A few months ago, I blogged about the mother of a severely autistic child. After having tried everything traditional — including some seriously heavy pharmaceuticals, she was about to try giving her nine-year-old son marijuana.
It wasn’t a choice that she just made willy-nilly. As she wrote then, she didn’t smoke pot herself, but she did do a lot of research, and all the research she did into marijuana made it seem like the logical choice. So, she got a certificate for medical marijuana, and gave it a shot.
The early results were promising. But they were early, and her son still had enormous difficulties.
Now, a few months later, she’s written a follow-up essay in Slate, exploring the transformation in her son’s behaviour. It’s startling — and heart-warming:
We started seeing changes in J.’s school reports. His curriculum is based on a therapy called Applied Behavioral Analysis, which involves, as the name implies, meticulous analysis of data. At one parent meeting in August (J. is on an extended school year), his teacher excitedly presented his June-July “aggression” chart. An aggression is defined as any attempt or instance of hitting, kicking, biting, or pinching another person. For the past year, he’d consistently had 30 to 50 aggressions in a school day, with a one-time high of 300. The charts for June through July, by contrast, showed he was actually having days—sometimes one after another—with zero aggressions.
That brief paragraph doesn’t begin to capture some of the longer anecdotes that she tells, but it’s best if you go and read through her full story (part 1) (part 2) for yourself.
Now, I’m not saying that pot is a cure-all for autism (it’s not) and I’m not saying that too much self-medication on anything is good — including marijuana, but also including alcohol and many pain medications.
But I do think it’s a tragedy that so little research has been done into marijuana, which, to this layman, looks to have a bunch of useful properties.
Now, were there any negative side-effects to the marijuana experiment? Yup, but they weren’t what I expected. J’s mother writes that, pre-pot, they were so wrapped up in caring for their son that they hardly ever left their house. In the neighbourhood, they were the family that kept pretty much to themselves. But the marijuana has made it possible to take J out for excursions — and now some of their neighbours have realized how different he is. And shun him.
Shame on them. I know how difficult it can be to interact with people who are severely handicapped or have extreme behavioural problems. It’s difficult and exhausting, sometimes. But it can also be exceedingly rewarding — and if you’re just the neighbour who has to make a decision to either wave and say “hi” or turn away and mutter, well, come on. Just be neighbourly.