Friday, December 6, 2013

Many incomplete views of the kid on the autism spectrum: a poem

You may have heard the story of the blind men who felt different parts of an elephant and proclaimed they knew for sure that this creature was a wall, a spear, a rope, a snake, a fan, or a tree.

Sometimes we can make this kind of mistake when viewing a person.

Below is the original poem, and something I wrote as a reminder that no matter how certain we are of our understanding, we may not have the full picture.

This poem was published in Autism Spectrum Quarterly in 2007.  My workshop participants in Cleveland this week participated in reading it (playing the role of the narrow minded clinicians, but my Wayne County workshop participants today missed this poem (though they saw more videos), and yet were very graciously appreciative of the day we spent together... so my thanks back to you is to give you a copy of this poem.

The original poem:

Six Blind Men & the Elephant: A Diagnostic Parable

Slightly modified (originally “A Hindu Parable” From John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)
It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk Cried, "Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp? To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal, And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up he spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope.
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!
So oft in diagnostic* wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen.

*originally “theologic” wars

My satire on this poem:

The 16 Narrow-minded diagnosticians
and the kid with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
with apologies to John Godfrey Saxe

by James Foley, MSW, LISW-S

A rag-tag band of clinicians
Diagnostically inclined
Once came to know a special child
Though each was of narrow mind.

“This child needs things a particular way,
Disorder to him is repulsive,
He repeats actions over and over,
This child is Obsessive-Compulsive.”

“But this child is so easily angered,
So easily, wildly perturbed,
The child would do best in a classroom
For the Emotionally Disturbed.”

“But the reason for any disturbance
As is obvious to even a gerbil,
Is the stress and misinterpretations
From a Disability in reading Nonverbals.”

“You’re close, but the social problems
Include verbal errors, sometimes dramatic,
with irrelevance, cues, chatting, and tact;
The deficit is Semantic-Pragmatic.

Ignores loud noise, yet hates some small sounds,
Mishears conversation and oratory,
The child thus struggles in class and peer groups,
Due to problems in processing (Central Auditory).

“You’re missing the hyperreactions
Which literally cause a Sensation
Light touch, not just sounds, can set this child off
The problem is Sensory Integration.”

“Hello, you are speaking in negatives,
You all need your consciousness lifted
This child has special talents and interests
Can’t you notice? This child is Gifted.”

“You’re missing the problems with fine motor skills,
Note the stumbling to his destination
This child has problems in the area of
Developmental Coordination.”

“He doesn’t talk about feelings?
He’s kinda rough with his toys?
He’s rude and he’s crude, only eats certain foods,
Hello! This child is a boy!”

“The child is wild, then is down, has tantrums,
Screams! like you pulled out a molar!
Has moods that don’t fit the situation
It is possible:  this child is bipolar.”

Have you heard of executive function?
The odd movements, and odd impulsivity
The lack of focus on relevant topics,
Is Attention Deficit, with Hyperactivity.

“But notice the tics! I’ll place my bets:
The child has a case of mild Tourette’s.”

“This child, (face the Eventuality),
will develop schizoid personality.”

“Your mind is like a closed hatch:
 this child just will not attach.”

“Look, can’t you see? Confess!
You know it’s PDD! (NOS).”

“I looked at the facts and I checked ‘em,

This child’s on the autism spectrum.”

1 comment:

  1. I just sent this poem to a friend who just pulled his son out of preschool due to 'issues'...


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