Autism: 9 things I learned. Plus: A great giveaway.

Last September, the Dollar Dig cash-back site sponsored a giveaway of $150 worth of Amazon gift cards. This was a real win-win, since I like giving things away and you guys like the chance to get them. (The giveaway garnered more than 140 responses.)

Now site owner Rich Chrobak has asked my daughter and me to do posts to call attention to Autism Awareness Month. Since a giveaway does tend to get more eyeballs on a site, Chrobak is sponsoring giveaways in both places.

Here you have a shot at winning an Amazon Echo Dot. On Abby’s site, you’ll be in the running for a SamsungVR headset.

But that’s not the only way Dollar Dig is involved with Autism Awareness Month. Chrobak is putting his money where his heart is: All net profits for the month of April will go to POAC Autism Services, a New Jersey nonprofit that offers support, education, training and activities for families experiencing autism.

And if you like, you can be part of this effort.


In this month’s Dollar Dig newsletter, Chrobak notes that shoppers can keep their cash-back rebates. However, he also offers the option of donating those funds to POAC “or any other charity that is near and dear to you.”



9 things I learned about autism

Shortly after Rich contacted me I received my monthly issue of The Sun, a fascinating (and ad-free!) magazine. Prominently featured was an interview with Steve Silberman, author of “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.”

(A snippet of the interview can be read for free at the magazine’s website; to get the rest, you’ll need to subscribe. The Sun has thought-provoking articles, essays, fiction and poetry and is, in my opinion, well worth the $42 subscription fee. No ads = more room for stuff that others magazines might not see fit to print.)

Before I read the piece I knew a little bit about autism. Now I know a whole lot more about the history of and current research on the subject. Can’t list everything I learned – it’s a really comprehensive interview – but here are some things that jumped out at me:

Institutionalization used to be the primary “treatment.” While there, children were subjected to one or more of the following: seclusion, restraint, corporal punishment, the administering of Thorazine and LSD (!), and electroconvulsive and insulin-shock therapies.

Although some think autism is overdiagnosed, Silberman thinks it’s underdiagnosed in two groups: women and people of color.

“Childhood schizophrenia” was one of the labels applied to some autistic kids.

Up into the 1970s parents were blamed for autism. Psychiatrists would ask them why they did not love their children. “You can imagine the agony, frustration and guilt of these parents, who not only had a difficult-to-manage son or daughter but were blamed for it by medical authorities,” Silberman notes.

The Israeli military has a special unit of autistic soldiers who do satellite-imagery interpretation.

One possible reason autism is so often diagnosed among boys: “Autistic boys exhibit more-aggressive behaviors, which comes to the attention of (authorities)…Girls (are) more often taught to fade demurely into the background and to agree with those around them.” The author believes we should be paying more attention to girls who are “quiet, standoffish, intensely interested in their hobbies and struggling to thrive socially,” as some of them may be on the spectrum and could benefit from support for their ways of learning and being.

Face blindness” is common among people with autism.

Texting is increasingly a preferred method of communication, since it gives autistic people time to “compose their thoughts at their own pace.”

Some children see a reduction in the intensity of their traits as they get older, but people don’t “recover” from the condition. “That’s one of the problems with thinking you can cure autism: It can take resources away from support,” the author says.

Another point that really resonated for me: that there’s no clear delineation between Asperger’s and “mere eccentricity.” It’s become something of a parlor game to diagnose quirky famous people (Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld) as being “on the spectrum.”

“If we think that’s what autism is, we’ll underestimate how much support autistic people and their families need,” Silberman says. “If we go too far in the direction of medicalizing eccentricity, we risk trivializing the challenges that autistic people and their families face in their daily lives.”

Incidentally, “NeuroTribes” is currently on sale for $10.33 on Amazon. It has an average rating of 4.6 (out of five) from 389 reviewers, many of whom work with the autististic, are autistic themselves or have autistic children.


Why shop on Dollar Dig?

Regular readers know that I’m all about making each dollar do its utmost. If you’re shopping online anyway, not ordering through a cash-back site like Dollar Dig is like asking to pay extra.

Dollar Dig gets affiliate fees any time it sends send buyers to online retailers. Then a portion of those fees go to us, the shoppers. Easy enough, right? (But do check “How it works” section to avoid any mistakes that might negate your rebate.)

You’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up at Dollar Dig. Once you’ve earned an additional $20 in rebates you can request a withdrawal.

I encourage you to enter over on Abby’s site, too, even if you aren’t interested in a VR headset. Perhaps it would be a good gift for someone you know. Or you could always put it on Craigslist. Her giveaway runs through April 18.


To enter the giveaway, do one or more of the following:

Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry (e.g., “Registered at Dollar Dig,” “Subscribed to your writing newsletter” or “Follow you on Twitter”).

The deadline to enter is 7 p.m. PDT Tuesday, April 18. If I don’t hear back from the winners by 7 p.m. PDT Wednesday, April 19, I’ll have the random number generator pull another name.

Note: While Dollar Dig is donating the Amazon Echo Dot for the giveaway, I received no compensation to write this post. However, my affiliate sign-up link is used in the piece.

468 ad


  1. Thank you so much for writing about autism! (Our youngest is on the spectrum.) A lot of folks don’t even know that kids like ours didn’t even have the legal right to a public school education until the early 1970’s. Someday we hope the world figures out what the cause is, but in the meantime your support is greatly appreciated. –Mary

    • Donna Freedman

      My dad was a special ed teacher and I read a lot, so I know a little more than some people do about autism. But I sure don’t know as much as I should. The article was quite interesting (as is The Sun in general — I do recommend it), and I hope it and the book will help dispel some of the myths.

