Monday, January 10, 2011

Really Good Looking!

During my college days, I took a biological psychology class. I remember really enjoying it because it took a different slant on psychology. It took the approach that instead of parental issues, etc., shaping your life choices, your brain chemistry could have huge influences also. This was all new to me and very interesting! One passage out of the class textbook really stuck out in my mind. It was on children with autism and mentioned that children with autism tended to be really good looking, although scientists did not know why. I remember thinking that this was an odd bit of information to have in a textbook.

This was during the mid-80s, and I'm pretty sure that they were referring to kids with more classic autism since spectrum disorders weren't really discussed much at the time. It really resonated with me, and when I heard about a child having autism, I found myself assessing their looks. Are they really good-looking? Was that textbook correct? After my daughter was diagnosed, I can honestly say that that it is certainly true! Children with autism are gorgeous--without a doubt!

All joking aside, there does seem to be some truth to this. I haven't seen that many kids on the spectrum that people would even describe as ordinary-looking. After doing my own extensive research (okay, I did a Google search), I found a psychology 101 textbook chapter on autism. This intro to autism gives a checklist of attributes of children with autism including, obsessive desire for sameness, excellent memory, and fascination with spinning objects. Included on this list is, and I'm going to quote them because it's so amazingly offensive, "Autistic children are often strikingly good looking, unlike many retarded and brain-damaged children." I also found another site that quoted Hans Asperger as remarking on the ethereal beauty of his patients almost as if it were a diagnostic symptom.

What I didn't find was an explanation for why children on the spectrum would be so good-looking. It doesn't even appear that any type of research or study has been done regarding this. This topic was once discussed on an autism board. One person said that maybe it's nature's way of making sure kids with autism are loved and taken care of. While this idea is kinda depressing that society only cares about good-looking people, it does seem to be one of the best theories I've heard.

With bullying so prevalent against kids that are different--particularly against kids that are on the spectrum, it does seem that being good-looking does help, at least a little. I think my daughter has had the social success she has because she is so sweet and charming. But let's face it. The fact that she's beautiful certainly doesn't hurt either!

What do you think? Are kids on the spectrum generally good-looking? If so, why do you think that is the case?

17 comments:

  1. I also read this in a text book once on autism and I was also struck by the oddness on putting that line in there. It definately took me by surprise. this was about a year before I had his dx and I was really starting to question whether he had it or not and i got all these books on autism to "rule it out". I remember freezing when I read that statement and it sent shivers down my spine. I didn't want him to have it then and kept denying he had it.

    i think it is true and think its also because of some sort of nature's way to ensure that they are taken care of...or something like that smarts and looks go together sometimes and it runs on the same genes.

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  2. This is an interesting question! Of course I think my kids are incredibly good looking, but I don't know if that's my bias or what.

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  3. You know, I read once that kids on the spectrum seem to share some physical characteristics, such as long eyelashes, large eyes, and curly hair. I think they were talking about recessive genes or something. It's interesting, but obviously not all children with autism possess those traits. However, those things would make a child beautiful, by most people's standards.

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  4. Hmmm, that's a very interesting idea....

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  5. I was recently told that same thing about long eyelashes, that the recessive gene that causes it is also linked to ASD. And Jake does have these really long eyelashes.

    Also, maybe something about their general spaciness resonates as a lack of tension in facial muscles, making them more symmetrical, that slightly far-off look in the eyes being attractive? Don't know, just postulating here.

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  6. Very interesting Cheryl. I hadn't heard about this before but now that you mention it? The few children that I do know and have come in contact with? They ARE good looking kids and not just average looking.

    Feels weird to judge kids based on their looks, but there could be something there. Interesting for sure.

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  7. I have filled out checklists before going into our first DAN! doctor and another with a psychologist that both listed "Unusually good looking" (I checked and wrote- well I think so) and "Long eyelashes"- which Brian always gets compliments on. I have worked with a lot of kids at the school on the spectrum that are just gorgeous children.

    Another weird appearance thing I've noticed is I have met at least a dozen children on the spectrum that have RED hair (so does Brian)- someone on Age of Autism has actually been doing a really interesting study on the levels of melanin (which leads to pale skin and red hair) and links to autism- very interesting stuff!

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  8. Never even thought of it.
    My son has curly reddish blond hair. Large blue eyes and long lashes. I am often complimented(like I did anything) on what a beautiful child he is . Never thought of it a a spectrum thing. I thought he just got Mommy's good looks :P

    I just tell both my kids that as their mother I am required by law to think they are the most beautiful creatures in the universe.

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  9. I've never heard this but it totally make me want to jump on a research project. My son fits that criteria for sure (good looks, large eyes, long lashes). I've always thought he was absolutely gorgeous, in my totally unbiased opinion (right). But we'd have people on the street stop us and tell us we needed to put him in commercials or modeling. I'd love to learn more about this. It is nice that he has his charm going for him when his teachers are ready to scream. =)

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  10. My kids are good looking because I married well. They are smart and funny because my wife married well.

    Oooh. I like that. I'm going to tweet it!

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  11. This is really fascinating. I'm not sure what good it would do us to know if it were true, but it's interesting nonetheless! I've had tons of people in education (none that were working directly with Audrey) say that looks definitely make a difference in how your kid is treated. I guess it's just human nature.

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  12. This is the first time I've ever heard of this! Interesting. My son too has long eyelashes and big eyes. I am constantly told by strangers how many hearts he will break when he is older! I'm just as biased as every other mom here and honestly feel my son is gorgeous. Hopefully, this will all be some type of advantage to all our children when they are older...

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  13. I don't know about that (my two kids with dx are bipolar and ADHD) but I can tell you from working with them (they're foster) and talking with social workers and adoptive case workers, most kids in the system tend to be very good looking too. So maybe it's just the universe's way of giving them a shot in life, knowing how superficial many people can be! I'm certainly glad that in the midst of many developmental delays, my oldest naturally attracts teachers with her cuteness. This helps alot for IEPs!

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  14. Well thank goodness I didn't have a child who was "retarded and brain-damaged." And my ASD kid is beautiful, but so is my neuro-typical one, so there goes that!

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  15. Just wanted to add... I've always said thank god that Brian is cute because I do think it helps his therapists/workers want to help him, no matter how crazy his behaviors may be

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  16. I've seen pictures of many of your kids, and they are all gorgeous. So I think we're on to something here.

    I'm not sure if Moe's curly hair and blue eyes are why his teachers love him, but it certainly can't hurt!

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  17. my first blog ever but i couldnt help myself. my child was diagnosed with autism one month ago (he's 3 1/2) and the first thing the DAN doctor said was "he's a gorgeous boy!". i get stopped all the time by people who also comment on his beauty. Large dark eyes and long long eyelashes (like his father, whom im not convinced isnt autistic). Interesting concept, but i cant imagine any truth to it

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