Pieces of the Rainbow


The usual copyright blah, blah, blah.


Background:  Asperger's Syndrome is a form of autism, but it isn't the usual 'Rain Man' form of autism (that is referred to as Kanner-type autism, and persons who do not have significant learning disabilities associated with it, such as Temple Grandin, are usually considered to have High Functioning Autism), but instead persons with Asperger's usually have normal to above average intelligence (one of the main diagnostic differences is that people with Asperger's do not display a delay in language skill development [though there are exceptions on both sides]), atypical sensory responses, and usually impaired or atypical social development.  I have Asperger's Syndrome, and see many similar traits in the manner in which Daria is presented to us.  I began to conceive this story shortly after "Psycho Therapy" aired, but my pesky advisor wanted progress on my dissertation, so this idea stayed in the back of my mind for a while.  When "Boxing Daria" aired, the remark about Daria seeming more like a miniature adult than a child (a remark that I heard many times, and one that is quite typical for us "little professors" to receive) convinced me that I had to actually write this story.  Then I got my first real teaching assignment, which added more delays, to say nothing of that pesky little dissertation.  But, finally, here it is.


Tuesday moring after the events in "Psycho Therapy"

Location:  the Morgendorffer's house:

Helen Morgendorffer is sitting at the kitchen table, sipping her coffee.  She looks up as she hears footsteps approaching.

"Good morning, sweetie."

Daria enters the kitchen, "Hi, Mom."  Daria rummages through a cupboard, finally extracting a box of toaster pastries.  Daria removes the last foil pack, puts the pastries in the toaster and carefully breaks down the cardboard box and adds it to the recycling bin in the corner.  "Are you still planning to go grocery shopping tonight?"

"Yes, dear.  If there's anything you need, put it on the list."

Daria looks at the list, opens a drawer and frowns, returns to the list and writes 'potato(e)s - russet' and 'toaster pastries - apple cinnamon'.

Just as Daria puts the pencil back into its clip, the phone rings and Daria's breakfast pops up.  Daria heads for her breakfast on the assumption that the call is for Helen from Helen's boss, the hyperkinetic Eric Schrecter.

Helen, making the same assumption as to the source of the call, gets up to get the phone, "Helllloooooooo?"

Daria has already begun to tune out the inevitable sucking up to the boss that Helen is about to undergo when ....

"Yes ... this is Helen Morgendorffer.  Is something wrong, Doctor?"  Helen's tone indicates that she was neither expecting nor happy to receive this call.


[perspective switch to split screen so that we can hear both sides of the phone conversation]


Doctor Bacon, recognizing the parental protection mode he has triggered, puts forth his best soothing voice, "No, Mrs. Morgendorffer, there's nothing wrong.  But, I do wish to speak to you about conducting some further tests on members of your family."

"I'm afraid I don't understand, Doctor Bacon.  I thought your tests were complete.  The firm received the report."  Helen's tone turns conspiratorial as she adds as she returns to her chair, "And I'm very greatful for what it said about me."

"Really?  I'll never understand corporate culture.  But, that isn't really the type of testing I'm talking about."

"Again, I don't understand."

Switching now to lecture mode, Doctor Bacon continues, "Well, you see Mrs. Morgendorffer, The Retreat at Quiet Ivy performs a wide array of services to our corporate clients, like the evaluations we provide for your law firm.  We use the money from those clients to fund our research, and most of our services, for our primary clients.  Most of us are researchers in the field of cognitive development ... with a concentration on autism research."

"Autism?  Doctor, I admit that Jake and the girls may be a bit ... quirky, but none of them are anything like that 'Rain Man' character Dustin Hoffman played."

[Daria sits at the table and is paying keen attention to the conversation, such as she can hear of it]

"Ah, yes.  The standard media-induced oversimplification/misperception.  Tell me, Mrs. Morgendorffer, are you at all familiar with Temple Grandin?"

"No, I don't ... wait, she's the cowpen lady, isn't she?"

"Yes, more or less.  Temple Grandin has a slight variation on the form of autism to which you alluded, but without the mental retardation of the film character."

"I see, and you think Jake or the girls have this 'variation'?"

[Daria is growing quite concerned at this statement]

"Your husband, perhaps.  As for your daughters, there was a general consensus among those of us who interacted with them that each display signs of a different type of autism, known as Asperger's Syndrome."

"And how does this 'Asperger's Syndrome' differ from regular autism?"

"Well, first off, Mrs. Morgendorffer, both the type we were discussing earlier and Asperger's Syndrome are 'regular' autism.  But, they do have different manifestations, some of which relate to behavior in childhood and some relating to behavior as adults."

Helen's frown exceeds Daria's, "And you think that my girls have this?"

"Yes, Mrs. Morgendorffer, I do.  That is why we would like to have your family come to The Retreat for more tests this weekend, to determine whether or not your husband and daughters are, indeed, autistic."

"I see.  To be perfectly honest, Doctor, after the experience we had there last weekend, I'm not sure we'd be very comfortable going back."

"I can understand that, Mrs. Morgendorffer, honestly.  Frankly, I think most of the people sent here by their employers feel that way.  But let me ask you this; if your daughters do have Asperger's, do you want to delay their knowing how to cope with its manifestations?"

Helen's maternal guilt is starting to kick in and her resistance is weakened by Doctor Bacon's argument, "Well, I guess not.  But, they both seem fine to me.  Is that something that is going to change?"

"Not in the sense you are thinking.  But, your elder daughter has been labeled as being 'antisocial' and your younger daughter has demonstrated obsessive behavior to the detriment of her academic pursuits.  Aren't both of those statements true?  And, would you not prefer it if those statements weren't true?"

Full maternal guilt mode, "Well, yes.  Are you saying those are related to this?"  And the hope of redemption, "And that you can do something about it?"

"More than that, I'm saying these things are caused by Asperger's.  Now, of course, there is more testing to confirm the preliminary diagnosis, and then we'd want to teach your family some recognition and adaptive strategies ...."

"Well, I don't know.  I'd really need to discuss this with my family ...."

"I understand completely, Mrs. Morgendorffer.  I'd be willing to come to Lawndale this afternoon or evening to discuss it with you and your family."

"That is a very kind offer, Dr. Bacon.  Let me speak with my family this morning, and I'll call you about coming here once I've spoken with everyone."

"That would be fine.  Do you still have our number, or did you burn our brochure as soon as you got home Sunday?"

"Oh, Doctor Bacon, we wouldn't do anything like that."


[switch back on perspective to the kitchen shot as Helen hangs up the phone]


"What was that all about, Mom?"

"That was Doctor Bacon, dear.  From The Retreat at Quiet Ivy."

"So I heard.  I also heard words like 'autism,' 'variations,' and 'cowpens.'  While I'm all in favor of the lattermost for Quinn and the Fashion Club, the others didn't sound good, especially when it sounds like Doctor Bacon wants us to go back there."

"Don't make fun of your sister, Daria," Helen takes a deep breath before continuing.  "Sweetie, how much do you know about autism?"

Daria realizes what Helen is slowly working toward, and the implications leave Daria unwilling to wait for Helen to finish dancing around the issue, "They think I'm autistic?"

"Yes, dear.  You and Quinn both.  The 'variation' was Doctor Bacon talking about the form of autism he thinks you two have.  He also thinks your father also has autism, but a different form."

"I see.  And so they want to have us go back there and undergo more tests?"


"And your answer?"

"I told the Doctor that I'd discuss it with the family and get back to him.  He offered to come and explain it to all of us."

Daria's face takes on a look even more thoughtful than her normal expression.  "Dad probably won't want to go back there, especially if he thinks something's wrong with him.  You'll have to package it carefully if you don't want one of his rage storms.  But, if you package it properly, he'll be as happy as a puppy to go.  Quinn won't want to go, no matter how you package it.  How much is he going to charge us?"

