15 Aug

online autism test hack

I was speaking with m1 in the ILUG chatroom today, and he mentioned an online autism test on Wired.com.

When you fill that out, and submit it, though, you will be shown the source code of the script which was supposed to calculate the results.

To get it to work, download the source, copy it into a .pl file, and upload it to your own server into your own cgi-bin (chmod to 755 before uploading). Then open up the test, use Firebug to edit the ‘action’ parameter of the form to point to your machine, and there you go!

If you want to try it out yourself, my copy of the file is here: http://verens.com/cgi-bin/autistic.pl – go to the wired.com form, change its action using Firebug (“inspect” the form, and click the action parameter to change it), then fill in the form and submit.

I scored 32, by the way, which is not quite the social animal I’m sure everyone takes me for, but also not extremely autistic. (of course, a few of those questions were confusing, so I may have got them wrong 😉 )

11 Aug


Today, I add a new tag to my wordpress collection.

Yesterday, Jareth’s psychiatrist, the jazz-playing Michael McDonough, verified that Jareth is autistic.

This was not a snap decision. Jareth has been in observation for over a year now. Almost every week, I’ve taken half a day off work to bring him to sessions at Enable Ireland. the Monaghan branch is very very friendly.

Some of the signs of his autism:

  • He will be four next month. He has not spoken a single sentence yet.
  • He expresses excitement by jumping up and down and flapping his hands
  • He has extraordinary sequencing ability – can write numbers from 0 to whatever, and letters from a to z. Also the reverse – z to a, whatever to 0.
  • His drawing ability is more complex than one would expect of a three year old.

There are more symptoms (see here for the more common characteristics), but they are not as visually obvious.

So why am I putting this in my blog? Surely one non-technical post this month is more than enough?

Well, if you are reading this blog, you are probably a technical person. And you probably exhibit those same characteristics. Are you very good in some areas (programming, for example) and other people think you are anti-social (even if you don’t think so yourself)? Do you fidget?

The reason I say all this is that I see myself in Jareth. As a child, I was always alone, I was nicknamed “Einstein II” because I had a great ability in maths and general knowledge (the maths ability stagnated as I got bored with school), I still fidget (rocking, finger tapping), people say I am antisocial and arrogant and even sometimes obnoxious although I really don’t see it at the time and am always surprised when someone says it.

Autism is about 80% genetic, and there is a 4.3:1 ratio of male to female incidence. this means that if Jareth’s autism is hereditary, then he most likely got it from me than from Bronwyn.

There is a plus side, though – I grew out of most of the symptoms, and I think he will as well.

Also, his abilities are perfect for the 21st century – his interests lie in areas that are perfect for engineering, programming, or other technical careers. I think he’ll go far.

Autism is not a bad thing. It is just another way of approaching life. There is no cure, but autistics say that they don’t want to be “cured” anyway.

My son enjoys his life, even if communication is frustrating, and I would not have him any other way.

07 Mar

ah… spring; when young men's thoughts turn to…


So anyway, I moved house (long story short), meaning that I get to think more clearly, as the house is less cluttered, and the route to work involves crossing less roads.

This morning, I was thinking about my current project – I’m writing a recurrent connectionist network so my new robot can learn to recognise things like grass and rubbish (to cut the former, and remove the latter).

The walk was getting tiring, so I was thinking about segways as well, and wondering how easy it might be to make one.

This eventually evolved into an idea for a new transport system – you get a load of little robots (my gardening ones, for example), and get them to form a platform. Then a load more of them form another platform on top. Then, you stand on the top.

The “carpet” would move in the direction you lean. Of course, the speed wouldn’t be too impressive, but it would be better than walking.

When the lower layer encounters a rock on the road or something, it moves around it. The upper layer robots interlock with each other to allow the lower level bots to do this without having too much pressure from above.

When you reach where you are going, the robots then disperse and continue their gardening around the new area.

You could even form a baggage train using this idea – a few carpet networks would follow each other in marching-ant form.

This would be easier to do than to create a robot which does your gardening for you…