Portraits of Autism #17

I set out to write this piece two days ago, and ended up ranting about the under-diagnosis of Asperger's sydrome in girls. So yes, I was going to write about a young girl I'd met the other day at Max's centre. She and her sister.

She is pretty, with short black curls and a thin straight nose, which together with her almond shaped eyes give her a look of a sarcophagus painting of a Greek woman I've seen at the Louvre. Her thick lashes hide cover up her side-way glances. She's dressed meticulously with white tights, black mary-jane shoes, a denim skirt, and a frilly shirt. She looks about twelve, maybe thirteen. She came in with her younger sister. The same nose, the same eyes, the same clothing. The hair is longer. I surmise that smoothing thick curly hair on an autistic child who's bound to have sensory issues may not be the mother's idea of fun.

The younger girl looks about ten. She walks in the waiting room, confidently, and guides her sister to a vacant chair next to mine. She sits her down, gently, plunks a great big black handbag on her lap and asks her to wait while she goes and looks for the teacher. The other girl sits, quietly, for a few seconds. Shyly she raises her eyes, takes in her surroundings, and decides she can't stay. She gets up to follow her sister, leaving the bag behind. Within seconds the younger girl is back to fetch the bag. She shows no sign of impatience.

There's another woman in the room. She's with a boy of 5 or so. Together they're waiting for another boy about Max's age. The small boy has very short, shaved hair. He looks like a tiny thug. He's dressed like a little man too, as some boys from more traditional families sometimes are. When the girls come back in the room the mother calls the younger one over. How old are you? she asks. Where do you live? Is your mother coming to pick you up? The girl answers dutifully, casting a frequent eye on her sister as she speaks.

The small boy is playing with a jigsaw puzzle on a table by the window. The little girl goes to stand behind him, shyly. When he struggles she tries to show him where the piece goes. I'm not sure if she wants him to finish so she can play or if she wants to be included. Either way I'm relieved she still has time to play. She's not just her sister's minder. She's still a child.

The bigger girl is seating quietly. She seems much more peaceful when she knows her sister is in the room. Occasionally she glances at me, or rather at my paraphernalia of pink electronics and writing things. The glances last a quarter of a second, but I know she's here, I know she's taking me in.

Her sister is coming back to her now. I was wrong, she wasn't waiting so she could play. She's brought the jigsaw back to her sister. She sits besides her and shows her the picture in the middle. Look, she says. There's a rabbit here. And a flower. It's pink. And look at the tree in the corner. Do you see it? Do you like it? She's keeping her voice low, even. The older sister responds, a quiet 'yes' at the end of each question. She seems torn between wanting to please her sister and staying focussed on keeping the noisy surroundings out. Her sister knows that, and her questions soon stop. The two girls sit in companionable silence until it is time to go.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


Portraits of Autism: Asperger' s pink and blue.

I haven't been to the autism education centre for a while, but when I go, I mostly see boys there. Sure, there's the occasional girl with Asperger. But even that's rare. One thing I found out recently is that Asperger is under-diagnosed in girls. What this means is that many girls suffer in silence, trying to work out what the hell is going on around them and how they're supposed to react to people and situations. They're coping with autism by themselves. This situation comes about because one of the many prejudices about autism is that it's a boy thing, that it's to do with having an extreme male brain.

I don't want to suggest that there is no truth behind any of this: more boys than girls do seem to be affected overall. But with something like Asperger, or high functioning autism, it's much harder to tell. How the symptoms manifest themselves depends very much on how a child develops. And Asperger doesn't affect the development of a child in quite the same way as classical autism does. Children with Asperger are good talkers, so they're not excluded from society as children who don't speak can be. So they get to be put into society's little boxes, just like any other child. They learn - with difficulty - the kind of behaviour that is expected of them as boys or as girls. So it's not suprising that Asperger's symptoms should manisfest themselves differently in boys and in girls. Blue Asperger for boys, and pink for girls.

But of course, the medical profession only recognizes blue Asperger's symptoms. So girls remain undiagnosed. As far as current diagnoses are concerned, there are 16 boys with Asperger's to every girl who has the condition. Dr Judith Gould, who is quoted in this Guardian article says it should be 2.5 to 1. This means that for every 16 boys who receive a diagnosis of Asperger's there are 5 or 6 girls who don't but who have the condition. One way in which the condition might manifest itself in girls when undiagnosed is through eating disorders. In any case, as women who have been diagnosed late in life, like Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, will tell you, it's miserable, it's hard. It doesn't have to be.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


I seem to be back

For now, anyway. It looks like the connection to blogspot is restored in my area of town.

In the meantime I've been busy elsewhere.

I guest-posted on Roberta Wedge's lovely blog: A Vindication of the Rights of Mary. I wrote about my experiences writing a book on Mary Wollstonecraft. Not the one about zombies, but proper, serious philosophy.

I've also had fun with my new blog, The Forbidden Sister:

I came up with more good reasons why I don't like football.

I offered students invaluable advice about academic writing.

I gave a clear and fair appreciation of philosopher Imannuel Kant.

I wrote a book review/ ghost story.

And I don't think the cartoons distract from the seriousness of the subject matters, but I'll let you be the judges of that.

So, yes, I probably should have spent less time doing this and more time actually working or doing important educational things with my autistic son. And I will go back to more moderate posting habits. But it's all new and shiny!

So please go and give it some comment love and it will love you back.


(Not)* On Ada Lovelace's day: Emilie du Chatelet

"Judge me for my own merits, or lack of them, but do not look upon me as a mere appendage to this great general or that great scholar, this star that shines at the court of France or that famed author. I am in my own right a whole person, responsible to myself alone for all that I am, all that I say, all that I do. it may be that there are metaphysicians and philosophers whose learning is greater than mine, although I have not met them. Yet, they are but frail humans, too, and have their faults; so, when I add the sum total of my graces, I confess I am inferior to no one."
      Mme du Châtelet to Frederick the Great of Prussia.

