Asperger’s: A Chronology, an excerpt from FATHERMUCKER

This excerpt comes from the novel, Fathermucker, by Greg Olear. A screenwriter, fledgling freelancer, and stay-at-home dad of two, Josh Lansky has held everything together during his wife Stacy’s week-long business trip–until this morning’s playdate, when he finds out through the mommy grapevine that Stacy might be having an affair.  What Josh needs is a break. He’s not going to get one. The book is out now and has received plenty of praise, for good reason, as you’ll see below. —Matt Salesses, Good Men Project Fiction Editor

♦◊♦

Roland won’t sleep with us. He’s been crying for a solid hour, lolling his tongue over Stacy’s breast, not hungry, just upset. We bring him to the bed, a double because anything bigger won’t fit in our minuscule apartment, not particularly roomy but more than adequate for man, woman, and child. We lay him down be­tween us. We pat his head, his back. We sing him lullabies. We sing “Silent Night” and “Little Drummer Boy” and “Greensleeves,” because he was born on Christmas.

He flails around. He punches. He kicks. He cries. He won’t sleep with us. We want him to share the bed, want this glorious product of our love between us. But he’ll only sleep in the crib, by himself.

He’s 4 months old.

♦◊♦

Martin Luther, the famed theologian, encounters a 12-year­old boy who cannot speak, shuns contact with other people, and is chronically stricken with odd compulsions to twitch his body this way and that. The great Christian leader determines that the afflicted child is a victim of demonic possession and recommends immediate suffocation.

Soon after, Johannes Mathesius, Luther’s biographer, will pub­lish the account in his Table Talk of Martin Luther—the first re­corded course of treatment for an autistic child. It is 1540.
♦◊♦

Roland is in the driveway. His fat-diapered bottom is perched on a railroad tie, legs extended into the bed of mauve-toned rocks some artless landscaper has dumped on the side of the house. He leans over, picks up a rock. He flicks the edge with his thumb. He holds it up to me.

“Is rock?”

I’m sitting Indian-style on the asphalt, zoned out, enjoying the warm sun on my face and arms, the soft breeze blowing through the leafy trees all around us. We’ve just moved here; country liv­ing is still a novelty. I don’t say anything. He repeats himself, with more urgency. “Is rock?”

“Yes,” I tell him, for at least the 90th time. “That’s a rock.”

He flings the rock across the driveway, almost to the tire of the newly leased Honda Odyssey. There are many rocks scattered about the driveway. More rocks on the driveway than in the bed of rocks, where the black plastic liner is visible beneath the dirt. Later I will rake up the rocks and replace them. Again.

He leans back into the bed, picks up a new rock, holds it up to me. “Is rock?”

“Yes, that’s a rock.”

He flings it toward the minivan.

He is 16 months old.

♦◊♦

In a village in the Scottish Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Hugh Blair, scion of a well-to-do family, is sued by his younger brother John, on the grounds that he, Hugh, is unfit for marriage and land own­ership.

As the testimony plays out, Blair’s eccentricities come to light:

He does not answer questions, instead looking away to avoid eye contact. On those occasions when he does reply, he repeats the question rather than supplying an answer.

He is religiously religious, sporting a perfect attendance record at church. He always sits in the same pew—he cannot abide some­one else taking his seat—and recites the entire Mass verbatim, from memory, but without inflection.

He is closer to animals than people.

He enjoys futile activities such as gathering stones in a pile, moving the pile, and then returning the stones to the river bed, or watching water drip from his wet wig.

Hugh Blair is stripped of his wife and his inheritance when his eccentric patterns of behavior are found by a magistrate to be evi­dence of insanity.

It is 1797.

♦◊♦

A hippie friend of Stacy’s who lives in a yurt outside of Arcata, California—a crunchy town similar to New Paltz, albeit with the advantage of medicinal marijuana—gifts Roland a book called Zen ABC. Written and illustrated by a mother-daughter team who live not far from here, the book, as the title suggests, pairs letters of the alphabet with matching Buddhist words. A is for Awareness, B is for Buddha, C is for Cadence, and so forth.

