Thursday, December 12, 2013


Someone posted this on my Facebook page:

         Figure I – ASPERGERS Acrostic Meme

A bunch of autistic people, people with autism, parents of autistic people and parents of people with autism (bear with me on these labels, just tryna make everyone happy!) responded.

At some point, early on, someone in my extended family commented as follows:

ummm.. Well I know it's uncool to say it, but those things apply on a LOT of levels to many people, even those not on the spectrum. Aren't we all on the spectrum to some degree? I mean that is what a spectrum is, from the smallest degree to the most challenged. We all fall on there somewhere.

Then, perhaps fearing the Wrath of the Autism Spectrum, that person removed the above comment before anyone had a chance to respond.

But I thought it might be a good inroad for an important and necessary conversation. So I saved it and thought about it and here’s my answer:

Short Version:



Long Version:

Yes, by all means, I hope people DO feel included – in general and in this here Full Spectrum! I want neurotypical people and non-neurotypical people and everybody in-between to relate to each other with empathy and compassion. I hope very much that people relate their own “endless talking” or “rigidity” or “giftedness” to those qualities in others, and therefore become more open and accepting. I think that’s the kind part of the intention in this comment.

Finding out about Asperger's syndrome (now officially known as an autism spectrum disorder) through having a son with that diagnosis has certainly helped me with my own lifelong struggles with a different neurology (diagnosed only later in life). Based on what people have told me, this blog speaks to a variety of individuals who relate to our experiences, not just vis-à-vis autism but attachment disorders and family stuff and “human being” as well. In terms of specific differences, readers have told me they’ve recognized attachment-disordered traits in family members and themselves and that our experiences have helped them deal better; same for autism…

As for the actual person who made this comment, I would say that we are related and we share a lot of neurology. Many of these above traits, like being “sensitive to criticism” or having an “advanced vocabulary,” do run in families -- whether from culture or genetics or both.

Besides, things like a tendency to be “easily distressed” and being “socially challenged” are not restricted to people on the autism spectrum and their families. Nor are being “gifted” or “remiss” &c traits of only people in the special autism spectrum disorder/Asperger’s association.


[Names of commenters on this post] and I, indeed all of us who are on the autism spectrum and/or are raising children who are, experience moderate to severe social challenges and neurological differences that affect all of our lives in significant ways. Some of us don’t just “relate” to the traits on this list, we are defined by them, especially by others – and most especially by the neurotypical world.

 Much as we hope to
help our children/ourselves accept and/or transcend disability and/or
celebrate their/our unique qualities and/or
work toward a culture where neuro- and other diversity is a given and all neurologies and disabilities and differences are
our children (and sometimes we ourselves) experience challenges (and sometimes need services and accommodations) that most others, quite simply, don't.

We’ve had to fight hard for our kids and ourselves, at times just to hold steady at “okay” or “barely okay.” We’ve got IEPs,* 504s,* behavioral plans, stacks of test results…Most of us have daunting piles of (mostly unread) books on the trajectory from Sensory Processing Disorder onward…Sometimes we have to get babysitters for our teenagers (if we can afford it – my average is twice yearly).

We have to wade through mountains of labels and advice from specialists and experts, and consider (or not! [and then we have to deflect!]) “cures” directed – mostly well-meaningly – at ourselves, our parenting, our differences, our children, our families…

We frequently get asked to participate in unwanted meetings -- and then we have to wrangle for the meetings we do want.

We get called in to school when our kid is quacking in assembly; when the teacher wants to meet with our child’s class without our child present to explain why s/he is not “weird” but “different;” called in because our kid is ‘agitated” over a challenge a neurotypical kid would not even notice, such as a change in routine…

Do these things sound familiar? If not, then you and/or your child probably do not have autism or, for that matter, some other “special need.” I am not trying to say those on the spectrum are members of some exclusive club, I am trying to be clear on what is what:
Having autism/being autistic is NOT something everyone shares. There is an autism spectrum, and there is a spectrum that leads, in spectrum fashion, up to that spectrum, but it is not the same.

The same might be said of an attachment disorder spectrum. My other, non-autism-spectrum-y child does not have a Severe attachment disorder, wherein people are unable to form meaningful connections with others. On the attachment disorder spectrum, she falls on what’s known as the Mild to Moderate attachment disorder section, where attachments are possible but often fraught. Healthily-attached children without attachment disorders may share some traits that are deeply familiar to parents of children with attachment disorders (such as controlling behavior or hoarding), but that does not mean they have the clinically defined condition known as an attachment disorder! (More on this below…)

All behaviors occur in populations to varying degrees and in a myriad of combinations. When an individual is found to be “out of the ‘norm’” – by the schools and/or parent(s) or guardian(s) --  they usually get evaluated and labeled and their differences may then be addressed within that paradigm. This process alone can be deeply grueling.

It may also sometimes be rewarding, at least insofar as it may offer insights for interacting, processing, succeeding in a neurotypical (and/or relatively healthily-attached, and/or typically-abled) world. With that in mind, Full Spectrum Mama investigates daily life with a bunch of people who happen to embody some useful labels -- but are more than just these labels! -- in hopes of offering something worthwhile shining out of our Full Spectrum.

Respect for neurodiversity is a key theme for the Full Spectrum Project -- and I believe that’s a piece of where my erstwhile commentator was coming from, as well as the intent of the above acrostic.

One of the greatest things to come out of the neurodiverty movement(s) is this idea that the ideas and thought patterns of divergent neurologies may be equally valid and in some cases superior. Before, we might’ve been inclined to dismiss ourselves. Now, we are gradually coming to value different perspectives more – even if the wider world has a ways to go to catch up.

Divergent neurology is, apparently, becoming more and more common -- and as such one hopes it will be less and less marginalized, less often dismissed as “remiss.” I hope, though, that increasing acceptance and diversity never amount to attempted homogeneity!

I’ve always been openly against moral relativism – the idea that all moral views deserve equal respect and are equally valid - on this blog and as a longtime professor of ethics. But I do espouse “neural relativism:” the idea that all neurologies are worthy of respect and consideration. This is not to imply that they are all the same: commonalities do not necessarily mean shared identity, status or diagnosis. To suggest that they do, as my dear commentator seemed to be doing – however briefly – might seem to trivialize the very real struggles many of us face.

Here’s an example: if you have received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, you know that your neural processes are “not normal.” What does this mean, exactly? For many, it has historically meant reduced self-trust, a devaluation of one’s “wrong” thinking. This is changing. Today, many of us contend that knowing your thought processes, sensory processing and reactions might be different from the mainstream is useful information, but it doesn’t mean we should thus dismiss our concerns and conclusions based on that divergence!

