Where a dad of two great kids (one on the autism spectrum) muses about life.
Friday, March 9, 2007
The Sniff Test
Recently I had a chance to meet Roy Richard Grinker, author of "Unstrange Minds-Remapping the World of Autism" at a book store. He's been on a midwest and mid-southern tour of cities. There was only a small audience, so I got to talk to Mr. Grinker a bit.
I had had a hard day at work, rushed home to get in some play time with the kids, then went back to the book signing. After the book signing I went home and had a beer while I caught up on some e-mail. As per our usual routine, I got Buddy Boy up to go to the bathroom a little after 10:00 pm (if we do this he usually stays dry thru the night). As I bent down to tuck him in afterwards, Buddy Boy says "Don't drink beer, Dad. It makes your breath smell bad."
I've been thinking about smell lately and how important it is to Buddy Boy, as well as a lot of other autistics. Smell is probably the most ignored of all our senses. Most of us don't pay much attention to it when we have it, but miss it terribly when it's gone. It helps us make scents of the world. Smells can warn us of danger, help us taste our food, increase our level of sexual arousal, and trigger memories of other times and places. The first time I entered an operating room (other than as a patient) I caught a scent of something (cleaning agent, the smell of instruments coming out of the sterilizer, trace levels of anesthetic gasses?) that triggered a flashback to when I had my tonsils out as a 5 year old. It was a vivid memory.
Buddy Boy has always had a keen sense of smell, and unlike most NT people, actively engages his sense of olfaction as he interacts with the world. He smells the pages of books, food choices are heavily influenced by their odor, and he smells people when he meets them. He has learned that it's not considered polite to tell people that they smell bad, but doesn't think this rule applies to family members (which is OK with me, as long as he's not going around telling everyone else in the world they smell bad). I'm hoping that maybe his increased sense of smell might help him in the workplace some day.
So anyway, back to the book signing (you knew I wouldn't just let that go).
I haven't had a chance to read Mr. Grinker's book yet, so my comments are just about meeting him as a person and having a short conversation with him. Roy Richard is a very engaging man. He's the type of person I would love to have at a party, or to sit down over a pot of coffee or tea with. He speaks Korean and Swahili, and has traveled around the world doing epidemiological research on autism. But he's also a down to earth kind of guy. Someone very much like the rest of us, just trying to do the best for our families every day. He said that he sometimes still gets nervous going into IEP meetings, wondering whether the team will focus too much on the negative aspects of his daughter's performance rather than the positive ones.
Grinker definitely falls on the "acceptance" rather than "cure" side, and in response to an audience question recommended the blogs of Autism Diva (he likes her attitude and opinions), Kevin Leitch's Left Brain/Right Brain (a very well thought out and knowledgeable site), and Kristina Chew's AutismVox (where 10 minutes after any news relating to autism is released, it's up on her blog).
I don't pay nearly as much attention to my sense of smell as Buddy Boy, but Roy Richard Grinker passed my sniff test when I met him. I look forward to reading his book.
Me- Joe, husband of a great wife, and dad to two great kids, who were both adopted at birth.
Liz- My ever understanding wife, who manages to wear many hats (mom, advocate, therapist, teacher) for our kids.
Buddy Boy- Born in 2000. Funny, intelligent, inventive, and autistic. Loves machines.
Sweet Pea- Born in 2002. Typical little sister. Competitive, outgoing, and smart. Loves anything pink.