Archive for the ‘LD’ Category

Autism: The Extremely Male Brain?

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Autism isn’t nearly as big a part of my life now as it was just a few short years ago. My son’s pretty much decided to turn his brain on (for the time being), and all the well-wishers and buttinski educators who saw Rain Man one too many times have backed off on throwing the A-word around. In fact, they’re lining up to say “Morgan Freeberg, the Dad, boy he had it right all along, and we all wish we listened to him all those years ago instead of giving him all that guff we gave him.”

That last part I made up just now. That ain’t happening. Folks are coming around, they’re recuperating from their feverish infections of OCBASASBDII, but they’re going to amazing lengths to pretend it’s all their idea.

But a few years ago — although no one involved is going to back me up on this — I was a lonely voice in the wilderness. Everyone who was anyone, swore up and down that my son had some kind of learning disability, usually Autism or Asperger’s. My side of the story was that the boy was solidifying a personality type, one that was becoming more pronounced as he became older, but was actually selected before he saw his first birthday, probably. He was what, in generations past, was politely called a “nerd,” and nowadays is categorized into any one among dozens and dozens of LD’s.

Kids haven’t changed. Our expectations of them have changed. They are to be hyper-normal; if they aren’t, then into the yawning, hungry, steroid-saturated, explosively-growing special-ed system they go.

Dr. Helen has dredged up an interesting take on all this:

I read a good article in a recent copy of Forbes on Simon Baron-Cohen, the author of The Essential Difference: Male And Female Brains And The Truth About Autism. The article asks the questions, “What caused the explosion in autism diagnoses?” and “Why are boys more affected by this disorder?” Baron-Cohen’s answers provide a different way of looking at autism:

Baron-Cohen has been the first to advance and test some groundbreaking ideas in the field. But as for what has caused the increase in reported cases, he doesn’t put undiscovered toxins at the top of the list of suspects. “A good part” of the rise, he says, can be explained by better diagnosis and an expanded definition of autism.

Since autism was first described in 1943, the definition has shifted. Doctors have come to agree that autism is characterized by poor social skills, communication difficulties and strong, narrow interests and repetitive behavior. Once upon a time it was understood as categorical: Either you were autistic or you weren’t. Starting in the late 1990s, Baron-Cohen advanced the idea of an autism spectrum on which everyone falls, just as we would fall on a spectrum of height. As he sees it, we’re all a little bit autistic. …

Baron-Cohen is responsible for spreading the idea that the autistic brain is basically an extreme version of the male brain. He observed that people with autism were better at things for which men show more aptitude than women (like systemizing) and worse at things for which women show more aptitude than men (like empathizing). It’s noteworthy that boys are diagnosed with autism four times as often as girls. “There was this massive clue that nature was giving us that autism might be in some way sex-linked,” he says.

Baron-Cohen (his first cousin is Sasha Baron Cohen of Borat fame) doesn’t believe we should see autism as an epidemic. “The same genes that make a person good in a systemizing occupation, like math, physics or engineering, may also contribute to autism…Eradicating autism could mean eliminating genes from the gene pool that are probably key to such abilities as doing complex mathematics.”

It’s almost a word-for-word echo of what I said in that five-hour-long parent-teacher conference we had when my son was finishing up Kindergarten, as I was splitting up with his mother.

Now that all the air conditioning, refrigeration, e-mail and broadband have all been invented, and we have our water delivered to our doorsteps on exactly the same patch of land where our ancestors had to lift it out of a well — we just don’t have that much to worry about. We think we do, but we don’t. So we all want our kids to be bubbly, chatty and precocious. We don’t see value in any other personality trait at that age.

But talk-a-mile-a-minute youngsters can’t solve problems. Oh, a few of them can — the extraordinary bright specimens who can burn the candle at both ends. But even they, with a glut of success on the social-skills front, will find the cognitive skill challenges to be a bit of a bore after awhile, and abandon them.

And so, to continue surviving, we need this personality type now more than ever. In a milder form it is simply the Myers-Briggs INTP personality profile. In an extreme form it is a superlatively male brain…otherwise known as Autistic. Baron-Cohen may be on to something here.

The Dyslexia Lable

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

We have a sketpic:

Tens of thousands of pupils are being falsely diagnosed with dyslexia because parents and schools failed to teach them to read properly, according to a leading academic.

Professor Joe Elliott, of Durham University, said parents whose children have trouble with reading often push for the dyslexic ‘label’ simply to secure extra help for them.

But in fact there are many children who simply struggle to read and require help at an early age.

He voiced his concerns as figures suggested a steep rise in the number of children being termed dyslexic.

Ann Coulter Attacks Single Motherhood

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

and those who insist on glamorizing it, scribbling down glossy articles to the effect that this is just things-the-way-they-are, you’d better get used to it.

Why isn’t the number of smokers treated as a fait accompli that the rest of us just have to accept? Smoking causes a lot less damage and the harm befalls the person who chooses to smoke, not innocent children.

The Times’ single motherhood endorsements always describe single mothers as the very picture of middle-class normality: “She grew up in blue-collar Chester County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, and talks like a local girl (long O’s). Her father was a World War II vet who worked for a union and took his kids to Mass most Sundays.” Even as a girl she dreamed of raising a baby with a 50 percent greater chance of growing up in poverty.

How about some articles on all the nice middle-class smokers whose fathers served in World War II and took them to Mass? Only when describing aberrant social behavior do Times writers even recognize what normality is, much less speak of it admiringly.

According to hysterical anti-smoking zealots at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking costs the nation $92 billion a year in “lost productivity.” (Obviously these conclusions were produced by people who not only have never smoked, but also don’t know any smokers, who could have told them smoking makes us 10 times more productive.)