"Oh, dear.  I didn't think to ask that."

"Mom, are you sure you're still a lawyer?"

Helen puts a warning note in her voice, "Daria ...."

"Just checking.  I'll think about it."

Helen, realizing that this is almost a 'freebie' from Daria, and not entirely sure how to take either the conversation with Dr. Bacon or with her daughter, simply answers, "Thank you."

"What was the name of the 'variation' they think Quinn and I have?"

"Ummm, I think Doctor Bacon said, 'Asperger Syndrome."


Location:  La Casa Lane:

Daria rings the doorbell and wonders whether Jane will be awake enough to discuss Doctor Bacon's request.

The door opens to reveal a seemingly wide-awake Trent.

"Hey, Daria.  Janey's still in the shower.  Come on in."

"Thanks."  Maybe, just maybe, Trent will be awake enough for one of his moments.  "Ummm, Trent?"


"I have a ... well, it isn't a problem, more of a quandry, something I know I should do, or at least I think I need to ...." and internally 'Stop babbling, Morgendorffer.'

"Daria, is something wrong?"

"Ummm, I don't think so.  Let me try a different approach.  What if I could get a lot of answers to the big questions about my life, but the price would be acknowledging that I am fundamentally different from everyone else and that I'll always be different?"

"Doesn't seem like a problem to me.  You are different, and that is what makes you far more cool than anyone -- Janey excepted -- your age that I've met."

Daria blushes, but does hear the answer to her own question in his answer, and acknowledges it, "Thanks, Trent.  Maybe it is true about problems solving themselves when you explain them to other people."

"Yeah, well, you seem to make pretty good choices.  Janey's your best friend.  You are doing what you want to do.  That's better than most people can say."

"Well ...."

Trent doesn't quite understand the subject of Daria's dilemma, but it doesn't matter for what he has to say.  "No, seriously.  A lot of people write Jane off because she won't play by their rules.  She's got talent for her paintings.  From what little of it I've read, you've got talent for your writing.  I respect that in each of you.  Some people spend their whole lives trying to figure out who and what they are.  If you can get that answer now, think how much it will help you develop your talents."

Daria wonders whether Trent is supposed to be a psychologist based on his ability to read people, merely blushes deeper.

Fortunately, Jane comes down the stairs at just this moment, "Talent?  Did someone evoke my middle name?"

"Hey, Janey."

Daria looks at Trent, then at Jane, knowing the moment is gone, but reveling in the answers it provided while it lasted, acknowledges her best friend, "Morning."

"So what was Trent trying to talk you into ... or out of?"

Daria knows that Jane is on the verge of full yenta mode, and has more important things to do today,"I asked for his hand in marriage, but he isn't sure he's ready for the commitment."

Trent, knowing both that Daria had something of a crush on him and Janey's hope that she could kickstart Daria into pursuing it, desperately tries to suppress his smile as he watches Jane's face fault.

Daria continues, "But seriously, I asked Trent his advice about something important, and I will also want your advice so chug your morning coffee and let's get on the highway to hell, a.k.a. Lawndale High School."


Location: Lawndale High School hallway, after first period:

"Umm, Daria ...."

"Yes, Quinn?"

"We aren't going back there."

"_We_ haven't decided yet, though your reluctance inclines me toward the affirmative."

"Daria, please," Quinn wonders how much this is going to cost and whether or not Daria has enough money to buy the whole freakin' state of Montana, and not merely the cabin she talks about,"I had to tell Sandi that The Retreat was a spa ..."

Daria cuts her off, "'Had to?'  And just why, pray tell, did you have to lie to Sandi about this?  And about me being your sister?  Get lost."  And with that, Daria storms off to the library to do some research.

Quinn mutters to herself, "Good one, Morgendorffer."


