Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ella enchanted: understanding ODD

#1 has more than a few features of oppositional defiant disorder. Especially before his meds kick-in.

It occurred to us today that it's the opposite of the heroine's curse in "Ella Enchanted". Instead of saying yes to everything he must oppose it, even if he has no particular objection.

There is something comforting about the struggle.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


“Pride goeth before the fall” doesn’t mean first you lose your pride then you fail.

It means “the famine goeth before the plague” or “the herald goeth before the king”. Get cocky, hit the wall. The sin of Hubris.

Did that one this weekend. Asked too much of my guys. 

It could have been worse. Ended up being a lot of driving for me and a lot of stress and yelling for #1, but there was nobody around but his brother. I could have handled my own frustration better, but I think we all survived with minimal scars. The car didn’t crash. Nobody rode their bike over a cliff.

The morning after I did my retrospective. What was I thinking?! I should have done the math. On an event that combined a new setting and not one but two novel and high stress activities all of which were weather dependent… what were the odds it would work out? Maybe 1/5.

That’s hubris. We’d had a string of successful adventures and I got cocky.

I should have had more contingency plans and I should have had at most one novel and stressful challenge to meet.

I get to try again this weekend …

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Atypical minds and developmental support: we haven't learned much in 15 years

I wrote the first ‘best you can be’ post almost 12 years ago. #1 was 7 then, #2 was 5. E and I already had years of experience with cognitive disabilities, autism spectrum, and atypical minds. We already understood how worthless the classifications we’d studied in medical school were. Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s (defunct now) — very rough labels that are primarily useful for obtaining services and perhaps for initial medication selection.

We thought there would be progress. 

There really hasn’t been much that we’ve seen. We still have most of the original classifications (frozen in DSM V) and I haven’t seen any useful research emerge. We’re going nowhere.

If someone were to drop a few million dollars on me I’d start by defining 5-8 axes of thinking/feeling — measures of things like external-word vs. internal-world orientation, spatial processing, impulsivity, short-term memory, etc. Things that can be tested and measured. 

I’d mine the existing literature for axes to study, but otherwise I’d toss out most of it. Test a few thousand late teens/early adults and plot them on a “spider graph”. Run the analysis to see if there are any useful clusters. If there are useful clusters, then name them. Use that as the basis for future research.

Basically, start over.

Special needs bike commuting -- it's cognitively demanding

This is probably more obvious to most people than it was to me. My judgment is distorted by a lifetime of urban bicycling.

It was very difficult to teach #1 and #2 to ride a bicycle (it would be easier today - we know more). Almost as hard as teaching them to swim. They did well in the end though. #1 competed in high school mountain biking and I think he is a relatively safe urban cyclist. His impulsivity and rigidity are balanced by native caution and seemingly strong visual processing. 

#2 has a substantially higher IQ than #1, but he’s a weaker bicyclist. We did a trial bike ride to school today; he did well with guidance but he was exhausted. I think the relatively simple ride was cognitively draining. #2 is closer to the classic Asperger’s pattern — persistent attention to the external world is very difficult. He may never be able to bicycle commute safely, though he does well mountain biking (and inline skating - remarkable balance there).

In retrospect I’m not sure urban bicycle commuting is cognitively less demanding than urban driving. There’s more time to plan actions, but there’s a lot more judgment involved. By comparison car driving is more rule-bound.

Special needs mountain/gravel biking, or bicycling on separated trails, works for #2. Bicycling on city streets - not so much.