Behind every great man, they used to say, stands a great woman.
Well, some still say it. So for every great woman standing behind a great man, I say:
Take a large stick, and hit the good man over the head with it. Then stand in the light you were hidden from. Enjoy.

All this is especially true of the wives, sisters, mistresses of the men of the Enlightenment period. Mme du Chatelet is an excellent example of a woman who could have used a large stick.


Portraits of Autism #16

"Si tu manges ton dîner, tu auras de la force."
So my husband told our autistic 8 year old at dinner last night:
'Eat your dinner: it will give you strength'.

His little mind started computing straight away. If I eat my dinner I will have ... what? You will give me what?
He's hoping we'll say ice-cream. I can see it in his eyes, hear it in his tone.

But no. He knows that's not it, so he's going to try and understand. He points to pot of stir fried cabbage in front of him: 'This is strength?', and then to the pot of curried prawns, 'Is this strength?'.

It's hard not to laugh. But we don't because it's something he's highly sensitive to. It will start him off if we so much as smile. Also, this is the first time we see him trying to figure out the meaning of an abstract word.

So explain: strength is when you become strong, when you have muscles on your arms, and we flex our biceps, Popeye style.

'No!' he shouts. 'Not strength. Strength is going away now. Max is going to bed.'

Now it's not funny: he's upset, and he's scared. He tried to understand something new, and things didn't work out, at all. Throughout the rest of dinner, he's locked in and he keeps repeating 'not strength, not strength'.

In bed, he's tossing and turning, mumbling: 'No, not strength, not strength'.
But by the morning he's fine. Chirpy even.

Hopefully, he'll give this asking questions lark another go, and another, until he figures out everything he needs to know. And I'll make sure I have drawing materials at hand next time he tries.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


In the meantime...

... you can find me here:


Testing the ban

As some of you may know, Turkish courts have blocked blogspot due a complaint by satellite tv provider Digiturk. Turns out some blogspot user posted links to football matches Digiturk was charging for.
Always hated football. Now I hate Digiturk too.

Anyhow, I'm trying to see if I can post by email.

Even if I can I'm entirely sure whether I can comment, or reply to comments.
So if I don't, please don't be offended.
If you have any bright ideas as to how I might circumvent the ban, let me know!


Hello !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
this is sister3's entry for tara's gallery week 50

The theme is "trees"

Will it....
Or will it not...
Fall on my nose...

Week 50...
In 50 years, when my daughter is watching this tree with her grand daughter, I won't be there anymore.
But this tree will, and he will remember how much love I have for her
Hope she will too, forever.


I'm not always here, you know.

Sometimes I'm elsewhere, talking about work type things, and the glamorous academic life.

For those who like that sort of thing, it's the sort of thing they like.
Check it out.


The neighbours have no shame.

Frolicking in the snow

Isn't this a classic scenario?



If I told you I'd just given up on an attempt to walk from my office to my husband's, a hundred metre or so away, for lunch, would you believe me? Would you think I was a wus? I thought so. So here's a few pictures I took this morning on my way to work...

Stepping outside our home...


International Women's Day - Judge a book by its cover.

This post is in honour of International Women's Day: a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, every year on 8 March, since 1911.

As part of my job, I occasionally review books. This is good, because I get free books, a publication of sorts to my name, and I get to find out what some of the other people in my field are thinking.

The latest one is a book by Robert Kane called Ethics and the Quest for Wisdom. Cool title, I thought, when the editor first contacted me about doing the review. A quick look at Amazon told me that the book seeks to revive certain ancient ethical beliefs and apply them to contemporary problems in social and political philosophy. Nice, I though. My kind of thing.

Then, a few weeks later, I received the book. Here it is:

Men, men, and more men. Fat men, skinny men, old men, young men, bearded men, bold men, men. Is this what the quest for wisdom looks like, I asked myself? If so, I might as well give up. Now.


Portraits of Autism #15

Back when Max was being diagnosed, we took him to see a psychologist who had done some pioneering work in Turkey with autistic children. She had trained several child psychiatrists who were reputed to be the best in Ankara. Maybe that doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things - Ankara not being exactly a centre for cutting edge autism studies. In any case she was much better than the first psychiatrist we took him to. That one 'forgot' to tell us, the first time around, that she thought Max was autistic...

One thing we were told in recommendation for this psychologist was that she had worked with autistic children for a long time, and had had some success in helping them live independent lives as adults. In particular, she had worked with twins who'd gone on to study at university. This gave me pause for thought. How many students are there who are autistic? How many of the students I've taught? And if I did teach some students on the spectrum, how did I respond to them?


Pink is a feminist statement.

As much as I hate the pink aisle at the toy shop, as much as I hate the fact that nearly any where you go little girls' clothes go from pink to slutty without anything in between (whereas little boys' go from Thomas the Tank Engine to, well, normal, you know), as much as I hated it when my daughter's kindergarten's class was divided into boys and girls and the girls had to shout  'I do!' when the teacher asked 'who loves pink?', as much as, well, I hate all of this, I have to say, pink is sometimes pretty cool.


The best things in life ... come with food.

This is my entry for Tara's Gallery. Her theme this week is : simple pleasures.

Baking with the kids
Shopping at the local market for seasonal fruit.

Picking your own apples, once a year.

Hosting big dinner party with lots of wine.
Watching bread being made in a village.

And sharing it with your mother.
A fish dinner with friends by the sea-side, to mark the end of a holiday.
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