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I have social communication problems (<-- understatement). Here are two, I'll give the simple and (I believe) unfixable one first, and the more complex and possibly mitigatable one second.

In the first instance, I am telling a story that is ABOUT ME. I am not using "you" as a generic pronoun. I am not thinking about whether the person I am telling the story to might have at some point in their past had a similar story, or if I did, I assume that my conversational partner has basically made whatever peace they might need to make with their story and can thus better understand mind and maybe make sympathetic noises, laugh with a bit of dark humor, perhaps give some helpful advice on how to deal with the situation, etc. Instead -- this doesn't happen all the time, and I really suck at predicting when it does happen -- the person connects whatever I am saying to something that happened to them in the past that they very much HAVE NOT made peace with, and the next thing I know, they are having a powerful emotional reaction to those events gone by, which I actually don't know anything about because it's sort of like I was talking about me and a movie started in front of their eyes and I've been completely forgotten. Very disorienting. I don't think it's something I can fix, altho when I notice it happening, I do try my best to make sympathetic noises, get them to talk through whatever it was hijacked the conversation, etc. etc. You know, be a supportive friend stuff.

Here is the more complex and hopefully more amenable to improvement problem. I am telling a story. The person is periodically reflecting back to me what they heard or what they understand me to have said, or where they think I am going next in the story. But they get it wrong in a way that I think matters. So I make a little adjustment. And I continue with my story. Again, they reflect back. Again, distortion that matters to me. Again, I try to continue. Sometimes I stop, because I think, you know, they are not in a place where listening is possible for them. Maybe they need to do some talking instead. Sometimes I give up on the story, and try a different story. And then sometimes, it happens with that story, too. It is a very frustrating dynamic, and while I've had it happen on occasion with nearly everyone I've had long and interesting conversations with, it happens a lot more with some people than with other. Obviously, it isn't any fun listening to a story, making what one thinks is a relevant remark, and being corrected for it. Repeatedly. Other than, give up on the story, give up on telling any story to the person in question, I'm trying to figure out how to deal with the persistent misunderstanding problem. I _feel_ like there ought to be more things to try. But I'm not having a lot of luck with them. It may be that most people have the sense to abandon any conversational gambit which generates more than two irrelevant/distorted responses, and I just need to internalize that rule.
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Today, I took T. to an audiology appointment. His hearing is fine. We are still trying to figure out whether it makes sense to do the auditory processing test. When I get the report from the audiologist, I will consult with his speech/language therapist at the school and get an understanding from her whether she thinks there might be a useful recommendation that could come out of the more complex testing. If even a positive result produces no actionable advice, what's the point? (His current school placement does as much or more than most recommendations that might come out of the test: sound treatment, fewer people in the room, one on one instruction from an appropriate distance, etc.)

I had hoped to somehow wedge a phone call in with K., but it didn't happen. I also missed a call with A. earlier in the week. It's been one of those weeks. I think K. has a really bad cold. So does my walking partner M., which is (part of) why no walk today.

We stopped at Subway to get lunch on the way back to dropping T. off at school. I eventually called S. to describe the issues we have been having with one of the kids' therapists (<-- look, anonymization!) and what we have been doing and asked her for advice. She's going to do a little investigation. She confirmed that we will not have to deal with this therapist after this school year, which is in itself a pretty comprehensive solution.

After the call, I decided that 4 p.m. was not too early for a drink. Then A., R. and I all went to Julie's Place for dinner, and I had another drink. But I wasn't driving.
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Today was T.'s half day. Since A. was sent home with a fever yesterday, and the school has a 24 hour policy, R. came home to hang out with her while I took T. to gymnastics. Then we went back to his school for a clinic. Then off to Burlington where we arrived way too early for an eye appointment (note to self: it's a really short run from Littleton to Burlington). The appointment itself was 2 hours long. Yikes! T., like at least one aunt and at least 2 cousins, is far sighted, so he'll be getting glasses to see if that helps with eye fatigue. We had dinner at On [Edited to correct name] the Border. I also learned about saccadic eye movement dysfunction by seeing the diagnostic code on the paper (T. was melting down so I didn't get the full scoop from the doc, but we're due back in a couple months and I'm betting he'll be getting some eye training for this). This is apparently quite common with autism.

I'm now very tired. A. may or may not go to school tomorrow. R. may or may not go to work. I am desperate for some alone time, and I'm betting I'm gonna have to leave the house tomorrow morning to get it. I foresee a long walk in my future.
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Recently, I watched my daughter’s friend tell my daughter that she absolutely could not answer a question I was asking her, because, “It’s a secret.” Neither child would tell me. I didn’t want to make a fuss so I let the playdate end after getting a category and no more out of them (“It’s a thing.”). The reason I’d walked in in the first place was because I’d heard my daughter nagging at her friend about, “When are you going to tell your parents?” I mean, I was going to stop my kid nagging about whatever it was — on some level, I didn’t really want to know. And I figured I could find out once the playdate was over.

Afterwards, I couldn’t get my daughter to tell me. I tried everything. There was a lot of crying. And I went from being a little worried about my daughter not telling me what it was that she was nagging at her friend to tell her parents about to being a LOT worried that anyone had this much power to stop my kid from telling me anything … anything at all. She’s 8. She has autism. This is terrifying.

I told the parents of the other child that my daughter was distressed about a secret and asked them to help out with the dilemma. They asked the other child about the secret. Apparently, the friend basically said, “There is no secret.” I was non-plussed. I had spent several minutes trying to drag it out of both of them, then even more time with my daughter. There was a secret all right. But I told my daughter, your friend says there is no secret, which means it isn’t a secret any more, which means you can tell me. Out it spilled, as stupidly trivial as anything could be. The friend wanted something. My daughter wanted her friend to tell her parents so they would buy it. The family finances are tight. And the friend said a lot of nasty things about her father’s unwillingness to spend money. That was it. The whole secret was basically a kid calling her dad names for not buying her toys. Boring as fuck. Also, the dad’s a good guy, doing everything he can for his family. Kind of mean to be calling him names.

I’m allergic to secrets. Part of why I am allergic to secrets is because I (and I wasn’t the only one) was sexually molested by a family member and obviously there were a lot of secrets involved. I got to wondering what the current consensus on kids and secrets is.

Here is the national Crime Prevention Council page on kids and secrets.

http://www.ncpc.org/topics/by-audience/parents/secrets

This one really stood out to me: “Make sure they know that no one has the right to ask them to keep a secret from their parents.”

Wanting to know the content of the secret doesn’t make me a bad mother.