Location:  The Settlement, a restaurant near Helen's office:

"Gee, Helen, we haven't had lunch together in a long time.  This is a great idea!"

"Thanks, honey.  I just wish work would let us do this more often ... and that I didn't have something of an ulterior motive for talking to you one-on-one today."

Jake thinks to himself, 'Stay calm, Jake.  You don't know that she's having an affair with Eric.' "What do you mean?"

"Well, I got a phone call this morning from Dr. Bacon."

"Jake's fears about Helen having an affair are forgotten, "Dr. Bacon?  From The Retreat?  What did he want?  Lousy psychiatrist ...."

"Jake, please.  This is important.  He thinks the girls have a form of autism ...."

Jake cuts her off, "Autism?  What the hell does he know about autism?"

"Aside from thirty years as a psychiatrist specializing in autism research, two published books, twenty-one peer-reviewed articles published in medical and psychological journals, the Distinguished Service Award from the National Autism Society in England?  Just about everything there is to know about it, based on the research Maryanne and I have been doing this morning.  Now as I was saying, he thinks that the girls have a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome."

"Dammit, Helen!  There is nothing wrong with our girls!"

"I agree, as does Dr. Bacon.  Just read this, it is something on his website of resources for parents of autistic children."  Helen hands Jake a piece of paper.


[perspective shift so that we can read over Jake's shoulder]


"Dear Parent,


Let me begin by reassuring you that there is nothing wrong with your child just because that child is autistic.  Indeed, if you encounter a doctor or school administrator who tries to tell you otherwise, they are in error.  You, no doubt, are familiar with the statements about persons with disabilities to the effect that those persons are not disabled, but instead are differently-abled.  This is much more the truth for persons with autism than for persons with most of the other non-typicalities.  Autistic people are capable of more than merely living 'productive' lives, many times they are cabable of being the true masters of their fields.


This is not to say that there will not be great challenges in raising a child with autism.  As suggested above, many schools will not wish to acknowledge or provide support services for your child's special needs.  In many parts of the world (see _here_ for requirements by state in the US, _here_ for the laws by country in the rest of the world), there are strict requirments that public schools must meet in assisting your child.  Demand your child's rights to a full education.


Children with autism may seem withdrawn, antisocial, etc.  To some degree, they _are_ apart from the world around them.  This is sometimes a result of the children trying to cope with an excess of environmental stimulus.  What, to us, may seem a cheery, bright room may seem, to the autistic child, a painful excess of light ... and I mean 'painful' in the literal sense.  These children can be so sensitive to certain stimuli that they feel physical pain from exesses of those stimuli.  These children may also focus on one or a limited number of subjects to an extent that those who do not know better might consider obsessive.  Alternately, some children with autism are so able to sense the emotions of people around them that they more resemble telepaths or empaths with their abilities to understand or mimic individuals, and retreat to avoid sensing the pain of others.


But, many of these children can adapt to the world around them.  They can learn to do incredible things with their abilities to focus on a subject, to delve the depths of one area or discipline, or to understand the people around them.  Many become great scientists, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, politicians, and masters of other fields that require large amounts of specialized data.


Your child IS different.  With your help, patience, and encouragement, your child can use that difference to his or advantage and happiness.


Dr. Richard C. Bacon"


[perspective shift back]


"Wow.  That stuff does sound like Daria."

"I know, Jakey.  And other parts sound like Quinn."

Jake looks thoughtful, which Helen has learned usually means that Jake is about to have one of his big insights.  Jake slowly takes a long sip of his water, then begins, "And we have to go back for some tests to confirm it?  Quinn won't want anything to do with this.  Daria might be interested, if it is presented to her in the right way, or she'll lock herself into that shell of hers and we'll be lucky if she talks to us for a week.  I'm guessing you already talked to Daria; you'd handle it better than I would anyway.  We'll probably just have to put Quinn in the car and lock the doors until we get there ....  So which one of us is the genetic source of this?"

"I spoke to both of them.  Daria is probably researching it to make up her mind about it.  Quinn didn't want anything to do with it, but I didn't have time to argue this morning ....  They're pretty sure you are also autistic."


"Dr. Bacon said there are multiple types of autism.  He thinks the girls have a form known as Asperger Syndrome and that you have a form known as Kanner-type."

"So they'll want to test me, too?"

"Yes, Jake."

"I don't know, Helen.  I hated that place."

"Dr. Bacon assured me that this is completely different from what they do to their corporate clients."

"I hope so.  How much is this going to cost us?"

Helen covers Jake's hand with her own and smiles, "Jakey, sometimes it amazes me how much Daria takes after you.  And I mean that in the good way."


Location:  Lawndale High School:

"Well, I think you should do it."

"It'll definitely annoy Quinn."


"However much that is a generally good thing, this should be about me."

Jane Lane shakes her head, "No, Daria.  This is about your whole family.  Despite how much you'd enjoy torturing Quinn, she needs to undergo these tests, too.  And she won't do it or will do it in a really bad way if she's angry.  You already saw that this morning."

"Curse you Lanes.  Trent appealed to my quest for knowledge and you appeal to my not-quite-killed-off sense of protectiveness toward the little manne-Quinn ... which, by the way, I re-learned from watching how Trent takes care of you."

"What I can say, hitting below the belt is the only way to win some fights."

"I'll remember that the next time we tangle."


Location:  the Morgendorffer's hose, living room:

"I think it is a good idea; we should go."

Helen blinks in surprise, "Really?"

"Yes."  Daria, seeing that Helen doesn't fully understand, explains.  "Mom, I'm different from just about every other child I've ever encountered.  I always have been.  You know that, and no matter how much you've tried to hide it, you don't like it and there are significant parts of me that you don't understand.  People have put all sorts of labels on me, from 'shy' to 'stupid' to 'stuck-up' and 'ugly' to 'uncoordinated' to 'unpopular.'  Now, Doctor Bacon is offering me a definition of _why_ I'm different, and maybe giving me an explanation to go with the label, instead of the misunderstanding or disdain that usually goes with the labels other people put on me, as well as techniques to help me recognize and use the differences.  Of course I want to do this."

Helen looks at her daughter in amazement, and starts to choke up as she sees the far too rare hope and enthusiasm on Daria's face.  "Oh, sweetie.  Of course we'll go!"

"Muh-omm.  We can't go there again.  I had to tell Sandi that it was a spa, and she'll want to go if we go there again.  Then Sandi will know what Quiet Ivy really does and I'll be so ...."

Helen continues to face Daria, "Quinn, we're going and that's final."

"But, Muh-omm!"

Helen continues to watch Daria's face as the mask sinks into a frown of resignation, a frown Helen recognises all too well as one she wore after _her_ sister Rita whined, wheedled and won over their mother so many times.  Realizing how she has slipped into the same behavior pattern as that which she so hated about _her_ mother, Helen Barksdale Morgendorffer vows in that moment that she would do better (and admits that this is about the twentieth time she's made that vow).  She turns angrily to face her younger daughter, "Quinn.  What part of 'final' did you not understand?  We are going.  And if I hear one more word out of you on the subject you will be grounded."

Quinn, realizing only that Helen is taking Daria's side, tries again, "Muh-ommmmmmm!"

"One month, Quinn.  Care to try for two months' grounding?"

Quinn is, for once, speechless.  No negotiation, no bribery, and, after seeing the stern look on Jake's face, no ability to play parent off parent.

"Hold it, Mom.  You can't force Quinn to go."

Helen, Jake, and Quinn all look at Daria in shock and simultaneously say, "What?"

"I mean it.  This has to be Quinn's choice.  If she goes there only because we drag her kicking and screaming, do you think she'll answer the questions honestly?"

"Helen, honey, I think we should listen to Daria."

