Damned lies and Statistics

In American, or more particularly in California, we are encouraged to nurture our inner child, to hold onto that innocence, especially if we wish to maintain our mental health. And who doesn't want to do that?

As adults, we try and remember that even the most wizened and cynical of us, can
learn from children. But does that still hold true if those children are autistic? Probably not. Not going to glean a lot of insight from those little chappies, and they are mainly chaps, depending upon which set of statistics you care to favour.

Personally, I like the one that suggests that as many as 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autism. I love statistics because you can prove anything with them by careful manipulation. I thought that I was the only person locally, or even nationally with two autistic boys, but now that they're both at the same school, I find that other families with two. [Ref 1]

What does that mean? Well, it means that together, we three families, have six children, autistic ones, of a similar age, in one school. If there are thirty children in a class, that means that each class will have an autistic child. And why would that matter? It means that your child will be in close proximity with mine. In fact, because my boys are only 17 months apart, they could be in the same class together.

They separate twins, but the same doesn't apply to siblings, I've checked. That means that your child might sit next to mine, perhaps one either side. In fact those other autistic children, the two that are the right age, might end up in the same class too. My two and four more, because it's largely a matter of chance. Wouldn't that be super! Your child with four or six little autistic kids, all pals together in the same class. It would be even better if the class had only 20 children, although it would mess up my statistics a bit.

Your child would be a great role model for my children. Mine could copy yours, then they'd learn how to behave properly, just like yours do. Children learn more from their peers than their parents by the time they're in school, a sort of transfer of allegiance if you will. But that's fabulous for me, because you've taught your children a great set of moral values, things that mine might not understand, like non-discrimination and inclusion. You know, like the Barney song: ‘we include everyone!’ I bet your kids can sing every word perfectly. Doesn’t that warm your heart?

Don't worry, I lied when I said that our children would meet. My children are in the special ed class, separate, protected and nurtured, because it would be ghastly if they were all in together. They might be bullied. Wouldn’t that be dreadful? Mine of course, not yours.

Fancy a play date? Pick up the phone and give me a tinkle.

[Ref 1] and don’t forget ‘George and Sam,’ by Charlotte Moore, but they’re on a different continent so we won’t count them. Then there’s Luke Jackson and his siblings {Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome} but they’re on the same tiny little island, so we’ll ignore them too.

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Air freshener fails to alleviate the stench

Strangely I have always considered senior daughter to be our family environmentalist. As we live in the States, she is there to remind us where we are going wrong. Her views are pretty mainstream as far as Europeans are concerned but extreme for our American cousins. For example, rather than use the car to go and collect the turkey for the holiday festivities, she cycled. She returned on her bike with the fowl in her back pack after a two and a half hour round trip.

I will avoid mention of her views on toilets, since I need to avoid scatological references as I am a Brit. I had not considered that there was a possibility that somebody else might climb on the band wagon, to ceremoniously beat our conscious and sub-conscious selves. It is therefore with some surprise that I engage my youngest son in conversation. I enquire why he is pinching his nostrils shut?

“Because of the badest smell!” he screams, keeping his distance. I struggle to gain a purchase on his person and park him on my lap to extract further details. He writhes and wriggles making retching noises. Loud ones.
“What is the badest smell dear?”
“It is you! You are the badest smell. You are worster than peanuts!”
My! That bad!
“You don't think I smell very nice?”
“NO!” I didn't really need clarification there, more a moment to gather my wits.
“What can we do about that problem?” He pauses to gaze at the ceiling awaiting inspiration.
“I know! You can be living somewhere else?”
“Where would you suggest?”
“In dah garden. You can be living in dah garden in a tent.”
“But I hate camping!”
“You won't be 'dah camping,' you will be dah living dere.”
So much logic! I need to re-configure my brain.
“But I don't want to live in a tent in the garden. I will be lonely. Won't you be lonely without me?”
What a stupid question. Any first year lawyer knows that you should never ask a question that you cannot predict the answer to.
“You will be lonely but I will be stinky free.”
I am somewhat flummoxed, not for the first time. Spouse sticks his head around the door to clarify:
“it's the Marmite! You didn't clean your teeth and gargle with mouthwash before you breathed on him.”

It would appear that the health and well being of a fellow human being, is less important than a pollutant free environment. [Ref 1]

[Ref 1] ecocentrism

after ECOCENTRIC adj.
The view or belief that environmental concerns should take precedence over the needs and rights of human beings considered in isolation.

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The Dreaded Telly

The reason
Well that's a relief, at least I know why they're autistic now. Nothing to do with mercury poisoning, the MMR vaccine, Thimerosol, refrigerator mother or luck, just too much telly. Fancy that! Who'd have thought it? Not a cure of course but a cause. I haven't had time to check out whether it's really too much telly or just any telly, but it doesn't really matter now as they've already been contaminated. It's great, now I have someone else to blame. And there was me thinking that Leaky Gut Syndrome was the answer. When we first came to America we didn't even have a television as we didn't think there was anything worth watching then, nor did we know anything about the 'Theory of Mind.' We were drawn in after a while though, tempted by public television and the small entertainment budget of immigrants. But I think that was their father's fault, which ties in with the theory of the 'Extreme Male Brain.' By the time the children started arriving we discovered a few programs for little children. I always thought it was Barney and his social skills training that did the damage, but now I'm not so sure whether I should perhaps be looking at Elmo in a whole new light. These days, having branched out into cable TV, clearly I need look no further than Spongebob and his rabble. A curse on all their houses for warping my children. I'm an American now, so perhaps I should sue somebody, anybody. Who cares about parental responsibility, we were duped, it was supposed to be educational not corrupting. Nothing to do with faulty neurons after all, what luck!
It's a shame really as it removes one of many, many tools in my arsenal of bribes to motivate them, and you need a great deal of motivation with autistic children. It's only one of many, but it's a powerful one. It's the solution to any number of obstacles in the average day, a whole laundry list of achievements can gradually be built up with the promise of telly at the end of the day; get dressed, use the toilet, wash your hands, the list goes on and on. I know there other rewards such as verbal praise, a high five, a hug but the autistic child is not motivated by such trivialities, or at least mine aren't, but that's probably because I'm a refrigerator mom.
Never mind, like many parents above all other things, 30 minutes of telly means that I can prepare dinner and don't say it would be better if I allowed them to help, it would and I sometimes do, but their fine and gross motor skills are a challenge for all of us. I suspect that the computer is equally to blame. But when alls said and done, I blame the dodgy gene pool myself.

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