Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Spectrum Rainbow

Let’s scratch that linear spectrum from my first entry. I’m feeling now that a better visual model would be a circular rainbow pie chart deal, with everything connecting in the center and closely related qualities connecting along the perimeter.

Figure 1: An Amended Spectrum

One nice thing about this new and improved circular spectrum is that proximity can be quite telling. I pointed out that the difficulties in connection on the far end of the autism side of that original spectrum reminded me in some ways of the inability to connect on the far end of the attachment disorder side of the spectrum. Within a circle, these two pie slices – far as they might be from “normal” on the perimeter -- might themselves be quite close, with some “unknown” slices in-between. The “normal” slice might be on the opposite side of this thus-far-undefined area.

Here are some ideas for some other Full Spectrums, a veritable Spectrum Rainbow, with illustrations from my own family:

A Dance Spectrum
We do a lot of dancing in our house. All sorts of music. Sometimes we’ll even have a dance-off! I could expound at length on kinds of movement, hip-shakers and non-hip-shakers, rhythm, etc. but it basically comes down to this: If Z is Beyonce, G is Steve Martin in “The Jerk.” ‘Nuff said.

On second thought, it occurs to me that although I personally think I would fall closer to Beyonce than the Jerk on this spectrum, G definitely fancies himself quite the dancer too. Hmm.

A Spatial Self-Awareness Spectrum
Part of my project here is to distinguish and clarify, but I do so more in the ultimate aim of connection than separation. For example, most everybody has some sort of self-awareness in space, so that is a connection. Yet, for a child with Asperger syndrome, self-awareness in terms of place in the physical space one inhabits is fundamentally very different from that self-awareness for a child with an attachment disorder.

I would place Z in a position of extraordinarily high, vigilante-esque self-awareness that is connected integrally with an extraordinarily high level of awareness of others. G would seem to land close to the opposite side of this pie, with little consciousness of his weight and size and position, or of his spatial relations to others.

I am not a neurologist or psychiatrist, just a Mama wondering at and about her children (and children [and people] in general). I do wonder if this self-awareness thread relates in some way to the ways severely autistic children and children with severe attachment disorders may seem similar in their apparent disengagement with the outside world? How might their awareness of self-in-space and self vis-à-vis other people differ? How might it be useful to think of self-awareness in space and in relationships as a way IN to children’s minds and hearts? To healing, where needed?

This spectrum emerges as useful in helping me see that I, as a Full Spectrum Mama, need to help each child move closer to a healthy level of self-awareness in this regard. That’s not always true: sometimes I want to nurture that distance from the “normal” slice of the spectrum. Here, however, I would like to help Z relax her vigilance -- and G to become more attentive.

A Scotch Tape Spectrum
Some people feel perfectly comfortable using reams of scotch tape. Who are these people? Oh, pardon. I meant to write that there are different ways of approaching scotch tape use. Some of us view scotch tape as a precious, non-renewable and expensive resource that must be monitored and used in minimal, just-barely-adequate increments. Others have a “normal” take on tape. They use it when they need it, a reasonable amount…and buy more with little or no angst! And, much as it pains me to admit this, there are those who are quite “free” with their usage. [No need to let me know if you fit in this slice. I accept you. I just do not want to know.]

Z, as you might imagine, is highly responsible and abstemious in her tape-related-habits, even unto the point of Putting the Tape Back; G is a tape-waster par excellence. Left to his own devices, he would use tape for many, many non-approved purposes – and I would never be able to find the roll in any “emergency.” From time to time I have generously bought him his own roll, said roll never to be seen again.

Matters of scotch tape and self-awareness are related, yes they are: ideally I’d like to assist Z in relinquishing her control-freak position on this spectrum, while gently nurturing G in his scotch-tape consciousness.

A Style Spectrum
Here we have Z, dressed always with a flair and pizzazz and ultra-originality that nonetheless manages to scream, “I have fantastic taste!” She may be wearing seven necklaces, but they perfectly complement her nine bracelets. A cape? But of course. And matching veil. Anything she puts on, Z instantly elevates and imbues with sheer gorgeousness and chic.

Next to Z, we have people with some style and then we have a series of “neutral” or “regular” style slices eventually veering toward a lack of style…and then we have G.

My son, despite being conceived, gestated and living the first few years of his life in the East Village, has never looked right in anything fey or trendy. Something about him calls for classic, regular, GUY garb. When G was a baby, we came to call this genre “football-teddy bear clothes.” I have recently managed to sneak him into a skinny cord without too much protest although he has a really, really hard time getting in and out of this particular pant. In fact, G’s pants are usually pulled up to just under his nipples, His shoes are probably on the wrong feet. Anything he puts on looks like it was put on by mistake. Obviously, we are moving away from “normal” here…but where are we going, exactly?

I contend that we are actually edging back closer to the high style slice! I further contend that G may well be edging into what we, in our house, call “meta-cool.” He is so on his own fashion planet that he may well have crossed the pie-border into the slice just adjacent to Z’s super-flair section!

Figure 2: Flair de La Z (with brother)

A Sexuality Spectrum
The increasing acceptance of a rich, full spectrum of sexuality, gender identification and sexual orientation seems to me to be one of the great leaps forward of this new millennium. Nevertheless, so far, my kids have not been taking advantage of the wide range of available options.

We live in a super-liberal area where I would wager the vast majority of parents would answer the questions “Can girls marry girls?” and “Can boys wear dresses?” in the enthusiastic affirmative, Still, Z lives in a pink world of princesses and fairy costumes and Prince Charmings. NB: her favorite doll is named “Donna Poodle Itchy,” which does give me hope for her independent future.

When G was under one year old, he leaned over from his clip-on high chair and kissed a female model on the back of a magazine that was lying on the counter. Although he does sometimes hug his (male) best friend a leetle too long, he seems to be firmly on the hetero slice of the pie and has "always" wanted to “marry” a gal he met in kindergarten.

Wherever they ultimately end up on this spectrum is just fine with Full Spectrum Mama; the only remarkable thing here is that this is one area where Z and G reside in the most average part of the spectrum.

A Sassy Spectrum
Z is monumentally sassy. G is not, in any way, sassy. When I imagine a full sassiness spectrum with these two opposite slices, one intervening side might be varying degrees of silly sass, and the other side might be mean sass. Having abandoned all hope of reducing Z’s sassiness quotient, I now try to steer her more toward the silly side and away from the mean. And I know it wouldn’t hurt for G to develop a sassy quip or two. We’re workin’ on it!

We all fit in somewhere -- and we are all connected.

Full Spectrum Mama

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