Meanwhile, single motherhood costs taxpayers about $112 billion every year, according to a 2008 study by Georgia State University economist Benjamin Scafidi.

Smoking has no causal relationship to crime, has little effect on others and — let’s be honest — looks cool. Controlling for income, education and occupation, it causes about 200,000 deaths per year, mostly of people in their 70s.

Single motherhood, by contrast, directly harms children, occurs at a rate of about 1.5 million a year and has a causal relationship to criminal behavior, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, sexual victimization and almost every other social disorder.

Yes, it is fascinating, isn’t it…some social vices we just gotta stop come-what-may, no-matter-what. With others the message is different: Don’t You Dare Criticize.

Who makes these rules?

Money seems to me to be at the heart of it. When people act in a manner inconsistent with logic and common sense, but with a sticky stultifying consistency with regard to each other, and they don’t really care too much about what it is they’re doing but are doggedly determined to keep on doing it…that’s usually money. Doling it out, or raking it in. In this case I think it’s raking it in.

Well, I became convinced long ago that Ritalin, and other (overpriced) remedies for learning disabilities, are in fact bonding agents between young boys and their overly-controlling mothers who can’t quite figure ’em out because they don’t act enough like girls. This is an enormous, blossoming industry, and it doesn’t thrive in proximity to households with strong male figures. The diligent patriarch seems to have an antithetical relationship with consumerism in general, in fact. Once consumerism swells up past the critical horizon of irresponsibility, and nurses a desire to keep on ballooning outward, it tends to enter into an inimical relationship with manhood.

Once a lady becomes a single mother, if she has boys in the household, the Ritalin prescription is just a matter of time. Usually, she already doesn’t understand her own sons. If she does, she won’t later.

The really tricky thing about single motherhood, is that it is a mixture of women who chose to be single mothers, and other women who did not. So that could be a defense of the New York Times, I think; smokers always choose to smoke.

But it’s an indictment against them as well. Women do choose, here and there, to become single mothers. With or without a decent command of knowledge of the eventual consequences. How many of them are nose-deep in these glossy New York Times articles about how much sympathy and goodwill comes your way, once you start struggling as a single parent?

But their kids aren’t participating in the choice. They aren’t choosing to have their God-given masculinity medicated away because momma can’t figger ’em out. And the burdens they must bear for being part of such a decision, they must bear over an entire lifetime.

Which justifies Coulter’s trademark closing-uppercut, in my mind:

If the establishment media wrote about smoking the way they write about unwed motherhood, I think people would notice that they seem oddly hellbent on destroying as many lives as possible.

The “Huneesh” Rule

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Saw something yesterday for what must have been the thirty gazillionth time, and it took that much to make me realize I had been seeing it for awhile. I think we’re all seeing this, quite often, and not realizing we’re seeing it. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t make an impression on you until later, and only if you think on it awhile.

It has to do with kids who aren’t yet old enough to understand, or act on, the concept of a “library voice.” Momma’s brought ’em to the bagel shop or at the coffee shop, some other interior setting not designed to absorb the shrieking…and their young voices BOUNCE off the farthest walls…that’s part & parcel of being a little kid. What fascinated me was the way the mothers reacted. Of course this can’t go un-corrected. It’s too embarrassing, and leaving it uncorrected would be a display of poor manners.

Loud GirlWhen a little girl does it, the response is “Honey, shhh.” But then, the little girl can clearly demonstrate by her actions just seconds later, that the message hasn’t gotten through. Yeah, whatever. AND LOOKIT THAT, MOMMY! The admonition is repeated. Honey, shhh. That’s what I was seeing yesterday.

Now in the same situation, this is not how we manage our little boys, is it. I see the parenting job is not completed, with boys, until the message has been communicated, and there is some solid evidence in behavior modification that the message has been so communicated. What you were doing just now is inappropriate. Mommy will pay attention to you when she’s darn good and ready. I’m standing right here, and I can hear you fine. Other people don’t want to hear you. You don’t talk the same way indoors as you do outdoors. Get it? Got it? Good.

With little girls, it’s Honey, shhh. Parenting job done. Repeat two seconds later. Parenting job done.

I think that’s worth noticing, although it probably violates all kinds of codes about political correctness, because I’ve observed that when you audibly comment on the results — that girls are more socially mature than boys — that’s not politically incorrect at all. In fact, you get extra brownie points for noticing it; perhaps climbing your way out of a hole you dug for yourself by saying something earlier. (Heh. Wonder if it’ll work here.)

It also has something to do with our epidemic of learning disabilities. As it’s been noticed by myself, and by others — dubious learning disability diagnoses, land disproportionately on male heads. We seldom wonder why this is. Meanwhile, here we are teaching our little boys that at times there may be something undesirable or incorrect about making oneself heard in certain settings. But we don’t teach our little girls the same thing.

Another thing I see about learning disabilities is that there is this difference of opinion about whether they are being grossly diagnosed or not, but there is no difference of opinion about the frequency in which they are so diagnosed. To say it’s on the “upswing” would be a gross understatement. And so, on this point, I confess I don’t understand my impassioned opposition. This kid has autism even though his behavior is completely removed from the behavior of a “classic” case; that kid has Asperger’s (which is autism now, they think); that other kid over there has ADHD; it’s oh so vital we recognize these things so they can get “the help that they need” now that “we know so much more about these things than we used to.” They are all boys and the situation has deteriorated to the point where anyone who doesn’t live in a cave, personally knows four families or more touched by the drama connected with a learning disability. But don’t you dare question any of it or you’ll get an earful about how this or that disorder “definitely exists” — even though that’s not the thing you just called into question.