Zen ABC is one of Roland’s favorite books. He knows all the letters, and he knows the matching Buddhist words. Point to “O” and he will say, in his high-pitched, cherubic voice, “One Mind.” This delights my mother, who announces that he is a genius.

He is 18 months old.

♦◊♦

In 1797, a feral boy emerges from the woods outside of Saint­Sernin-sur-Rance, in the Aveyron département of southern France.

Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron—as he is called in the press— has lived for 10 of his 12 years in the woods. Although he is not mute as such, he does not speak, and is more comfortable among animals than people.

A medical student named Jean Marc Gaspard Itard adopts Vic­tor, working with him as a deaf-mute. During the Age of Enlight­enment, Victor is hailed as a “noble savage,” and is known the world over.

He likes to spin things. Bottle caps, Tupperware containers, lids, Frisbees, quarters. Anything that can be spun. A flick of the wrist and he whirls them around like tops. He hovers over his spinning objects like Samantha Ronson at the DJ booth.

I’ve tried to duplicate the feat. I can’t. It’s much more difficult than it looks.

He can even make square objects spin. I didn’t think that was possible in the realm of physics, but Roland can do it.

He sits on the ceramic tiles in the kitchen, presiding over his round plastic lids, while his newborn sister sleeps in her detachable carseat. We don’t find anything unusual with his uncanny knack for spinning. We’re proud that he’s so good at it.

He is 20 months old.

The term autism, a derivation of the Greek autos, or self, first appears in a paper on the symptoms of mental illness by a Swiss psychiatrist named Eugen Bleuler. It is 1910. The term is used to describe the lack of empathy in certain of his pa­tients—an “autistic withdrawal of the patient to his fantasies, against which any influence from outside becomes an intoler­able disturbance.”

Autistic is adopted as a synonym of schizophrenic.

♦◊♦

Roland started preschool. He’s the youngest child there. When they go outside to the playground, the other kids run around, play tag, climb on the playground equipment. He sits in a corner, picking up stray woodchips and rubbing them on his cheek.

“He groks that,” Stacy jokes.

We still joke. We still see nothing unusual, only the seeds of genius, just like my mother said.

He groks that. Stranger in a strange land.

He just turned 2.

A research paper called “The Schizoid Personality of Childhood” presents a study of six boys with eccentric patterns of behavior and unusual and rigid habits. It is 1926. Because this paper is written in Russian, and is published in the Soviet Union at the time of Stalin’s ascendancy—and by a woman, no less; a neurologist’s assistant named Eva Sucharewa—its findings, which comprise the first re­cord of patients with what will be called Asperger’s syndrome, are ignored.

Jess Holby brings her daughter Maddie, whom Roland has known most of his life, to our house for a playdate. Usually they get along swimmingly, but not this time. Roland is mean to her. When Mad-die tries to play with one of his Thomas trains, he attacks her. He hits her. He pulls her hair. He tries to bite her, but Stacy separates them in time.

Subsequent playdates are even worse.

We stop organizing them.

“All kids go through that phase,” friends of ours, parents of older children, assure us. “All kids hit and bite. Don’t worry; he’ll outgrow it.”

But other kids don’t hit, other kids don’t bite. Not like that.

We don’t see Jess or Maddie for months.

He is 28 months old.

At preschool, he misbehaves. He’s difficult, the teachers tell us. Prone to tantrums. Prone to hitting. He likes to knock over towers that other kids have made of blocks. He’ll race across a crowded room just to knock over a big stack of blocks some other kid has spent 15 minutes carefully constructing. He circles the room like an eagle, looking for towers to knock over. He taps other kids on the head. He makes other kids cry. He doesn’t get upset when they cry. He just retreats to a corner and spins things.

All kids go through that phase. Don’t worry; he’ll grow out of it. We cling to this like a nun to her rosary beads, repeat it as a novena. But we don’t believe it anymore.

Despite his shortcomings, the other kids seem to like him. Or so we’re told. He wants to play with the other children, but he doesn’t know how. The teachers seem to like him. He has a pleas­ant personality. He’s such a nice boy. They try and feed his brain. We have to get puzzles from the Blue Room. He can already do all the puzzles here.