The primary exception to the No Secrets rule is clear and common, and exactly the one I came up with when talking to my daughter after the dust settled.

“It's okay for children to keep surprise parties and presents secret because these secrets will make someone happy and won't be a secret forever.”

Surprises parties and presents okay, time limited secrets okay. Everything else, nope. I even went down a list of everyone that my daughter and I both know, and asked her in turn, if any of those people had ever asked her to keep a secret. Ever. Answer: none of them. We don’t do secrets — we don’t even do surprises. And if kids want candy or cookies, they get them. We don’t have limits that are broken and then the violation kept as a “secret” — I think that just causes all kinds of trouble.

Some websites have much more complicated explanations of secrets that are okay vs. ones that are not okay.

https://www.kidpower.org/library/article/safe-unsafe-secrets/

I can’t make head or tale of most of that. I have a bunch of policies about confidential information. If the story in question is entertaining, I’ll shave off all identifying information, change some details, and use it as cocktail party fodder. I’ve actually done this in front of the source of the story and had them think it was someone else — they came by and said, OMG, that’s so much like what happened to me! I can’t believe you know two people that happened to! And I’m like, weird, huh? Secret kept. Stories which are too boring to tell at a party are not hard to keep confidential — I barely remember them. A long time ago, I had friends who were really awful people, and so sometimes I’d find out that someone was sleeping with someone else who they were not supposed to be with. And yes, I am the person who will go tell the partner of the person who wasn’t supposed to be doing that. I eventually figured out not to hang out with people who did that kind of shit and thus had to keep that kind of secret.

There are some people who use secrets as a bridge to more complicated sets of rules that are pretty valuable:

http://denver.citymomsblog.com/parenting/why-we-dont-keep-secrets-in-our-house/

Years ago, a friend of mine was dating someone who used to be a friend of mine, but who I had gotten really suspicious of. She was being treated for depression. She was being pressured to do things she really didn’t want to do. I decided that enough was enough, and I contacted a bunch of people who had had some kind of relationship that went bad with the person she was dating. We staged a rolling intervention. Basically, I got everyone to tell her all their stories about What Went Wrong With Him. And that was the end of that. Relationship ended. Cats were rescued. New relationship started. Happily Ever After (look, life is complicated, and nothing is perfect, but they still seem quite happy in their now family of 4). And she will reliably rant about the dangers of a Culture of Silence since that event. More power to her.

She’s right. I’m not opposed to being tactful and diplomatic when we complain about other people doing annoying things. Tact and etiquette are great things. Keeping secrets, however, is NOT a great thing. Just fucking gossip publicly. It’s so much less scary.
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Today, T. had a half day so we went to Starbucks where he had a hot chocolate and I had a soy mocha. He paid. He held the door for me. He didn't rush me out of there as soon as he was done but waited patiently to let me finish. I was really impressed.

At the clinic (small meeting with part of the team to discuss T.'s progress -- we didn't really need a December clinic because of the IEP but T. wanted to attend one of the meetings so we had the clinic), I talked about the appointments I was setting up for T.'s hearing eval (including for CAPD) and vision eval (with a developmental optometrist) I was working on getting set up. The intake on this stuff is on the order of the Lurie Center intake process. Anyway. Much confusion and disclaiming of desire on the part of the team members for me to do this, so I threatened to halt the process and they then backpedaled and said no don't do that. I'm not sure what is going on there. I'm about ready to call S. and ask for advice, because one team member in particular just seems to be not entirely competent and/or sane. I attempted to extract information from anyone there about an adaptive/inclusive martial arts instructor/program in the area -- they exist, but so far I'm mostly finding tae kwon do, a style I have Issues with -- and got all kinds of static from the problematic team member on the topic. They are all going to go track down names/programs and get back to me, because I did get them to acknowledge that they actually had heard of such programs/instructors.

You would think that people who were concerned about proprioreceptive and sensory integrative and motor planning issues would be all over an adaptive/inclusive martial arts activity. You would think that. But apparently, you get a bunch of yoga practicing women in a room with no experience with the martial arts themselves and you just get a bunch of random static. T. can ice skate (in circles, nothing fancy), ride a horse, ride a bike, swim well enough to have a green band and does some gymnastics. Martial arts does not seem like an impossible next step, assuming a 1-1 setting and an instructor with decent patience and good ability to break movement down into very tiny pieces. Really, it turns out that resistance to change is not limited to the kids in that classroom.

ETA: Two sitters, so R. and I went to Bondir. That was really nice -- first time going out since finally feeling better. There was an egg dish with bacon and barley that was really yummy. So was the quince sorbet.
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Another library selection. I was looking for a book about narcissism, because a friend of mine has had problems with narcissists, then there is the obvious election thing. The book I found in the library was unsatisfying, so I thought I would pick up a book about personality disorders in general, since I have not too long ago had a strong interest in better understanding Borderline Personality Disorder and found learning more about it to be really rewarding in terms of better understanding, better ideas for how to be around people with this particular issue without making things worse (and possibly helping to support them emotionally), and in general feel more compassion.

During the lead up to the DSM V, there was talk that perhaps personality disorders would be reworked entirely, to be one true personality disorder list of criteria, and then a more detailed coding/listing of how it manifests. Dobbert's book was written before that debate occurred. In the event, the new approach is listed as an alternative. I was hoping that reading Dobbert might give me a sense of what is shared across personality disorders. Instead I wound up coming to a very different set of ideas.

I really liked this book, and I think it is generally very useful. The author is not mean spirited, nor does he engage in obvious name calling (you might go, well, duh, but you might read some books about personality disorder to get a sense of how rampant that is before you conclude that this bar is too low). He intends his book for a general audience; he himself comes from a forensic/criminal justice background, which shows up a lot in his discussion of antisocial personality disorder, and his inclination to think that conduct disorder should be rolled in to the personality disorders (I don't disagree with him). I particularly liked the section on Histrionic Personality Disorder, because I had no idea what that was (I'd heard of it, but didn't have any sense of it); once I read through it and told a friend, she immediately said, I know someone like that!

And that's perhaps the best thing about this. It is like a bird spotting guide or a nature book that you can take on a hike, only it is for people who make us all scratch our head and go, what the heck is that all about anyway? We can't figure out where the win is, they cause all kinds of problems in groups, are difficult to work around and sometime force us to quit participating in organizations or change jobs just to get away from them. Well, if you've ever wondered what was going on, maybe you'll find the same sort of value in this book that I did.

