Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On being a special needs parent...

You are walking in a quiet wood. It is morning with a mild breeze. You dip your cup into the stream ...

An arrow sinks deep into the earth by your left foot. You leap forward, in mid-air notch an arrow and let fly on landing where you know your assailant will be. There are 3 of them, rested and deadly. The battle is joined.

The quiet returns. You dip your cup into the stream. You are always ready...

E prefers to think of this as akido, always equipoised to redirect the attack. I like ninja myself, cause I’m a guy.

It’s like that. You never know when a crisis will strike. When an innocent question will suddenly become a 30 minute negotiation. It’s like parenting a difficult 14yo, but it’s more and it lasts for decades.

No wonder studies show accelerated aging in special needs parents (though some of that may be financial distress related to cost of parenting special needs kids and adults).

On the up side, one never lacks a cause.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Imagining my son's memory

I want to understand how my son thinks, including how he remembers things. I think I can use that knowledge to help him be the best he can be. If I understood his mind, for example, I might be table to distinguish his memories from inventions and deceptions.

This kind of understanding isn’t easy. Not everyone thinks alike. Some “normal" people seem to think with visual images, other people, like me, do almost no visualization. Understanding the normal mind is hard, but my son’s mind runs on extra-buggy wetware. It’s even harder to model.

One clue comes from self-reports of people like Temple Grandin, an autistic adult and self-described intensely visual thinker. She writes about accessing ‘filmstrips’ to retrieve event data. Alas, my son’s mind, as best he can report, doesn’t work that way. [1]

Whether he visualizes or not I question the reliability of his memory. It’s not only that he has a hard time learning new things, he also seems to genuinely believe many things that are not true. These are generally plausible and self-consistent things that he would wish were true, but we know they are unfounded. I wonder if a fragmented memory architecture means that he is particularly vulnerable to the kinds of invented memories that are relatively easy to create in many adults. Maybe having a visual memory makes one particularly prone to invention of memories by visualization?

My experience with his memory, incidentally, fits with stories of low IQ adults who, under police interrogation, confess to crimes they didn’t commit. It’s easy to imagine him creating new memories out of suggestions.

- fn -

[1] It’s not easy to get him to try cognitive exercises (he suspects I have an ulterior motive, like, for example, changing his behavior), but I’ll try to get him to do the “window exercise” (count number of windows on one’s home, supposedly easiest for visualizers).

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Special needs: so now have to worry about ISIS recruiters?

The New York Times did a good job describing ISIS (ISIL, Daeshite) recruitment of a cognitively limited 23yo woman. She’s not explicitly described as adult special needs, but she has a fatal alcohol syndrome diagnosis and limited employment options. She’s not that different from the kids and adults we care for.

Unsurprisingly her ISIL recruiter is not terribly high functioning himself.

It reminds me of the relatively harmless cults of the 1970s, but in those cults there wasn’t a lot of upside to special needs recruitment The cults wanted fundraisers; a certain amount of psychological disability was a feature, but special needs was too much. ISIL may have more use for people with cognitive disabilities.

It’s not at the top of the worry list, but if you care for a special needs teen or adult with a net connection (smartphone, etc) you can probably add ISIL to the long list of predators of vulnerable adults. Not the top of the list, but something to watch for.

Yay connectivity.

PS. I’ve long wondered what Richard (“shoe bomber”) Reid’s IQ is, and whether he’d fall in the sub 70 range of diminished responsibility.