“You should really get him evaluated,” his primary teacher, Gina, tells us. “He might have to go to a special school. He might need services.”

The thinking is that he might have a sensory integration issue, but nobody really knows for sure.

♦◊♦

Hans Asperger of the Vienna University Hospital borrows Bleuler’s autistic coinage to describe a specific neurological disorder that would eventually bear his name. It is 1938. Autistic psychopath­ics, he writes, demonstrate a pattern of bizarre behavior, includ­ing “a lack of empathy, little ability to form friendships, one-sided conversations, intense absorption in a special interest, and clumsy movements.”

He calls these children “little professors.”

♦◊♦

During the summer, we visit friends and family. Short day trips. Fun car rides, is how we bill them, to sell Roland on the concept, although he’s always enjoyed the Sunday drive. We hit the neigh­boring states: Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. When we arrive at my brother-in-law’s house, my mother’s house, Laura’s house, Roland follows the same routine. First, he walks the pe­rimeter of the building, hand-in-hand with me or Stacy, taking careful note of window placement. Then he tours the inside of the house, matching the windows on the inside with the corresponding windows on the outside. Then he circles the house again from the outside, and has us tell him which rooms the windows belong to.

“That’s the kitchen,” I’ll tell him. “And that’s the dining room. And that little window is the bathroom.”

He takes this all in.

He can do this for hours. He’d do this all day if we obliged.

“See? I told you—he’s a genius,” my mother says.

He is 2 and a half.

♦◊♦

Leo Kanner, a Ukraine-born doctor at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and the world’s first child psychiatrist, publishes the land­mark study “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.”

It is 1943. This is the first modern use of the term autism.

♦◊♦

Roland has invented a game. He pokes you in the eye with his index finger, Three Stooges’ style, and yells, “Boook!”

Boook rhymes with spook. It’s a word he invented. He often invents words. For example, when he wants to express no emphati­cally, he will say nokes, or, sometimes, nars.

I mention this at the special ed meeting.

There are more people in this meeting than there were at the closing on our New York co-op. All here for a kid who won’t be 3 till December. In attendance are the district psycholo­gist, who doubles as chair of the Committee on Preschool Special Education; the Ulster County Department of Education represen­tative; Gina, his teacher from his first preschool; a “parent advo­cate”; the therapist who evaluated him at the Saint Francis Hospital Preschool program; and of course Stacy and me.

We mention his use of the word boook. The county rep laughs. She says, “Kids don’t make up words. They get them from some­place else.”

“Well, our kid does.”

We talk about the diagnostic report. About a delay in social play skills. In fine motor skills. In pragmatic language development. In articulation. Stacy mentions his sensory integration issues. She can barely get the words out. She’s already starting to cry. I take her hand under the table, squeeze it tightly, as if this can make the is­sues go away, as if love were enough.

He can’t be autistic, Stacy says. He’s a big mush. He loves physi­cal contact.

We want this to be sensory, something he’ll grow out of, some­thing we can repair. We don’t want it to be something else. Something we don’t even want to utter.

He can’t be autistic, Stacy says. He has a sense of humor. He tells jokes.

“We know he needs services,” the psychologist says, evading the A-word. “We just don’t know which services he needs. Does he need speech? Does he need OT? Does he need a SEIT? We don’t know.”

He recommends we see a diagnostic pediatrician. He recom­mends further evaluation. Stacy leaves in tears.

♦◊♦

Hans Asperger argues that his “little professors” should be spared from Dachau-style extermination, on the grounds that their unique genius might be useful to the state. It is 1944.

“We are convinced, then,” he writes in Die “Autistischen Psy­chopathen” im Kindesalter, his doctoral thesis, “that autistic people have their place in the organism of the social community. They fulfill their role well, perhaps better than anyone else could, and we are talking of people who as children had the greatest dif­ficulties and caused untold worries to their care-givers.”

♦◊♦

Before bed, Roland sits in my lap in the glider, and we work our way through one of his astronomy books, all of them written for elementary or middle schoolers: Stars & Planets, with its mytho­logical renderings of the planet names; the The Usborne Complete Book of Astronomy and Space, complete with maps of the various constellations; The Solar System, which, despite the finite title, is about the whole of the universe.