The set of ideas I came to after reading this was as follows. I knew that some of the schizo* personality disorders were confusing and difficult to tell apart (I don't have that problem any more!), and I had reason to believe (mostly because of reading people's posts on Wrong Planet) that they were either "cousins" of autism spectrum, or autism spectrum in its higher functioning forms compounded with other problems. Here's my first cut at that:

schizoid personality disorder = mainstreamed, HFA person with depression, who has not yet/ever found people of like minds. I think if you treated the depression, and then helped them Find Their People, they would wind up just looking like other autism spectrum people. Pretty varied, still gonna need a lot of alone time, and still reduced affect, but not NO affect. Might also have an asexual component; wouldn't know for sure until the depression was addressed and Their People were found

schizotypal personality disorder = HFA person, possibly from a spectrum family, weird ideas. Might think they are psychic. Might have a lot of odd ideas about UFOs, occult, etc. The spectrum component means they don't have any perspective taking ability so they don't realize that they shouldn't talk about this stuff around mundanes. Work on the perspective taking issues, walk them back from any paranoia they have developed, get them into a social skills program. Once they "get" that they need to be a little selective, and if you can help them find some flavor of Their People which isn't too terrifying, further descent into paranoia and delusions will probably halt/reverse.

obsessive compulsive personality disorder. Best BEST thing about this book: I can now actually keep track of the difference between OCD and OCPD. Never thought that would happen! I have some issues with his description of OCPD, in that his scenario has someone who weight cycles, which just makes very little sense to me. My sense is that OCPD tends to be more associated with anorexia type eating disorders than bulimic type eating disorders. But who knows. People are exploring the possibility that OCPD has autism spectrum components, but there is a tremendous amount of resistance, because if it turns out that is true, then a lot of the received wisdom in eating disorders, hoarding, etc. is going to turn out to have been entirely wrong headed. Also, it may turn out to be the case that there is a fraction of OCPD which is autism or autism like, but another chunk which has a very different etiology.

Don't blame Dobbert for any of that rambling mess! He's a very reasonable person and I am engaging in early stage, uninformed speculation. But his book is concise, clear, well cited and easy to read. It'll help you understand confusing people, I can almost guarantee it. At the end, he has a neat appendix of various psychologists/psychoanalysts/etc. contribution to the ideas in the book; it was there that I learned about (possibly again) Karen Horney, who I am going to try to read some of because I think a lot of her ideas about how people deal with (or don't) fears and anxieties might be quite fruitful to contemplate.
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For regular readers: I'm a little behind on blogging; I'll do catch-up posts in the next day or so. I wasn't out of town, but there was a bunch going on. Unrelated to this event.

This morning, T. came in to wake me up (a second time -- he'd been in once already to make sure it was okay for him to go around the loop) and say there was someone in the garage to see me. I grabbed a robe and crocs and muttered, "It'd better not be Witnesses," and headed downstairs. I could hear the door to the kitchen from the garage was being held open and a man speaking in my kitchen before I was even down the stairs. A police officer had followed T. home.

He was extremely courteous and entirely supportive. A neighbor had called the police because my son was walking around the neighborhood -- he'll do the loop, and also walk down Spencer to a friend's house. Two marked cars stopped near him (slow day, I guess!), offered him a ride home, which he declined. He had a conversation with them and they grasped they he knew where he was and he knew where he lived so everyone came over to the house, where one (thank goodness only one) officer came in to chat with a parent to establish that yup, we know he's out and about.

This isn't precisely like walking to school. That's a timed, point A to point B, with an expected arrival time. T. walking around the neighborhood is not directed and can be repetitive. (Heck, it's pretty repetitive when I do loops around the neighborhood walking.) On the other hand, he is 11, careful around cars, polite to people and pets and generally well known. The police had no issue at all with what he was doing and the officer said, please get exercise every day, this is a great thing he is doing, kids need to get some independence, etc., everything you could possibly want.

We're not sure who called this in, or why. It's possible it is someone who has known T. and I for years, saw he was alone, wasn't used to that, wondered if perhaps I was lying unconscious somewhere and called it in on that basis. It's possible it was someone who saw T. the first time, thought nothing of it, saw him three more times and concluded he was lost and needed help finding his way home. Lots of kids with autism get lost or wander off, so it's a Good Thing to make sure an unattended kid who is wandering around has a safe point of contact to ensure that everything is okay, and calling a community helper like the police is better in many ways than approaching the child yourself.

But it was still pretty weird that someone called the cops on my kid. T. is excited and sort of hopes it happens again. He's going to accept a ride home in the police vehicle next time. "I'll get my own private police ride!", he said.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006222/

I really think that a lot of our approach to identifying people who need support would work better if we focused on smaller-than-diagnostic modules (such as social interaction problems), rather than characteristic clusters (like ADHD or ODD or ASD or whatever). This particular analysis seems to share that way of thinking about kids who need support.

I've been really wondering a lot about the overlap between ASD and ODD for years now, especially as we have tried to have playdates with kids with the same diagnosis as my kids, but a very different range of symptoms. I had convos back when A. was doing EI with therapists who said that some parents diagnosis shop, which I just wasn't sure whether I really believed that was a full explanation or not (really, are all these high energy, high conflict kids with ASD diagnoses actually ODD instead? Because they sure set off my ASD-dar for the rest of the package: social interaction issues, sensory problems, narrow areas of deep interest, etc.). I try not to blame parents (because I don't want to be blamed, either!), and I sure recognize that when a parent has needs that aren't met, that is going to limit how much the parent can then do for their child. Part of why we work with a play therapist is because I recognize my limitations at helping kids solve relationship problems in a play context without either creating high structure or making the situation worse in some other way (neither of which gets at the thing I want my kids to be better at than I am, which is being able to relate well to other people and share goals and cooperate and All That Good, Prosocial Stuff).

I'm starting to think that maybe ODD actually starts out as what I think of as Grumpy Old Man Syndrome. You say, hey, let's do X. GOM says, NO! If you wait a few minutes, GOM will say, hey, I have an idea. Let's do X! Annoying as fuck, but manageable, if you can avoid engaging with the initial no. If you make the mistake of trying to convince GOM to do X, GOM will escalate and entrench, until GOM is saying that X will kill the kiddies, give us all cancer and directly start Armageddon within his limited remaining lifetime. Also, cost too much money. A parent that doesn't have GOM, and who figures out early on to wait, and maybe do some environmental nudging towards X, and doesn't require the GOM to admit it was actually the parent's idea, etc. etc. etc. can take a kid with GOM and produce an adult who may be a little annoying at times (especially when tired or surprised out of their routine), but is basically functional. A parent who has severe GOM themselves may wind up making an adult with severe GOM, aka, ODD. Assuming they don't just kill each other when the kid hits puberty.

