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Some people who have autism and Asperger's think in pictures. Kinda like Google Images.

People with autism and Asperger's see the world in very different ways from the rest of us. Here's a peek into that world from someone who has lived it.

Temple Grandin spent her early life, as she says, "goofing off" until a science teacher made her brain light up.

She was born with autism during the 1940s, when people didn't understand it well.

But Grandin has done a lot since those days of goofing off.

She became a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a best-selling author, a consultant to the livestock industry, and a popular public speaker.


HBO made an award-winning movie about her life, which millions of people saw. (When she talks about "the movie" in the TED Talk below, that's what she's referring to.)

You can watch "Temple Grandin" on HBO or Amazon.

Her main work now is to educate people on how she, like many people with autism and Asperger's, sees things in pictures.

She even suggests that some people in places like Silicon Valley may be on the autism spectrum or they wouldn't have been able to do what they've done.

Image via TED.

Grandin really does think almost completely in images.

As she describes it, when you say "steeple," her mind goes to the first image she knows is a steeple from her childhood church. Then, to the next one.

Kinda like Google Images does, right?

Image via TED.

Autism is still not very well understood, although research — as well as the number of people diagnosed on the autism spectrum — has been increasing.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the prevalence of autism spectrum diagnoses has drastically increased since 1970. And Temple was born 28 years before this graph's earliest date.

Image via The Fullerton Informer. And no, vaccinations do not cause autism. Science has proven otherwise, so please do not take away from this anything that's purely fiction.

But there are some things we do know.

Some of them are included in Grandin's TED Talk.

She has some great suggestions for ways to help those on the autism spectrum, too, like these:

  • Educators and parents need to find ways to get people on the spectrum to be engaged and thrilled to be using their unique brains the way they need to in order to make a difference in the world.
  • Understand their reality. She was a "different" kid and adult. She made it work because she found her place and made other humans understand that she didn't function the way that they do. What if we approached other humans on a regular basis with this understanding and empathy? What a wonderful world it would be, indeed.
  • Get to know a family with kids who are differently abled than the rest of us. See what their world is like, and maybe make them feel loved — or at least understood a little better.
  • Spread the word — when you see her movie or TED Talk, pass it around. It's a great place to start a conversation.
Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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