I was pondering this one more time, how we have tens of thousands of people running around, proselytizing that we have all these diagnoses being made all of a sudden, and we shouldn’t question any of them. At all. They are suspiciously apathetic about the prospect of researching some root, envrionment-related cause. Some of them are making money off the racket, but most aren’t. Most are parents. We skeptics say, that’s because when you get a “diagnosis” about a kid whose personality is different from yours and you can’t relate to him, it gives you a good excuse not to, so life can go on. In response to that we get this “the lady doth protest too much” type of rejoinder. It’s easy to see what’s happening if you think on it awhile; among those motivated to form an opinion by the personal circumstances, most people are too emotionally connected to think on it awhile.

And the thought suddenly occured to me.

What if it was discovered, or simply suggested, that some of these learning disabilities were bacterial. Microscopic beasties with hundreds of icky legs and feelers. Yeah, I know, I’m being silly; but hang with me on this. Suppose, further, that while experts were mostly convinced these bacterial learning disabilities were non-contagious, they could make no guarantees about it.

Won't Someone Please Think of the Children?We would then see an epidemic of inflamed, passionate curiosity about root causes…one that is mostly or completely missing now. Wouldn’t we? I can see it now. Aiiiggghhh!!! What’s happening with the chilllllddddrrrreeeennnn? Anti-bacterial soap on this. Bleach on that. And what is up with those icky, awful, terrible little boys? What kind of hygeine issues must they have going on that they’re incubating all these little beasties and perhaps putting our darling little girls in danger? Won’t someone think about the chilllllddddrrrreeeennnn?

It would produce a paradigm shift. A massive one. An abundance of curiosity, where a glaring paucity of same existed moments before. But if we were noodling on this stuff honestly, it would not.

But this isn’t a terribly useful thought exercise — we know things are gunnybags and bollywonkers. Anybody who thinks on it for a minute or two can see that. The lopsided gender ratio with those diagnosed, the word “diagnose” abused to the point where it no longer means anything, and most of all the skyrocketing incident frequencies…which seem to gather even more momentum still, every time more money is made available to handle bubbins’ little learning difficulties.

It’s all very simple.

Girls are allowed to speak when nobody was waiting for them to say anything. To shatter glasses with their dulcet toddler tones, should they choose to. To yammer away so loudly, that you can’t think about anything else. Sure they need correcting when they do so, but not with anything more impactful or long-lasting than a “Huneesh.” The lesson’s over in two seconds. It didn’t take, and that’s okay.

Boys can’t do this. They are required to learn that in some situations, and that’s most situations, they are not to be heard except according to protocol. The first step in this protocol is the request, which may very well not even be acknowledged, let alone granted. They become sleeve-tuggers. Mom? Mom? Mom? Oh…okay…

And then they become video game players. Once they’re there, they gleefully learn the purpose of the universe is to keep them entertained at all times. No doubt that comes as a huge relief to them, because now it’s no longer necessary to tug on Mom’s sleeve to get attention that probably isn’t forthcoming anyway.

And then at some point we require these kids to pay attention to people.

The little girls manage to pull it off, quite easily, if they can shut up long enough. The boys have more trouble. They have to be diagnosed with things.

It’s a good thing we have so many people working so hard to avoid asking the obvious questions about how this comes about. Because if they asked it, the answer would be fairly obvious too. This is a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an enigma, because that is precisely what we want it to be.

Ambiguous Test Questions

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Question 1

Which is the odd one out and why?


As reader davee123 points out…

“CHIS” is the only one whose letters are arranged in alphabetical order
“DENC” is the one with the lowest sum of its letters
“PORL” is the one with the highest sum of its letters
“PERL” is the only one that has a corresponding O’Reilly book
“FRAP” is the only one that begins with a letter that is only used once
“SPAD” is the only one that could be changed into a real word if its vowel were replaced with a “U”.

Question 2

Tick one box to show a disadvantage of using a software package to help work out the budget rather than using a calculator, pen and paper.

The four options are:

1. The formulae could be wrong
2. The wrong prices could be input
3. A virus may corrupt the information
4. Multiple printouts could be produced

As the linked article goes on to clarify,

Answers 1 and 3 are both valid answers in our opinion, but the marking scheme insists that only answer 3 is valid.

Question 3 is one from my son’s math homework…

…write out in decimal form, the number one hundred and seventy-seven thousandths.

It fell to me to explain what the test-maker probably wanted when the boy started writing “100.077” over and over again.

These are not, I stress, the same as trick questions in which the test-maker methodically endeavors to deceive the test-taker, and assembles a trap that can be escaped only by those with a robust command of the concepts involved.

These are questions on which the test-maker remains blissfully ignorant of the fact that a question can be reasonably interpreted in a plurality of different ways. In order to answer the question correctly, with a potential greater than random chance, there must be a virtual empathy between the test-taker and the test-maker. At that point, the test-taker is being assessed for his ability to anticipate what people want him to do, and not for his command of the concepts.

In fact, in that situation, a robust command of the concepts can interfere with passing the test, creating the possibility that on average the people successfully passing the test may have an inferior understanding compared to some of the people who failed.

I Made a New Word XXII

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Obsessive Compulsive Bullshit Alphabet Soup Acronym Shopping and Behavioral Disability Invention Impulse

An inexplicable fever that strikes people with formal training in behavioral and mental health, and the people who listen to them and read their books.

A human subject is identified, showing personality characteristics that are disliked (the “target”). A swelling encyclopedia of catalogued personality attributes is aggressively prowled, be it in paper or electronic form, in a diligent search of personality attribute packages matching the target’s.

When one is found, the associated bullshit alphabet soup acronym is produced (the “BASA”), and then the person who champions its use (the “sufferer”) throws it around in conversation as often as possible. PTSD. ADHD. OCPD. And, yes, in some cases, PDD-NOS. EIEIO.