The mainstream certainly keeps things somewhat on track, but it has also brought us witch hunts, slavery, centuries of marriage inequality, Britney Spears, Monsanto, “Black Friday,” the 1%, dodgeball, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos …

Knowledge is power. A self-evident and over-quoted phrase? Maybe to you (or maybe not!). Until I began to learn about my son’s and my non-typical neurology, until I began to address certain needs (such as sensory breaks) as needs, NOT preferences, I spent a lot of time feeling as if I was an alien being assaulted by humans and environments (tangent: animals were my salvation). Migraines were (and are) a major factor in life. Other people’s’ brains and actions were so opaque to me that I tended to doubt myself and give others credence when I should not have and thereby made myself vulnerable to exploitation, an experience many of my spectrum-y friends share. The incidence of exploitation and abuse is anecdotally higher among those on the autism spectrum. I do think and hope that this terrible pattern is changing with increased knowledge and awareness.

Learning about the neurodiverse brain has shown me, finally, how to set boundaries and how to trust in myself, and to teach my children to do the same. I hope G is learning these skills in time to spare him much suffering. I hope it can make him feel less alienated, less “socially challenged,” more connected.

Having a daughter who exhibits the mirror opposite of the “typically ‘autistic’” traits exhibited by my son (and, in many cases, by me) has given me a lot to chew on in this idea of connection. Learning about attachment disorders has also shown us how to set boundaries for Z and build her self-confidence and trust -- in us and in herself.

In short, we’ve seen how the tools affiliated with certain labels and diagnoses may be effective (or, plenty of times, not) in a wide range of contexts.

In this conversation about commonalities, meaning and context also play a huge role vis-à-vis appropriate tools, labels and analyses. When a healthily-attached child of four has a massive, age-appropriate tantrum, that’s healthy; when an eight year old with an attachment disorder does the same, it is an expression of a deeper pain. Or: when a healthily-attached child tests their evolving independence by being defiant, their parent may well view that behavior as natural and appropriate; whereas when a child with an attachment disorder acts defiant, it is typically because they feel unsafe and out of control inside – and untrusting. The latter child needs – in order to build trust, heal and feel safe – a very different response than does the former.

Therapeutic parenting, as defined by the therapist we have worked with, can look very different than your basic permissive vs. strict parenting spectrum. In my experience, therapeutic parenting of this flavor is not always looked upon kindly, particularly by the progressive parenting population. So, parents of children with attachment disorders may live with another difference that is challenging -- and that too may feel trivialized by those who try to say we are all the same.

To summarize, I’m first aiming to make clear distinctions within connection. Second, out of that clarity, I celebrate the incredible, perhaps more-broadly applicable, helpfulness of the tools we have been blessed to glean from learning about aspects of the labels that represent elements of the human beings in our family. Sometimes these tools are about healing and, yes, “curing” an attachment disorder; sometimes they are about understanding and creating space for divergent neurologies. They are always about growing in inclusion and peace. The whole Full Spectrum household has become happier now that we have these tools.

If reading about autism or attachment disorders or whatever (identifying with theASPERGERS acrostic, for example) helps you in some way, more power to you! Our journey in this wacky, divergent, polarizing, unifying enterprise was what got me started on this blog in the first place, because Full Spectrum Mama embraces connection within difference.

Learning more about autism has not convinced me that everyone has Asperger's or spectrum-y tendencies at all. In fact, I wish that were so, as children are not always particularly nice with those who are "different." G's differences from the general population are more than clear (along with his many wonderful qualities!!). He's faced far greater challenges socially and in general than the average kid, as I know the aforementioned facebook-commenting parents' children have.

Guess you could say I am not a parenting relativist either. I have personal, direct, experiential knowledge that parenting a child who has common sense and a reasonable level of social skills -- a child who I know with 100% certainty will be completely fine on his/her own as an adult --  is 37 bajillion times easier/less worrisome that parenting one who doesn’t share these life skills, though I wouldn’t trade or change the latter child for all the world.

Anyway, it’s not a contest. Of course all children and parents and people have challenges. The challenges of autism per se, though, are not really expressed by the fact that, sure, many people might share some of the qualities on this ASPERGERS acrostic list. At the same time, we want to be really careful to be sensitive around trumpeting the “difficulties” of autism in a time when fear-mongering around the “autism epidemic” is rampant.

This list is just a tool, I think, meant for people with asperger's syndrome and those who love 'em or want to to understand more about it. I can’t speak to the artist’s intention, but I can say with some confidence that s/he probably intended the list for a specifically asperger's-related purpose.

That being said, the whole point at Full Spectrum Mama – as I hope I have made clear, er…somewhat at length, herein -  is the connections between all of us. FSM engages the idea that we are all on a giant spectrum and that therefore the similarities and differences between us can be instructive - and funny. It entertains the idea that my two children, as PART of who they are, seem often to be truly on opposite areas of that giant spectrum. It explores these two vastly contrasting yet sometimes surprisingly connected areas of a Full Spectrum that happen to be known as autism and attachment disorder.

My intention is to be illuminative of one unique mix, to be inclusive, to describe our spectrum, where the tools that work for us might have a higher chance of working for others for the very fact that they are working (or not working, puh-lease!) for spectrum locations that seem poles apart. My daughter is not on the autism spectrum, my son is not on the attachment disorder spectrum, but they are both – as are we all – on the inclusive, colorful, beautiful FULL Spectrum.

When I started writing/drawing Full Spectrum Mama almost two years ago, I envisioned the Full Spectrum as a Line. Then it became a Circle. Now it’s time for a Globe!

Voilà – the Globular Spectro-Continuum!

    Figure II – The “3-D” Globular Spectro-Continuum

 Figure III – The Globular Spectro-Continuum: Cross-Section


Full Spectrum Mama

* Definitions – quoted verbatim from: :
The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.

504 Plan:
The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Beloved Readers,

I am very pleased to announce that Full Spectrum Mama has been awarded a residency at the Vermont Studio Center (

Admittedly, it is true that FSM applied for this honor without expecting to receive said honor and is not entirely sure how to manage that whole children thing in order to enjoy it.

However, that is a matter for another day. Today, we celebrate!


As well, I would like to celebrate the fact that FSM is now averaging over 1,000 views a month. With literally no publicity or advertising of any sort, the ability to reach that many readers is a great privilege for which I am incredibly grateful. Thanks, everybody – and I hope FSM has brought you a smile or a connection or something worthwhile in exchange for your time!