We tend to think, oh, let's fix the kids and then it'll be good in the next generation. And I'm like, yeah, that's probably never going to be good enough for things like really entrenched, multi-generational GOM. You are going to have to mitigate with the 'rents, if those kids are gonna have any chance at all.
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We had a little issue a couple days before A. came down with appendicitis.

http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1403791.html

I was waiting for the transportation boss to get back to me (he said he would and he's always been reliable before). And waiting. And waiting. Today, I quit waiting and called him. He was surprised to hear from me. The van driver had told him she'd talked to me and Everything Was Fine.

Everything is NOT fine. My son is home sick, so I brought up the booster seat issue and then got off the phone so I could contemplate my options and have some breakfast. After breakfast, I drafted a formal complaint and attempted to call a couple other people involved with special ed in district and in the consortium, to find out what perspective they might have on what was going on. One of them is on vacation until next Wednesday (lucky her -- she gets to completely dodge having to listen to me on this. I think.). The other was in a meeting and may or may not call me back later.

I took my sick son with me to pick up my daughter (this is why I prefer having transportation). We ran into a child who was at Saturday's b-day party with A. so that was fun. Nice to sustain relationships a little longer -- they are moving to a neighboring town so it'll be iffy when we see them again but life is long and unpredictable and I like the whole family so hopefully we'll run across them occasionally at birthday parties and similar.

After we returned home, I talked to the sitter. The driver, it turns out, had chatted with the sitter, making her very uncomfortable and the sitter got out of the conversation as quickly as she could. Sitter is a bit of a conflict avoider / don't rock the boat type, so I can imagine that the driver chose to interpret whatever she said _very_ liberally, and then shade it further as a conversation with me rather than about me and that's why the director of transportation thought the matter was solved. Ha! Nope. But now he's off the hook for being part of the problem and back in play as a possible person to help resolve the issue. Which is all I ever wanted anyway.

So I called him back up, and made it very, very clear that I am very, very not okay with the current state of affairs. We discussed our respective interactions and what I had gleaned from the sitter and I _think_ we are all in agreement that at a very minimum, there is an Opportunity for Retraining on both booster seat rules and on managing backpacks on the van. I'll be driving A. for the rest of the ESY (a week and a half), but it looks like we'll be back with transportation in the fall, with a booster seat until A.'s birthday (or other mechanism of compliance with Massachusetts state law).

And hopefully, with a different driver. I was pretty clear about how I just do not trust this current driver. If she shows up at my door again, I'm not putting A. on her van.
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First, a little background, because while I have blogged a little about this, some of the extended conversation occurred on FB and wasn't as visible.

My children both have ASD diagnoses and my husband and I are quite confident that we, too, would have had diagnoses if our childhood occurred today. We're old, and back in the day, things worked differently, so instead, we got treated badly and called all kinds of names and didn't have many friends until we were old enough to find our nerd compatriots in places like high school, college, and employment at tech companies. Because I can clearly see where my children's sensory issues come from, I am not inclined to push for compliance with norms -- like keeping hair neatly brushed -- that I don't see much of a purpose in. When the tangles become a problem and the kids object to us addressing that problem (carefully, with conditioner and detangler and a wide array of combs and brushes) we negotiate a haircut.

Over the years, the preschool, A.'s kindergarten class and her first grade class have all tackled the hair problem with some form of Let's Play Beauty Shop. They've made little to no progress in reducing scalp sensitivity or getting her to be happy about having her hair brushed. My sister -- her kids have diagnoses also, and she's very familiar with sensory issues -- tried with my kids, and she, too, has had limited success. Things aren't getting worse, but they aren't changing much, either. Given that I hate having anyone touch my head, and won't let anyone else brush my hair (and honestly, generally don't do a lot with my own hair beyond getting the tangles out), I was not expecting anything to ever work.

Fast forward to the most recent IEP review (the annual, not the 3 year); the topic came up again. I mentioned it to the neurologist (because that appointment was the very next day, mostly by coincidence), who suggested trying the Mason Pearson brush. I had one, and I think I had tried it unsuccessfully before, but this time, for whatever reason, A. was really okay with it. So what required a lot of bribery and cajoling to get her to tolerate is now very okay, and no big deal at all.

Who knew?

But Mason Pearson is an expensive brand, and I thought this was ridiculous to recommend to a family with a kid with sensory issues, because if it didn't work, that's kind of a lot of money to try on a chance. I went looking for a knockoff. My criteria were: cushion (because the "give" over tangles rather than engaging with them directly is crucial to why this brush is so less painful to use -- repeatedly going over untangles slowly and gently and without damaging the hair or pulling on the scalp), 100% natural bristles (I think it feels better, and of course there's the oil redistribution feature which is healthy for the hair and makes it less likely to tangle again anyway). The Spornette brushes looked good, but reviews suggested quality control issues, so I ordered a Denman instead.

I've now received the Denman, and I'll tell you straight up I can see two problems vs. Mason Pearson. The cushion on the Denman is MUCH stiffer than on the Mason Pearson. It's not as bad as a brush with a completely stiff plastic or wood backing, but it's close. There are plenty of rows of bristles, but the bristles feel very different from the bristles on the Mason Pearson. They are substantially softer and thinner feeling. The two _almost_ balance out in terms of pressure to the scalp, however, it's overall negative in both directions when it comes to reducing tangles.

I'll try it on my daughter later tonight. The Denman is a high quality brush at a very good price point and brushes are quite personal. However, the features which make the Mason Pearson so amazing for scalp sensitivity are missing in the Denman to a much greater degree than I would have anticipated either from the technical description of the product or from the (MANY) comparative reviews I found online.

ETA:

A couple more data points. My walking partner, M., who is an adult, has significant scalp sensitivity issues and problems with hair brushing. I had her try both the Denman and the Mason Pearson. She prefers the Mason Pearson. My husband tells me that he was chatting with another parent at therapeutic riding, and learned that they, too, have a Mason Pearson brush they use with their child. I feel like capitalism and the world of knock-offs has really let me down. There ought to be a cheap, as good (or nearly as good) alternative, and I can find no indication that there is one.

ETAYA:

My daughter has weighed in. She says, "If there was an app, I'd rate them both 5 stars. They are similar." Okee, dokee. Denman is an acceptable knockoff after all. I'll update this if there are further developments.
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http://www.medpagetoday.com/EmergencyMedicine/EmergencyMedicine/56584

Kaiser Health News article at MedPage Today about changing emergency rooms to better serve people with autism -- children AND adults. Part of this is driven by doctors who have children with diagnoses, part by the fact that people on the spectrum generally have other medical needs at higher rates than the general population, and partly to improve medical care. There's a little better customer service = better business going on, too.