  2. Gayle Erwin

    It’s good to learn as I run into more and more people who either have autism or have kids who are. Thank you.

  3. Gayle Erwin

    I get your news letter

  4. Gayle Erwin

    I follow you on facebook.

  5. As a retired primary teacher, I’m always interested in new autism research. Thanks.

  6. As a mother of a child with autism it is refreshing to see an article about living with it and not curing it. I recognized the fact that he was just different a long time ago and stopped wanting a cure. Our family is happier this way. Thank you.

  7. This quote really struck me: ‘that there’s no clear delineation between Asperger’s and “mere eccentricity.”’ I was unaware of many of the facts you mentioned.

  8. I subscribe via feedburner.

  9. I follow on twitter.

  10. I receive your newsletter.

  11. Thank you for highlighting autism. My nephew is severely autistic. Was hard to work through the suspicion and guilt that maybe someone did something to cause it. Guy just hears a different drummer!

  12. i follow U on twitter

  13. I subscribe to your newsletter.

  14. I follow u on fb too.

  15. A couple of my nephews have autism and it’s frustrating and fascinating to see them grow up. They’re smart, gifted in fact, but teachers still don’t seem to know how to treat them as such. You always inform, so thank you.

  16. Catseye

    I didn’t know your dad was a special ed teacher. Cool.

    • Donna Freedman

      Yep. He got married right out of high school and did several kinds of jobs, then started going to college at age 30 to become a teacher. Ultimately he earned a master’s degree in special education.

  17. Catseye

    I also follow you on Facebook.

  18. Vickie

    It’s interesting to know that girls react differently when they have autism. It’s something to watch out for.

  19. Vickie

    I signed up with Dollar Dig. sounds like a good cashback site.

  20. Vickie

    I get your emails

  21. Vickie

    I follow you on twitter

  22. Vickie

    I follow you on facebook

  23. Vickie

    I get your biweekly emails

  24. L bryant

    I have a good friend who has 2 adult sons with autism. Both are in college. They are a wonderful example of faith and hard work leading to success.

  25. I receive your emails. This really hit home as my husband has a relative with autism.

  26. That’s awesome to bring awareness — and through free stuff, no less!

    Fluffster the golden and I had a visit the other week to a day program for autistic youth and others. He had a blast, and my knowledge of Pokemon was sincerely tested! We’re definitely going back next month. 😃

  27. My daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome so she is on the autism spectrum. We have fought The Battle of Chapter 766 (the section of Mass. state law that governs special ed services in this state), and I am pleased to say that, wiht a lot of hard work, tears, and prayers, plus some amazingly understanding therapists, my daughter will graduate from college in May. She has a part-time job, a car, and a killer sense of humor. So anyone who wants to bring awareness of (as opposed to “curing” autism) autism is in my heart and prayers. Donna, so glad you are back online!! I was concerned.

    • Donna Freedman

      Hurray for your family and the biggest huzzah of all to your daughter! I’m pleased she persevered in the face of bureaucratic indifference.

      And thanks for your kind words.

  28. Teinegurl

    I’m subscribed via email

  29. Teinegurl

    I follow you on Twitter

  30. Great job highlighting autism awareness and acceptance! I love that the Israeli military has an entire unit just for people with autism. Keep on killin’ it everyone!

  31. Danielle

    I follow you on Twitter

  32. Danielle

    I follow you on Facebook

  33. Danielle

    The differences in girls and boys reminds me of seeing that same type of commentary on ADHD when reading about it after my son was diagnosed.

  34. Interesting post. I’ve had several students on the autism spectrum, and also adult students who are parents of autistic kids. Autistic kids are human beings…and they’re not autistic because of something their parents did.

  35. One of my closest friends (and fellow blogger) has an autistic daughter and my daughter’s BFF’s sister is autistic. I’ve been getting quite an education in it over the last two years. I did not, however, know about the Israeli military unit. That’s so awesome!

  36. I have 2 children with Autism and my youngest would love the VR headset!

  37. Following on twitter @JenHaydenMSW

  38. Jackie

    I know about autism, but I learned much more about it reading your post. Thanks for sharing this.

  39. Jackie

    I am an email subscriber

  40. Jackie

    I follow on twitter (@jacvil5237)

  41. Love your articles Donna!

  42. Sylvia Barertt

    Keep up the great work.

  43. Beverley Egan

    Thanks for another great article. I learn so much from you.

  44. Beverley Egan

    I am an email subscriber.

  45. Beverley Egan

    And I follow you on Facebook.

  46. Kim Wilkie

    Enjoy your time with your Dad! I subscribe by email, and now by Twitter! Looking forward to hearing from you there too!

  47. Nancy Black

    I follow and am a newsletter subscriber.

  48. Belinda Richardson

    I followed you on Twitter.

  49. Thank you for sharing this info on autism. I learned a lot of new things.

  50. I’m an email subscriber.

  51. I’m a facebook fan.

  52. Judy Rohde

    I subscribe to your emails.

  53. Judy Rohde

    I follow you on Facebook.

  54. Judy Rohde

    Interesting article. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.

  55. Thanks for writing this!

  56. Belinda Richardson

    I signed up at Dollar Dig. 🙂

  57. Belinda Richardson

    I subscribed via Feedburner. 🙂

  58. Belinda Richardson

    I followed you on Facebook. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *