Parental car wrecks

by Peggy on April 23, 2010

After driving to Clark Airfield in Dish for a news story today, I remembered an important facet in pilot training that helps keeps us air travelers safe — identifying and rooting out hazardous attitudes in decision-making.


During training, pilots are given problem scenarios and learn through their choices on how they might solve that problem whether they are vulnerable to anti-authoritarian, impulsive, invulnerable, macho and resignation attitudes.

For example, “You do not conduct a thorough preflight check. On takeoff, you notice that the airspeed indicator is not working. Nevertheless, you continue. Your passenger feels strongly that you should discontinue the flight and return to the airfield. You then become upset and …”

(a) Tell them to “cool it” for butting in. (macho)

(b) Start banging the indicator to get it working. (impulsive)

(c) You think that a thorough preflight check is something thought up by bureaucrats just to waste time. (anti-authority)

(d) You say that nothing dangerous will happen on the flight. (invulnerable)

(e) Everyone continues to become upset, but you do nothing, because you feel there is no use trying to calm them down. (resignation)

Of course, a good pilot would abort the flight and return to the departure area.

With just a little imagination, we can re-work this scenario for a parent or caregiver making decisions about a treatment choice.

For example, “You notice that a treatment is draining your family’s finances or appears not only to not be working, but also is beginning to hurt your child. Nevertheless you continue. Your spouse/parents/friends feel strongly that you should discontinue the treatment and return to a previous protocol. You then become upset and …”

(a) Tell them to “cool it” for butting in. (macho)

(b) Start banging on your insurance provider to pay the bill, or other caregivers to get the treatment working. (impulsive)

(c) You think a thorough evaluation of the treatment is something thought up by bureaucrats just to waste time and deny resources for your child. (anti-authority)

(d) You say nothing dangerous could happen during the treatment (invulnerable)

(e) Everyone continues to become upset, but you do nothing, because you feel there’s no use in changing now. (resignation)

Our children — including those without special needs — depend on us to keep them safe. We can do a better job of it if we root out those same hazardous attitudes.

Several months ago, the Chicago Tribune took an exhaustive look at some of the dubious procedures being promoted as autism treatment. These “treatment” professionals have learned not to call it a cure for autism, but to the outside observer, it did appear that desperate families pursued those treatments as if they did offer that possibility.

I recognized hazardous attitudes in some of the comments parents posted online with the story and blogged about it at the time. (I’m not passing judgment. Goodness knows, I’ve made all these mistakes at some point in my life, but you, poor reader, would probably have to read six essays to get the point I’m trying to make in just this one.)

To me, this comment reads macho:
“Tsouderos and Callahan should be deeply ashamed of themselves for writing such a biased, ignorant article.”

This one comes off impulsive:
The “scientists” who lack the sense of urgency, intellectual curiosity, and moral courage to study and treat our kids are the ones who do harm. They, along with the writers and editors of this article who encourage their complacency, are accomplices in the death and destruction of our kids.”

This is clearly anti-authoritarian:
“My 2 year old son has autism, and he has a stronger sense of ethics in his beautiful, nonverbal little soul than any of these “scientists” or government agencies that continuously seek to disprove methods of treatment that may not be tested by the elitist scientific community, but are tried and true to those of us waging this battle on a daily basis.”

This seems invulnerable:
“I’m right. I see that my comment was deleted by someone who is opposed to the truth. Chelation cures autism. No sane parent quits after just improving a few symptoms. We want our kids back to normal, the way they were born, before mercury mangled their brains.”

And this, resigned:
“Without money from the government or Big Pharma, there will be no research, and the scientific evidence so many people crave will not materialize. Parents are left to experiment on their children. Anecdotal evidence is better than no evidence in cases where the established medical community has nothing except behavioral therapy and psychotropic drugs to offer these children. Parents of autistic children are often desperate, and in desperation will experiment on their children. Sometimes these therapies result in real improvements, and sometimes there is no improvement, or the children regress. It’s a sad situation, but desperate times demand desperate measures.”

By the way, behavioral therapy is the only proven treatment. It’s not glamorous. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do. Sometimes progress comes in the tiniest of increments, you’ll wonder if you saw what you thought you saw. But if the therapy is designed and executed in an ethical way, you won’t have any trouble running your decisions through this rubric.

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