Finally, FSM is still accepting COMPLAINTS for The Complaint Department post, upcoming in late January. Please send me your COMPLAINTS of any stripe – funny, sad, mad, bad…

Please email COMPLAINTS to



Full Spectrum Mama


Thursday, November 21, 2013


I’m calling G because we are at a big, kid-filled birthday party and the dj is playing “Gangnam Style,” which he loves. He calls his version of the song and dance “Gengar Style,” after a naughty, levitating Shadow Type Pokemon called Gengar.* He’s way out on the playground with some kids he doesn’t know and, between calls to him to come boogie with me, I hear those loud “eeeeeh” noises that he makes sometimes because he likes them -- and other times because he’s socially overwhelmed. I hurry over and he’s progressed to shouting unintelligible sounds and making faces in the general direction of a play structure. Some younger kids are cowering and glowering nearby.

“What happened?” I ask, pulling him away as fast as I can.

“A girl threatened me.”


“She told me she was going to beat me up!”

“That little girl with the sour face, who is much, much smaller than you?”

“Yes.” (G tends not to pay attention to his own size or age relative to others.)

I sigh, hug him. “She couldn’t, honey.”

“But she said she had beat up a 15 year old!”

“But baby, that’s not true. She’s a little girl.”

We pause. He’s probably taking in the fact that here again someone has lied and he has been unaware of that possibility.

“Well…Why?” I continue.

“Why what?”

“Why do you think that happened?”

Another pause.

“Because she said I was ‘in her face?’”

“Were you?”


“Were you trying to threaten her?”


The playground is a place where family and friends who know G in his home or social comfort zone often suddenly realize the extent of his social challenges.  Putting his face right in someone else’s face is one way he tries to connect, because he really does want to connect - so very much! He’s still figuring out other ways to do so, and in the meantime doesn’t seem to have integrated extensive advice against face-in-face.

I try to seize the teachable moment: “How do you think she felt when you got in her personal space, you know, ‘in her face’?”


“I don’t think so…try again.”


“Try again. Angry and mad are pretty much the same.”


“Yes. So I bet that’s why she threatened you, don’tcha think?”

He nods.

“And G, did you notice all those kids were much younger than you?”

"Not really.”

“They probably thought you were being a bully, G. Which of course you weren’t.”

G is the most gentle person I know, but he’s a really big dude with no idea of his own size or the impression it might give. 

I sigh. Again. “Oh sweety, I know you’d never want to scare anyone. But you have to try to think about whether other kids are bigger or smaller than you and what they might think you mean in your actions and words, okay? Do you think you can remember this next time?”

“I don’t know,” G says, shrugging.

By the time we reach the party shed, the song has ended. G goes in and sits back in a corner alone, looking perplexed. Eventually, some extra cupcake frosting comforts and cheers him up.

Sometimes G is served well by his unique neurology. His omnipresent honesty, truly original creativity, staunch reliability, deep loyalty and lack of regard for conventional measures of success or “coolness” are just a few traits that come to mind in this regard. I know he takes satisfaction in living by what he deems right and good. Those of us who “get” him celebrate his living by his own lights as well. Nevertheless, even these arguably superb qualities are not necessarily ones that lead to mainstream social acceptance!

Of course there’s neurologically-rooted stuff to work on too, like developing the tools to navigate playground dynamics, many of which are analogous to adult social milieus. It just sometimes seems the neurotypical world currently remains more inclined to marginalize both G’s particular gifts and his challenges than to celebrate or accommodate them.

Suppose G – because, as things stand, it’ll be on him to do so - takes a very long time to adapt here, what is the adult equivalent of frosting?

Oh yeah. Frosting. **

Full Spectrum Mama

* OMG I Just found this site:
Please, nobody show G – I will never see him again!

** We have a hunch that Pumpkin Pie may work, too and are going to find out next week! Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!!!

Monday, November 18, 2013


I wrote this for the Flash Blog. "This is Autism" @

This is autism for our family:

A - ALL different
U - Untypical
T - Talk to US about it!
I - Integrity
S - Special Interests (or...Seals [and Pokemon, and plants, and animals...])
M - My son, me, our faMily, our coMMunity...

Full Spectrum Mama

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


You know what? I started a whole heartfelt response to Autism Speaks' terror mongering, homogenizing "Call to Action," along with everybody and her mother.

Then, while I was bounding around, naked, hemorrhaging some of the 2.3 million dollars - each - it apparently takes to raise me and my son, I found, via my friend One Quarter Mama (,  a response that will be hard to top:

Hopping and snacking -- hope you are too, ya deviants,

Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The other day, à propos nothing so far as I could tell, Z told me, “Maybe when I grow up, I’ll go to a place in Africa...”

She paused.

(Somehow, I expected her to talk next about how she wanted to do some kind of volunteer work there, as we’ve been trying to figure out something like that to do together as a family in our community -- and we also have family involved in such endeavors locally and abroad. Accordingly, during her pause, I began to formulate a speech about the notions of needy people and starving children in Africa as part truth/part stereotype, explaining how there are also people in various regions of Africa living in the middle classes and above, just like here.

I would add how there are starving people here in the United States, too, and in our own state and town.

The people at that wedding we recently attended were mostly from Africa, I would point out momentarily, and as you can see they have what they need just like us and are in many cases better off: they can travel here, whereas we couldn’t right now afford to take a big trip like that…

But no.)

“…and get diamonds,” she continued.

(Well, there are other reasons to go to Africa, as well! Like making bridges between countries, learning about new cultures…

We need to be very careful with our priorities, my daughter, always honoring living beings above things, even valuable things. {I do so worry about Z’s attachment disorder making her always feel she is lacking something. After all, she herself was severely undernourished when she first came home.})

“…and gold.”

(Also, I might mention, Africa is not a country. It’s many nations, all with different politics, cultures, populations…)

“…Lots of diamonds!”

“Yep,” I replied.

Well…Good! Somebody in this family needs to be on the practical end of the Finance Spectrum.

Full Spectrum Mama

Friday, November 1, 2013


Full Spectrum Mama’s help meet, Guest Writer and Troubleshooter, Partial/incomplete Monochrome Persona (PiMP) has asked that she announce a call for submissions of COMPLAINTS.

