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Abnormal psychology

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Alexandra Sifferlin

For the last two years, Spanish photographer José Antonio de Lamadrid has quietly documented the daily lives of the Morillo Aguilar triplets; three 18-year-old boys at various stages on the autism spectrum. The Morillo Aguilar boys, Álvaro, Jaime and Alejandro, will likely never live independently, and rely on one another to navigate the world around them.

Lamadrid, whose own nephew is autistic, met the Morillo Aguilar triples through his volunteer work at Autismo Sevilla, a non-profit that offers support for parents of autistic children. “I thought that by taking pictures of these three, it would help people understand more about the illness,” says Lamadrid. “Although they are dependent on their family, it is possible for them to live normal and happy lives.”

It’s estimated that autism affects over 2 million Americans and tens of millions worldwide. As with the three brothers, symptoms vary depending on where a person falls on the autism spectrum.

Since he has the most normal social abilities, Jamie is the spokesperson for the three boys, and has a startling intelligence for trivia. “If you give him a random date, like May 2, 2001, he can very quickly tell you if that was a Friday or Saturday,” says Lamadrid. “He is the voice of the children and will often represent the three.”

Alejandro speaks significantly less than Jamie, but has his own unique skill of putting together entire 1,000 piece puzzles in only a couple hours. Alvaro, who has significant brain damage hardly ever speaks, but he still enjoys watching movies with his brothers. Although the three boys arelegal adults now, Lamadrid says they have the mental state of three-year-olds.

Lamadrid says the three boys are some of his favorite–and most cooperative—subjects to photograph. Whether the boys are getting dressed for the day in matching outfits or riding the public bus through Sevilla, Lamadrid says they never questioned his constant trailing as he snapped pictures. “They allowed me to be in their life, and didn’t care about me or my camera,” he says. “They’re the subjects all photographers want to have in their life.”

The mother of the three boys, Noelia Aguilar, stuck out the most to Lamadrid during his work. “I was stunned by her,” says Lamadrid. “She is really trying to give them a normal life. Both parents are taking care of them on their own and they know when to push them and when to stop and listen.”

Through his photos of the triplets, Lamadrid hopes he will spur greater support from the Spanish government and autism organizations for families like the Morillo Aguilars. “I’ve learned that despite the condition, this family lives very positively,” says Lamadrid. “Every day is quite hard for them, but they go to bed happy.”

José Antonio de Lamadrid is a photographer based in Seville, Spain. He is represented by Bluephoto.

Alexandra Sifferlin is a writer and producer for TIME Healthland.

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Laia Abril

A Bad Day

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A Bad Day‘ is a multimedia piece that approaches the struggle of bulimia and that is the first chapter of an ongoing long-term project about Eating Disorders. Jo is 21 and suffers from bulimia, a kind of eating disorder. Her obsession is not about being thin; it’s about not gaining weight, in spite of the huge amount of food that she ingests every day. Bulimia has taken all her time and money, and also her passion: dance. ‘If I was not bulimic I would be dancing like before’ Jo says. ‘But ballet is about elegance and perfection, and I’m a crap person in the middle of chaos’. She doesn’t look overweight and she hates her body and can’t see herself in leggings in front of a mirror anymore. She also thinks that her addiction is ‘disgusting’. That’s why she never told anyone ‘ not even her boyfriend ‘ about it. For some reason, she decided to open herself to me.

The project started, after a deep research, shooting for few weeks in November 2010, when I spent my days with Jo in her house in Edinburgh. I woke up with her and listened to her saying: ‘I hope this is going to be a good day’. With her I went to the supermarket and watched movies in her computer. I also saw her going through daily crisis, eating and vomiting immediately after. She confessed to me that she self-injures herself, specifically small cuts in her legs and feet. I saw her good days turning into very bad ones and I saw Jo acting in public as if everything was absolutely fine. And this is actually what this illness is all about, pretending that everything is all right while it’s not. An apparent normality that makes bulimia one of the hardest disorders to diagnose and a devastating killer of female teenagers and young adults worldwide.

The lies and misunderstandings that surround bulimia are what convinced me to further develop this project. I would like my images to catch the contradictory feelings and behaviors that these girls have to go through day after day. My approach is going to be intimate and psychological and will leave in the back the more physical manifestations of the of the disease.

 

Bio

Laia Abril, 25, is a documentary photographer raised in Barcelona. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and studied photography at ICP in New York City. She began working on documentary projects in the Balkans, covering the 13th Funeral of Srebrenica and the Independence of Kosova, first for a Spanish NGO and then for Spanish newspapers. In 2009 and 2010 she was a finalist on the Ian Parry Award participating at the Getty Gallery in London first with her photo project about the young lesbian community in Brooklyn and then with the project ‘The Last Cabaret’ about a porno sex-life club in Barcelona. Her work has been featured in magazines including OjodePez, The Sunday Times magazine, DRepubblica, and COLORS magazine amongst others, and has been recognized with various scholarships. After spending two years at FABRICA (the Benetton research and communication center in Italy) she is currently working as a staff photographer, blogger and Associate Picture Editor for COLORS Magazine combining her freelance career and keeping developing her personal project.

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Laia Abril

A Bad Day multimedia

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New submitter sirlark writes "'Researchers at the University of Auckland tested an interactive 3D fantasy game called Sparx on a 94 youngsters diagnosed with depression whose average age was 15 and a half. Sparx invites a user to take on a series of seven challenges over four to seven weeks in which an avatar has to learn to deal with anger and hurt feelings and swap negative thoughts for helpful ones. Used for three months, Sparx was at least as effective as face-to-face conventional counselling, according to several depression rating scales. In addition, 44% of the Sparx group who carried out at least four of the seven challenges recovered completely. In the conventional treatment group, only 26% recovered fully.' One has to wonder if it's Sparx specifically — or gaming in general — that provides the most benefit, given that most of the symptoms of depression relate to a feeling of being unable to influence one's environment (powerlessness, helplessness, ennui, etc) and games are specifically designed to make one feel powerful but challenged (if they hit the sweet spot)."


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In 2003, Ian Welch was on his first combat tour in Iraq. As his battalion waited to storm the Diyala Bridge and seize Baghdad, an artillery shell struck the vehicle behind him, killing two soldiers and knocking Mr. Welch unconscious. When he came to, he was disoriented. His vision was blurred. Blood dripped from his ears. He helped gather the remains of the dead before heading out to take the bridge. He returned to Iraq twice more on combat tours.

Mr. Welch was later diagnosed with chronic PTSD and traumatic brain injury. He now lives in Dallas, Texas, with his girlfriend and government-paid caregiver, Katie Brickman. Every day, he faces the long-term effects of PTSD: bouts of amnesia, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness and vomiting.

Photographer Brandon Thibodeaux spent two months chronicling Mr. Welch’s struggles and with Wall Street Journal photo editors Matthew Craig (Executive Producer) and Kate Lord (Associate Producer), created the video below. This is Mr. Thibodeaux’s account. To read the story and see the complete interactive, click here.

* * * * *

I’ve come to think of Ian’s way of dealing with PTSD as a protective moat–a barrier he crosses only for doctor’s appointments, haircuts and other necessary outings.

When I was first assigned the story, I was planning on still photographs. But in the end we decided that the complexity of the story required much more, and I needed a different approach. I quickly learned that I needed ample time, as well as video and audio equipment to best tell Ian’s story.

Ian is someone who rarely steps outside of his structured life, so it was essential to gain his trust. In the end, Katie, his girlfriend, was key. She acts as his protector, making sure to blunt potential triggers to his PTSD. Katie studied photography and knew of the work of Tim Hetherington and other war photographers. She convinced Ian The Wall Street Journal project could be therapeutic.

Before I was assigned the story, I knew of PTSD as a combat disorder. After spending days with Ian and Katie, I learned of its long and tenacious grip on everyday life.

I felt it only fair to reveal my own vulnerabilities since Ian exposed so many of his. As a teenager, I underwent chemotherapy for a rare case of lymphoma cancer. While I didn’t face enemy fire or lose friends in a battle, it gave us a patch of common ground. I faced attacks from my own body. And when he described his anxiety and mood swings, it stoked memories of friends I had met at the hospital. I often wondered why I was allowed to survive and they were not. Even Katie’s role with Ian was reminiscent of how my parents must have managed, juggling appointments and providing support.

Once he allowed me access to his home, Ian, Katie, and I spent a lot of time together. It was important to become a part of his routine. Many days were quiet with little to photograph. Since Ian and Katie stayed up late, it made sense for me to stay overnight sometimes.

To understand his deeper, more personal thoughts, I asked Ian to read his journals, and to describe what he recalled from the injury on April 7, 2003. I felt horrible asking to hear such difficult memories. One night, as we finally felt comfortable enough to go over his combat experience, I had to help him walk back into the house. Katie didn’t know how to react when she saw how weak he was. It was a powerful reminder of how difficult it was for him to revisit the most painful parts of his past.

When the project was over, Ian was inundated by phone calls from loved ones. Katie couldn’t thank us enough for spending so much time with Ian and for capturing such an honest portrayal. Ian also talked about the project a lot and was more open to discussing his PTSD. I hope his story and video helps him hear those inner thoughts with better perspective. And I hope his story reaches and comforts others like him.

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TEDxVictoria - Jim Tanaka. Facing up to Autism: New Tools for Different Minds

Dr. Jim Tanaka is a professor of psychology and co-director of the Brain and Cognition at the University of Victoria. His work in autism explores the use of interactive media to help children with autism spectrum disorder develop their social and emotional abilities. web.uvic.ca www.tedxvictoria.com
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TEDxMindStreamAcademy - Dr. Howard Rankin - How Balancing Your Brain Balances You

Dr. Howard Rankin BA, M.Phil., Ph.D, has published over thirty-five scientific papers on addictions and eating disorders and for ten years was the associate editor of the scientific journal Addictive Behaviors. At the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, he conducted groundbreaking research on the subject of temptation and self-control and was part of the team that redefined the scientific concept of dependence. Dr. Rankin has authored or co-authored 10 books on communication, relationships, wellness and weight loss, including the best selling Inspired to Lose .Dr. Rankin has held academic appointments at the universities of London, Oxford and South Carolina. In his clinical practice Dr. Rankin was the Chief of the Eating Disorders Unit, St.Andrews Hospital, Northampton, England, as well as consultant to drug and alcohol treatment units both there and at the Maudsley Hospital, London. He was formerly the clinical director at the Hilton Head Health Institute, the leading residential weight loss program in the country. He has a practice in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and in 2010 opened the Rankin Center for Neuroscience and Integrative Health. MindStream Academy www.mindstreamacademy.com is a fun, innovative co-ed boarding program where teens achieve healthy weight, get fit and build self esteem by nurturing their Mind, Body, and Spirit. In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a <b>...</b>
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