Showing posts with label Special. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Special. Show all posts

Friday 1 February 2019

For “Autism” just read “Special”

The entry to Bethlehem through the separation wall from the road to Jerusalem

We recently visited Jerusalem, but our return flight was cancelled due to snow at our return destination.  As a result, we got to experience the inflight TV on Turkish Airlines as we came home via Istanbul.  The TV is nearly all family friendly American programming.
I was surprised how many of the family programs now include characters with “autism” and even one character discussing her own IEP (Individual Education Plan). None of these characters would have been diagnosed with anything back in the days I was in school. My 15-year-old son with classic autism has never had an IEP; it feels like I am his IEP, but I am not complaining.
What I did find interesting was an episode in which, when confronted by a 10-year-old Aspie asking her annoying personal questions, a teenage cheerleader just said “oh, you’re one of those special kids”.
Special is a nice way of saying different and nobody would think of it as a biological diagnosis, as they very mistakenly do with autism.  
It looks like today at least 25% of kids are now seen as “special”, one way or another, and in the great majority of cases there really is no definitive biological reason why.  All 25% would benefit from special help at school, so no surprise some parents desperately seek out an autism diagnosis.  My son's assistant at school is often asked for help by the non-special kids, who find her notes very helpful and the teachers say to me how some of the non-special kids would benefit from the extra work my special son does regarding spoken and written communication.
Until recent decades you had to be extremely special to get any specific help. If you were deaf or blind you had your own school, often residential.
The 15% of the population with an IQ less than 85, all the people with AD(H)D, autism, bipolar, schizophrenia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysphasia, (gender) dysphoria etc should all count as special.
All the people with genetic or metabolic dysfunctions are special, but 99% of the population could not understand the detailed medical explanation of why, unless they are willing to sit down for a few hours and do some homework.
So, I think we should apply the teenage cheerleader’s simple explanation that they are all just special kids. No further explanation needed, unless she is aiming for a PhD, or he is her brother.
Nobody will feel upset if in the next decade psychiatrists define 30% of kids as special. Deep down most people would like to be special in one way or another.

What Kind of Special?
If someone really wants to know what kind of special a person is, that is like asking how a nuclear reactor works; it is possible to answer, but it takes a long time to explain.
Most people really do not want to know how a nuclear reactor works, they just assume that some clever people at the power company do know.
If you really want to know what causes a particular person’s severe autism, you will soon realize how dumb it is to use the word “autism” as a medical diagnosis.
Consider those dendritic spines that make a connection between neurons in the brain. The only thing different genetic autisms have in common is that they all vary from normal/typical, but they vary in all possible ways - too many/few spines, or just the “wrong” shape.

Typical dendritic spine (in grey) vs 5 "genetic" autisms 

Accept that 90% of people are not interested                   
Most people really are not interested in a “special” variation that does not affect them. Many such variations are very complicated to understand and so well-intentioned raising awareness may not be helping.  Just repeating the name of the disorder does little to explain it; it just means more people have heard of it.
My elder son recently asked his Grandparents what they would do if he had been gay. He knows that for them gay is even “worse” than autism. In fact, when going to study abroad one of the tips he received was to stay away from gay people.
I think the Grandparents would also have said stay away from autistic people, but now they have got to know one, and it is not so bad.  Even so, they do not themselves want to see other autistic people.
Creating this large “special” category has many advantages, everyone will almost inevitably already know someone who is “special”.
In our superficial world, where everyone seems to have an opinion on just about everything, regardless of whether they understand it, just keep it cheerleader simple, “special” is the way to go.