Archive for the ‘social commentary’ Category

It Really Does Take a Village

March 29, 2010

I was quite saddened to read a  blog post brought to my attention lately.  The blogger, Smockity Frocks, judges a four-year-old-girl and her grandmother on an afternoon at the library. (Google docs version of the original post here.) The story has autism written all over it, and the comments that ensued had me growing rather irritated.  The blog has since been removed, and she has now posted an apology. (Thank you!)

I’ve spent a few days mulling over my feelings on this blog and it’s responses.  My thoughts were everywhere, ranging from if I couldn’t get a good christian woman’s help or sympathy I’m really doomed in this society, and wondering just what kind of good christian woman she really is, to just being immensely saddened at how  my son and the parenting style I am forced to use will be viewed and judged by everyone I encounter.  I’ve often bolstered myself by saying it’s not my fault society doesn’t understand us, its societies’ problem for being unable to embrace our differences and gifts.  But it hurts. People will only see the negative and not realize just how much work it took to even be there and not having a total meltdown.  So what do we do?   I don’t know.  Even Autism Awareness doesn’t seem to be working, as one of the comments on that blog misquoting in context Temple Grandin ‘s comments about teaching polite behavior demonstrates.  Let’s not forget that at four, Ms. Grandin didn’t speak, was prone to tantrums, liked ripping things and stimmed.  Yes, she learned social behavior, but not by 4, and not without infraction.

We have to teach our kids to be social, but out in society!  Out in public the assaults on their nervous system is so intensified, that even though we have talked about it at home and in the car it’s not as effective as actual practice.  I see myself, hopefully, one day to the point of the Grandmother and the “coddled” little girl at the library. Discussing something as abstract as patience with my son, and while maybe not at the level to appease the snippity, knowing how far we’ve come from the days when every public outing ended in tears, running and screaming.

Also, the blog reminded me how we’ve been treated in public before.  I’ll share the story of two  nurses, because you would think they would be aware of autism and other delays in children.  Both stories happened just prior to receiving my son’s diagnosis.

The Tale of Two Nurses

It was my son’s two-year well-baby check up, only he wasn’t very well.  He had yet another double ear infection that day.  He also hated going to the doctor, in my mind, learned behavior from the surgery he had when he was just a bit over a year old.  By the end of the visit, he was beyond control.  The assembly line medical care provided by the military clinic resulting not in patience but forcefully restraining my son as to get the exam done in the alloted time.  As he had the ear infections, we couldn’t just leave after, but had to wait for the pharmacy at the clinic to get his medication, and I needed to schedule a follow-up.  My son was so out of control I couldn’t hold or soothe him.  He hit and bit  and wiggled and kicked.  I held his arm while he screamed and tried to go boneless to slip from my grasp.  I did happen to notice that running seemed to soothe him, and since nothing else was working, I gave in and let him do a few laps.  (In hindsight, this was vestibular input, probably even more out of whack due to his ear infection).  At this point a nurse came up to me and told me I had to get him under control or she would report me to patient administration and have us barred from the building.  I was about at my wit’s end, had a rude retort for her and then locked my son and myself into one of the private bathrooms used for obtaining samples and had a good long cry.  When I came out, the patient advocate was there along with a man in uniform who helped us get through getting the medicine so we could leave.

Just a few weeks later my son had to be examined by a orthopaedist.  Only this time he started his meltdown the moment we entered the building.  I was trying to juggle soothing and distracting him while filling out the patient intake forms.  Only this time a nurse came out after a few minutes of watching me struggle.  She spoke in a very friendly and soothing voice to my son and helped distract him so I  could do the paperwork.  Everything about the entire visit went more smoothly at that point, and it just took a little compassion and help as opposed to harsh judgements.  A few weeks later, we did receive the autism diagnosis, and I have since learned coping and parenting skills but even that is not perfect.  When other parents and adults step up to help it makes a big difference, both for my son and me.  I may try my hardest, but I’m still just a single mom who needs help.


Things I Wish I Could Have Known

January 28, 2010

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2010) — Children as young as five months old will follow the gaze of an adult towards an object and engage in joint attention, according to research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. The findings, published January 26 in the Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters, suggest that the human brain develops this important social skill surprisingly early in infancy.

Joint attention — where two people share attention to the same object — is a vital human social skill necessary for many types of human behaviour such as teaching, collaboration, and language learning. Impairments in this skill are one of the earliest signs of autism.