If no such bullshit alphabet soup acronym is available, one will surely be invented.

Symptoms include:
1. Buying or borrowing coffee-table self-help and phony-medical books.
2. Dominating the conversation with discussion of the BASA, as if the sufferer personally discovered the associated disorder.
3. Persistent refusal to acknowledge that some people, for whatever reason, are simply born as freaks, weirdos or assholes.
4. Insistence on strict adherence to a narrow personality norm, by everyone with whom the sufferer comes in contact.
5. Engaging in an irrational debate about whether the disorder described by the BASA exists, if it is called into question whether or not it applies to a specific case.
6. Misuse of the past-tense verb diagnosed as if it referred, in the subject under discussion, to something hard and clinical — like a tumor or polyp.

Usually, the disorder described by the BASA will be a behavioral disorder. Behavioral disorders have it in common that their diagnostic methods exist entirely within the characterizations of the disorders. The diagnosis is, therefore, entirely opinionated. Laymen will consistently fail to understand this. The behavioral health professional will consistently fail to point it out.

The purpose is to provide a convenient excuse to everyone involved: To the target, for failing to behave according to expectations that are within his capacity but outside of his desires; and to those around him, to stop interacting with him in a normal capacity and continue these expectations.

The target is almost always under sixty-five; at least, he is when the diagnosis is first made. That’s because, in our culture, once you’re old, people are not forced to deal with you on a regular basis — therefore, the need to describe what there is about you that frustrates them, suddenly vanishes. The intensity of a OCBASASBDII fit is always determined by the sufferer’s (if the sufferer is not a professional) relationship to the target, since the cultural expectation that the sufferer interact regularly with the target, is what touches it off. It is most pronounced in spouses, mothers, teachers and family members living in the same household.

The neat thing about OCBASASBDII is that it’s just like the TLA (three letter acronym) — it is an example of itself.

Experts are divided on causes of the OCBASASBDII phenomenon. The science remains unsettled.

One of the more controversial theories is that it is linked to feminism.

Men and women are different, especially when it comes to organizing things. Men, naturally inclined to hunt, are pre-adjusted to the notion of confronting a disorganized environment. But they are inherently weak in the ability to organize things, limited either by scope of what is to be organized, and the extent to which things within that scope can be organized. Men don’t do it. They pick out their clean laundry by smelling paper bags of clothes to see which one is clean; they leave paid and unpaid bills in rumpled stacks of paper with no rhyme or reason to them; they eat out of the sink.

Women are far superior at separating things that “do not belong” from other things that do. However, in addition to being able to do it, the more aggressive women can’t really stop doing it — even when they deal with people.

The OCBASASBDII-outgrowth-from-feminism theory says, women insisted on not being sexually harassed at work — they sued — employers learned how not to be sued, and so the money dried up. Just about the time that was going on, people started being diagnosed with things. What was happening, in sum, was that our more difficult females were insisting everyone deal with them, they were at the same time insisting they didn’t have to deal with anyone they didn’t want to, and this is what OCBASASBDII is all about; making sure people don’t have to interact with undesirables.

Another theory, all-but-proven, is that it is financially motivated. A bunch of people show undesirable behavior and you notice it…no money. You attach a three- or four-letter acronym…money. As the libertarians say, “if you want less of something, tax it; if you want more of something, subsidize it.” We have subsidized OCBASASBDII through the federal treasury and through the self-help-book publication market, we are now drowning in it.

Experts say there is much you can do to fight OCBASASBDII. Do not argue with the person brandishing the new-found BASA; the BASA can be roughly compared to a child’s security blanket, and if they are forcefully separated from it, they find this traumatic. Instead, gently change the subject of the conversation every time they use it, until they get tired of it and move on to something else.


Monday, August 11th, 2008

One more item from Boortz that he put up this morning. This time, it’s up to him to let me know what’s going on at another one of my favorite haunts, FARK.

And it’s one of my favorite pet peeve subjects, too, as you can see.

Yup. Sniveling brat misbehaves in 1958, he gets a whallopin’. Same sniveling brat misbehaves exactly the same way in 2008 and he’s got a “learning disability.” The authorities in 1958 figure out the problem is with what the kid does; the authorities fifty years later figure out the problem is with what the kid is. The earlier way is the better one. Haven’t you seen Hellboy yet?

I lost no time swiping this image. Good ‘un.

Deciding By Meme

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I was fresh off of scribbling down the post previous, about making important decisions by popularity of the meme instead of by an even-handed and methodical review of history. And I came across this story of a mother whose daughter suffered from a mysterious illness and, tiring of the professional doctors comin’ up empty trying to figure out the problem, used her Mad GoogleSkilz on the innernets to figure out what the problem was herself.

It got me to thinking about the decidedly non-reversible gender roles that take place, with regard to medical professionals treating kids. Specifically, with regard to those things called “learning disabilities,” although the story itself was about something else.

Danielle Fisher, 13, fell ill in October and doctors were baffled by her mysterious condition.

Her mother Dominique, 35, took her to the doctors after she began suffering from viral meningitis-like symptoms, including severe headaches and fatigue.
“She was diagnosed with Epstein-Bar virus, without the glandular fever. Then meningitis, then the psychiatrist comment was the best one.

“They even suggested it could be a clot or a tumour at one point, which was worrying.

“The last time she was in, the doctor said there’s nothing wrong with her, she needs a psychiatrist, which I knew was wrong, the poor girl could hardly walk.”

Frustrated at the lack of an appropriate diagnosis, Dominique, who is an estate agent, was so worried that she began doing some research herself on the internet into Danielle’s symptoms.

