Thursday, January 06, 2005

Aspergers - a gift?

I cut my younger son's hair over the Christmas holidays. Gary spotted electric trimmers going cheap in Woolworths and brought them home, so both he and Lewis ended up with really short cuts.

Lewis, the one with Aspergers was until recently known simply as a difficult child. This got me into the habit of giving him Christopher Robin style haircuts, short back and sides but really quite long on top, for social reasons. Putting it bluntly I used every means I had to inspire teachers to query whether there was a real child with a real heart in there after all. I'll try and find a piccy.

When we first cut his hair really short, even I had a shock, as Christopher Robin became Eminem, to look at. Fantastic. I'm praying for the base line I shaved in around his ears to grow out a bit before I have a chance to present him to the special needs experts who have never met him but have decided that he doesnt need a SEN statement. I'm sorry to say it but the look, on his face at any rate, screams 'problem child'.

Phrenology went out of fashion when the Nazis took a really big interest in it and because of that I dont think its ever been properly researched, but like any idea that sticks, however crass and offensive and obviously outdated many of the common impressions are, and in this case think of the condemnation of people whose eyes are supposedly 'too close together', there has to be a grain of truth in there somewhere for it ever to have got off the ground in the first place, instead of being laughed into oblivion.

We were watching a documentary on Pink. I dont go in for documentaries or pop extravaganzas, but for Pink I'll make an exception; I love her music and the way her mind works. Gary's sitting there beside me going "Shes ADHD she's ADHD" and looking at how she explained difficulties with her family, the kind of independent stuff she got up to at such a young age, hearing their completely different view, just as valid, I could see that he might have a point, but Gary being Gary wasnt really listening as it turned out; he had simply caught a good shot of the bridge of her nose. He has this armchair theory that perception differences linked to the frontal lobe of the brain might be magnified by bone growth. To be honest I cant imagine that MRI wouldnt have already confirmed that, if it were true, I mean presumably it would involve more extra bone growth than can be seen from the outside. How thick is a human skull, for that matter?

The lovely South African specialist that diagnosed Lewis' condition made a confession that made me feel a whole lot better. She said she had worked all over, yet had never seen as many cases of Aspergers anywhere outside of the UK.

This set me to considering that, until a couple of hundred years ago, we probably were a fairly inbred bunch of mongrels in the main, predominantly a Celtic/Anglo mix. Surrounded by sea and only ever absorbing invaders, I can see how the gene pool could become if not dangerously singular then at least heavily pocketed with rarified and specific skill sets or conditions. So maybe we DO have the highest number of Aspergers sufferers per capita in the world. All that does is add credence to another postulation that if you looked for adult presentation of the symptoms in our society, the two highest concentrations would be found in the upper classes and the prison population.

Think about it - what are the essential ingredients of either a genius or an atypical eccentric? Obsessive interest in a subject, intense creativity and a very high intelligence. Then add, more in some cases than others, indifference to social cues - a sort of 'being on another level'. Of course, stick the same mind into mainstream school (although teaching methods are at last making allowances), berate the child for disinterest in the full curriculum, ostracise him for being unable to notice the myriad social cues that contain such a hotbed, tell him off constantly for not performing to the impossible norm and he'll end up unfulfilled, lonely, with low self esteem and probably a lot of internalised rage. I'd bet anything that more people have gone through the judicial system since 1910 than in the hundred years before that and I'll bet that the resentment inspired by nationwide classroom schooling was a huge factor. I love learning curves.

To cap it all Lewis is horribly dyslexic. I ought to be panicked for him? Nah, so was Einstein.

P.S. Link to brilliant Aspergers site filched from a really useful blog: GJ Willis' Art Notes. Thanks Gail!

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