During the months of November and December, Full Spectrum Mama will be accepting entries for PiMP’s annual anniversary guest post, “Second Anniversary Lists IV: The Complaint Department,” to be published in late January 2014.  Please email any and all COMPLAINTS to

Guidelines for acceptable COMPLAINTS are loose. Simply put, COMPLAINTS must be…acceptable. Please see for previous examples. Please note that COMPLAINTS needn’t be limited to parenting, differences, adoption, attachment disorders, autism, asperger’s, etc., since a Vast Spectrum of COMPLAINTS in their myriad forms may be complained, whined, and sometimes shared, by a Spectrum of individuals.

For multiple or multifaceted COMPLAINTS, list form is highly encouraged.

COMPLAINTS will be posted anonymously and may be edited for clarity or acceptability.

The Complaint Department will respond to acceptable COMPLAINTS in an appropriate fashion.

You may remember that PiMP’s day job is with The Complaint Department. PiMP cautions you that this solicitation on PiMP’s behalf does NOT indicate that The Complaint Department is in fact open.

Full Spectrum Mama

P.S. You can also email COMMENTS to this same email. Readers’ inability to comment is a very common, as yet unresolved COMPLAINT  L

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


The Full Spectrum Household has been avoiding refined sugar for over six months now.

With the younguns, this move is behavior-driven; for Maman, it’s a serious health issue.

As Halloween approaches, I find my mind wandering to – well, what do you think?


Because we will be trick-or-treating, complete with all the quirks of Full Spectrum boundary awkwardness in doorways (every year G wanders casually into at least one random stranger’s home, focused on an enticing trinket or element of decor) and social ineptitudes (hey, now we really can’t recognize you, um, everyone) and violations (quick - watch Z’s hands in the serve-yourself bowls).

Many of our ‘specially fun qualities are exponentially amplified by being all hopped up on sugar.

So, then, post trick-or-treating, there will be these bags of candy. In the kitchen. After the Full Spectrum children are snug in their beds. In their bedrooms.

As you would expect, this little voice in the back of my mind is all, “You know what? If you just had a little bit of candy, say, a few Reese’s peanut butter cups, basically, that would be like…homeopathy!”

“How so?” the small remaining rational part of my mind wonders.

“Because, duh, if you never EAT Reese’s Cups, how will your body build up immunity? How will it know how to process Reese’s Cups, should it ever be exposed to said Cups???”

Exactly. Thus, have I put forth the prestigious, correct-ish “Reese’s Theory of Homeopathy.”

And I think it’s safe to say this scientific-homeopathic model may, in moderation, be applied to a number of other aspects of life…At least until the Special Candy Fairy comes and replaces all the candy with nurturing, commercial-free, organic playthings and natural, lo-flavor veggie-butter-leather.

Happy Halloween!

Dr. Full Spectrum Mama, Ph.D.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


An October 8th NEW YORK TIMES “Profiles in Science” piece on Michael Dickinson and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) completely (technical term alert) blew my mind. Although fruit flies, obviously, have very small brains, the flexibility and mutability of their neurons result in a per-neuron superior functionality than is found in humans. Because “the presence of different chemicals called neuromodulators in the fly brain can change how a given group of neurons acts at different times” (, fruit flies have an astounding capacity for (relatively speaking, of course) adaptation and development.

I was inspired by this article to do a little research on neuromodulators in humans and it turns out this is a pretty new concept in neuroscience, one which looks very promising for human development in the long term.  Neuromodulators include serotonin and dopamine, with which scientists have been experimenting for decades with somewhat limited success; however, our knowledge of how neuromodulators influence and transform brain activity is now expanding exponentially.

Dickinson’s work will contribute to this understanding, as well as to our respect for the complexity and genius of the lowly creatures he studies. The wonders of flying, he suggests, rest chiefly in the brain. Just as the brain flexibility of fruit flies enables flight in an ever-changing variety of circumstances, so might the relatively less-flexible human brain be influenced to adapt and develop -- if we can more effectively identify and utilize neuromodulatory mechanisms. 

There’s a lot of talk about neuroplasticity around autism, hinting at enhanced brain-healing capacity in spectrum-y brains, but I am encouraged by the potential for healing, among other things, brain traumas (such as are found in attachment disorders and PTSD) as well. These neurological differences – autism, attachment disorders and PTSD - are all significant factors in our Full Spectrum household. (Please stay tuned for an upcoming post on HEALING in a Full Spectrum!)

Apart from the NEW YORK TIMES’ “Science” section, just a quick dabble shows the world of neuroscience is all abuzz (and awiggle) in popular culture.

In VOGUE, Rebecca Johnson’s “New Frontier” (October 2013) profiles the neuroscientist Cori Bargmann and her work with a tiny worm (the nemotode C. elegans) that has 302 neurons (humans have 10 billion). Bargmann’s work sketches filaments of hope for brain-science progress between increasing computer capacities, advances in electrodes for the measurement of nerve cells, and improved microfabrication…She sees psychiatric medicine as just one of the more promising subfields among the many in which neuroscientific developments will benefit humanity.

“Now,” Bargmann marvels in VOGUE, “we are not just watching the flow of information [via neurons] but trying to change it.”

One part scary, one part breathtakingly hopeful, eh?

THE NEW YORKER recently published “Mindless: The new neuro-skeptics,” by Adam Gopnik, about the mind-brain divisions and debunkings posited in some circles (September 9, 2013). Gopnik likens the “brain” camp, with its currently culturally dominant emphasis on neuroscience, to Mr. Spock (now you know I love a good Star Trek reference, plus Spock was my pretend-fiancé when I was little). The “mind” camp, which sometimes compares neuroscience to the now thoroughly discredited early-nineteenth-century “science” of phrenology (or mapping the mind through the shape of the skull), he frames as akin to Captain Kirk. He points to the rich literature and inquiry on both “teams” and concludes that both responsibility and possibility lie in the whole package – mind-plus-brain (plus environment), all working together in a way so “complex and contingent” as to boggle the, ahem, mind.

Complexity notwithstanding, evolution of many sorts is ongoing, whether scientific, philosophical, even personal: “We learn and shape our neurology as much as we inherit it,” says Gopnik. ”Our selves shape our brains at least as much as our brains our selves.”

What he said.

More neuroscience-boom proof: the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2013 went to some neuroscience dudes…And Obama recently launched the BRAIN (Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) project, an unprecedented neuroscience initiative (in fact, Cori Bargmann will co-chair this endeavor).

But then, working on the mind is nothing new.