She was shocked to discover her daughter’s illness may have been caused by a bite from a tick, a tiny spider-like blood-sucking parasite which usually feeds off animals.

Dominique said, “I’d begun doing some research myself by then as she had severe vertigo, couldn’t walk any more and had severe muscle and joint pain.

“I came across Lyme Disease and it just seemed to fit. There’s a lot of controversy over the treatment of the disease and over diagnosing the disease.

“I took Danielle to see a professor in Newcastle privately and he diagnosed her with Lyme Disease and three core infections. That’s why she was so ill.”

This is a great example of deciding by meme. Which means, to be more precise about it, making critical decisions according to the popularity, or lack thereof, of the meme. A meme is,

meme (n.)

A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

The definition from the Free On-Line Dictionary of Computing fleshes this out, and perhaps better clarifies for first-time readers exactly how I’m using it here:

Richard Dawkins’s term for an idea considered as a replicator, especially with the connotation that memes parasitise people into propagating them much as viruses do.
Memes can be considered the unit of cultural evolution. Ideas can evolve in a way analogous to biological evolution. Some ideas survive better than others; ideas can mutate through, for example, misunderstandings; and two ideas can recombine to produce a new idea involving elements of each parent idea.

What does this have to do with gender roles, and children diagnosed with learning disabilities? Why does this fit in so well with my meme about memes? Well — as anyone who’s ever watch reruns of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman knows — the story of these uppity women overruling the classically-educated but practically ignorant sawbones is a decidedly popular meme. To exaggerate how much, would be pretty difficult. We saw this in January when I’d finally heard enough of that radio spot and chose to jot down a few words about it. Oh, she doesn’t believe a word the condescending old coot in the white coat has to say! How courageous! She must be right! Even to the point where the momma waltzes in and specifically asks for a diagnosis — something no medical discipline is supposed to tolerate.

Rather typical for the Daily Mail, there’s no daddy and not a hint of journalistic drive to find out about one. As one, trust me on this: Fathers overruling the docs…fathers expressing an opinion contrary to the docs’…fathers expressing an opinion the doc might possibly find interesting…fathers showing reluctance to believe what the docs have to say…fathers failing to follow step-by-step instructions from the docs…these are all gobstopperingly, mind-blowingly unpopular memes.

When it’s time to talk about learning disabilities, fathers interested in having some effect on the process — hell, they’re better off suggesting steel-belted radial tire centerpieces on the tables at a wedding reception. Dads are really swimming upstream here. To acknowledge that a male figure, one who doesn’t have letters after his name, might have something to interject worth considering — nobody’s ready to hear about that. But to stop everything and listen to the momma, is a Hot New Trend.

We’re just know-nothing, knuckle-dragging yokels. Relics from the bygone era before we began to know “so much more than we used to” — and could we kindly sit down and shut up, speak when we’re spoken-to. If my son had Lyme Disease and it was up to me to use search engines to figure it out — based on my eleven years of experience with parenthood — I have no reason, none whatsoever, zilch, zero, bubkes, to think for an instant anyone would listen to me. And no way in hell would any tabloid, Anglican or Yankee, write about the story in a million years. But everyone wants to hear about the strong-willed, Internet-searching momma figuring out what science’s best minds somehow missed.

I don’t mean to suggest the fathers are always right; far from it.

Nor do I mean to suggest the mommas are always wrong.

But the truth must lie somewhere in the middle, it seems to me. Doctors know things, because they’re supposed to. Parents know things. Momma’s known the bubbins his entire life. Some of us daddies have known him that long too.

Since we decide by popularity-of-meme when we decide which of these stories are going to grow “legs” and which ones are not, this has more of a bearing on that whole learning-disability thing than on the Lyme disease thing. In the court of public opinion, females have exclusive authority to overrule the docs. And it’s a powerful authority indeed; few are ready, willing or able to admit that they have it, or that it’s exclusively theirs. But they do, and it is. Meanwhile, females are far more likely to fall for the disability pitch. You can prove this easily by watching how mental/behavioral health professionals and school administrators behave, when they sell it. They act just like car salesmen — put all the energy into selling the medication to the mother, and it’s sold to the house. To discipline the kid, get the message across to him that being distracted is something you’re simply not supposed to allow to happen, and hey let’s keep the drugs bottled up and out of his system if it’s at all possible…that’s a daddy message. Men tend to be the advocates of that message, and we’re usually lonely voices in that department.

So when it’s popular for women to overrule the docs, but unpopular for the gentlemen to step out of line — when we have this expectation that every concerned mother is a Florence Nightingale in the making, but men should just buck up and do what they’re told — we create an environment in which certain false diagnoses just catch on like an old dry house-afire. And that’s the problem I’ve come to learn about, very slowly. What to do about it? I don’t know. It seems people do respect what men have to say, even genuflecting before them, if the man is a doctor. Maybe every man who has children should become a doctor. Or, maybe every woman who becomes a mother should go to specialized training about learning disabilities, and how they are oversold. Kids, of course, should be disciplined so they don’t act like weirdos…except on the playground.

But…as my son’s principal told me, and she’s completely right about this…you can’t do anything to punish them nowadays like they did back in my day. And, coincidentally or not, as that change was coming about, that’s exactly when learning disabilities took off. Like a rocket.


Update: So critical is this concept in passing judgment on some of our most poorly-thought-out prevailing standards and viewpoints — a primary purpose of existence of The Blog That Nobody Reads — that I decided to add an entry to the Glossary.

Medication Holidays

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Momma has taken a front-and-center role in raising the boy, for whatever reason, and can’t relate to him because he’s male and she’s female. So she waltzes into the doc’s office and orders that he be put on medication. This is an impermissible doctor/patient relationship practice in all other fields of medicine, but with learning disabilities it’s okay! Onto the Ritalin-or-whatever he goes!

