How to Cure Your Children of Anything

The Times has an article today about a growing movement of autistics upset at attempts to ‘cure’ them. The parallels to the deaf-rights movement, are striking. I have to admit that, although I can see both sides of this debate, especially after reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, my sympathies are more with the movement than with its critics. I think that reporter Amy Harmon’s are, too; how else to explain such quotes as:

Ms. Weintraub’s son, Nicholas, has benefited greatly from A.B.A., she said, and she is unapologetic about wanting to remove his remaining quirks, like his stilted manner of speaking and his wanting to be Mickey Mouse for Halloween when other 8-year-olds want to be Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings.”

“I worry about when he gets into high school, somebody doesn’t want to date him or be his friend,” she said. “It’s no fun being different.”

As if to confirm my sense that America’s parents in many cases have only a tenuous grasp of what is best for their children, the Times is also running an article on this season’s hot new toy: the Time Tracker: “a device whose purpose is to help children improve their performances on the standardized tests that have become unavoidable in education.” Yes, that’s right, it’s a digital proctor!

By using the tracker during playtime, homework or any other activity, children are supposed to develop a sense of passing time - 20 minutes, half an hour, an hour - that translates into better management during tests. Siren sounds indicate when a certain period has gone by, and the lights switch from green to yellow to red to demonstrate how close the child is to the end of the allotted time.

It strikes me that the only group of children likely to enjoy playing with the Time Tracker for its own sake might be those autistics who respond well to its mechanical predictability.