""People on the [autism] spectrum utilize the healthcare system more often. They disproportionately are using our services," said Edward Jauch, director of emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. From a cost standpoint alone, he said, it makes sense to figure out how to care for them effectively and efficiently."

He would know.

"Jauch's 21 year-old son has autism and frequently required emergency care as a child. So Jauch would often speak to emergency departments about the disorder. He has for years brought his son into work, so his residents can learn how to interact with someone with autism, and "not when they're in a moment of crisis.""

"Of autistic children who use the emergency department, almost one in four are sedated or restrained to keep calm. But if giving a squishy toy achieves the same effect, hospitals can drive down the cost of care, patients don't need to be medicated and they might be more receptive to treatment."

I'm very happy to see this development. My sense is that medical care -- at least in the places where I have lived -- has improved in this sense over the course of my lifetime, because of changes demanded by, well, everyone. More women in healthcare at all levels, more awareness of the kinds of things that drive litigation and changes in medical training have all added up to a lot more compassion today than in decades past (and that's been a long-standing trend -- much longer than I've been alive). But it is nice to know that people on the spectrum aren't going to be completely left out forever.

"Put another way: If she had a child with autism, "I would probably drive a further distance" if it meant going to a hospital with better-suited care, said Cara Harwell, the nurse practitioner at Nemours who launched their program." Given what women routinely do in the course of picking a hospital for their births, and given that women who use a hospital for a birth tend to return to that hospital for any future family needs for hospital treatment, this does actually seem like a no-brainer -- there are few other differentiators between hospitals that are apparent to patients.
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Years and years and years ago, way before I had kids -- way before A. had kids -- my friend A. recommended the Mason Pearson brush. I was skeptical -- it was expensive -- but at some point, I bought a small one (because it wasn't quite as ludicrously expensive as the full size one) and I've hung onto it ever since. I don't consistently use it, but I always know right where it is.

Anyway. My daughter has a ridiculous set of sensory issues which I manage mostly by avoiding, cross my fingers and hoping she will outgrow and, in a pinch, negotiating with her. For years, her schools (preschool, kindergarten, even first grade) have attempted to play "beauty shop" with her to get her to let them comb or brush her hair. No one has succeeded. I've tried. My sister -- who has mad skills in this area -- has tried. Sometimes my daughter will gut it out for a while, but she's never okay with it. The topic came up at the neurologist visit, and the neurologist suggested a Mason Pearson brush.

I was like, I have one, I can't imagine it'll be any different but okay, I'll give it a try. I suspect, in fact, I tried it long, long ago, but I sure hadn't tried it recently. So after a few days in a row of trying a variety of other no tears brushes, asking her to brush it, using my fingers, using various wide toothed combs, etc., I broke out the Mason Pearson and she was Completely Okay with it.

It's still insanely expensive. However, if you have a child with significant scalp sensitivity, maybe you have a friend who will loan you theirs to try on your kid to see if it will make a difference. The thought of forking out that much money on a long shot makes me shudder -- and I can well afford the brush these days, but plenty of parents of kids' with sensory issues can't.

It's one data point, anyway.

ETA: The KnotGenie is actually really good at dealing with knots, but from a scalp sensitivity issue is a dead loss.

ETA: I went looking for alternatives. If you are looking for a cheaper version, the two salient characteristics are (a) natural bristles on (b) a cushion. So a natural bristle brush on a stiff backing (such as wood) wouldn't have both desirable traits. And I suspect -- but don't know for sure -- that a part natural, part nylon bristle thatch would behave enough differently to matter. Good luck! Mason Pearson makes mixed bristle brushes, but I have one that is "pure".
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Subtitled: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
Published by Avery (yeah, I had no association with them either; before Penguin bought them they published crap like _Why Sharks Don't Get Cancer_, one of those things that as soon as you see the title and realize it isn't a humor book makes you go, d'oh, because of course sharks _do_ get cancer)

If you've been reading popular articles about autism over the last couple decades, you've probably read at least one by Silberman, likely this one:

http://www.wired.com/2001/12/aspergers/

In the years between when this was published and when Silberman's new book has come ought, Silberman's understanding of the history of the various names that autism has traveled under has evolved substantially. Most important of all Silberman now understands that the increase in diagnoses is not a cause for alarm. He said this, in 2001: "Rates of both classic autism and Asperger's syndrome are going up all over the world, which is certainly cause for alarm" -- but now he knows better. In _NeuroTribes_, he carefully maps out how the DSM editions over the years communicated different understandings of autism. He argues that Kanner not only set a ludicrously high diagnostic threshold for autism, creating enormous confusion, but he also points out that Bettelheim had a lot of help from Kanner in creating the myth of the refrigerator parent and creating a social environment that favored taking people with autism and autism like conditions out of their homes where they might have eventually thrived, and institutionalizing them, where they had an alarming tendency to regress and die.

Silberman also spends a lot of time exploring why Asperger's understanding of the autism spectrum (a beautiful term created by Lorna Wing) failed to transition to the United States from WW2 Vienna. He cogently argues that Kanner knew about Asperger's work (he employed some of Asperger's coworkers) and carefully made sure that no one else had any awareness of it. Kanner liked a good story, and a rare disorder made for a better story than a ludicrously common one.

Like many journalists, Silberman has written a book that reads more like a series of articles than something structured as a book. There's the section about WW2 Nazism. There's the stuff about movies about autism. There's all that awfulness around Lovaas (complete with the airport Rentboy fiasco with Rekers). There's a really incredible development of Rimland, who I had not previously known about. And if you are looking for a thesis, well, that subtitle does nothing to help you find one.

But it's a really good book and definitely worth the time. I was particularly happy to read Silberman's version of how Wrong Planet came into existence (I love Wrong Planet. I don't spend a ton of time on it, but whenever I'm feeling particularly alone and like no one understands me, I go over there and I remember, oh, yeah. Right. These Are My People.). While the idea that people diagnosed with autism tend to have parents and grandparents with significant technical acumen is ever present throughout the book, Silberman spent less time on the Are All Computer People Autistic question than I would have expected. It's hard to tell whether he's trying to stay away from a live wire or just figures it would be flagellating a deceased equine. He does spend a lot of time throughout the book showing how people who probably were on the spectrum invented large chunks of modern science and technology, and how networked mobile devices have made it the world a lot friendlier to many people with communication idiosyncrasies.