So we have an entire generation of boys strung out on drugs because their mommas want to be relating to them as if they’re little girls, and haven’t been able to do it. Wonderful.

Then along comes summer. What to do? Have a holiday from the drugs as well as from school? That has been a practice, evidently…but Newsweek wants to do something about that.

Sunscreen and stamps are a must, and granola bars are always appreciated. But when it comes to packing up their kids for camp, many parents are leaving the prescription drugs at home. For the 2.5 million kids medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), physicians recommend an occasional break from the meds. The freewheeling days of summer are in some ways the perfect time. But when sleepaway camp is in the cards, drug holidays can present a problem—not just to the counselors having to handle kids who can be off-the-wall, but often also to the campers themselves.

That’s right. We have to get rid of holidays from the “Don’t act so much like a boy so your momma can understand you as if you’re a little girl” drugs…while the boys are at camp. Camp. That’s where you go so you don’t have to deal with the static when your parents catch you using the F-word and the C-word and the D-word and the A-word. That’s what it was back in my day. A place where you were able to wallow in your male-ness, more than you could back at home. Spitting off that bridge just to see if you could hit the leaf floating in the creek. Swamping your buddy’s canoe just to see if you could do it. All the stuff little girls can’t understand.

Snips, snails and puppy-dog’s tails.

But now we have “ADHD medication.” So we’re gonna get rid of that now.

Sue Scheff, a parent advocate who has blogged about her son Scott’s ADHD, tried for years to send him to camp unmedicated. Every year it was the same: “Within a week’s time I’d get a call saying the claws are coming out, he’s misbehaving, and I’d have to send the medication up to get him on track.” So why keep trying? In part it was to give him relief from the side effects. But the bigger motivating factor, she says, was avoiding the stigma of the ADHD label—both for Scott, who was teased when he had to leave the lunchroom to take his pills, and for herself. “Maybe it was a selfish decision,” Scheff says. “I just wanted to take him off so I didn’t have to explain to everybody why he was on the medication.”

GEE! I’m a parent of a child who’s had his share of go-’rounds with the “learning disability industry” — ooh, did I say that out loud? — well, anyway. I’m a parent. I’m a blogger. I guess I’m just as qualified as this Sue Scheff person.

Not a single syllable about Scott Scheff’s father, or if he has one. So where are the rough-n-tumble male role models? Not at camp, evidently; “the claws are coming out,” so they place a call to momma to get some drugs. What kinds of claws are those? In the summer of ’78, it was turning each other’s aluminum canoes over. I still have some rocks in my left knee from that excursion — the day it happened, I bled like a stuck pig, and probably got something of an infection. Just good clean summer fun, we called it. I spent that night in excruciating agony, my knee swelling up to the size of a softball. Just a typical footnote in a typical once-a-summer week away at camp.

So is this boy sinking other kids’ canoes to get mailed his little baggy of drugs? Is that it? Or is it putting his dinner fork to the left of his salad fork in the mess hall?

We have a presidential candidate this year who says we need to stop setting our thermostats at seventy-two…learn to say Merci Beaucoup…(I’m a poet and I dunno it). You know what, Newsweek? Somehow, of all the other problems facing our nation — I think boys taking a break from their “stop being male” drugs for a week or two during the summer, and all the attendant consequences of the “drug holiday,” don’t exactly bubble up to the top of the stack of our pressing problems.

We do not suffer from a surplus of budding testosterone. We are being killed, slowly, by a generational extinction of it.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Move MOUNTAINS, if you have to, to keep fathers involved in the raising of their sons. Even if they are at first a little bit reluctant. Even if he’s a dick who won’t pay his child support without lots of prodding. Treat the scummy bio-dad as you would a movie villain — if he has so much as a shred of human decency in him, see if it’s possible to bring that out. Boys have an instinctive appetite to carry on a family line, consistent with their programming, and no stepfather is going to fill this appetite. Sorry if that’s a bitter pill to swallow but it’s true.

2. Treat moderate cases differently from extreme ones. Some kids are so hyperactive that there’s just no question, they’re borderline disabled. Other kids, you can have a back-and-forth debate all afternoon between parents & teachers about whether there’s anything wrong at all, with legitimate points to be made on both sides. Believe me. I’ve been there. These are different situations. Treat ’em that way.

3. Just Say No to drugs. There is huge profit to be made in them, which taints the ability of the parents to be able to rely on the counsel of “educators” and other supposed “professionals.” Use the Powell Doctrine — get in to get out. If there’s no exit strategy for the medication, then don’t start.

4. Mothers are not supposed to be able to relate to little boys any more intimately than fathers can relate to their little girls. Probably, if we understood the human programming down to the letter, reading it off some lost ancient scroll or something — we’d find boys are supposed to be even more of a mystery than that. If the problem is limited to the mother failing to establish absolute control over her little bubbins’ every move and absolute understanding of every little spark that fires between the synapses…and there are no other symptoms…drugs are unwarranted. This is not a disorder, it is what is called “forming a personality.”

5. Once treatment has started, a good litmus test for keeping the child on the treatment is “without it, he would be completely lost.” A bad litmus test is the more common one: “It’s done him so much good!” If that’s the test that is being applied, and nobody is raising a red flag about it, then everyone needs to be replaced.