From ancient philosophers to contemporary mystics, wise people have always known it is possible to train (ideally) and re-train (less-ideally, but more commonly) the mind. From Plato’s (and his student, Aristotle’s) thoughts on ideal environments and habits for exercising the virtues, to the Buddha’s writings on practices to calm and discipline the mind and actions; from Confucius on good habits and self-discipline in harmony (the Tao), to Teresa of Avila on practicing devotions of imagination and contemplation; from Thomas Merton on spiritual disciplines as the way to liberation,* to Starhawk on “psychological techniques and personal disciplines” as tools for transformation;** and on and on (I’ve left so many out in the interest of brevity!!)…all the great traditions offer tools for behavioral, mental, emotional, and – sometimes – spiritual development of the mind.

Now we are just beginning to enter this heretofore sci-fi realm of attaining real knowledge about the brain itself. It’s exciting.

Disclaimer: Full Spectrum Mama loves her children and self just as they are, and is NOT looking for a “cure” for Asperger’s!!!! ***

But wouldn’t it be great to have the option of tweaking our own neurology in positive ways? Even if we have no desire whatsoever to change, this knowledge itself will be awe-inspiring: we have the potential to understand, if not emulate, what Dickinson calls the “great success stories” borne of adaptable, flexible (fruitfly) neurology.

Full Spectrum Mama is certainly gung ho about adding new tools to our quests for health and healing, especially in terms of reducing suffering.  To wit, my neurology has always been sensitive and prone to migraines, but with age and/or a major concussion a few years back and/or something else (?) my migraines and PTSD triggers have increased dramatically over the years. I’d try just about anything – meditation to neuromodulation - to soothe these neurological responses. Just – don’t you touch my Special Interests!

I guess that last is the key, though.

 Bargmann bemoans the “dismal state” of today’s psychiatric medicines, and the field of neuromodulators remains in its infancy. All the beautiful possibilities mentioned in these articles are still just ideas. Early on, would tweaking my neurology result in unintended consequences such as losing my precious Special Interests or other things about me that I treasure or see as integral to who I am? Furthermore, the idea of such tools being used against our will or unbeknownst to us is unsettling, at best. “Neuromodulism” (I just made that up) could become “the new eugenics.” Ew.

 With all these caveats, I am still intrigued by the potential for human beings to develop and adapt more effectively. Reducing certain kinds of obstacles to flourishing, such as unwanted manifestations of mental illness, physiological trauma and physical pain, will help us “fly” higher – and with more flexibility.

Now come on, Homo sapiens! If D. melanogaster can do it, we can too!

Full Spectrum Mama

* Admittedly, Merton’s deeply entwined Catholicism and Zen Buddhism were somewhat controversial, but FSM always errs on the side of acceptance.

*** Speaking of Asperger’s: between you and me and the fencepost, take a look at the picture of Dickinson and then read his words and ask yourself who’s got Asperger’s all up in that article.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


We are at a family wedding in Maine. My sweet, hunky cousin, Whitey McWhiteperson is marrying one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life,* who happens to be from Kenya, although she grew up mostly in the United States.
* Also, she’s a great person and a Nurse. Grr. I mean…yay!

We are surrounded by close to a hundred people from Africa – most are from Kenya but a few are from Liberia, Ghana and Zimbabwe; most are immigrants to the U.S., but some are here from abroad. My family, consisting primarily of real live White people, makes up only a fraction of the wedding guests.

Many guests from The Bride’s side are in traditional dress, especially the women, who are in amazing, architectural headpieces and dresses of bright, stunning fabrics.

The Bridal Procession begins. The Bride is preceded by a whole bunch of middle-aged women singing exquisite and/or rowdy songs in Swahili. Other women are jubilantly ululating. As The Bride proceeds, she is accompanied by a rainbow of younger women in a variety of matching outfits by group (future sisters-in-law in lavender taffeta, friends from the U.S. in blue silk, friends/family from abroad in mixed colors…).

The singing, ululating elder women are using large, intricately patterned cloths as rugs to cover the ground in front of The Bride. Each cloth is removed as soon as she has passed, and quickly carried forward to lengthen the stretch of cloths in her path so that she need never touch the ground until reaching the altar.

G and Z and I are watching the scene with delight and wonder. G has settled down a bit from his initial flailing and neediness (from feeling overwhelmed by all the people and a new environment). I see stars in my daughter’s eyes and am happy to know she is experiencing such a harmonious, extraordinary, multicultural and flat-out-super-enjoyable event.

I’ll look forward to the color-blind (gender-blind, sexual-orientation-blind...sigh) day when such heterogeneity is a commonplace, but for now I’m feeling truly grateful that my daughter gets to experience this diversity in relatively-homogenous northern New England.

Figure I – Z (right) with New Friends at the Wedding

A hush falls on the guests as The Bride and her attendants near the altar, which is located on a breathtaking spit of land overlooking the ocean. The singing gets quieter, but no less moving.

Suddenly, through the reverent silence of the audience, a large voice rings out from my rather small daughter: “That dress must have been relley expensive!”


All around us, people are laughing, with a slight undercurrent of chagrin. My entire parenting career passes before my eyes: what about “our” values (non-materialism, valuing what’s INSIDE instead of appearances…)? Why bother raising kids without tv and consumer culture if this is what happens in the end? How is it that, surrounded by marvels of all sorts, the price of the dress is what Z chose to focus on??? Where did this comment of hers come from???? Is there some genetic component to character????????? As well, whence the Valley Girl accent?

Big questions.

So, you know, next thing I know I am drinking a teensy bit more than I might be under other circumstances. Right? Right? Doesn’t everybody feel a smidge uncomfortable around family?

Oh, wait, no. WELLANYWAY.

Lucky for me, after a few hours on the dance floor, what remained with me was laughter and the pleasure of losing myself in the festivities (with a little help from my old friend Vino).

This was partly because Z and I were the last ones dancing from my cousin’s family, shaking our patooties long after the rest of that side had left the dance floor. Thereby proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that (as alienated as some in my biological family may be) my daughter and I are totally related.

And it was partly because, as a fabulous someone said, “At least she didn’t say it looks cheap!”

Full Spectrum Mama

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


If you haven’t already got one, I suggest you find yourself a Meeting Friend. What I mean by this is we all need someone who is in a similar situation. You know, the other person who, like you, secretly wants to do the merengue at the water cooler at your conservative office, or the one who also thinks about global warming All The Time, or has to bring their own snacks to school because if they eat vending machine snacks they will be sick all over the common room. The other single parent. The one at the boozefest who’s also in AA.

Whatever your difference, it usually feels better when shared.  Who wants to feel “special?” Or be a martyr? Better to not be alone in differences and/or challenges, no?