If your connection to autism involves comorbidity with Downs or Fragile X, you will be _severely_ disappointed by this book. Sorry! It's a bummer that Silberman spent zero time on that aspect of the spectrum.

There are much better book reviews of this book out there. Here is one:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2015/08/28/neurotribes-review-and-an-interview-with-author-steve-silberman/

(The link internally to the original publication on PLOS generated a 404 when I followed it.)

This book review is by someone who knows the author, and the second have of the review is an interview with Silberman. Some of that discussion really clarifies why, even in 2015, the coverage of women with autism in _NeuroTribes_ is so limited. (Honestly, hating on Clara is particularly ridiculous. "Hyper neurotypical"? How is that not a red flag right there?)

Here is an article that suggests autism in the Curie family:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC539373/

"As well as these three I believe there are other scientists who may have been Asperger people, including Marie Curie and her elder daughter the atomic physicist Irène Joliot-Curie, also the theoretical physicist Paul Dirac."

I would also offer up women like Jane Addams (altho it has been so ludicrously difficult to get people to even accept the obvious fact of her same-sex attraction and relationship, I have little hope that we're gonna get anyone on board with the she was on the spectrum proposition), Clara Barton, Maria Mitchell ... basically, if you can think of a woman who made an early and substantial dent in science or some other technical field, and that woman had a childhood characterized by extreme shyness/timidity and/or in later life wound up bucking enormous societal pressure to support an important and unpopular political change, I think you've got a woman on the spectrum with a spectacularly high IQ. And I don't quite understand why we can't see that.

But I'm increasingly optimistic that someday, we will.

ETA: I keep forgetting that my husband suggested I add Lise Meitner. He is, of course, entirely correct.
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If you are unfamiliar with the term, "startle" actually has sort of a technical meaning.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/startle

That is, if you are startled you aren't just, oh, how surprising! No, this is more of a, jump up out of your seat, move involuntarily, make noise, heart races, etc. sort of thing. (Training a startle reflex to do something really useful is core to some martial arts training.)

Lots of things can startle a person. A loud or unexpected noise or sensation, for example, might make you jump and cause your heart to race, even if it is not, objectively, frightening once you know what it is. This morning, when the van came to pick up A., I had lost track of time and was startled by the horn honking. It wasn't just the horn -- it was the oh, shit, I didn't get A. out to the driveway and now I need to make sure she has on her shoes and jacket and backpack and pause the TV show and so forth.

If you are very attached to a person (again, there's a technical meaning here, in which your autonomic nervous system and their autonomic nervous system become synchronous, at least when you are breathing the same air. When they are calm, you feel calm. When they are agitated, it is hard not to become agitated as well. Happiness, sadness, irritation -- all become contagious in the context of this kind of relationship), and that person startles, you might startle, too, even if you didn't have the same experience they did. So, for example, if a (HEY TRIGGER WARNING FOR ARACHNOPHOBES HERE) spider drops on them and startles them and doesn't touch you, you might still jump out of your chair in a panic because they did.

I know perfectly well that my daughter is that attached to me. But I'm still always kind of amazed when my startle gets reflected in her. The horn honked, I jumped up, and she jumped up and starts describing her feelings of surprise and being scared. And she doesn't even know _why_ she's suddenly surprised and scared, so I'm explaining to her what happened as I pause the TV show and get her jacket and shuffle her on out the door.

Parenting is so ... odd.
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I don't remember when I first started arranging social activities with my friends, but he seems a little young. Of course, part of that is because he only started talking a few years ago.

In any event, cell phones make it possible for kids who meet at school to exchange contact information and then text proposed plans back and forth. Alas, limited reading/writing ability in conjunction with just not having any experience scheduling anything meant it didn't really go anywhere. Eventually, the other little boy's mother intervened with a phone number, which then produced fax like tones when I called it. Then the sitter realized that the cookout T. wanted to go to at another home was going to be at the same time as the potential play date.

Maybe we'll make this happen on some other date.

Still, it was really cool that they tried.
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You know how when you're typing a message on iOS or wherever, it shows you what maybe you meant to type? That thing drives me nuts when I'm rescheduling my Dutch lesson and trying to do it in Dutch and I don't remember to change the keyboard so it keeps trying to change my perfectly good Dutch words into totally ridiculous English words. Worse, when I -do- remember to switch keyboards, I don't remember to switch back, with the expected results.

Anyway. That wasn't what I was going to say. What I was going to say was, that predictive text is extremely useful for my autistic son. He can carry on a texting conversation quite successfully with only minimal assistance, and he surely could not manage to spell all those words that quickly on his own.
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Today's example: http://smallpondscience.com/2015/04/13/in-which-k-12-teachers-assign-students-to-contact-an-expert/

In this blog post, a scientist who routinely is contacted by K-12 students fulfilling a school assignment to "contact an expert" complains that they ask simple questions they could easily have answered via wikipedia (say). This scientist frames the problem in several different ways (class issues, elitism, bad assignments, etc.). _IN FACT_, and as one of the commenters sort of edges up to, what is actually happening is that the teacher is trying to get the student to "interview an expert, record it and then write up the interview". The actual content of the interview or the expertise of the expert is largely irrelevant.

Now, IT IS TRUE, that this is a drag on the time of a bunch of people who maybe don't want to be doing random interviews with random children who send them random emails. And that is fair. Just say no.

But honestly, what the teacher is teaching is pretty easy to understand, and an important skill, and, like all learning exercises, necessarily DOES NOT INVOLVE NEW CONTENT. So all of the scientist's complaints along the lines of hey, look it up ya fool, are entirely missing the point in an extremely autistic way.

Sometimes I think everyone has autism. They don't. They just have completely failed to take perspective, and got hung up on a literal understanding of a request and missed cues in communication that should have told them the request was not meant to be understood literally. Which happens with autism -- but also happens with humans in general.

Also, this is really weird:

"These students, in the upper social class, are learning a wholly inappropriate lesson – that publicly-funded professors are there to answer their basic questions about science in lieu of going to the trouble of opening up a goddamn book."

Doubtful. They don't ever come back and do it again -- they only did it when ordered to. The kids know this is inappropriate behavior. Altho if you framed it this way, maybe it wouldn't seem so inappropriate: "These students are learning that publicly-funded professors are accessible to the public to explain their work in advancing human knowledge." Probably the teachers should pre-arrange a list of experts who are willing to serve this purpose, and inflict the kiddos on them, instead. Or maybe just round up all the parents and have the kids interview the other kids parents. Or whatever.

h/t Nate over at Ink, Bits & Pixels in Morning Coffee.
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Long ago, I used to use "nutter" as a login, a handle, a userid. I used it because I absolutely adored Gaiman and Pratchett's _Good Omens_, and in particular, I adored Agnes. I did also recognize that I was self-labeling as crazy, and I was really good with that part, too.