6. A disability is not a disorder, and a disorder is not a disability.

7. Too many disorders can be defined as “somehow, I got it in my head the kid would do this thing, and instead he did that thing.” Why did he do that thing? Did you bother to ask him? Maybe you’re the oddball for getting the thought in your head that he’d do something else. Communicate with him. Find out what he’s trying to do, what his motives are. Remember, the child is here to help the next generation function in whatever what it’s going to have to — he isn’t here to do every li’l thing the way you thought he would. A trained animal can do that. This is a thinking human being. When he enters the world of adulthood, we want him to be exercising a sense of judgment…just like we ritually expect our girls to do when they become women. This, I postulate, is why you don’t very often hear about girls being placed on these drugs. We have been led down an errant path, in which we believe individual discretion to be a beneficial attribute in our newly-minted ladies, and a rancid toxin in our newest graduating classes of gentlemen.

Thing I Know #179. Children seem to be “diagnosed” with lots of things lately. It has become customary for at least one of their parents to be somehow “enthusiastic” about said diagnosis, sometimes even confessing to having requested or demanded the diagnosis. Said parent is invariably female. Said child is invariably male. The lopsided gender trend is curious, and so is the spectacle of parents ordering diagnoses for their children, like pizzas or textbooks.

Slower Brain Maturity Seen in ADHD Kids

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

It’s the “tock” after the “tick”; the “haw” after the “yee”. For the last ten years prescriptions of psychiatric drugs to children have skyrocketed, usually for some variant of the learning disability ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) — if you utter a peep of protest to this, toward the phenomenon as a whole or in relation to a specific case, in the wrong audience you WILL be subjected to some haughty lecturing and second-hand anecdotal evidence that it “definitely exists.”

Even though you probably didn’t say anything contrary to that.

I remember the five-hour meeting in which I was beaten up about this, as a parent. It ended not when we ran out of things to talk about, but when the daycare center was about to charge me by the minute for not picking up my son. The part that I’m not going to forget any time soon, was when we reviewed the test scores that said he was in the “third percentile” of showing symptoms associated with Asperger’s.

Now, I wanted to make sure I understood the data the school psychologist was presenting to me, so I validated the way I validate everything of considerable complexity that might be easily misinterpreted — I restated it in a synonymous way, to show my brain was working it over and to display the results it had cooked up.

This kind of connects back to the post previous — a relatively innocuous but unpredictable event, thoroughly messed things up. Third percentile, I had supposed, was three percent. HOw many symptoms the boy had showed, compared to what might have been used to diagnose Asperger’s, was left unstated — that could be anything. But among a hundred boys showing behavior identical to my son’s…or more accurately, providing the same score on the test my son took…three percent of them were subsequently diagnosed with Asperger’s, which effectively means there’s a three percent chance my son “has” it, assuming you regard a “diagnosis” as an event constituting absolute “proof.”

“I thought third percentile meant there was a ninety-seven percent chance,” one of the teachers said. All momentum was lost. The school psychologist checked his notes. He wasn’t sure which one it was.

Four years later, my son was diagnosed as not having Asperger’s. But the meeting is what I’m talking about. The lack of curiosity about how things work, what things mean. Now that this has infiltrated the ranks of people who actually have degrees, we’ve lost the part of our social contract that says you get special training to figure out how things work…and therefore, to make sure things run right. Nowadays you get that higher-level training to become a better-paid process-follower.

And also in the post previous, I said…

The ultimate consequence is that people who understand how things work, or want to figure it out, have to be treated like freaks. Which, with a personal bias I’m ready to confess freely, it seems to me that we are.

And yes, I’d like some cheese with that whine.

But it isn’t quite so much me about whom I’m whining. It’s the younger set. The elementary- and middle-school-aged kids, mostly boys. The process-followers don’t understand how the toaster-disassemblers think about things, and so, they have been drugging us up to make us go away.

Last year in the United States, about 1.6 million children and teenagers – 280,000 of them under age 10 – were given at least two psychiatric drugs in combination, according to an analysis performed by Medco Health Solutions at the request of The New York Times. More than 500,000 were prescribed at least three psychiatric drugs. More than 160,000 got at least four medications together, the analysis found.

Many psychiatrists and parents believe that such drug combinations, often referred to as drug cocktails, help. But there is virtually no scientific evidence to justify this multiplication of pills, researchers say. A few studies have shown that a combination of two drugs can be helpful in adult patients, but the evidence in children is scant. And there is no evidence at all – “zero,” “zip,” “nil,” experts said – that combining three or more drugs is appropriate or even effective in children or adults.

“There are not any good scientific data to support the widespread use of these medicines in children, particularly in young children where the scientific data are even more scarce,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

It’s difficult to exaggerate just what kind of trend has been taking place here. If you have kids, you are almost certain to know someone whose child has a learning disability and is taking medication for it — and that is understating the issue considerably. The childhood learning disability has materialized over the last dozen years as something between an epidemic…and a fashion statement.

A lot of people will object to that, I’m sure, because they agonized over the decision to put their own child on such a cocktail and don’t consider it a fad by any means. But the fact of the matter is, the prescriptions have skyrocketed. We did get along for several generations without these drugs. Nobody over age forty is going to ‘fess up to having been perfectly well-behaved at this age…a source of zero problems…which in my mind is conclusive proof that society at one time faced the same problems, and came up with a different solution involving far less expense and long-term agitation.

Fact of the matter is, the medication is a substitute for that swift swat in the butt that people can’t dish out anymore.

It’s also implemented as a solution for behavior that is not destructive or even punishable — but not easily understood, either. Again, there is nothing new about the phenomenon of parents discovering their children have personalities different from their own. It wasn’t always something that demanded medication. “I’d give anything to peel back Morgan’s skull and see for myself just what is going on in there!” — my own mother said on more than one occasion, in a variety of moods ranging from the curious to the maternally-pleased to the exasperated. She wasn’t alone among mothers.

But she’d be alone in saying that today. Mothers, now, understand their sons perfectly. They must. If they don’t, the boy will go on medication to make him understandable.