Dr Tobias Grossmann and Professor Mark Johnson from Birkbeck, University of London, used a technique known as ‘near infrared spectroscopy’ (NIRS) to examine which areas of an infant’s brain are activated when paying joint attention to an object.

NIRS, an optical brain imaging technique which involves measuring the blood flow associated with brain activation, is well-suited to study freely-behaving infants. With this non-invasive technique, near-infrared light travels from sources on a sensor pad located on the head, through the skin, skull and underlying brain tissue, and is then detected by sensitive detectors on the same sensor pad.

In the experiment, conducted in Birkbeck’s Babylab, the babies were shown the computer-animated image of an adult’s face. The adult would make eye contact with the baby, raise her eyebrows and smile, glance towards an object at her side, back to the baby and then finally turn her head to face the object. In the control conditions, the adult would look away from the object or would look at the object without making eye contact with the baby.

The researchers found that only when the babies engaged in joint attention with the adult, they used a specific region of their brain known as the left prefrontal cortex — an area to the front of the brain involved in complex cognitive and social behaviours.

“Infants engaged in joint attention use a similar region of their brain as adults do,” says Dr Grossmann, a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow. “Our study suggests that the infants are tuned to sharing attention with other humans much earlier than previously thought. This may be a vital basis for the infant’s social development and learning.”

“In the future this approach could be used to assess individual differences in infants’ responses to joint attention and might, in combination with other measures, serve as a marker that can help with an early identification of infants at risk for autism.”

Journal Reference:

1. Grossmann T and Johnson MH. Selective prefrontal cortex responses to joint attention in early infancy. Biol Lett., 2010

Cade never demonstrated joint attention as an infant, and actually it is a struggle for us even now that he is over three years old.  Add this to my breastfeeding issues, and Cade’s issues with lack of constant movement, and his aversion to groups of people and I see the signs of autism spectrum disorder very very young.  Very young as in the hospital immediately following his birth.

I don’t really know that much earlier detection would have significantly helped him, but it would have helped me tremendously!  As most people are, I was woefully ignorant as to what autism really is.  I was also a first time mother, who had no other experiences to draw from.  I suffered  so much anxiety, stress and depression over my perceived inadequacies as a mother.  Not to mention just the difficulties of raising an ASD child on my own, especially without the knowledge of his true issues.

The more I learn about Autism the more I find peace with myself over the struggles of raising Cade.  But there is more.  I wish the pediatrician had known more, I trusted him.   I wish my parenting classes had included a section on autism so I could have recognized the signs.  As in a previous blog, I wish lactation consultants had been aware of sensory issues.  All my wishes point to one thing, there is a definite need for education at all levels.  We have to make this happen.  I think I smell a good letter to my senator!  Spread the word.

Family Values

October 22, 2009

I had a debate with a licensed therapist yesterday. I think she was really playing devils advocate here.  We were discussing why family is important. Her view was that families are really just shitty to each other and why do we place such value on them? She further explained it’s not like we can pick them as we pick our friends. But I had a different view and expressed it to her.

To start, I consider culture a societies’ response to dealing with making life livable given their environment. So it follows that many societies deeply engrained with strong family values often come from sustience based living. The family is paramount for survival, because one cannot farm alone. Every society was once at this level. Enter the industrial revolution, grocery stores, pension plans and day cares, adoption, foster parenting,etc.   Family values have as a result deterioted for our  civilization because dependence on the family is no longer paramount for survival, at least not for the majority of your life. But we forget the very young and the very old. I see increased examples of terrible parenting, emotionally neglected children, not to mention the increasing number of divorces that places children in single parent homes, along with all the negatives that comes from that. Children that are with both parents are still often raised by day care centers, taught values through the school system. We outrage over abuses in the systems, chilren who are phsyically mistreated, em111otionally neglected and sometimes even killed at the hands of caregivers who are just doing a job and at times have no emotional investment in these childrens’ well-being.

Adults must scrimp and save and invest in pensions and prepare for the future at the expense of their children because no one will be there when they themselves are old. Now we’ve seen the rise of the nursing home industry and all the disgusting abuses that go along with that. We are raising neglected children who in turn become self-centered adults and neglect the elderly. I can’t help but wonder, what is going to happen to millions of elderly if all these pension plans continue to fail in today’s economy.

When the shit really hits the fan, we go back to our roots, our family. But can Western families really handle the shit? My thoughts? Family values are not just some antiquated or patriarchial cultures’ viewpoints. They provide a strong foundation to society.