“Mommy,” Zach says. “Do you think that maybe Einstein had those deep grooves in his brain because he had autism?” He recently read Rogue, by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, which has led to a spate of questions on Asperger’s Syndrome, and then by connection, autism.
“Um, I don’t know. Many people think Einstein had Asperger’s.”
“But the unusually deep grooves in his brain. Maybe they could be connected to autism.”
“How do you know he had deep grooves in his brain?”
“I read a biography of him.” Duh, Mom.
“But how do they know he had deep grooves? Did they do an autopsy?”
“Yes. He donated his brain to science.” Implied in his tone is a bit of surprise that I am unaware of this commonly known fact.
“OK. Well, Asperger’s and autism were less widely diagnosed in those days, so no one really knows.”
“And I guess they couldn’t tell from a brain once he’s dead.” This led on to a fairly mundane conversation about the way brain physiology may or may not affect people and their behaviors, followed by contemplation of the possibility of a study of the brains of people with autism and those who are neurotypical. It’s important to have your first post-med-school research projects in the early stages of development by the end of elementary school.
“So, you are really interested in autism lately. Is it because of that book you read?”
“Yeah. It was a good book. She could never keep any friends and then she kept one but then she realized his parents ran a meth lab.”
“Wait. What? Whose parents ran a meth lab? There was a meth lab in the book?”
“Yes. Her friend’s parents ran a meth lab.”
“Do you even know what a meth lab is?”
“Yes. It’s where they make really bad drugs.”
“Crystal meth is very bad.”
“Crystal meth?” Forgive him. He hasn’t seen Breaking Bad. “She was really upset because she was like, ‘What? You used me to get supplies for your meth lab?’”
“So, they asked her to buy Sudafed?”
“Yeah, they told her it was because the little brother was sick, but then they had her get like 475 bottles of Sudafed.”
“Pills. Sudafed comes in pills.” Because that’s what mattered in this conversation: accuracy about the form that Sudafed takes.
“Right. Pills. And then when they rescued the kids, it turned out one had his liver all enlarged from the fumes. They tried to dump the drugs when the police were coming, but then it blew up and it melted the dad’s hands.”
“Oh. And you got this book in the children’s section of the library?”
“They didn’t torture the younger brother until the end. He was outside when the house blew up, but he was in a bush right near the house.”
“Wait. Did they torture the older brother?”
“Yes. They whipped him. Well, she doesn’t tell about the whipping, but he has all these scars.”
“So, they abused this kid?”
“But he and his brother were rescued?”
“Well, yes. I think so.”
“Who did they go live with in the end?”
“It’s not clear. The girl’s family wanted to have him, and she went to summer school just to be with her friend. She failed all her classes on purpose except science because she really liked science.”
“This is quite a book you read.”
“Yeah. It’s really more of a teen book. There are illegal drugs and underage drinking.”
“At first I thought it was going to be about friend problems, but it turned out to be about a lot more.” You think? “But I wonder if autism might be caused by deep grooves in the brain. I wonder how you could study that.”
Maybe they have a book on it in the library—right next to the children’s book about meth labs.