Sunday, March 2, 2008

Marching on

Today it's spring. You can tell because the construction projects have started -brawny, yellow-lipped men stomping to and from their white or black trucks- and also because the birds are out and the islands of snow are sinking into a sea of dirt and the shy orange cat across the street has gone into strident, shameless heat.

Ah, spring: I've never liked you. Winter plies me with hot cocoa. Fall is lissome and lovely and has a way with leaves. There have been years I haven't sufficiently appreciated summer, but summer is blowzy and good-humored and laughs at my jokes, and in time I've come around.

Spring, though. Spring is a mean, tricksy season, the kind of season you wouldn't want to sit next to in the cafeteria. Spring is popular. Spring is pretty. Spring laughs and flirts and gossips and is secretly self-involved, sensitive, desperate to be liked.

Or maybe that's me (minus some adjectives) and spring is something I haven't developed the necessary perceptual faculties to appreciate. I just read an article in Wired recapping a research study that compared the performance of autistic and neurotypical children on two IQ tests, the Weschler and Raven's Progressive Matrices. The neurotypicals' scores on the two instruments were heavily correlated. In contrast, the scores of the autistic children on Raven's Progressive Matrices (a test tapping pattern recognition and other forms of non-verbal reasoning) were almost thirty points higher than their scores on the Weschler (a test relying heavily on crystallized verbal intelligence). Using the Weschler, almost three quarters of the autistic children scored as mentally retarded. Using Raven's Progressive Matrices, all but a few tested in the normal range.

I'm not saying, as many autism advocates are beginning to do, that autism is merely a neurological difference as opposed to a disorder. All I'm saying is that our tools affect (and even effect) our measurements. It could be that I've been giving spring the Weschler when the last thing it wants to do is talk.

Spring! It's a physical word, describing the upwelling of a liquid or a body or warm, new air. So this morning, in honor of spring, I left the words at home and went running. The trees were quiet. The streets were bare. And one yard, the front yard of a brick house I've passed every other day for four months, was covered door to curb with approximately eighty pink plastic flamingos. They nosed at the steps. They stood on one leg by the car. They huddled in meditative groupings by the retaining wall. They were surprising and inevitable all at once: that stiff, pink, backhanded, long-awaited slap of spring.

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