For me, finding someone who, like me, was dealing with a surfeit of school meetings (both historically and currently) was a game changer. It made me, as the mother of a Full Spectrum of children, feel like I shared a challenging aspect of life with another human being. It gave me a chance to connect over meeting topics and strategies, rather than having to accept empathy/sympathy from someone who had no idea what I was dealing with or, more likely, choosing to simply keep my mouth shut.

Depending on your location this might not be easy – it took me eleven years - but it’s something worth seeking out if you haven’t already found that person or persons.

And so, without further ado, I present to you:

Ode to a Meeting Friend
For D

If you’re rushing and fleeting to get to a meeting
And you see a sad person who’s sad in their greeting

And you ask them what’s up and they say through a tissue
That the teacher or principal called with some issue

Ask, How many weeks in did it happen to you?
Wait…You’re on your way NOW to a dread meeting TOO??

It is then you will know he or she is The One
The person who’s having the same Special Fun

Say: I take it You got “the school call” today too?
I know how you feel and I know what to do!

Between two there are so many ways to face meetings!
Some sob fests …co-ranting…emotional eatings!

Between two the whole scene becomes funnier, normal…
You can bawl, laugh or BOTH now, without being formal.

So let’s sing the praises of the Meeting Friend
Who is there with the gluten-free agave cookies
Who is there cuz of knowing this stuff ain’t for rookies!
Without him or her your heart might not quite mend
I love you, I love you, my dear Meeting Friend.

Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Spectrum Rainbow II

 A Spectrum of What You THINK You Are Going To Do 
This particular Spectrum has come up a lot lately so it seems like a good time to share:

Madelino warned me when Z started kindergarten that I would need a year to recover, at least. She said that I might think I was going to now be able to do all that stuff I’d not been able to do all these years (so, now, in addition to teaching, I would definitely write that novel I’d been meaning to write, find new work that earned lashings of money, see friends, organize our lives, have plenty of time to relax…and, oh, that memorial poetry cycle!).

But no. 

What would actually happen was that I would spend a lot of time on catching up on nine years [fill in your number here – or just insert “the summer months,” because that counts, too; or tailor your slightly unique accomplishment delusions to "during my week off" or "when I go on sabbatical"...] of barely accomplishing anything outside of work and parenthood, and a lot of energy on imperceptibly returning to human status.

                                        Figure I – Time/Accomplishment Spectrum Graph

Lack of Accomplishment: as this Scientific Spectrum demonstrates, it’s just…normal.

A Clarification Spectrum
As just happened with PiMP’s prior post, sometimes I make jokes on this here blog and people on certain parts of the spectrum take them literally and worry about me/us and ask me if I/we are okay when I/we are really fine and dandy. Sometimes my funny, funny jokes make people on other parts of the spectrum take them at face value (literally) and assume I/we are all fine when in fact I/we are struggling.

Is this a metaphor?

A Cupcake Spectrum
More than one person explained what the kids’ new school would be like in terms of cupcakes.

One pal told me that whereas at X school one must bake gluten-free, not-too-sweet birthday cupcakes - say, nut-free banana muffins with lightly maple-syruped casein-free vegan cream cheese frosting - at our NEW school the ones from the grocery store with the day-glo frosting are more than acceptable.

Another said that while homemade cupcakes are de riguer at most area elementary schools, and especially at the private schools, at our larger, more urban school nobody even notices such [stuff].

Clearly, at G and Z’s new school, parents are relatively free to simply provide celebratory sugary treats of their choosing without judgment or condemnation! People with special dietary needs – well, I dunno. We have been a gluten-free and dairy-free household and now are mostly sugar-free, yet this felt super-liberating, as fall is a barrage of Full Spectrum Birthdays.

As a trained Sociologist, for what that’s worth, I was naturally* ruminating on the socioeconomic implications of cupcakes, when, come to find out, G being the least spectrum-y person on the spectrum in his class, he’s got classmates with dietary restrictions for the upcoming birthday event.  So here we go again with the gluten-free, casein-free, low-sugar (chocolate, though!) cupcakes.

In any case, the important question remains: where on the cupcake spectrum do “allergen-free,” “good for you” and “tastes good” meet?

Two Mess Spectra

Not only do the Full Spectrum children exhibit eclectic Mess styles, with Z’s messes shipshape and lined up and G’s…prodigious –

    Figure II – Z Room (Mess)                                         Figure III  - G Room (Mess)

 -- they also manifest a Cleaning Spectrum of remarkable breadth.  While both children’s messes may cover an equal area (area=entire surface area in room), one will take ten minutes to clean her room while the other will take ten hours.


A Tiny Expression of an Eating Pattern Spectrum

    Figure IV – Z Plate                                                     Figure V – G Plate

A Family Spectrum

Dennis and Jules had both come from families that hadn’t really felt good. This they’d shared and when they’d come together it was to make a home that did feel good, and even to say: Fuck you, disappointing families.
Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings, (p. 299)

                                              Figure VI – A Family Spectrum Bell Curve

We are just, kinda, on the tryna keep it in the warm color range plan.

A Hoochie Spectrum

A friend started giggling at my bemoaning Z’s back-to-school choices: “the flashiest, pinkest, cheapest-looking, hoochie mama-est item, every time!!!!” She said that her daughter chose her entire fall wardrobe from “The Hooker Line” and showed me some pretty great examples on her phone. And the thing is, these are smart, strong girls being raised by strong, feminist women, and, mostly, we are laughing about it.

Sure, this being Vermont, kids have no problem with second hand, and we get lots of hand-me-downs from fabulous young wimmin/womyn/womin/wymyn. But there are inevitably a very few things that we still have to buy in the Big Stores.

In that context, I can see pretty early in on this shopping-for-daughter thing that buying gear for Z is going to be a heck of a lot more tricky than it’s ever been with my son. It seems some children have strong tendencies toward what one might refer to as pizzazz. And some parents want their daughters to be making creative and satisfying choices that nonetheless skirt the safer boundaries of hoochie mama. Hoping for healthy self-esteem and body-awareness to trump mass culture and the sexualization of children and tweens.

And then there are those parents who maybe had a little too much pizzazz themselves and want to shelter their daughters from the dangers of pizzazz…and those who, lacking in pizzazz, encourage their daughters to new heights of pizzazzified self-expression…

Yeah, it’s a…Spectrum.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Spectrum, I am trying to get G to be more materialistic: “Isn’t this pretty rock n roll? Pretty punk rock?” I’ll ask…”Wanna buy it?”

As my best friend Lucy used to say, “Horrors!”