He can identify all nine planets by sight. He can name some of the moons—Charon, Pluto’s lone satellite, being his favorite—as well as comets and the Oort cloud and the Kuiper belt. With some prompting, he can go through the twelve signs of the zodiac.

We haven’t observed the actual night sky, because we’ve only been reading the books during the late summer, when it gets dark long after he goes to sleep, and already bright when he wakes up.

One morning in the late fall, just before Thanksgiving, I bring Roland out as dawn is breaking to gaze upon a gorgeous heavenly conjunction: against a backdrop of still-visible stars, the planet Venus rests in the lap of the crescent moon (this identification of the planet Venus is the sort of thing I knew nothing about before Roland evinced an interest, and my subsequent subscription to Sky & Telescope magazine). You can see it perfectly from the front steps. It’s like an IMAX movie playing just for us.

“That’s the moon,” I tell my son. “And that’s Venus.”

I lived in New York City for 10 years; the only star I saw in all that time was Cindy Crawford, so the wonder of a glimpse of a dif­ferent kind of heavenly body has not worn off.

After a few minutes, I bring him into the dining room, where Stacy is drinking her coffee. “Tell Mommy what we saw,” I tell him, strapping him into his booster seat.

“Saw Venus,” says Roland. “The moon . . . and Virgo.”

“Virgo?” Stacy says.

I shrug. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t say anything about Virgo.” I dig the latest issue of Sky & Telescope from beneath a stack of Poughkeepsie Journals on a stray dining room chair, and flip to the “Map of the Sky” section. The stars that formed a backdrop to the Venus and moon conjunction, the stars that to my eyes looked like patternless white dots, were part of a constellation. The constella­tion of Virgo. Which Roland somehow recognized and identified (or managed to guess correctly).

He is not quite 3.

♦◊♦

Hans Asperger opens a school for “autistic psychopathic” children with the help of a nun, Sister Victorine.

Just months after opening, the school is destroyed by a stray Allied bomb. Sister Victorine is killed, and all of Asperger’s early research is consigned to the flames.

It is 1944.

♦◊♦

Roland likes Thomas the Tank Engine, a creepy anthropomorphic train who, with his creepy anthropomorphic-train accomplices, chuffs hither and yon across the mythical Island of Sodor, doing the bidding of Sir Topham Hatt, his bloated, bald overlord, who bears a passing resemblance to the monocled plutocrat of Monop­oly fame. I think the original concept was to teach British children to bow to the king.

Roland knows the names of all the engines, but he’s more inter­ested in the tracks than the trains. He makes me construct elabo­rate tracks. Eventually he builds them himself.

He also enjoys dollhouses, but does not care for dolls.

He needs to work on his pretend play, Gina says.

He is 3.

♦◊♦

The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, a professor at the Univer­sity of Chicago, invokes Freud, suggesting, in his influential book The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self, that the eponymous complaint is the fault of the mother. Autistic chil­dren are hapless victims of early rejection from the women who gave birth to them—refrigerator mothers, as Bettelheim calls them. To prove his point, he conducts a study and finds that mothers of autistic children show higher instances of stress and depression than mothers of neuro-typicals. (It does not occur to him that it is the au­tistic children who cause the stress and not the other way around.)

“The difference between the plight of prisoners in a concen­tration camp,” he writes, “and the conditions which lead to autism . . . in children is, of course, that the child has never had a previous chance to develop much of a personality.”

Bettelheim is himself a survivor of the Dachau camp.

It is 1967.

♦◊♦

The diagnostic pediatrician is based in Woodstock. Roland and I drive up one afternoon. The thermometer on the dash reads 98 degrees.

On the way there, he wets himself. Pees right through the diaper (he’s one of the few kids in his class not yet potty trained). I have to change him from his shorts to the only other clothes in the car, a pair of heavy sweatpants.

The diagnostic pediatrician, Dr. Archer, looks more like a baby-boom poetess than a physician. She wears a long flowing skirt and a beaded necklace.