"Thank you, Dad.  As I was saying, if Quinn wants to live in denial, that is her choice.  If Quinn wants to be ignorant, that is her choice.  If Quinn doesn't want to learn how to use this to her advantage in school, that is her choice.  If Quinn doesn't want to pick up some of the tricks I figured out on my own, that is her choice."

Helen tries to maintain a straight face, and thinks to herself, 'Of course if Daria looks up one thing related to psychology, she'll look up half a hundred related things.  And with the shock of Daria appearing to take Quinn's side, Quinn might just fall for it.'  "All right.  Quinn, you're not grounded, and you don't have to go if you don't want to.  But the rest of us are going."

Jake, not realizing the game being played by Daria and Helen, nevertheless helps it, "Come on, Quinn.  They promised that this will be nothing like what we went through last time.  Even I'm looking forward to going.  Whaddaya say?"

Daria, not quite sure as to whether Jake is aware of the attempt at reverse psychology, "Well, sure, Dad.  If you can pick some of the empathy tricks, you'll have your clients wrapped around your fingers.  But Quinn wouldn't want to be able to manipulate or control anyone."

"Fine, I'll go.  I don't know what I'm going to tell Sandi."

Daria gives Quinn a Mona Lisa smile, "Maybe by Monday, you will."



Location:  The sidewalk outside Lawndale High School:

Daria and Quinn are walking home together, having been excused from their afternoon classes to go to The Retreat.

"Ummm, Daria?"

"Yes, Quinn?"

"Ummm, I guess I kind of should thank you for getting me ungrounded."

"Yes, you should."

"Why did you do that?  You were mad at me earlier that day, but when it happened, you defended me."

"Three reasons.  One - us against the parents, or have you forgotten 'Family Court'?  Two - Jane had reminded me about my responsibility for looking out for you as my little sister, even if you desperately try to avoid acknowledging that relationship.  Three - there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that telling obvious and ridiculous lies as a defense mechanism may be a manifestation of the form of autism the folk from The Retreat think we have and I was being sincere in trying to get you to come with us and get tested."

"Does it really annoy you that I don't acknowledge you as my sister to anyone?"

"No.  What angers me is that you do it for a stupid reason."



Location:  the Morgendorffer's house, living room:

"Helen, leave your cell phone here."

"But, Jake, I'm not getting tested."

"Daria's not the only one who can do a little research.  There are going to be all sorts of questions about the girls and me that you are going to have to answer.  Heck, you may wind up being the busiest one of all of us, because you are the one who can describe us to the doctors."

"Surely, there won't be that much ..."

"When I talked to Dr. Hinkel, she said you would have to be in interviews from about an hour after the girls and I start until the final group session on Sunday."

"You talked to Dr. Hinkel?"

"My 4:00 meeting got cancelled on Tuesday, so I called them to get more information."

"Why didn't you tell me about that?"

"When have we had ten minutes alone without Eric calling you that we could talk about it before now?"

"Well, there was ... okay, I see your point."  Helen starts to pick up her phone, "I will have to call Eric to tell him not to expect to reach me."

"No, don't.  Helen, you do more work than any three other lawyers at that firm.  Except for Eric, all the partners are over sixty, and Eric got his partnership because he's the son of a partner.  They're working you to death, when they should be working themselves to death so that you can get the partnership you're already overdue to receive.  Maybe Eric should try to do his own work for one day."

"Oh, Jakey.  Thank you.  That may be the nicest thing you've ever said about my work."

"Well, one of the things I read about people with autism is that we often forget to tell the people we care about that we care about them.  You deserve better than you're getting from that firm ... lousy lawyers!"

"Jake, I resemble that remark."

"What?  Oh, sorry.  Not you, of course.  The partners!  Lousy partners!"

Helen sighs, "Honestly, Jake."

Just then, the door opens and Daria and Quinn enter.

Jake, still in extreme mode, "Hi, girls, all ready to go?"

