Sunday, January 13, 2008

A very sad story

A woman killed her daughter because she couldn't handle the child's autistic behavior. That's depressing enough, but then the mother said she felt responsible for her child's condition because she had been vaccinated. The mother, as an MD, should know by now that the link between autism and vaccines has been thoroughly discredited. She said she loved her daughter but hated the autism, and wanted it out of her life. However it happened, the child came with the autism, and most parents in that situation do their best to help the child cope in whatever way they can, even though it may be difficult. Being a parent is hard, and I know I couldn't handle it at this point in my life. This mother took the easy way out, suffocating her very young daughter because she didn't think she could handle the child's condition, something hundreds of other parents deal with.
I have an interest in autism because a few years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. When I was younger, everyone knew I was different, something I never heard the end of from nasty kids and confused adults, but they didn't know what was at the root of it. AS didn't enter the DSM until 1994, when I was 12, and didn't gain public recognition until years later. I was diagnosed at 19, after I had developed the social skills that were lacking when I was a kid. AS is marked by social impairment, an inability to pick up on social cues that most people inherently understand. All my life, I've heard that my "tone" was saying something I never intended to say with my words, something I was totally unaware of. The casual terms of endearment that adults use with children, and sometimes adults use with other adults, like "hon" and the like, were intolerable to me, and still are. Someone who doesn't know me has no business calling me hon or darling. And in introductory casual conversation, I still hate being touched. Once in high school, a teacher tried to put his hand on my arm while conducting a condescending talk about one of my assignments, and I recoiled. When I object to these things, I have people telling me they're just trying to be nice, but I don't see it that way.
Because of my condition, it has always been hard for me to make and keep friends. But it has improved as I've gotten older, as I've gradually learned the social techniques that I previously didn't understand. On my new favorite TV show Dexter, as unsettling as it is to identify with a serial killer, in a flashback scene, a teenage Dexter is approached by a girl, asking him if he's heard about the spring formal. He says yes, but nothing else. When the girl leaves, Dexter's father tells him that the girl wanted him to ask her to the dance. Dexter replies, "But that's not what she said." I totally understood. There's so much work in communicating; not only listening to what's said, but deciphering body language, tone, context, it goes on and on. I shouldn't be too surprised that it took me so long to pick up on it, and why I still need work in perfecting it, even though it seems to come naturally to almost everyone else.

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