St Kevin and Autism?

St Kevin and Autism?

Somehow recently I stumbled across this story from The Telegraph about Temple Gradin, whose life was evidently the subject of a recent Emmy-winning biopic. I know I’ve read something about Grandin before. A book? An essay? Something. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a book by her; but it was enough to make me think I should read more… And then I never did.

But anyway what caught my eye as I scanned the Telegraph story about Grandin’s appearance at the Emmy awards was the parallel between her story and the story of St Kevin, which is the subject of one of our favorite picture books, The Blackbird’s Nest (My review of The Blackbird’s Nest is here.)

Born in 1947, so severely autistic that most doctors and even her father wanted her institutionalised (the lifelong development disorder, which affects how people communicate and interact with others, was then barely understood), Grandin not only overcame her disability but turned it to her own advantage. Sent one summer from her Boston home as a teenager to stay on her uncle and aunt�s Arizona ranch, Grandin discovered that her total lack of empathy with humans � she would jump if anyone so much as touched her � was offset by an uncanny understanding of animals. Dr Doolittle may talk to the animals. Grandin can think like them.

This echoed the book about St Kevin so closely:

But the gentle baby Kevin grew into a mischievous boy. He chased girls with stinging nettles and shoved smaller boys out of his way. When the village children saw him coming, they ducked into their homes. He pushed. He shoved. He was anything but gentle.

But with the animals, Kevin was different. When they heard his footsteps in the woods, they waited. Deer stood still so he could pet them; butterflies lit on his shoulders; and geese followed him home. Kevin befriended every animal he met.

Kevin’s parents sent him to live at a monastery to be schooled; but even the monks didn’t really know what to do with him. Finally one Lent they sent him away to pray and fast by himself for forty days.

Now I generally hate armchair psychoanalysis of historical figures; but still I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps St Kevin wasn’t autistic given his legendary dislike of people and love for animals. In fact, I wonder about many of the saints whether today they might not have been given a diagnosis of one sort or another. I’m not trying to say that somehow those diagnoses would in any way invalidate their sanctity; but rather to observe that God often seems to choose the outcasts and oddballs of this world to be instruments of his holy plan while we tend to want to categorize them and ft them into a DSM-IV diagnosis and then cure them of their oddness. Perhaps in God’s eyes autism isn’t really a disorder; but a gift, a different way of seeing and being. 



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  • Melanie,

    Congratulations on such an awesome week!

    I think I’m just shifting from that first trimester fog into the second trimester honeymoon. Unfortunately, I got a very rude cold Wednesday night, and have become a pathetic foggy haze in a mountain of tissues until it passes.

    When I’m not in my first trimester (or last month) of pregnancy, early post-partum, or sick though, I generally like to clean by room. I like it because I get to see a clean finished product, even if I know it won’t last. Even if I don’t get the whole room cleaned or don’t get to something, that noticeable difference is a huge motivator for me.

    For me the hardest part is also getting started. If I can think of 1 thing I’ve wanted to get done or that I know needs to get done, if I can do that, (and if I have energy) it will usually kick me into gear for doing more. Unfortunately, since I was fighting this cold Tuesday and Wednesday, and now dealing with it Thursday and today, most of this week is a blur, but hopefully by next week things will be picking back up again.

    I think, second to the difficulty of getting started, is the hurdle of not getting discouraged. It sounds like your plan is designed to avoid both those difficulties. Hope it keeps working!!!

    Hopefully we’ll get to go apple-picking in the next week or so. We are waiting for the Pink Ladies to be ready to harvest and I think that September heat threw us back a bit.

  • Melanie,
    Good plan! The one room at a time thing works really well for me too, though I’ve found (as it seems like you are as well) that in pregnancy and the first months post-partum, on good days I’ll try to do a little extra so I don’t feel so bad on bad days when all I can manage is to unload the dishwasher.

    Your tuna sounds fantastic. It’s 8:30 in the morning and now all I can think about is tuna.

  • Good luck with your plans!

    Concentrating on one room at a time is the same plan I am following, though I am sure that my cleanup is significantly worse than yours!  I had to make a hurried move from my apartment the week after Christmas when my crazy upstair neighbor let her toilet overflow for hours while I was away (not the first incident with her) and ruined my apartment (and the Christmas holiday with my family across the country as I had to fly home on the holiday to deal with the mess).  There was no time to pack and label most things with any sense of order.

    Within two weeks after the move were a couple of family deaths (Mom and my teenaged niece) and 4 cross-country flights, then several other stressful events and my current illness, resulting in my depression.  Meaning, there’s been precious little unpacking in 9 months, and not much cleaning, sad to say, except for laundry, sheets, the bathroom and the kitchen (though it is filled with boxes). Every room in my small home is a disaster.

    But there’s no motivation like a repair man who needs to come into your house, so, after much pondering and procrastinating, my plan has been to target each area.  My patio had many boxes in it up until Sunday, when I concentrated on getting it cleaned off.  Done!  It’s a great feeling of accomplishment.

    This weekend, the kitchen.  Next weekend, the living room/entryway.  The weekend after that, my bedroom.  Then finally, the spare bedroom.  It will be nice to come home to a clean, orderly house after Thanksgiving.

    Oh, those apples look delicious! 

  • I have often wished I had an Auntie Leila when I was starting out on this gig.  She gives good, sound advice.

    Flylady was my Auntie Leila in the day, and she did things in 15 minute increments, which I found very, very doable.  I still probably got in an hour, but broken up to 15 minute segments if needed.

    Either way, you seem to be on the right track.  Good job!!

  • It’s been a few weeks since I’ve checked out your website.  I was so surprised to learn that you are pregnant again.

    Happily surprised I might add.

    Congratulations and best of luck.

  • I was a flylady devotee back when I first started this housewife gig smile  Now that I work most days, i just take an hour each night and clean the house.  The weekends are for deep cleaning and putting away kid’s laundry (my most dreaded chore).  Doesn’t it make you feel so productive and clear-minded to have a clean house?  I just love it!