3/15/2009

House, the genuine person, and autism

House had an episode on with a patient who had a frontal lobe disorder. The man said whatever passed through his mind, with no censoring. The internal man was drastically different than the man he presented to the world. I suppose the point of the episode was that without all the white lies, no relationships would be possible, although it could also have been that those relationships built on fragile lies of omission or commissions aren't real relationships. I haven't decided yet which 'truth' is more valuable, but it occurs to me that autism has elements of a frontal lobe disorder. I have three children who tell exactly what is on their minds the minute it's there, whether you want to hear it or not. My son can't help himself, can't regulate at all. If it's in his head, it will be uttered. That can get tedious, especially if it has been one of those days he's caught a program on UFOs or gangland. He'll go on and on until you could weep, or until your laughter at how out in left field his ideas are finally registers with him and he gets mad because you don't think aliens are amongst us.

What interested me most about the House episode itself was this idea of the internal versus external person and the tremendous disconnect that can occur when people censor themselves. People with autism, specifically those who haven't managed to effectively self-censor, are they more genuine? I like to think I am the same person in various situations, but I self-censor constantly. Okay, some of my students would point out that I don't always successfully self-censor, but for the most part, I do. I contain random thoughts that are not relevant to the situation I find myself in. So am I always genuine? Does self-censoring render one disingenuous? My students get the genuine professional me, a cleaned-up version without all the curse words prone to tumble out of my mouth. Okay, they don't get the gardening me, but there isn't any dirt in the classroom. Is the gardening me different from the teaching me?

What does it mean to be genuine? Is genuine all it's cracked up to be? Living with folks on the spectrum, I'd argue a little self-censoring would be nice. I'd be happy to receive a compliment or an expression of gratitude rather than the genuine reaction of ingratitude, but that's me 19 years into my journey of parenting autistic children.