Public Perceptions, The Misuse of Words, and "Acutely Autistic"

In an article on DNAinfo dated February 9, covering the murder of Jude Mirra by his mother Gigi Jordan, the reporter writes that Jude was "acutely autistic." That struck me as an odd phrasing, much like Handley's butchering (and other contributors over there at that bastion of hope and light), of the English language. The article itself leads readers unfamiliar with autism down the path of what can only be considered the poor-me parent syndrome. I get that people are intensely selfish and self-motivated, but the tendency for some individuals to make their children and their children's neurology all about the parent and what it costs the parent often amazes me. And when it is isn't the individual parent herself, it's others speaking about the parent. The reporter quotes a doctor, Marcus Conant, from California who had known Jordan for many years:
“The tragedy is that it consumes the mother, they become absolutely devoted to trying to find a relief for their child. She went to Duke, clinics across San Diego, consulted with every expert in the United States, her experience would outstrip everyone in New York. Trying to find some hope and found the hopelessness that everyone else faces,” he added.
If he were talking specifically about this one woman, that would be one thing, but he's generalizing out to all mothers of autistic children; it's just that Jordan's efforts were herculean, or more sysyphian, than the rest. And instead of being blamed for the child's condition as Bettelheim helped promulgate, we have here the mother recast from the cold, refrigerator mom to the desperate, heroic mom. Jordan's act of murder is recast as an act of extreme desperation, concern for what would happen to her son after she was gone, and yet short of the woman's attempted suicide, there's no reason to believe that precipitated the murder/attempted suicide.

Of course, Stagliano weighs in, explaining that parents are left with "a lack of a safety net." That's certainly not the case with a woman who is as well-to-do as Jordan, though. Stagliano ultimately decries the act of murder, noting that she "just can’t come up with any wiggle room for killing your child.” Plenty of wiggle room for the desperate jump down the woo-hole and experimenting on one's children in the need to cure or recover one's autistic children who was poisoned by vaccines or the toxic overload from the mother's pregnancy, though.

AoA could add that to their banner: we're for potentially deadly experimenting and all the colonscopies you can get but we draw the line at murder. That's no way to recover a child, and besides, it ruins the whole martyr look.

I know, snarky, but I blame it on only one cup of coffee.

Back to the idea that one can be acutely autistic, though, and the slipping of the English language by people too lazy to make sure that words mean what they think they do (ala Handley and "atomic stupidity" or that writer some months back with the sense of omenous cleansing).

Acute, as defined by The Free Dictionary, means:
1. Having a sharp point or tip.
Nope, acutely autistic doesn't work that way.

2. Keenly perceptive or discerning: "a raw, chilling and psychologically acute novel of human passions reduced to their deadliest essence" (Literary Guild Magazine). See Synonyms at sharp.
Maybe, but that's not how the reporter in the article about Jude and some parents are using it. I will note that if we were using it to denote those individuals on the spectrum who have a keen eye for details, that wouldn't have the connotation that the press and certan parents are trying to express.
3. Reacting readily to stimuli or impressions; sensitive: His hearing was unusually acute.
Again, if the press were talking about a tendency to find the world or aspects of it sensorily overwhelming, or that some autistics can see or hear more acutely, that'd be okay, but these parents and the members of the press using it see autism is total gloom and doom, either a death sentence or a path to martyrdom.
4. Of great importance or consequence; crucial: an acute lack of research funds.
Okay, yes, that would make sense as well, if the person using "acutely autistic" were indeed saying that the child's (or adult's) autism were of significant consequence. We'd all agree that it is of consequence. It still doesn't really work, though, as it's being used.
5. Extremely sharp or severe; intense: acute pain; acute relief.
There we go. Severe. That makes sense. A person can be severely autistic. We can safely assume that's what the person meant, even if we'd argue that it's a hell of a lot clearer to just say that Jude was severely disabled.
6. Medicine

a. Having a rapid onset and following a short but severe course: acute disease.
No. Even the curebies don't think it's a short disease that resolves on its own.
b. Afflicted by a disease exhibiting a rapid onset followed by a short, severe course: acute patients.
Same thing applies here. They certainly think it has an acute onset because of poisoning by vaccines (although how it would be acute when you think the mercury in you caused it in utero, I don't know).
It's also safe to say that the last two don't apply, either:
7. Music High in pitch; shrill.
8. Geometry Having an acute angle: an acute triangle."
Other than this reporter, are there cases where "acutely autistic" is used? ZReportage has a story entitled "Acutely Autistic - but Always Loved." I didn't see but may have missed where the use of term "acutely autistic" was used in the story itself. As for the story, it's well worth reading. Completely erases the first article. Of course, Kirby and AoA capitalize on this story and use it to push the "tidal wave" of autistic children coming of age.

On a side note, I did find a journal article from 1980, "Acute onset of autistic features following brain damage in a ten-year-old," in which the child is described as the "sixth child of dull parents in a disorganized family." Oh my.

As a last stray thought that some readers may find amusing and help you let go of wondering why I fixated on the use of "acutely" just days after Handley's use of "atomic" (with a reminder that I do teach college English), you'll be amused to know that Stagliano's use of the OSR#1 on her children's breakfast appears on the LA Times keyword toxic cleanup page.

1 comment:

Louise said...

Darlin these folks give me an "accute" headache..thats for damn true! Aint bad enough for an "ominous cleansin" though..