Plowing through stacks of autism-related books and literature, plus trawling the web. Last night I found a totally engrossing article at wired.com. In short: part of the autism epidemic may be due to unprecedented geek mating.
What really strikes me is this excerpt:
Over and over again, researchers have concluded that the DNA scripts for autism are probably passed down not only by relatives who are classically autistic, but by those who display only a few typically autistic behaviors. (Geneticists call those who don't fit into the diagnostic pigeonholes "broad autistic phenotypes.")
Jeez, have you ever met my dad? I mean, I love him--EVERYONE loves him. He would do anything for his family or friends, and in my case (only daughter of man with four brothers and three sons) is especially indulgent. But he has more than a few suspect behaviors, including:
-Must Maintain Schedule/inflexibility/doesn't understand why you JUST DON'T GET IT
-Prefers to be asocial/doesn't get standard social cues
-Knows absolutely everything about pre-1965 pop music and culture, yet can't remember anyone's name or grasp certain concepts
Schedule: You don't want to mess with my dad's schedule (Jekyll becomes Hyde in an instant--run for cover!). Too bad if your guest/fiance is sleeping on the couch next to the kitchen--my dad empties the dishwasher and grinds his coffee beans at 5:30 every morning, and that's that. No, he is NOT going to pour out that hours-old coffee, and woe to anyone who does (e.g., Seymour). Of course it makes sense to take I-5 to the 91 to the 605 to the 105 to the 110 to the 10 to the 405.
Socialization: Everyone thinks of my dad as a hearty extrovert. What they don't know is that he has a 10-minute shtick (thank you Dale Carnegie), and that once he's run through his jokes and set pleasantries, he's done. He does not discuss himself or his feelings, ever. He prefers to spend his time alone, ideally reading. If he really wants to do something, and you tell him No, he may not understand--he may just get flustered and angry, because it makes perfect sense to him. He will probably end up doing it anyhow, once you're not looking (this has led to several neuroses on my part).
Information: He has one of those human-computer brains--regarding subjects he likes. He even did a test run on a TV quiz show in the 60's, receiving one of their highest scores ever--but had a panic attack and left when they turned the cameras on. (Be on his team for Trivial Pursuit.) This same brain called Seymour "Scott" for the first five years of our togetherness. Despite his recent quintuple bypass surgery, he has to have his diet monitored like a toddler or he will go straight for the bacon cheeseburger every time--he just doesn't get it. If you tell him that he can't have the super nacho cheese omelette and outline the reasons why, he will pout--also like a toddler.
Obsession: My dad loves contests. Anything free is good (i.e., "Can I take you to lunch" may mean "We will go to Costco and fill our gullets with complimentary food samples," nothing wrong with a gray market all-channel cable box), but winning something is even better. Now that he is retired, he is relentless in his contest-entering, and he almost always wins. He hasn't paid for a cruise, concert, ball game, or movie ticket in years. If the contest has limits on how many times he can enter, he has no problem using his friends' and family members' names with his address and phone number. The local radio station finally capitulated--before their latest contest, they called HIM up, saying that they wanted to give a heads-up to their favorite listener. Contest-entering has been the one thing that lured him into the Internet and email age--it streamlines the entire process.
You just gotta wonder.
Endnote: Just received an online photo album from a friend who is the female half of a super-genius couple. Gorgeous pictures of their four year old boy and almost-two-year-old girl. The little girl has a stern look on her face in every one of the 15 shots. Leelo didn't smile in any pictures at that age either, in almost exactly the same way. I repeat: please please no please no...