She takes us into her office, a small room stocked with toys and books. She watches Roland play. She has him do puzzles, which he completes quickly. She asks him questions, which he mostly ig­nores.

He is not quite 3 and a half.

She recommends speech therapy and occupational therapy. She recommends the Thornwood School.

She doesn’t say he’s autistic. She diagnoses him with Asperger’s syndrome.

I don’t really know what that means.

♦◊♦

Leo Kanner concurs with Bettelheim’s refrigerator-mother theory, remarking to an interviewer, in his thick Freud-like accent, that autistic children are the sad result of their parents “just happening to defrost enough to produce a child.”

♦◊♦

A syndrome, I learn from Wikipedia, is “an association of several clinically recognizable features, signs (observed by a physician), symptoms (reported by the patient), phenomena or characteristics that often occur together.”

Asperger’s has four such signs, according to the book Asperger Syndrome and Your Child:

  1.  Impaired social interaction
  2.  Impaired communication
  3.  Unusual responses to stimulation and environment
  4.  Repetitive or odd patterns of behavior or interests

 

Roland demonstrates the first three, I begrudgingly admit, but odd interests? Wikipedia says: “Pursuit of specific and narrow areas of interest is one of the most striking features of AS. Indi­viduals with AS may collect volumes of detailed information on a relatively narrow topic such as weather data or star names, without necessarily having genuine understanding of the broader topic. For example, a child might memorize camera model numbers while caring little about photography.”

Well, I tell myself, he doesn’t do that. Dr. Archer must be mis­taken. It’s a sensory issue—that’s all.

Although Roland’s fascination with astronomy is, I allow, cause for some concern.

♦◊♦

I’m changing the door knob in the bathroom. My father, who owned an auto body shop, had a gift for this kind of thing, but I have not inherited his mechanical inclination. I’m puzzling over the jangly pieces included with the actual knob—I had no idea there were so many!—and quickly become frustrated. I take a break, walk to the kitchen, have a glass of water.

I come back to the bathroom to find that Roland has taken the latch piece out of the box and inserted it into the proper hole in the door. Correctly.

It skips a generation.

He is 3 and a half.

♦◊♦

In her 1981 work Asperger’s Syndrome: A Clinical Account, Lorna Wing, a British physician and mother to an autistic daughter, is the first to attach Hans Asperger’s name to the disorder he described.

Her intention is to make a clear distinction between Asperger’s syndrome and mental illness.

♦◊♦

We’re at a red light on the corner of Main and North Manheim.

Roland asks, “Why does that sign say ‘No Turn on Red’?”

Only after I answer him do I realize that he just read the sign.

He is 3 and a half.

♦◊♦

At the 61st annual Academy Awards, Rain Man wins for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Dustin Hoffman), Best Original Screen­play (Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass), Best Director (Barry Levin­son), and Best Picture. It is 1989.

The character of Raymond Babbitt (the titular “Rain-man”) is based on Kim Peek, a Utah-born “megasavant” with an astound­ing memory. Diagnosed with Opitz-Kaveggia syndrome, Peek had no corpus callosum connecting the two halves of his brain, and was, emphatically, not autistic—unlike Babbitt, who is described in the film as an autistic savant.

Nevertheless, Rain Man becomes, and remains, autism’s cul­tural touchstone, and it is presumed that all autistics can count a pile of toothpicks.

♦◊♦

A Pottery Barn catalog arrives in the mail; years ago, I bought someone’s wedding present there, and because I may do so again one day before my demise, they keep me on their mailing list. Roland pulls the catalog out of the recycling bin (which is more a huge pile of cardboard boxes than a bin). Perusing the catalog, he is fascinated by the chandeliers. He has me read him the names of the various styles: Edison, Camilla, Armonk, Verona.

I sing him a silly song (I am a veritable Rodgers and Hammer-stein of silly songs):

Verona chandelier,
Verona chandelier,
Hi-ho, the derry-o,
Verona chandelier.

Soon he graduates to catalogs that feature lighting exclusively: Lamps Plus, Shades of Light. He has me read him the various styles. The model names. The features. He knows the difference between a floor lamp and a torchière.

