Tuesday, 8 January 2013
I was interested to see yesterday a couple of people making diagnoses of mental disorders without even meeting the person upon whom they were passing judgement. This is not uncommon in some home educating circles. On Cheryl Moy’s blog, at which we looked yesterday, somebody left a comment about the psychologist whom her son saw. She said;
This guy sounds like he is on the autistic spectrum in a big way.
There is something stupendously offensive about this sort of casual use of ‘autistic’ being used just to indicate a person who seems to lack empathy! And of course on here, somebody commented, calling me;
a man who displays such obvious traits of serious personality disorder
Now of course when adults engage in name calling of this sort, it is a bit of harmless fun, although some people will obviously be offended at the idea of using ‘autistic’ as a catch-all phrase for people they don’t like the sound of, as we saw done on Cheryl’s blog yesterday. Doing it to children can be a little more serious.
I think that most of us have come across home educating parents who say that their children are on the spectrum or dyslectic, despite never having been properly diagnosed. It is pretty common and I am not of course the only one to remark upon it. What motive could any parent have for doing this?
Nobody likes to think that they have a stupid, lazy or unpopular child. Of course we all like to kid ourselves that our children are talented, well liked and creative. As long as they are at home with us, we can continue to believe this; it is when they go off to school that we find that others do not share our own unrealistic views of our children! It can be something of a shock to find that your gifted child is falling behind in reading or has no friends. Is it because your parenting skills were defective? Is the kid idle; is that why he is not achieving academically? Why has he no friends? Perhaps he is surly or spiteful and that is why nobody wants to play with him…
There is a far better explanation than this; one which lets us off the hook entirely! My kid has no friends because he has Asperger’s. Or he is struggling with reading because he is dyslectic. This sort of thing removes at a stroke the possibility that your parenting was at fault or that you have a slow witted or unpleasant child.
Middle class children of course tend to be informally diagnosed in this way more than working class kids, simply because their parents are more prone to anxiety and guilt. They are also more likely to be familiar with disorders like ASD and so are able to tailor the symptoms to fit their children. This is a fascinating topic and one of which I have had a good deal of experience from the quarter century that I was working in East London with children with special educational needs. I wonder if anybody has any particularly interesting examples of this syndrome which they would like to share?