Kaspar, without his wig
In England, scientists are using a child-size robotic doll to help children who have autism learn how to react to people:
The robot, named Kaspar, is programmed to do things like smile, frown, laugh, blink and wave his arms. He has shaggy black hair, a baseball cap, a few wires protruding from his neck, and striped red socks. He was built by scientists at the University of Hertfordshire at a cost of about 1,300 pounds (US$2,118).
There are several versions of Kaspar, including one advanced enough to play Nintendo Wii. The robot's still in the experimental stage, and researchers hope he could be mass-produced one day for a few hundred dollars.
"Children with autism don't react well to people because they don't understand facial expressions," said Ben Robins, a senior research fellow in computer science at the University of Hertfordshire who specializes in working with autistic children.
"Robots are much safer for them because there's less for them to interpret and they are very predictable."
Here's a playlist of recent YouTube uploads that feature musical performances by young people with autism:
Logan sing Josh Turner's Long Black Train
Nicky sings about Elmo and cookies
Shalom sings a thank you song he wrote (with James Durbin-esque high notes)
Eytan plays the piano and sings with preschool students.
A Philadelphia caregiver has been charged in the death of Bryan Nevins, who died because his autism made it impossible for him to leave the van he was left in during a hot summer afternoon. Prosecutors are saying her cellphone record offers proof that Stacey Strauss was not doing her job:
While on duty that day, records show, Strauss placed or received 34 cell-phone calls and 71 text messages.
The calls alone ate up more than three hours of her eight-hour shift. The longest call, lasting 44 minutes, occurred during the critical first hour that Bryan Nevins, 20, sat helpless in the van Strauss had parked after returning to Woods from a field trip.
Strauss had previously been reprimanded for making personal calls at work.
Matt talks about his tic disorder.
Mathew Ryan Morin has released a new video as brave and revealing as the one he did on stimming. In this one, he talks about his tic disorder. Mathew's tics are decreasing, but were very noticable when he was younger. He demonstrates them, and, in a scene that's both funny and heartbreaking, dramatizes what the bullying he faced in school because of them was like. This video helped me to understand better what having tics is like (I never thought about them causing someone to get tired or sore), and inspired me. Matt is also continuing his Autism Weekly news videos.
The civilian commission that oversees the Los Angles Police Department has overruled Chief Charlie Beck's decision that two policemen did nothing wrong when they shot and killed Steven Eugene Washington, a 27-year-old man with autism. The shooting, as described by the Los Angeles Times, happened because of Washington's cellphone and unusual reaction when approched by the police:
The officer who was driving pulled up alongside Washington. From a few feet away, his partner saw a dark object tucked into Washington's waistband and, convinced it was a gun, drew his own weapon and pointed it at the man, according to the report.
Washington, according to the officers' account in the report, turned abruptly and began to walk directly toward the patrol car as the driving officer brought the car to a stop. The officer in the passenger seat told investigators Washington had a "blank stare" as if in a daze and ignored orders to raise his hands.
From the car, the officer fired a single shot, then ducked down below the window. The shot struck Washington in the head.
Washington had no weapon. The dark object the officer observed was probably Washington's black cellphone. In describing the shooting, the officer initially told investigators that he had seen the object in Washington's hand and that Washington had pointed it at them as he approached.
Los Angeles County coroner's officials, however, found the cellphone still in its holster attached to Washington's waistband.
Officers Allan Corrales and George Diego will face yet unspecified disciplinary action. Paul Weber, president of their union, was indignant at the decision:
"I don't know what they expect officers to do," he said. "Wait until one of them is shot before they react?"
Yes, Paul. We expect you to wait until someone gets shot by a cellphone still in its holster before you use that to justify murdering someone because you don't like the look in his eyes.