Daria, even more deadpan than her normal, "Saddle up, lock and load."


Location:  The Retreat at Quiet Ivy

As Jake's Lexus pulls into the driveway, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."

"Daria, stop that."

After parking and getting their bags, the Morgendorffers went to the lobby.

Dr. Jean-Michel Millipieds was waiting for them.

"Good afternoon, everyone.  I want to thank you for coming back."

"So, how is this going to work?"

"Well, Mrs. Morgendorffer, we have a fairly full schedule.  But, let's show you to your rooms and give you a little time to relax before we begin.  If you'll follow me, please."

"Doctor, I read a web translation of your article in the French medical journal from last year, and I want to make sure I had an accurate translation of one part ..."

"Of course ... Daria, isn't it?"

"Yes.  You had talked about the "Theory of Personality, and ..."

Dr. Millipieds cuts her off, "No, bad translation.  Theory of Mind."

"Hmmmm.  You didn't seem very impressed by it.  I wonder if you could tell me why, the translation was less than sensical."

"Are you familiar with the French idiom, 'merde'?"


"Bon.  That is the quick summary of my opinion of the Theory of Mind.  As for the why, you need to understand the Theory in order to see why it is wrong."

"Okay, so what is the Theory of Mind."

"Theory of mind refers to the notion that many autistic individuals do not understand that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. Furthermore, it appears that they have difficulty understanding other people's beliefs, attitudes, and emotions."  [nb, this is a quote from Dr. Stephen M. Edelson, Center for the Study of Autism, Salem OR, USA]

"You're joking, right?"

"No, I'm not.  That is the Theory."

"Merde.  The why is obvious."

"Agreed.  Here we are.  Mr. and Mrs. Morgendorffer, you will be in Room 212.  Ms. and Ms. Morgendorffer, Room 214."



Location:  Room 214

"Hey, Daria?"

Daria pauses her unpacking and looks at her younger sister, "Yes?"

"That mind theory stuff, that's the empathy tricks, right?"

"Well, it is a lot more complicated than that, but it is part of it."

"Okay, explain it to me."


"Ummm, please explain it to me?"

Daria's right eyebrow raises fractionally, "Alright.  The Theory of Mind says that people with autism assume that everyone around them has the same reasons for doing things, and the same knowledge as everyone around them."

"Well that's stupid.  You don't care about any of the things I do."

"True, but the idea is that people with autism can learn how some individuals have different motivations if they spend time around those individuals, but will assume that people in general have the same goals they do."

"Oh.  I suppose I do that sometimes."

"Newsflash -- everyone does that sometimes, whether they are autistic or not."

"So what's the big deal?"

"Some researchers believe that autistic people do it to everyone unless they learn an individual's differences."

"That's still nonsense.  There are people who are like you, and there are people like me, and there are people like Sandi, and ..."

"Exactly.  Just like everyone else, we learn to associate sets of motivations with other people we know who display those motivations through their actions."

"Then this mind theory is wrong."

"well, there is still more to it, and this is where the empathy part comes in.  The Theory of Mind also says that autistics can not think in accordance with those other motivations, and can not work through what other people would decide to do based on those other motivations or other sets of knowledge."

"I don't get it."

"Let's try this a different way ... if you thought Sandi looked really bad in an outfit, would she know it looked bad on her?"

"Probably not, she's got a lousy color sense."

"Does she know she has a bad color sense?"

"No ... and I have no intention of telling her that."

"So when you see Sandi in a bad outfit, you don't think she knows it is a bad outfit?"


"So she might think it is a good look for her and buy it?"

"Maybe.  What does this have to do with the mind theory?"

"Pretty much proves it to be wrong.  You can think through what someone else will do based on their knowledge and lack thereof rather than on your own knowledge."

"So does this mean that we aren't autistic?"

"No, it just means that researchers don't know everything about autism yet."


Location:  Room 212


"Yes, Jake?"