Full Spectrum Mama

* Get it? Naturally?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Readers,

I am sorry to inform you that Full Spectrum Mama is taking a little “vacation.”

It seems that when she picked up her children from school yesterday -- having spent the day in a panic attack on the toilet – and both children declared the first day of school “TOTALLY AWESOME,” FSM had a small nervous breakdown and had to be carted away in the Mombulance* to a “’Special’ Place” in order to have a surgical ECG** reduction. 

I am sure she will be in very good company with all the other First-Day Extrapolator-Catastrophizers, along with your general Extrapolator-Catastrophizer population.

Partial/incomplete Monochrome Persona (PiMP), Guest Writer/Troubleshooter

Thursday, August 29, 2013

...And a Small “Boo”

Maybe that “double yay” was a little disingenuous. And disingenuous is Full Spectrum Mama’s LEAST favorite thing.

The truth is, drop-off for the first day of school was devastating and I’ve spent the entire day sick to my stomach.

All summer long, I have been coaching both children (for different-slices-of-spectrum reasons) to spend their first days at their new school observing and listening. We have discussed at length how much there is to learn from taking a step back and proceeding with care. How great it might be to get to know people and what is expected of you before charging forth.

Yet when I circled back to check in on G on the swarming playground, he was standing alone and shouting at the top of his lungs. Kids were already avoiding him, five minutes in.

When I tried to stop him he said he’d made a friend and needed to find him, though G, not surprisingly, wasn’t “sure what he looked like.” I sure hope that’s true, that he’d made a friend and all, but I suspect he wasn’t going about his friend-finding in the most effective fashion. In sensory-overload situations G tends to get super-flappy, as some of us do.

Cheers and prayers for all of us first-day-of-schoolers (workers, etc.) – it’s sense-y and people-y out there!

Full Spectrum Mama

“Do you attend this scholarly institution?” or, “Do I know you?” or, Shifting Gears IV*

One minute I’m making good-natured fun of my son; the next I am realizing we share a ridiculous amount of stuff I didn’t even know about prior to becoming his mother. Obviously, learning about ourselves is NOT the main point of parenting (!), but it sure is a side effect!

Take face blindness (prosopagnosia). I always thought I was “bad with names” or “not really great at recognizing people I don’t know well.” I assumed that everybody was pretty much the same in this regard, that it would take anyone months or, more likely, years to even begin to distinguish, for example, between the fifteen or so medium-sized, slightly sporty/preppy mothers at school with shoulder-length dirty blonde hair. Hey, if not for my flashy/freaky clothing I could be one of them and I still can’t tell them apart.

But I guess everyone else...can?

Face blindness is common in people on the autism spectrum and presents in a range of degrees, in this as well as in the general population. G’s is somewhat more severe than mine, but I know he will develop coping mechanisms. In any case, if G sees someone dressed like me with hair like mine and pinky-beige skin, he will think it is me. His mother. He might figure out pretty quickly, from other cues like voice or not being recognized, if he’s got the wrong Mom, but there are moments like that, and many similar…

Age is a tough one for him, especially because he doesn’t really care about it; Gender he usually gets (though that can be fluid, which he is totally comfortable with…). But once gender is clear, other aspects are fuzzy. The boys in his old fifth grade class, all of Caucasian descent, to me were basically either stringy or pudgy at this age, and I could not tell them apart aside from that. With a few exceptions, G seemed to feel the same.

Both G and I saw the diversity at his new school as potentially a big boost in this area, especially as compared to his profoundly homogenous prior school.

Or take another commonality: vocabulary and formality of speech. Watching G interact with his peers has taught me that most people of all ages speak much more casually than we do. By the time I realized how this might impact G, we were already far too deep into a lifetime of reading old-fashioned books to backtrack.

Here’s a little vignette that illustrates both qualities, face blindness and unintentionally hifalutin speech:

We went to check out the kids’ new school a few days ago. There were two upper elementary school age looking boys riding bikes around the playground in the company of a young man in his upper teens or early twenties.

G approached the man. “Do you attend this school?” he asked.

“No, but my friends here do,” the man replied.

G got right up in one of their faces (which one? Not sure. They looked the same to me!) and asked, “What can you tell me about this school of yours?”

“I dunno, regular stuff,” the kid said, in regular kid fashion. “We eat pizza, play on the playground…have lunch…”

“Thank you very much,” said my son. “I appreciate your input.”

The next day, Noodle and I were talking about a college friend of hers who “got religion.’

“Did you anticipate this propensity throughout prior interactions?” I queried.

Now, Noodle being Noodle, she didn’t blink an eye. But I burst out laughing. I mean, who am I to worry about my son making friends on the playground?

Soanyway, amidst this huge shifting of gears -- today being the first day of school -- I am happy to report that the very first two kids G met in his new class BOTH had “differences” from the white, able-bodied, neurotypical norm in which we were previously immersed. This will make them easier for G to recognize and, perhaps more importantly, will also render G himself less “different” in the scheme of things.

Double yay!

Full Spectrum Mama

 * Shifting Gears I ( was the most polarizing post I ever wrote. In Shifting Gears II (unpublished), I couldn’t help but perpetuate that polarization. Then, in Shifting Gears III (unpublished), I began to try to break it down and make it a spectrum rather than a bifurcation. But I had to…ahem…shift gears for the new school year!!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Quick Brown Fox Jumped over the Lazy Dogz

On the final day of camp there was a performance by all the children. An acquaintance who has an eleven-year old daughter with a mild attachment disorder (the daughter, like Z, was adopted) was in the audience. Before the show, this mother and I sat slumped next to each other, sharing knowing sighs and stories of power struggles while our daughters prepared to rule the stage.

“It’s like with [her daughter’s name], we always say, if you ask her does she want an apple or a banana she will say, ‘Can I have an orange?’”

“Oh yes, I said. “That’s Z all over. And it NEVER ENDS. That’s what’s so tiring!”

“I know,” she replied. “And people will say, ‘oh, that’s just normal’ but it’s not; it’s so much more.”

I shared the story of being at a fundraiser where a friend was selling jewelry. We had gone to a previous fundraiser and the friend had been charmed into giving Z not one, but TWO beautiful and valuable Svarovski crystal bracelets. This time, as we approached the house, I told Z that she was not to accept any jewelry from my friend. I explained that Friend Ayi (auntie) was trying to raise money to cover her bills, which were mounting because of serious health problems. Z agreed.

“Since we don’t have enough to contribute to buy ANY jewelry,” I added, “we will simply make a donation and keep her company.”

