The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indigo Kiddies

Researching ASD (autism spectrum disorder) it was inevitable that I come across the "Indigo Children" theory. Now, this is very New-Agey, so I'm presenting it as context. Basically, people claim that the avalanche (?) of autism represents an evolutionary shift. Such children supposedly have an "Indigo Aura" (no opinion). If I take this seriously, then I start asking myself other questions.

1) Is there really an increase in autism? Much debate on this, and many think it's just that we're getting more diagnosis, not more cases.

2) My personal sense is, yes. There is something going on. I am seeing more "non-ordinary" people out and about. The hair on the back of my neck says that, just as obesity is increasing due to lifestyle changes, something is happening that increases the number of children whose minds work in a non-ordinary spectrum

3) This could be seen as a terrible problem: say, the reaction to increase in toxins and pollutants. Or something to do with media saturation. Or...

4) It could be a positive thing. Literally, the next step in human evolution, happening before our eyes. The trick here might be that our society is complex and open enough that these children, who in another time and place might have been considered resource drains (but in yet another considered Shamans and story-tellers), are in our society thought "special," and nurtured, even at great cost to the families.

That strikes me as an interesting possibility: that as we grow more humane and accepting, those with "different" abilities are not shunned or exposed, but nurtured. If, a thousand years from now, we see an increase in autism as the first step toward something amazing, we will have earned it, by our increase in compassion.


ASD is very different from retardation in the sense that retardation means a reduction in capacity across the board, while ASD is more like a kid's brain shoving all their chips into one corner. Yes, there are problems, but there are also (often) compensatory abilities. I heard a suggestion that a subliminal awareness that this is happening helps explain the popularity of "X-Men" and "Harry Potter." Fun theory, at any rate.


"Coraline" comes achingly close to being an instant classic. Instead, it is merely the best movie I've seen this year, and GREAT children's theater. Every frame seethes with love, art, care, thought, intelligence, creativity. The stop-motion tale of a young girl who travels through a hidden door into another world is both familiar and strange. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman (which I confess I have not read) and directed by Henry "The Nightmare Before Chrismas" Selick, this is a genuine dark fantasy, a fairy-tale that realizes children don't need to see Bambi's mother hobble back on-screen with her leg in a sling.

Scary stuff, with some touches of sensuality that might make some of the adults uncomfortable. The kids will just laugh. I saw it in 3-D, and have to say that I never had the slightest feeling that they were pandering to the effects. Just a marvelous piece of film. An easy "A."


Looks as if "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" isn't going to make it through the season. Too bad. I've got a mild thing for Summer Glau, and thought the show was going in interesting directions (humans becoming less human, while machines become more so). But it was down 27% from its previous ratings. Oh, well...


Man, you have to be careful what you say in public, y'know? Terrance Howard leapt to Chris Brown's defense over the Rihanna beating. Later, he retracted it, saying he didn't know the facts in the case. Now "Smoking Gun" website has turned up Howard's own arrest on beating his ex-wife in 2001. Threatened her over the phone, stormed over to her house, broke her door, chased her through the house, grabbed her and punched her in the face at least twice.

That's just lower than whale shit. I have no idea if he sought counseling. I do know that if he sought it after the case became public, I have no faith that he genuinely wanted to change...just that he wanted the public to forgive him. In my other career as a stress management tech, I was asked to be part of a team helping a famous sports figure who had been publicly disgraced for something I think we'd all agree was very wrong. I can't be more specific without violating privacy, but I felt very uncomfortable about the whole thing. Frankly, I just don't believe that he is genuinely repentant. He just wants the public to love him again.

What he did is so repellent to me that I'm just not sure I could participate in the rehabilitation of his image. And the fact that I was so judgemental disturbs me, because as a healer, I should take a more enlightened position on such things. I guess. But we all have limits, and this man crossed one of mine. And I suppose I have to be honest about what I feel. But...and I ask this seriously...should a healer "mind read" about the intent of a potential client?


sharleen higa said...

I have to insist that you listen to Coraline rather than (or at least prior to) reading it. Neil Gaiman's storytelling on paper can only be topped, in my reckoning, by his oral storytelling. Get the audio book (available to download for under $15)... it's so very worth it.

Bennett said...

In regards to the healer issue...

Would you set a man's broken arm if you knew he was going to go home and use that arm to beat his wife as soon as the splint came off?

Of course, not, you're putting him back into position to repeat the crime, whereas he's at least in a less-potent state with a busted wing.

Likewise, if you know or strongly suspect someone receiving therapy is just getting their image rehabilitated, not their core issues, you're well within rights to deny service. You aren't fixing the part of them that's really broken. Just the bit they need to go on perpetuating the cycle.

Marty S said...

Steve: I would take the view that autism is just a more extreme case of what we commonly see in people. We all have areas we are talented in and areas we are weak in. In my younger days I had an incredible memory for numbers. Whether it was friends, relatives or the corner pizza place I just picked up the phone and dialed after using the number once or twice, but I couldn't remember names unless I knew the person really well.

BWoodson said...

not that this is relevant, but it's been heralded as a "kindle killer"

Piutrar said...

Hi Steve,

A bit about the Indigo 'label':

Nancy Tappe has the gift of synaesthesia, which manifest in the perception of the two or more of the senses transforming into others. She sees personality types as colours around a person and she also tastes in shapes.
Her work classified people's personalities
by the colour of their auras. Indigo children have indigo coloured auras.

However, the Indigo Children website states:

"...just in case you heard otherwise from other "indigo" sources, the designated word "Indigo" has nothing to do with the colour of an aura! It is the result of scientific observations by a woman who has the brain disorder called synaesthesia"

I think the colour of an 'aura' can change according to mood, whereas the 'personality' colour Nancy Tappe identifies is permanent. She sees two types at present, blue and indigo.