Because I grew up as a JW, and because my father was sort of top-end working class (electrician), and because my early childhood occurred in the 1970s, my encounters with the "helping professions" and other mental health professionals were profoundly limited. That is, our primary care doctors tried to get us to counselors and our parents said no, because our religion said that that would cause us to lose our faith. So suicide attempts, anorexia, bulimia, depression, and what were, in retrospect, psychotic breaks (not all of this was me, mind you) went entirely unmonitored, untreated (well, I think there may have been vitamin B shots for the anorexia) and poorly managed. Just as it took a while to get the hang of voting and otherwise engaging in good citizenship, it took me a while to get the hang of caring for myself mentally and emotionally, after I quit being a JW. But eventually, I paid attention to my problems, deployed my considerable cognitive resources, and somewhere along the line a boyfriend (possibly more than one, if I'm being honest with myself) asked me if I knew about autism, and when I finally paid attention, I went, hey! There's a particular kind of crazy that is Me! Woot! I had some issues (still do, some days) with whether this is legitimately a disorder in all cases vs. an alternative way of being, and I am a Fervent Believer in the Good Things associated with neurodiversity. But while I continue to believe that age-peer, highly regimented schooling is Not the Best Way to Raise Kids, I also recognize that we live in an imperfect world and that we maybe don't have infinite resources to make everything absolutely the best it can possibly be for everyone all the time, and sticking 20+ kids in a classroom pointed towards an adult at the front to learn stuff in a well-defined and consistently presented way is not an unreasonable compromise.

I like to think this is reality based thinking about how to do things. I sort of disapprove of idealism/True Belief/ideology/faith (cf. raised a JW and am not any more).

Statement of perspective out of the way, I'd like to introduce you to this gentleman:

http://www.salon.com/2013/09/21/thats_not_autism_its_simply_a_brainy_introverted_boy/

He has written a book which has generated a lot of seemingly favorable (no zero star, many 4 star) reviews on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Back-Normal-Ordinary-Childhood-Behavior-ebook/dp/B00C0ALGKQ/

The lone 2 star review is remarkably restrained: be really careful with this book; it might lead to a delayed dx. But even the 4 star reviews contain statements of this nature:

"I have a kid on the autism spectrum (yeah, I'm pretty sure) and yesterday his brother said "Do you think he's really autistic? Or is he just weird?" It's a fine line, sometimes. If you have a kid with difficulties, this book is really worth reading."

So, basically everyone else's kid is over-diagnosed, even tho the reviewer accepts the legitimacy of the dx for their own kid.

"However, I feel that the author takes the enormity of the mis/over-diagnosis and mis/over-medication crisis a little out of context where he fails to take into account how utterly powerless many parents are to change their child's experience in the classroom -- which for many is over-regimented and abysmally lacking in the normal physical outlets required by healthy, active children - without resorting to seeking out a literal *label* that is the ticket to getting needed accommodations or educational assistance. In other words, teachers are overburdened, budgets are shrinking, all that boring stuff..."

That's really a surprise to me. I was told, right from the very beginning, that the reason to get a dx for my kids was to ensure they received appropriate support from the school system. It has _always_ _always_ _always_ been about integrating with services. It wasn't about drugs. It wasn't about defining pre-emptively what might or might not be possible for them. It was about making sure that they didn't get slotted into some category like "bad kid", when there was something going on with them that wasn't about how hard they were trying, or whether they were from a good home or whatever.

But here's a real doozy (again, from a 4 star review!): "Unfortunately, Gnaulati doesn't work very hard to help distinguish real ADHD/bipolar/autism from false forms: after complaining about fuzzy, over-general definitions from other professionals, he explains the difference mostly in terms of how interacting with different children makes him feel. Likewise, after regretting the tendency to seek medical rather than psychological explanations for child behaviors, he turns to evolutionary psychology and theories of inherent gender difference, as though these aren't based on similarly overblown notions of how much we understand about the workings of the brain. If there's a solution to the problem of over-diagnosis, it's actual scientific rigor, not trading one set of facile assumptions for another."

So despite some extremely serious criticisms of this book, reviewers nevertheless really want to believe what is on offer here. Again, from a 4 star review: "I agree with him, so I have a bias to like the book, I suppose."

This is quackery. I know that a lot of people really, really, really wish that the higher rates of autism diagnoses "proved" that these weren't really autism at all. But I know that my kids are basically just like my sisters and I were when we were little. And our parents when they were little. And aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and the more genealogical research I do, the more pervasive this shit looks in my family tree (also, the research that says that ADHD and autism and schizophrenia all tend to show up in relatives of each other? Alas! I have entirely too much anecdata to argue with that thesis.). And while many of us grew up and paid our bills and got jobs and were able to sustain some relationships, we didn't stop being autistic, just because we very carefully avoided ever encountering mental health care, much less getting a diagnosis. We were just miserably bad at social stuff and had weird neurological problems (seizures and migraines -- hell, even the men in my family get migraines. I didn't even know that was _weird_ until a year or so ago) and epic sensory problems. Epic. I spent a lot of time when my kids were young and I was working actively on my reproductive website stuff laughing my head off at people who had a kid with allergies or sensory issues and how difficult it was to find detergents and shampoo and wtf without fragrance. I had to find all that stuff for myself -- and a husband that was the same way so we wouldn't drive each other nuts (well, not nuts in that way, anyway).

So the next time you're wondering what's going to happen when all these little kids diagnosed with autism are All Growed Up, well, remember that there have been untold generations of people with autism before them who didn't receive any accommodations or assistance or supportive therapy. Hopefully, what we are doing will help, at least a little. If, on the other hand, you quail at the idea that the world has that many fucked up, broken, crazy people in it, well, try very hard not to be one of the fucked up, broken, crazy people by descending into denial. Diagnoses are descriptions that offer opportunities to make a better world in the future, through actions we take today. Sometimes that's a prescription for pharmaceuticals. Sometimes that is a suggestion to try therapeutic riding, or a placement in a substantially separate classroom that can be modified in a way to enable a child to learn who isn't able to learn in a mainstream classroom. Sometimes it's a recognition that we'd better pick a career, friends, and romantic partners who are compatible with our particular makeup. (Perhaps someday soon, we'll have data on the efficacy of Disney therapy!)

Is that such a bad thing?