Somehow, though, Z found herself with two bracelets in front of her. This time, at least, the bracelets were less valuable, less likely to garner real money for this family in need than the other baubles scattered over the table. It seems, unsurprisingly, that Friend Ayi simply could not resist the adorableness and apparent giftworthiness of such a fetching child. As my daughter looked winningly at me in front of a bunch of people, I finally caved in and told her she could make a choice of one of the two bracelets.

“Hmm,” she thought for awhile, tapping her chin. Then, pointing at a very costly, bedazzling necklace she asked, “Can I have that one instead?”

She and I had a good laugh over that one. We both knew everyone else at the party thought Z was simply being cute, and that is a part of it…said part being rooted in such Will to Power, such persistence…It was nice to just sit with someone who knows.

Wanna know someone else who knows? Z. She could persuade almost anyone about almost anything. Children are particularly vulnerable. In fact, one of her classmates last year informed his mother that Z knows “EVERYTHING.”

We were at dinner the other day with the Full Spectrum Grandparents and somehow the sentence “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” came up. We talked about how it uses every letter in the alphabet and how great it was for practicing writing or keyboarding.

“It has to be 'dogz' with a 'z,'” Z informed us in a very confident, professional-sounding tone. “Because the alphabet does not end with ‘s.’ Everybody knows that.”

It’s a potentially perilous combination, Z’s desire for total control with her appearance of total knowledge. We just keep hoping she will use it for the greater good.

Over and out, dogz,
Full Spectrum Mama

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Manly Skipping

For some reason - something about bilateral movement? The importance of crossing the midline? A vague association with the importance of crawling before walking??  – I’ve long had the unshared (by him) notion that G needed to learn how to skip. His little sister and I have been trying to teach him for years. The fact that Z always tells him she “looks like a fairy” when she is skipping does not help.*

G recently, finally, learned to skip. But he puts his own spin on it, just to make sure he doesn’t look like his sister. Or a fairy.

He balls up his fists and swings his arms in a mighty way, furrows his brow a bit and keeps shoulders low, knees high.

Watching him, I called out that I liked his “Manly Skipping,” a.k.a. “Macho Skipping.” This being Vermont, the epicenter of all liberalitude and progressiveness, of course I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Then, all of a sudden, in a major collision of past and present, I realized: Manly Skipping looks just like…MOSHING!

Welp, for what it’s worth, that’s what I got this week.

Happy Summer!

Full Spectrum Mama

* As you might remember from a past post, according to G fairies aren’t real. Except the Tooth Fairy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


This note in Z’s handwriting was in the last round of paper recycling:

“Dear evryone,
how know me
my family thinks that I don’t beylong on this family.
they hayt me”

I brought it up the day after I found it. Obviously lots to talk about. But the first item of discussion regarded the top line(s).

“So…with ‘Dear everyone’…do you think you meant everyone on earth?” I wondered.

She shrugged. Knowing Z, that was quite possible.

We pored over the next line, which neither of us could decipher. And since Z did not remember writing the note, we were left to speculate.

Suddenly Z figured it out: she meant 
“Dear everyone
who knows me”!

Oh, right. That’s all.

“When do you think you might have written this?” I asked.

“When I was mad?”

“Why were you mad?”

“I dunno.”

“Do you think maybe it was because you did something you shouldn’t have done and got busted and had consequences?”

“Maybe.” (Reluctantly.)



“Do you think you got in trouble because we hate you and don’t think you belong in this family or because of something you – who we love and who belongs in this family - did?”

“Because of something I did?”

“Yes! That’s right!” Then, to be sure, I asked, “Do you ever feel like we hate you or you don’t belong when you are not angry…like if you are sad or even just on a regular day?”


But is getting mad really the key issue here? I thought not: “…Honey, do you ever feel upset because you were adopted?”

“No!!!!”…expressed with No hesitation.


That was a few days ago.

Last night, Z was sent to bed after dinner because of Fresh Attitude toward her brother and mother, despite several extra chances. She had a giant tantrum, with lots of banging and throwing, and then she fell asleep. Later, as I went upstairs to tuck in her brother, I found this note on the landing:

“Dear Mama and [G].
i am relly sorry that I have been Bad for a long time.
i going to triy to be good but i don’t thik i can.
i love you both

The note was heartrending. No one has to my knowledge ever told Z she was BAD! Plus, we always tell her she can do ANYTHING! It didn’t seem to me that she was making excuses  either – she genuinely thought she might well be unable to “be good.”

A thoughtful reader JUST sent me this timely link: . We love and celebrate Z’s power; we never ask her to be “nice.” We only ask that she treat the people around her with basic kindness (different from niceness!) and respect. Sure, sometimes this doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons, some of them “normal” and some of them “disordered.” Nonetheless, she’s a terrific kid! How has she come to believe – at least in that moment – that she is fundamentally and irreparably “Bad”? 

Into the night, while practicing meditation, while trying unsuccessfully to sleep, I kept asking myself, “What does she need? Does she need me to be kind and encouraging? Strict and boundary-setting?” I thought of different people I know and how they might approach the situation. Wise people. Clever people.

And then I thought of all the people I know who, like Z, question their place in the world and their own abilities.

For so many of us, the worst struggle we encounter is that with ourselves. I see it with my students all the time: some students start strong and then lose steam without family support or the confidence that they can follow through; others begin with resistance, with the attitude that they lack whatever it takes to learn. It’s not always possible for teachers to reach students in these positions, hard as we may try. Feelings of trust (of self and others) and belonging can be elusive in ways that are positively debilitating, especially for people with questions about their place in their families and peer groups. Ideally, the basis for healthy self-acceptance and –confidence and trust is established at home and in those early relationships

If only I could figure out how to approach Z’s notes and her feelings of not being able to be good, not belonging, being “Bad,” maybe I could spare her the persistence of some of these grueling conditions into adulthood. Unconditional love and acceptance are always the way, right? But does Z need “cut-the-malarky-and-just-be-good-y” unconditional love or “I-acknowledge-your-deep-inner-pain-y” unconditional love? Both? Something else?

…these are among the many questions I asked myself before finally nodding off…

Wouldn’t you know it, all our energy this morning went to getting out of the house, so what I did after all that ruminating was: nothing.

Then, moments ago, I got an email from a family member* suggesting the CTFD Method, which seems enticing (

Dear everyone
who is reading this 
if you have The Answer, 
please do let us know. 

Full Spectrum Mama

* Who is currently still alive, having sent the link in an all-inclusive group email.