Tappe says young Indigo children have unusually large, clear eyes. They are extraordinarily bright and precocious have possess above average memory and strong desire to live instinctively. I believe there are many types to these newly evolving children.
The linear medic or scientist wants to put them in a box and make them conform, identifying them as autistic, ADD and ADHD. Should they conform or should society accommodate these new a gifted humans who have come to help humanity overcome it's limitations, allow these children to expand the adults' horizons and enable everyone to benefit from the expansion of collective consciousness that this action brings. Oops, better climb off the metaphysical soap-box for a moment, but only for a moment, to catch my breath!

More about indigos on my blog!

Josh Jasper said...

The problem with the "Indigo Children" concept is that it's still not actually studying what it claims to be studying. It's making up a story, and cherry picking facts to fit the tale.

Also, a link to autism is right out - indigo children are alleged to be empathic, and by some, psychic.

Autistic or Aspergers children have the opposite - a lack of empathy to a lack of understanding of social mores, and higher stress. While Aspergers is not a curse, it's certainly not something I'd expect to be counted as an evolutionary advantage.

Steve Perry said...

Never know what is going to be an evolutionary advantage until it proves out, and some types of autistic functioning have advantages. Talk to serious computer programmers, they all know somebody who fits in the spectrum and who often can program like gangbusters.

If you live at home, deal with the world online, a lack of social skills might not be such a handicap.

If you are going to be a well-rounded member of society, then deep and narrow might not be as useful.

And certainly on the low-function end, the occasional savant doesn't make up for those who cannot dress nor feed themselves.

Nature makes a lot of sports, and now and then, one of them comes up a winner. Thus far, I haven't seen much evidence that an inability to function in society has been much of an advantage.

Even if one allows the Indigo Children as a next-step theory, there's no real evidence for the thesis.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help Michael Vick either; it's a button, sure.

Not that anyone would ask *me*, of course. Heh.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

There's some evidence that not only has human evolution continued since the development of civilization, it's accelerating-- possibly just because there are more people now.

Worg said...

"Nancy Tappe has the gift of synaesthesia, which manifest in the perception of the two or more of the senses transforming into others. She sees personality types as colours around a person and she also tastes in shapes."

Aura sight is a pile of poo. If it were true, "aura sensitives" would be able to see peoples' auras radiating up above partitions that only extend to head height. In numerous experiments performed by James Randi and others, nobody has ever demonstrated any real ability to sense auras.

There's something going on with certain kinds of autism, however, and it needs to be understood. It's not some special new-age thing though. It's some sort of brain difference that in some cases allows people abilities in narrow ranges far, far beyond the "normal" range. We need to understand why that is, for obvious reasons: extending human intellectual potential as well as understanding and preventing autism.

The whole "Indigo Children" movement is nothing more than a cash cow for the people perpetrating it in order to bilk credulous new agers.

To suggest that autism is some kind of evolutionary improvement is ludicrous and demonstrates a profound misunderstanding not only of evolution but also of what autism is.

Do autistics have more children or fewer?

Steve Perry said...

Ah, but synesthesia is documented and some of those who have it can do amazing things. I think there is a guy who sees numbers as colors, and he can recite pi to umpty-dump places using his construct.

As for whether one can see auras or just get an impression of something, I'm not sure the jury is in on that one yet.

True, the plural of anecdote is not evidence, but the ability to sense things in ways that don't seem quickly explainable is certainly obvious. A kid who can remember a license plate of a car passing on the street six months ago has got something most of us don't have.

I'm a fan of the Amazing Randi, and I think he's done a lot of valid debunking, but there are still things out there we haven't gotten around to answering yet.

I can for, instance, knock you down from across the room simply by wiggling my finger.

What? You don't believe it?

Put it in context: I wiggle my finger against the trigger of my .357 Magnum.

A thousand years ago, that would have been big magic ...

Marty S said...

Worg: Evolution is a process of trial and error.The 90% of trials that are not beneficial disappear from the species and the beneficial ones survive. So from that point of view autism is part of evolution. Presumably over time those humans who have more of the positive traits of autism, while having fewer of the negative traits will perpetuate and improve the species.

Steven Barnes said...

I've seen auras, and still do to a far lesser degree than I did six years ago. What I can't tell you is if this is something independent of my perception, perhaps my mind trying to give me a "complex equivilent" of body language and other subliminal information. I just don't know...but even if it is, that doesn't make it crap. Just doesn't make it a "bioenergetic field."

Steven Barnes said...

The Plastic Logic reader is certainly Next-Gen ereader, but the Kindle has a stupendous advantage: the ability to download books from the world's largest bookstore, while you're riding down the street. Until you've done that, you don't get just how frickin' cool the Kindle is. Nobody's killing it for some time.

Worg said...

Mr. Barnes-- could you see an aura if there were a barrier in front of the person that extended as high as their head? If they were moving around behind the barrier would you know where they were?

I'm just not buying it until I see extremely strong evidence for it. That's just me though.

Marty-- I'm well aware of the "argument from evolutionary advancement" and I am, again, not buying it. I don't want to go into kin or group selection here but I think that idea is so far off base as to be intentionally disingenuous on the part of those who are currently cashing in on the "indigo children" movement.

In short, they are making a great many claims, and not providing any hard evidence for them.

Interesting idea though. Reminds me of a story by Robert Silverberg.

Worg said...

"Until you've done that, you don't get just how frickin' cool the Kindle is. "

Can you expound on this?

Just how good IS it?

I'm not an early adopter. I kind of want one-- but I will be waiting 2 years or more anyway before I get one so I guess it doesn't really matter much anyway.

To put my non-early-adopterness into perspective, my first iPod is still under a year old. I got it for less than $100 as a refurb.

But I would love a kindle.