But ADD does exist. It exists as a specimen of something that has become a pet peeve of mine: Disorders with handy names and acronyms, that the lay-person believes to apply to a specific, medically-understood and possibly physiologic problem — but that, in actuality, applies to a bundle of symptoms and nothing more.

I would cite as an example, autism versus Asperger’s. Autism falls outside of this because, for however much we still have to learn about it, it is generally understood to be a brain development disorder. It is a neurological problem. Asperger’s, which has in the last few years come to be considered and then recognized as part of the autistic spectrum, is much cloudier. Like ADD, it remains little more than a list of observations, about what some subjects do.

Now, I don’t work in the field and I don’t have access to the stuff that goes into the medical literature, nor would I be notified if the situation were to be meaningfully changed. But it seems to me this is a critical difference to make, and I’m wary of our medical community for their lack of candor in pointing it out: If I’m a doctor and I diagnose your child with ADD, that is a completely different thing carrying completely different ramifications from diagnosing your child with Autism.

Think of a vending machine that counts quarters as nickels. A diagnosis of ADD is like an expression of opinion, based on the similarity in behavior between this vending machine, and other vending machines that do the same thing. A diagnosis of Autism is a far more clinical thing. That would be like isolating the gadget that sorts the coins, and maybe some set of levers, one of which or some of which might be bent — and announcing with some scientific confidence, “the problem lies somewhere here.” Of course in both cases you have the option to junk the machine and get a new one, or replace the faulty part. We can’t do that with kids. But the analogy still holds, and there is this widespread misunderstanding, I’ve noticed, among parents as well as among educational professionals…anytime the word “diagnosis” is used, it must be representative of that last scenario. This is not necessarily the case at all, I’ve found, especially with learning disorders. The word “diagnose” turns out far too often to be an expressed opinion, by someone with letters after their name, that a subject’s behavior sufficiently resembles the behavior of other subjects, that the cause is probably similar.

And there are gender politics at work here. When parents squabble over whether or not to put junior on the juice, I notice the Mom tends to be in favor of getting it done, and the Dad is the killjoy. The situation is carefully couched in languaged designed to confuse: Mom is not “for” the prescription, she just doesn’t see any other way. But at the high, summary level, the situation is consistent. The female mindset seeks to make everything secure, predictable and non-unique. Kids that go on the psychiatric drug most quickly, come from single-parent households, or households in which the father is confined to a submissive role in decisions like this, and is expected to acquiesce.

Thing I Know #179. Children seem to be “diagnosed” with lots of things lately. It has become customary for at least one of their parents to be somehow “enthusiastic” about said diagnosis, sometimes even confessing to having requested or demanded the diagnosis. Said parent is invariably female. Said child is invariably male. The lopsided gender trend is curious, and so is the spectacle of parents ordering diagnoses for their children, like pizzas or textbooks.

My tentative conclusion is that this is just a continuation of post-modern feminist hostility to masculine things. Manly-men, before they hit their pubescent years, are sloppy things and always have been. They are rowdy, disorganized, and more often than not a little bit smelly. Never easily understood. This has been the way things are for quite awhile…”snips, snails and puppy-dogs’ tails,” remember that? What’s happening, I think, is that since the early 1990’s we’ve had quite enough of the puppy dogs’ tails and the snails. We’re not terribly pleased with the snips either.

Well guess what. The newest research is placing some uncertainty on the supposition that kids displaying “symptoms,” who “need” the medication because their mothers “can’t see any other way,” …may not be so flawed after all.

Crucial parts of brains of children with attention deficit disorder develop more slowly than other youngsters’ brains, a phenomenon that earlier brain-imaging research missed, a new study says.

Developing more slowly in ADHD youngsters — the lag can be as much as three years — are brain regions that suppress inappropriate actions and thoughts, focus attention, remember things from moment to moment, work for reward and control movement. That was the finding of researchers, led by Dr. Philip Shaw of the National Institute of Mental Health, who reported the most detailed study yet on this problem in Monday’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Finding a normal pattern of cortex maturation, albeit delayed, in children with ADHD should be reassuring to families and could help to explain why many youth eventually seem to grow out of the disorder,” Shaw said in a statement.
The research team used scans to measure the cortex thickness at 40,000 points in the brains of 223 children with ADHD and 223 others who were developing in a typical way. The scans were repeated two, three or four times at three-year intervals.

In both groups the sensory processing and motor control areas at the back and top of the brain peaked in thickness earlier in childhood, while the frontal cortex areas responsible for higher-order executive control functions peaked later, during the teen years, they said.

Delayed in the ADHD children was development of the higher-order functions and areas which coordinate those with the motor areas.

The only part of the brain that matured faster in the ADHD children was the motor cortex, a finding that the researchers said might account for the restlessness and fidgety symptoms common among those with the disorder.

Earlier brain imaging studies had not detected the developmental lag, the researchers said, because they focused on the size of the relatively large lobes of the brain.

What I find interesting is that in these couples-squabbles where the Mom wants to put the kid on the sauce and the Dad doesn’t, one thing that keeps coming out of the strongest and most stubborn fathers is the phrase “he’ll grow out of it.” This, like nothing else, has been precursorial to the poo-pooing and the wildly off-topic “it definitely exists” lecturing I referenced earlier.

But the research summarized above, validates exactly that. In a post-modern society tailored to the needs, whims, expectations and sensibilities of the female, the children who have been willed by God to to go through life as male things, are naturally out-of-place and adapting to their surroundings slowly. The task that has confronted them is a considerable one, made so by us. Most of these kids aren’t learning-disabled at all; they’re simply masculine. And just as confused by our draconically-feminized society, as our society is about them.

But they’ll get it. Their fathers have been saying so for quite awhile, and now the propeller-beanie egghead researchers are figuring it out too.