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In hot water over hot sauce

19 Aug

Yahoo! News reported on a teacher who used hot sauce on crayons to deter her autistic student from eating them.

“Lillian Gomez was fired from her job at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee, Fla., in February after school officials found out that Gomez had allegedly put jumbo-sized Crayons in a cup and soaked them for days in hot sauce before moving them to a bag that was labeled with the student’s name.”

The presiding judge ruled in favor of Gomez, and recommended her job be reinstated. (For the full story, click here.)

It’s an interesting story, and the comments from the general public were what really fascinated me. I found a mixture of outrage and support. But, the overwhelming majority defended the teacher and judge. Here are some of the comments on the article:

  • If this was her most creative plan of action she is in the wrong occupation. At the very least consult with the parents first. I am appalled at this teacher and at this judge-SouthernGirl
  • This is sickening!- Mary M
  • I can honestly and truthfully, whole-heartedly say…I hope those of you who think this is a good idea, choke on your words.- Kels
  • My nephew is autistic. If I found out someone did something like this to him, for my sister, I’d go postal on that person!!- Starfirelite79
  • As someone with an autistic relative I think this idea is brilliant.- Nicole
  • Honestly, if my kids were eating crayons, I’d rather them taste something a little spicy rather than ingest a bunch of colored wax.-Moon Pies and Blue Skies
  • It wasn’t punitive at all it was preventative. There is a huge difference between using hot sauce to prevent a choking incident and doing it to punish a child.-AndyShep
  • My son is Autistic and I see nothing wrong with what she did.-71
  • Sounds like she was trying to get the kid to ….. STOP EATING CRAYONS. What the heck is wrong with that??- Boobania
  • So damn if you do damn if you don’t. let the kid eat the crayons get fired, do what she did get fired.-Caliguy
  • I think she did the right thing – because it prevented the child from swallowing colored wax-RandaR
  • Its just hot sauce folks, people are acting like she put rat poison on the crayons.-Jerilyah

I know, at first glance it sounds outrageous and abusive and insane…A teacher putting hot-sauce on crayons…for an autistic kid!?!?!?! But in looking at the whole picture, one can see that she was attempting to make the crayon eating behavior aversive and thereby less reinforcing. She was trying to decrease a maladaptive behavior by making it unpleasant. I don’t think it was an evil or cruel act. I think where she went wrong was not first gaining consent from the parents, school board, etc. She is responsible to follow all ethical guidelines and codes of conduct. But I absolutely think she was trying to do the right thing, and I believe she had the child’s best interest in mind.

Where do you stand on this issue?

Colorado-Autism connection….or not.

25 Jul

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough made a bold leap when he speculated that the Colorado shooter may be on the “autism scale”.

My first reaction:

Oh No You Didn't

Not every person “lacking empathy”, as some say, is autistic! Not every socially isolated person is autistic!!

Don’t take my word for it…let the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) speak for itself!

Mental illnesses with lacking empathy as a symptom:

1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder 301.81

2. Antisocial Personality Disorder 301.7

Mental illnesses with social isolation as a symptom:

1. Schizoid Personality Disorder 301.20

2. Schizotypal Personality Disorder 301.22

3. Avoidant Personality Disorder 301.82

Actual (abridged) criteria for Autistic Disorder:

I. (A) qualitative impairment in social interaction (In the description it gives the following examples: not actively participating in simple social play or games, preferring solitary activities.) <——Notice it does not say “murdering people”

(B) qualitative impairments in communication

(C) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities

II. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years:

(A) social interaction (B) language as used in social communication (C) symbolic or imaginative play


After actually reading and listening to Scarborough’s statements, my horror has subsided. Do I think it was crazy for him to even use the shooter and autism in the same discussion? Yeah. Totally nuts. Do I think he’s misinformed? Yeah. Do I think he’s done a disservice to the autistic community? Yes, definitely. But, do I think he was outright saying “Holmes is autistic!”…No.

I read his statement and gather that his point was: people suffering from social isolation are more likely to commit crimes. Which, I have to say, I can at least somewhat agree with.

So, I’m not up in arms over what this guy said. I’m not going to demand an apology or sign any petitions for him to retract his statement. But what I will do is suggest he look more carefully at diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses, and to think carefully before speaking. Even as a parent of a kid on the “autism scale” as he called it, he sure doesn’t seem to know what autism actually is or how it manifests. What I think would’ve been a more accurate, and more appropriate, statement for him to make is:

“As soon as I heard about this shooting, I knew [assumed] who it was. I knew [assumed] it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society — it happens time and time again. [I think] Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not suffer from a variety of mental illnesses. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses — they can even excel on college campuses — but are socially disconnected. [So my belief is that people who are isolated are more likely to commit crimes than those people with a strong support system] “

In his later remarks addressing the backlash he faced for his original comment, he said:

“Those suggesting that I was linking all violent behavior to Autism missed my larger point and overlooked the fact that I have a wonderful, loving son with Aspergers”.

Maybe what he should have said is: “I should not have linked violent behavior of the Colorado massacre magnitude to Autism. I’m sorry.”

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