Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Mystery of Parental Psychiatric Diagnoses

“Let me see if I’ve got this right,” Encyclopedia Brown said. “Your brother is autistic?”

“Yes,” replied Sally, “Though we prefer to say he ‘has autism.’”

“I see,” the detective muttered, “How do you think this could have happened? Was he vaccinated?”

“Of course he was!”

“Thank God! I wasn’t going to risk getting measles for a 25 cent fee!”

“But that isn’t it,” Sally retorted. “I’ve come to you with a new theory. Something no one has ever thought of before.”

“How exciting…what is it?”

“My parents are the cause of it! I’ve never told anyone this, but my father is schizophrenic. That’s why he walks in circles mumbling, repeating the word ‘ticket’ over and over. That’s why he avoids crowds and covers his ears when you turn up the TV!”

“Schizophrenic, eh?” queried Encyclopedia Brown. "Does he have any other odd habits?”

“Yes! He collects wheels from antique baby buggies. But only a very specific kind. He takes pictures of brick walls. If you ask him a question he’s not expecting, he’ll answer with a line from Leave It To Beaver or Petticoat Junction. He’s clearly mad.”

“I see, I see,” said Encyclopedia slowly. “In what year was he diagnosed?”

“Sometime in the late 1970s. There was a lot more schizophrenia then, you know.”

“Has he had hallucinations? Delusions?”

“Not that I know of.”

“I think I’m getting the picture…your mother, doesn’t she have a mental illness of some sort?”

“Oh, you mean that little obsession with The Battle of La Belle-Famille (July 24, 1759)? She hardly ever talks about that anymore.”

“I didn’t realize...but I mean…she forgets to comb her hair. She wears the same clothes for days at a time…”

“Yes, I suppose that is a bit unusual for someone with OCD.”
"Last week when I mentioned it was 'raining cats and dogs' she seemed really scared for a second."
"Oh, she was joking around! I'm...pretty sure..."

“Has she always been this way?”

“Yes. Plus as a child she wouldn’t talk hardly at all. Elective mutism they called it.”

“I think I know why your brother is autistic.”

“Oh, please tell me, Encyclopedia Brown!”

What did Encyclopedia Brown see?


  1. Clearly Encyclopedia Brown saw a massive conspiracy among psychiatrists every where.

    It goes like this:

    In the 19th century, a cabal of psychiatrists band together and agree to coordinate a multi-generation, international conspiracy with the aim of messing with the minds of parents around the world and annoying the h*ll out of autistic advocates.

    They do this by deliberately redefining the same set of externally observable symptoms in multiple different ways. Each generation, or each iteration of the DSM and its international counterparts, assigns this cluster of characteristics a different label. What label doesn't really matter ... it can be schizophrenia one year, OCD the next, then ADHD after that. The point is to keep the number of diagnoses of actual "autism" artifically low for an extended period of time.

    In the next phase of the conspiracy, they begin to diagnose autistic people more accurately and more promptly. Then, to deflect suspicion from themselves, they fade into the background and allow parents to evolve their own theories for why the prevalence rate of autism has suddenly "exploded." Why this epidemic? Why now? What has changed?

    "Ahah!" The parents say. "It's a conspiracy! A massive international conspiracy! It's the vaccinations that did it! And chelation is the cure!"

    Once in a while, psychiatrists might meekly speak up. (After all, it would look suspicious if they didn't.) "That can't be," they say. "Come now, let us think rationally about this." And they jabber on until people's eyes glaze over about utterly mundane ideas like, "Well, we didn't know back then what we know now," and "We're identifying more people because we understand better what to look for" and blah blah blah, none of it as interesting as the vaccination conspiracy theory.

    Then, eventually, parents abandon the vaccine conspiracy theory and adopt some other theory. "It takes a combination of environmental factors and chemicals and blah blah to trigger autism," they say.

    And meanwhile, the conspiring psychiatrists smile to themselves at a conspiracy well done. And they gather together again to pick some new group of people whose heads they can mess around with next.

    Either that, or Encylopedia Brown has caught on that autism runs in the family even though it wasn't diagnosed in anyone until now.

    But, nah. That theory would be much too boring.

  2. **bad guy's mask is pulled off**

    And we would've gotten away with the international psychiatrist conspiracy, too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids and your dog!

  3. I can't help but think Bugs Meany is involved, working for the Judge Rotenberg Center would be right up his alley... and that get rich quick kid probably wants to sell Sally some secretin, or maybe some anti-candida potion...

    Well done, made me chuckle!

  4. “How do you think this could have happened? Was he vaccinated?”

    Insert 'she' for 'he' and I have had a few mothers ask me this exact question. I wanted to scream or run. Instead I tried to explain and felt like they looked at me like I was in complete denial. Argh!

  5. Quirky parents=quirky kids


  6. Marla,
    Ugh! And some people say we are the ones lacking social skills!
    And common sense, for that matter...

  7. Now, now Ms Shettle, enough of this nonsense. You can't be the "other andrea" because I'M the other andrea -- you got here first!

    Bev, this was great! I love the Encyclopedia Brown stories; in 5th grade I was into mysteries and read every one the school library had.

    The actual other andrea

  8. Ahem. *My* mother prefers to call hers a "sometimesIamforgettingthingsIamstraighteningthehouse problem".

  9. funny post Bev, and fun comments too. Sickening, that conspiracy theorists see the likes of me or Marla as being in denial. My brother was an Encyclopedia Brown nut, but that's just my sororitorial diagnosis.

  10. Love the dialogue, what a star you are.

  11. Does anyone think Encylopedia Brown might be autistic? It's been a while since I read one of his mysteries, but I remember him never having any real close friends, and he couldn't fit in very well either. To say nothing of his photographic memory and endless facts.

  12. @Aspieboy: Encyclopedia Brown grew up to become Columbo :-).

    Bev, I *loved* this. I was an Encyclopedia Brown fan 40-odd years ago :-). And a "Highlights" reader, for that matter...

    Where do you get all the great images, from when aging baby-boomers like me were kids?

  13. Thanks Phil,

    The U. of G. has a graphic arts department!

    I was an E.B. fan myself, but I thought he grew up to be Bobby Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

    -The Original Andrea

  14. I might be just a kid (according to Andrea from Andrea's Buzzing - lol), but I used to read Encyclopedia Brown with a passion; mostly in the summers, I think. Remember the missing violin?

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  16. I have autism. I don't know how I caught it. Or did it catch _me_? Was it somehow contagious? I do act more autistic when I'm around other autistic people. Hmm... Maybe it _is_ contagious. But it can also make me feel more relaxed, as long as they're relaxed, otherwise I might share in their excitement. Oh, hmmm, maybe it is contagious. It feels uncomfortable acting and seeming "normal". Autism is a tricky thing to "have". But I'd rather be a have than a have-not. Wait, it's what I am! I don't have it. I am it. I am I am I am! Am am am am amamamanam Bingo! xD


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