies, write spoofs about them, the works.

He loves movies. He knows which company produces a certain movie, the year it came out, directors, the actors, you name it. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post we both loved a movie we watched years ago when we lived in Long Island called Aladdin and the Magic Lamp which was an anime form Japan dubbed in English. That movie is really hard to find in stores. We can't even find it on youtube. The movie is on it but it's either in Spanish, Japanese, or French. He tells me he misses watching Aladdin and the Magic Lamp with me. I tell him I miss it too.

It aired on AMC. Nicky loves AMC. He has been collecting AMC Magazines for quite sometime now. They show the schedule where they aired movies in what year, month, week, day, and time slot.

For those who played the old Sonic games on SEGA Genesis, Nicky watches the videos on youtube. He plays Sonic 2 music from its official soundtrack videos and puts them over actual game play levels of either Sonic 3 or Sonic and Knuckles. He does this based on which ones are similar.

Some Examples: He plays Casino Night Zone music over Carnival Night Zone level gameplay because they are both nighttime levels with a lot of colorful objects in it.


He plays Emerald Hill Zone Music over Angel Island Zone level game play because they are both grass-levels.

He doesn't just do that for Sonic games. He puts Adam West's Batman music over Power Rangers' episodes because the are both super hero show. He plays the Bulk and Skull theme music over the Joker and the Penguin scenes because he feels that they are very similar characters.

I always knew I had Autism when I was younger. I remember taking the small yellow bus and being in Special Ed. classes. Growing up, I always thought I grew out of Autism. I later found out that once you have Autism, the symptoms may become less severe over time but you will always have Autism. I discovered that I still had aspergers during the Fall Semester of my Freshman Year in college.

Being Autistic myself and also having a younger brother with severe autism made me learn so much about Autism being a spectrum. Working with Non-verbal Autistic Adults by helping them play the drums at the Kelberman Center helped me learn about the most severe kind of Autism.

Being Autistic has led me to making some social mistakes. However, being Autistic helped motivate me to start the Autism Awareness Club at Utica College. It motivated me to be a volunteer helper at Pool Pals by helping out kids with Autism and other types of disabilities swim and play games in the pool. I was able to meet a kid my game, Nick Bonacci who has autism as well.

My Compeer mentee Christopher is a young twelve year old on the spectrum as well. I met a kid with Autism named Connor. He may only be in Middle School but he has a blog of his own as well. If I weren't Autistic, I would not have been able to meet all of these people and I probbaly wouldn't have been able to relate to my younger brother Nicky as well as I do.

Autistic Pride Day may be June 18th but to me, Autistic Pride Day is everyday. Ignorant people who discriminate against people with Autism or other disabilities will just keep me that much more motivated to spread awareness.

Happy Autistic Pride Day everybody!