Odd interests? Dr. Archer, it seems, was on the money.

She was right, Stacy says, her eyes moist. Then she locks herself in the bathroom.

He is 3 years, 9 months old.

♦◊♦

The developmental psychologist Uta Frith, of University College London, translates Hans Asperger’s Die “Autistischen Psychopa­then” im Kindesalter into English.

It is 1991.

Later, studying 200-year-old court documents, which provide her ample testimony from a host of character wit­nesses, Frith concludes that the eccentric Hugh Blair was, in fact, autistic.

♦◊♦

I buy a children’s atlas of the world. We spend hours reading it, at Roland’s insistence. Continents, countries, states, cities, flags: he commits them all to memory.

He is not quite 4.

♦◊♦

Asperger’s syndrome is included in the 10th edition of the World Health Organization’s diagnostic manual, the ICD-10, published in 1992.

Two years later, it is appended to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).

♦◊♦

There is a loud crash, so I run to his room to investigate. His tor-chière—which is a floor lamp with the concavity pointed upward, like a bird bath—has toppled to the ground, thick chunks of frosted glass on the carpet. More distressing is that Roland is playing with the lamp. He’s taken out the lightblub, and is unscrewing the on-off knob.

The lamp is still plugged in.

“Oops,” he says, without looking at me. “Sorry, Daddy.”

I don’t want to stifle his mechanical creativity—being able to assemble a torchière, unlike being able to recite its model number from the Lamps Plus catalog, is a useful life skill—but I don’t want him to die, either.

“Roland,” I tell him. “You’re not allowed to play with your lamps. But if you do—you have to unplug them, okay? Seriously. It’s not safe when they’re plugged in.”

I’m not sure if he understands.

A week later, he breaks his sister’s floor lamp.

He unscrews the lightblub.

The lamp is still plugged in.

Maude, a precocious 2, is crying.

♦◊♦

The writer Liane Holliday Willey coins the term aspie, meaning someone who, like her, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s.

It is 1999.

♦◊♦

For Christmas, which is also his 4th birthday—and which, to my mother’s extreme annoyance, we observe—Roland gets some puzzles of the United States, including the foam-rubber one that will emerge as his favorite toy.

New Year’s Day, my sister is on the floor with him, doing one of the puzzles. Laura attempts to place Nebraska directly over Okla­homa.

Roland snaps at her. “No, you stupe! Kansas goes there!”

Stacy hollers at him to be nice, but her heart isn’t it in.

♦◊♦

Christopher John Francis Boone, the 15-year-old narrator of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, attends a special-needs school. He is smart but has difficulty reading faces, and he cannot function in the outside world. Although his formal diagnosis is not revealed in the novel, and Haddon himself does not elaborate, the book jacket describes Boone as having Asperger’s.

It is 2003.

An international bestseller—and the choice for the maiden One Book, One New Paltz event—the novel serves as the (somewhat misleading) introduction of Asperger’s to the popular culture.

♦◊♦

Thornwood prepares an IEP—an Individualized Education Pro-gram—with specific goals for Roland’s development. He is 4 years old.

Roland is expected to appropriately attend to speaker-listener responsibilities for five verbal exchanges, and during those five exchanges, to control vocal intonation and body lan­guage to accurately match the intent of the message—e.g., to smile when conveying good news. To help him do this, he will practice with various conversational scripts to maintain a nor­mal exchange.

As for fitting in with his classmates, Roland will play and en­gage in activities near other children. He will play spontaneously with other children. He will participate in small-group activities with an adult present. When approached by others, he will respond in a socially acceptable manner. He will appropriately display af­fection toward another child.

Periodically, we get reports of his progress.

Most of his “grades” are NPS—Not Progressing Satisfactorily.

When we get these reports, Stacy cries at the dining room table. She stops eating. Her left eye starts to twitch, her face breaks out in acne.

Eventually she stops reading them.

♦◊♦

It is 2004. Amy and Gareth Nelson found an advocacy group called Aspies for Freedom. Its aims are: to erase the “disability” stigma affixed to people on the autistic spectrum, to have them recognized as a minority status group, and to eradicate the notion that autism is a disease that must be cured.

