Autism and enthusiasms

The New York Times has an article on “Reaching an Autistic Teenager” describing an approach for teaching autistic kids, who generally are extremely self-absorbed and difficult to reach. The approach, where teachers and students alike work out how the day will go, with students learning to learn and to interact, sounds fantastic: I would have loved to have been part of that growing up.

Perhaps a reason for my enthusiasm comes from the following line in the article:

Children with autism — especially Asperger’s — are famous for all-consuming interests in Match-box cars, bus maps, train schedules, oscillating fans, Civil War battles, baseball statistics, black holes, dinosaurs, chess, or Star Wars.

Hmmm… for me would be “yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes”. And perhaps a bonus point for combining two and being fascinated with baseball schedules. You may draw your own conclusions.

Where did the summer go?

This summer seems to have been far shorter than previous summers. I start teaching next week, and it seems so unfair: I want my summer back! I think the fault is partially the conferences I went to (CPAIOR in May, IFORS in July, and MIP in August) broke up the summer too much, so I never got the multiple weeks in a row to get things done.

In retrospect, it turned out to be a reasonably productive summer, at least in terms of things I could check off my Remember The Milk lists (I am an enthusiastic, but sporadic, follower of the Getting Things Done approach to organizing one’s life). So, in the interest of letting people know what faculty do when they are not teaching, here is what got checked off since I put in my final course grades in early May:

  • 5 journal referee reports
  • 14 conference paper reports
  • 3 promotion/tenure letters
  • 2 prize nominations
  • 6 papers handled in some way as journal Associate Editor
  • 2 prize committees chaired and completed
  • 3 conferences attended
  • 3 conference presentations
  • 4 professional society reports/presentations
  • 1 university presentation
  • 1 other presentation
  • 29 OR blog posts
  • 83 trips across campus for an espresso
  • 1 computer upgraded
  • 1 baseball game attended
  • 1 elephant touched

Plus research moved on (one student ready to graduate next week), though I need to make more time for that (I think any professor would much rather have “3 papers completed and submitted” than that mess above). And Alexander is hitting a baseball much better! So overall, not a bad summer, but I would like it to last a few more weeks!

For another take on the things faculty do, particularly in the summer, be sure to check out the FemaleScienceProfessor blog (and thanks to My Biased Coin for pointing that out!)