Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Autism: Forgiving Myself

EXPOSITION. Most of my friends and family know that Eleazar has autism. For those that don't, now you do. Eleazar has been in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and special day classes since he turned 4 years old. When he was 4, he tested as a 2-year old in terms of his conversational abilities and was diagnosed with severe languages disorder. Fast forward to 2014, and he is in his final year of resource classes before getting transitioned to regular classes and might be in his last year of speech therapy. It has been quite the journey -- and there is still a lot more to do.

In that light, I'm not sure how the following news makes me feel. Researchers at the Autism Center of Excellence, Department of Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine have conclusively linked that children with autism have genetic abnormalities in their brains. There has been a nature/nurture debate for years on the causes of autism, and this firmly puts that nurture part to rest given the genetic abnormalities found deep in the brains of children with autism.
For years, I wondered if there had been something I did when Eleazar was a baby that "gave" him autism. I wondered if my preeclampsia/ eclampsia did it even though I had it with both sons. I wondered if I didn't play with him enough or sing to him enough .... or if I spent too much time working and not enough breastfeeding. And even though this has been debunked several times, I wondered whether his vaccinations gave him autism. But this study lays most of these internal torments to bed. Something happened when he was forming in my womb that I couldn't control and they cannot pinpoint.  I didn't drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs during his pregnancy, so I couldn't begin to guess either.

Eleazar has overcome a lot of his speech problems, but in so many ways, my son has the classic hallmarks of autism. I know that he has the ability to learn how to manage the other outward signs of what can be conclusively called a genetic disorder.

"For the latest study, Courchesne and colleagues got brain samples from 11 children with autism who died young, mostly from accidents such as drowning, when aged 2 to 15. They compared their samples to brain tissue of 11 kids without autism who also died suddenly. To their surprise, they found extremely similar changes in 10 out of the 11 children with autism. They found “patches” of abnormal development in the tissue taken from the brain regions important for social development, communication and language. The visual cortex was unaffected."

"This defect indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct (brain) layers with specific types of brain cells - something that begins in prenatal life - had been disrupted," Eric Courchesne, coauthor and director of the center, said in a news release.

Read more here:

The Study: Patches of Disorganization in the Neocortex of Children with Autism

Reuters: Researchers find abnormality in brain layers of autistic children

NBC News: Brain Study Suggests Autism Starts Before Birth

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Musing on Perfection: L'Wren Scott

OBSERVATION. Every day I fight the need for perfection. When I was a child, there was this pervasive belief that if I was just smarter, thinner, friendlier, or smiled more that things would be better. There wasn't a real end goal. I just wanted to feel happier and loved -- but I always came up short and nothing was ever good enough.
Picture credit: GoRunway/Indigital

I'm in my 30s now. I still push myself hard and failures in any aspect of my life take a huge toll, but I feel loved and cherished by my husband, friends, and family.  I don't need to be perfect.

However, reading a few articles on the death of L'Wren Scott, fashion designer, Amazon, and self-professed perfectionist, I see the end result of someone who couldn't stop striving for that goal -- and I'm taking full note of it.

I will continue to make mistakes and fall short of my own expectations, but I have to recognize that I'm still very good at what I do, I'm always striving to be a better mother and wife, and that it's good enough. My time on this planet is finite. Recognizing this limitation has made me let go of (some) of the stress of being a perfectionist. Every time I leave my desk in a slight disarray, it is a victory.

I'm okay flawed and imperfect. I'm good enough.

Read more about the fascinating L'Wren Scott: