The World in a Cup of Coffee

Filed Under All Posts, Health, Parenting, Prudence Baird | 26 Comments

For Prudence, a chance encounter at the local co-op reveals a road less traveled and the journey ahead

I noticed the woman’s skirt first. Made from a stretchy black polyester from another era, the skirt brushed the tops of her shoes, which peeked out from underneath like two pointy black snouts. She stared at the gleaming push-top coffee thermoses perched just out of reach as she fidgeted with an orange paper coffee cup, turning it over and over in her hands.

“May I get you some coffee?” I asked.

“No, I can manage,” she said, and promptly dropped the cup, which rolled under her wheelchair.

Our eyes met and both crinkled at the corners.

“Well. I guess maybe you’d better.” Read more

Naked Motherhood

Filed Under All Posts, Health, Parenting, Prudence Baird | 41 Comments

As if being a mother wasn’t difficult enough; Prudence illustrates what its like to be a mother of an autistic child, navigating familial relations, good intentions and bureaucratic ignorance

The popsicle stick-thin figure in rumpled pajamas who is my 16-year-old son stands in the darkened corridor in a fighter’s stance, small white hands clenched into fists. His face, lit by a shaft of light from the laundry room, is contorted with rage at being roused from his slumber—probably by me shutting the dryer door.

Casey’s eyes dart from the lit laundry room to the clothes in my arms; then to the crack of light under his brother’s bedroom door.

This could go any direction, including ones I cannot imagine, so I float a storyline: “I’m going downstairs with these clean clothes; time to go back to bed.”

“Mom? Who are you talking to?” comes from behind my oldest son’s door.

I dart a warning glance at Casey, whose free-floating anxiety wicks towards the sound of his brother’s voice. He erupts, “Shut-up! I’m trying to sleep!”

“You shut-up. You’re the one who’s yelling,” comes big brother’s voice. Read more

The Dawn of Neurodiversity

Filed Under All Posts, Health, Prudence Baird | 11 Comments

A "brainbow " of neurons in the hippocampus of a transgenic mouse

A "brainbow " of neurons in the hippocampus of a transgenic mouse


April is World Autism Awareness Month. In the United States today, one of every 150 children born will be diagnosed with autism, an incurable neuro-developmental disease that impacts an individual’s ability to interact socially, to communicate and to manage his or her own behavior around transitions, new routines, people and new information.

Prudence Baird is getting a master’s certificate degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders and has a personal interest in brain development, as her youngest son suffered anoxia at birth and has a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. She shares her views on a different kind of diversity.

One of my dreams is time travel to the time when humans numbered in the millions instead of the billions. Doesn’t that seem exciting—raising a glass of ale with Wm. Shakespeare, hanging with Jesus on the Mount, seeing firsthand the Great Pyramid at Giza being built?

But let’s not fool ourselves. If we should suddenly drop out of the ether into an earlier time, it wouldn’t be that easy for us to blend in with the natives. Our words (even if they were understood) would be misconstrued and misinterpreted. What we take for granted—having our own teeth at age 50 or just being able to walk in public as a single woman—would be considered weird and somewhat threatening. Chances are we’d be burned at the stake or beaten with sticks within moments of touchdown.

Our brains, our reasoning abilities and our collective unconscious have evolved over the millennia, much more so than our bodies. Read more