Friday, September 10, 2010

Who, what, when, where, why...?

I'm just doing what the teachers told me to do...

I have my theories about autism. They come and go, forming and falling apart after five years of reading a lot, watching a lot, talking a lot, listening a lot...

They are based mostly on the rambling links my mind makes, often at 3am. Today, I'm trying to clear out the mental undergrowth and see whether there are any recognisable plants in there. I'm almost sure I've grown a bunch of strange triffid-like hybrids that will never bear fruit, but if you have five minutes, come with me on a bushwalk.

This morning I was watching television, and a commercial came on for some new brand of paint. I've always worried about the renovating we did during my pregnancy and during Billy's second year of life. We did a lot of painting, and you don't have to be Einstein to work out that those fumes don't contain vitamins and minerals.

So, if autism is a genetically inherited tendency disorder that's waiting for an environmental insult to trigger it (which is a theory I think has legs), then shouldn't there be statistically more autistic children among the offspring of professional painters. While we're in this territory, what about farmers and gardeners using toxic pesticides, people working in plastics manufacture, mechanics trapped in enclosed spaces with exhaust and chemical fumes. Surely, if your life is bathed in toxic chemicals, you're carrying around some biological impact...

I wonder if anyone has studied this?

Similarly, is it just me that is freaked out (and you know how easily I can freak out) about the amount of plastic in my life? Since we de-chemicaled, my attention has turned to plastic and it's nasty friend teflon. We've got a lot of it. We had even more, but I've tried to get rid of it as much as possible.

We had plastic that went into the microwave (and while I never microwaved them, Billy's baby bottles were the nasty brand heavily marketed to 'modern mothers'). We had plastic that wrapped our leftovers, plastic bags for food, plastic containers for storing food, food sold in plastic wrapping and bags... Ugh. These things smelled bad, they looked bad, they changed their shape and colour from being used around our food. Seriously, that can't be good. It's not good. It's convenient as hell, but it's not good.

I have a very strong canary in a coal mine feeling about this growing generation of children on the spectrum. And it stretches to their peers with ADHD, allergies, auto-immune issues, learning and behaviour disorders...

I know I'm not alone. There are many practitioners out there saying the same thing. I see that they are buffeted my the press and the medical industry. I see there are cases against them, after people are unhappy with their promised/treatment. I also see many, many cases against mainstream medicine too.

I feel the need to say that I may sound like a tragic old hippy, and to be honest, I kind of like that. But really, we're suburban folk in a suburban house, living a suburban life. I'm not a zealot by nature, but the longer we live in autism world, the more I sound like one.

The medical professionals who are visiting from Vietnam, learning from the Australian autism experience, have made one thing abundantly clear. If we think we are experiencing an autism epidemic here in the developed world, it is nothing compared to what is emerging in resource poor countries.

The reality in Vietnam is that families are appearing at the doors of hospitals desperate for help, in increasing numbers every week. This is happening in a culture where disability and difference is not welcomed. Their 'different' child can be seen as a product of their disrespect for spiritual authority.

Most of these children are on what we in the better resourced parts of the world would call the more severe end of the spectrum. The quirky, odd dreamers are not yet on the intervention radar. Are they there in places like Vietnam, China or India...?

Man, I'd like to know. I think it would help us understand a lot more about WTH is going on, if someone could find that out.

Is autism a disorder of privilege? Is autism a disorder of toxicity? Is autism a disorder of indulgence?

I wish I knew.

I have such admiration for the people who are dealing with day to day autism assessment and intervention (though I know some days I sound like I don't). I know how challenging it can be to deal with the 'how'.

But I really wish I knew more about the 'why'.

Not for us, necessarily (though I wouldn't push that knowledge out of my bed, especially at 3am when the brambles in my brain are particularly active) but for the others - those to come, those in other places, those wondering whether they should be talking to their paediatrician or not, those dreaming of their future 'perfect' child...

I blame the teachers. They probably should have given me a hint that not all the answers are actually out there...


Lisa said...

The thing that puzzles me is that... while pregnant with #1 child, I was pedantic. No smoking, no drinking, all the healthy stuff. Mopped the floor daily when he started crawling. The whole deal.

With the 2nd and the 3rd kids, I was tired and slacked off. Hell, I even smoked a bit, stripped furniture with horrific chemicals, snuck a few drinks. The floor got mopped once a week when #2 was crawling, and #3...

So how come my #1 is well on the spectrum, and #2 and #3 are (relatively speaking) NT?

Ah, that's right - not all the answers are actually out there... sob.

Patty O. said...

I think that is the hardest thing for me of all: that nobody has all the answers. I cannot tell you how many times I have cried over that fact. How many times I have wished and prayed for some expert to just tell me every single thing I should do for my son's SPD and autism. I just wish someone could tell me that yes, this really expensive therapy will help. That this particular system will make our daily life easier. It just feels like I am groping in the dark sometimes. And I have a really hard time with that. I am so much better when I just know what I need to do, no matter how hard that may end up being.

Ro said...

I was like Lisa in that I was pedantic when I was pregnant with my eldest then I slackened off with my 2nd and was ultra-careful with my 3rd, yet the only NT one is the middle child!
Was interesting to read a recent, but flawed, study from USA stating that autism was a disorder of 'privilege' or middle classes but as they hadn't copied the same study in other countries (with different health care models) it only reflected the fact that (perhaps) only middle class America is able to afford to get a diagnosis and treatment for ASD kids which means the numbers could be much higher in that country alone.
Which again doesn't give us a true picture of the rate the numbers are climbing nor what could be the triggers.
Myself, I reckon it's evolution (hello, Dr Sheldon Cooper *snort*) and our ASD kids will be the ones to clean up the mess we've made of the planet.
And when Skynet goes live I'm avoiding the ATM's at all the banks....

Fi said...

Great points have some wonderful observations there!
Personally, I'm already overwhelmed by everything that I should be doing that I'm not.
And my 1st pregnancy was the one where I was young and dumb and didn't take any precautions at all.
I drank, I ate soft cheeses, I painted a house etc etc and I was super careful with the next 2 pregnancies and they are the 2 that are diagnosed with ASDs?
Go figure!