If you think it is, you're just a different kind of nutter. Or, to take a moral perspective, rather than a therapeutic one, a crappy human being.

The last thing I want to point out about Gnaulati is that he exhibits an unusually clear case of how diagnostic communities behave. There were practitioners who would ONLY diagnose autism in conjunction with ID (intellectual disability, you know it by other words that Polite, Well-Educated people don't use any more, altho the abbreviation, MR, is still occasionally deployed). After all, Very Intelligent People must not be Like Those People. There were other practitioners who would ONLY diagnose autism in the absence of ID. You could think of this as more or less like refusing to diagnose pneumonia in someone who had asthma, or requiring pneumonia before diagnosing with asthma. If you squint just right, it sort of looks reasonable, but anyone who has internalized the idea that autism is primarily a disorder of social communication, with a need for routine and some assortment of sensory/neurological stuff going on, is going to realize that autism and substantial intellectual capacity are more than merely compatible -- but often occur separately. That relentless focus on details turns out to be pretty incredible in some contexts, but does not insure measurable intelligence, nor does measured intelligence require a lack of social skills. Gnaulati has outlived his diagnostic community, and is thus forced to take his approach (if you're smart, you must not be autistic! Bad diagnosis!) to the lay public, as he has lost the battle at large so thoroughly that all those efforts to keep Asperger's (with its mandated normal or higher IQ) separate from autism have definitively failed.

When I started thinking about writing this post, I was In a Mood. I stumbled across the Salon excerpt when I was trying to better understand what people meant by the term "introvert" (it's not new to me -- it has just always bugged me and I was trying to articulate why I thought it wasn't a good category to someone and failing), and it just made me angry. I felt like the 2 star reviewer: this is a dangerous book, a dangerous commentator who might well encourage a kind of denial that is bad for the person who needs help, bad for the family trying to help that person, and bad for future society that must somehow manage that person if they do not receive effective assistance in learning to live in the community without hurting themselves and/or others. And I wanted there to be someone to say, hey, this guy is awful. Don't listen to him. What I kept seeing instead were these seemingly favorable comments. But when I drilled down, I started to understand that the favorable comments really didn't take Gnaulati's thesis all that seriously. People really believe in their kids' diagnoses, and they believe that diagnoses are a reasonable real world strategy for connecting kids to the help they need to learn. They just sort of wish that we could all live in a world that let us be our own, nutter selves without having to interact with other people in a structured way. And I guess I can't really argue with that wish, only observe that wishes aren't plans.
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T. has been wanting me to forward him a lot of the email I receive from people he knows. Recently, he got R. to order him a toy from the Talking Friends store. It didn't ship ... and didn't ship, even tho the identical toy ordered by me for A. (which prompted T. to want one of his own *sigh*) shipped and arrived very quickly. Hmmm. R. sent them email, they looked into it and it is, in theory, now headed our way. T. asked R. to forward the email telling R. that -- and then without anyone else being involved, T. then forwarded that to both my email addresses.

Okay, so, then, learning is definitely occurring.

I put labels on files today. I've been doing this on and off since the Big Purge some months (a year?) ago, and I'm mostly there. This should help with keeping up with the filing, which honestly should not be hard to keep up with because we've eliminated so much paper from our lives that there just isn't that much left. I also purged some additional school paperwork that didn't really seem like we needed to keep it. It's hard to know what to keep, because my kids get way more paperwork than is typical so the usual rules are not obvious to translate. However, I've been trying to learn from other people's experience, and if keeping it just means you throw it all away 20 years later, I don't see any reason to keep it now. It would be different if wonderful progress were _not_ occurring and I wanted to be able to document that (and what I had been told had been tried so far).

I also created the 2014 tax year folder and separated the 2014 tax year items from the 2013 tax year items, so I am honestly running out of things to do other than sit my ass down in front of the PC and start selecting things in TurboTax. I keep telling myself, Self, every year this gets easier -- it is not the nightmare it once was, and besides, you don't actually need to finish, you just need to come up with some sort of estimate to put on the extension.

But Self is not buying it. Self is quailing in abject fear and terror. Self is being really ridiculous.
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I'm rereading Ross Greene's fantastic book about inflexible-explosive children (I may not be a child, but reading this book is like reading a description of me -- and being reminded of all the work I have done over the years -- decades! -- to accommodate my basic nature. And while my children are sweet and loving, at least one of them is Just Like Me). I ran across a wonderful sentence that is exactly what I was trying to articulate, and failing to express clearly.

"The ultimate antidote for perfectionism is perspective: Here's who my child was, here's who he is, and here's who he's likely to be -- I should try to stop insisting that he become something he isn't."

It's true as a parent. It's true for how I relate to myself. It's true for how I relate to other people, and what I expect of them. It's really really really true.

Obviously, when I express this, I'm going to not get it quite right, because that's just kind of how I am and I continually try to improve, but I have to be realistic about my communication skills. But if you ever talk to me about my kids, and I say, "This kid is not going to ever do X." (say, this kid is never going to drive a car), I will not parent in a way that gets in the way of that kid learning to drive a car. I will do everything in my power to help my kid get to a point where he or she can learn to drive a car in compliance with the law, safely, etc. But while I'm doing all that, I'm setting expectations for me, my family and the community we exist in so that as my kid develops, if he or she never drives, that's not viewed as a failing.

And if my kid, by some miracle, _is_ someday able to get a license and drive, that will be properly appreciated as the miracle which it truly would be.

The envelope of expected outcomes for any child should be set so that the child, with a reasonable amount of effort, can exceed those expectations and, by failing to exert any effort, their failure is not spectacular, but merely a less optimal result still within the expected envelope. If the absolute most effort the kid can expend, constantly, over time, will barely meet the minimum, and that only grudgingly, then the people around that kid have created a world of expectations so cruel that it can only be experienced as a form of Hell.

Let's do better than that.

ETA: I should add -- I usually do -- that a large chunk of my prediction about my child and driving is driven by two salient facts often not in the possession of my audience. (1) I probably would never have learned to drive if I could have avoided it (and numerous members of my extended family do not drive because they were a lot better at fighting The Pressure than I was). (2) I have a set of expectations about what our world will look like over the next few decades that suggests driving will become less and less of a normal/useful/typical adult activity. As we centralize -- for many reasons -- driving becomes less necessary, more complex and more dangerous, requiring better emotional control, cognitive ability and executive function. By the time my child might be mature enough to consider learning to drive, my child will likely have established adult routines that render driving largely uninteresting and optional. That appears to be already happening with children in general.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/12/131217-four-theories-why-teens-drive-less-today/

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