Within three years, the group accumulates 20,000 members.

♦◊♦

Among the treatments and techniques used by the teachers at Thornwood to help Roland: physical therapy (for gross motor development), occupational therapy (for fine motor develop­ment), speech therapy (for what’s called pragmatics; knowing what to say at appropriate times, how not to interrupt, how to feign empathy, and so on), music therapy (stimulates the right half of the brain), counseling (oh to be a fly on the wall; I’m pretty sure he just talks about states and lamps the whole time), brushing protocol (in which they brush his arms, legs, and back with a soft brush for two minutes every hour, to balance his tactile stimuli), hippotherapy (where he rides a bus to a nearby horse farm and then rides an old nag named Pal), wearing a weighted vest (an L.L. Bean fisherman’s vest, cute as can be, that weighs about five pounds), and good, old-fashioned remov­ing him from the classroom when he gets out of hand. The last technique—call it what it is: a Time Out—is the only thing that reliably works.

The goal of this early intervention is to prepare him for kinder­garten. Enough prep, the thinking goes, and he won’t be as disrup­tive to his classmates, who will be learning their letters, numbers, and colors, knowledge Roland mastered years ago.

♦◊♦

The 2012 edition of the DSM-V will eliminate the “Asperger’s” diagnosis, lumping it in under the more catholic heading “autistic spectrum disorder.”

The consensus among aspies is that this will only add to the confusion.

♦◊♦

Although his “refrigerator mother” theory was debunked years ago, Bettelheim was right about one thing, as current studies clearly and repeatedly validate: Parents of autistic children are more likely to suffer from depression, from parental stress, from psychological stress.

Parents of autistic children are also more likely to split up.

The divorce rate for these parents is 80 percent, is what I hear.

Ernest, one of Cynthia Pardo and Peter Berliner’s three children, is autistic.

Stacy and I haven’t had sex in . . . how long has it been? A while. It’s been a while.

Shit.

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About Greg Olear

GREG OLEAR is the founding editor of The Weeklings and the author of the novels Fathermucker and Totally Killer.

Comments

  1. Hmm. As an aspie, I have mixed feeling about this article. I always cringe when I see a non-autism related publication publish something about Asperger’s, as they are usually rife with errors and prejudice. But this wasn’t too bad.

    On one hand, I appreciate the fact that you gave voice to those who refute the “disease” nonsense. On the other hand, the fact that you portray Asperger’s children as primarily burdens and nuisances to their poor parents is troublesome and reminiscent of sick Autism Speaks propaganda.

    Well, thanks for being mostly reasonable with your portrayal, I guess.

    • As a fellow aspie, I am basically completely agreeing here. It sounds interesting, but it was great (sarcasm) to hear the whole “children with asperger’s are only ever burdens on their family/friends, and autism steals your true children from you” implication all over again.

      However, the kid sounds well-characterized!

      (I personally think the ASD idea is a good one, and am kind of annoyed that a presumably-neurotypical has decided that they understand the “consensus” amongst people with asperger’s. Just like any group, we are varied and have lots and lots of disagreements.)

  2. I suggest to the author of this piece that they read up on two influential figures in the autistic community: Donna Williams and Temple Grandin.

    The former has written stories pertaining to her life which became bestsellers whom advocates for autistic people in her native land of australia in addition to around the world.

    The latter is a specialist with animals and has designed top of the line cattle equipment to help ease the pain for cows on their way to the slaughterhouse. Make it more humane. She has also written books about her life, also bestsellers, one of which had been given the movie treatment for HBO television. In the end, she has earned a doctorate and speaks out on animal and autistic issues. She resides in Colorado, USA.

    These two should be given equal coverage to balance out the negative portrayal of the autistic system from the medical community.

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  1. [...] eventually bear his name. It is 1938. Autistic psychopathics, he writes, demonstrate a … aspergers – Google Blog Search This entry was posted in Aspergers and tagged Asperger&#39s, Chronology, excerpt, from, [...]

  2. Visita la siguiente entrada

    Asperger’s: A Chronology, an excerpt from FATHERMUCKER – The Good Men Project

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