"Are we doing the right thing with this?"

"I think we are."

"I'm scared about what they're going to find about me."

Helen takes her husband's hand in hers, "Jake, you are a good husband and a good father.  That isn't going to change with a diagnosis of autism.  If you are autistic, you always have been, when I fell in love with you, when we decided to have children and as we've been raising them."


Location:  The dining area

"I imagine you have many questions, and I understand from Dr. Millipieds that you've already started, Daria."

"Yes, Dr. Bacon, I was trying to understand the Theory of Mind."

"I assure you, we're trying to understand it, as well."

"I have a question."

"Yes, Quinn."

"Well, from what Daria's been telling me, it does sound like she has autism, but I'm not sure I have it.  Why do you think I have it."

"First, we prefer to say that someone is autistic; it is a state of being, not a disease to be treated and done with.  But, on to your question, We noticed that your behavior was very focused on a limited number of subjects, that your social interactions were awkward ..."

"Awkward?  I don't think so.  I date more than almost anyone I know ..."

"Of course, in your limited area of concentration you are able to appear somewhat normal, but all your other interactions are stilted, limited, and apparently unfulfilling."

"Well, I, uhh ...."

After a moment, "She's been getting a bit better at it, though."

Quinn looks at her sister in astonishment, "Ummm, thanks."

"I have another question.  I've been looking for literary references to Asperger's or characters with Asperger's, but haven't found much other than Prince Mark's son in Saberhagen's Sword books, and the endless debate about Spock and Data from Star Trek."

"Saberhagen?  I'm not familiar with that one, but we do have a list of literary, film and television Aspergerians.  I'll give you a copy during a session you have with me tomorrow.  And I'll want titles on the Saberhagen, Daria."

"of course."

"I have a question."

The other Morgendorffer's visibly tense as all eyes turn to Jake.

Dr. Bacon breaks the silence, "Yes, Mr. Morgendorffer."

"Well, I probably didn't do as much research as Daria, but it seems that ther's a lot more diagnosis of autism than there was just a few years ago.  Why is that?"

The other Morgendorffer's relax as the anticipated Jakism fails to materialize.

"Well, that is a great question, and we don't have a definite answer.  I believe it is a combination of factors.  First, more doctors are familiar with autistic spectrum disorders and are comfortable diagnosing such.  This is especially true since Asperger's re-emerged in the 1980s after collecting dust for almost forty years.  Then, I think there is an actual increase in the number of people being born with autistic spectrum disorders.  I think the technology revolution has had a large role in that.  People with Asperger's are now more likely to be able to find careers where they can take advantage of their special foci, especially in the computer and engineering fields, and these jobs are less exotic, more mainstream, meaning that these people are more likely to find spouses and have children who will have the same or similar forms of autism, repeat."

"I see.  Interesting."



Location:  Dr. Bacon's office

"Well, Quinn, how are you this morning."

"Fine ... a little scared."

"There's no need to be scared.  This should be a lot less intense than last week ... but you didn't take last weekend very seriously, did you?"

"Well, no.  I didn't really see a point to it."

"And do you see a point to this weekend?"

"I guess so."

"And what do you see as the point of this weekend?"

"Well, you're trying to decide whether Daria, Dad and I have this autism stuff."

"This autism stuff, an interesting way of putting it.  You don't really see much difference between whether you are autistic or not, do you?"

"Not really, although Daria said there were some ways to use it to my advantage."

"Did she, now.  What sorts of ways did she tell you?"

"Well, she said there were study tricks and ways of influencing people."

"I see.  And you'd like these things."

"Yeah, I've never really been all that interested in the stuff they teach in high school so my grades aren't all that great.  If I can learn how to use this to do better in school, that'd be nice."

"Hmmmm.  And influencing people?"

"Well, I'm really popular at school, but there are a couple people who are more ... almost as popular as me, but I would like to be a bit more sure of being the most popular person at school."

"And popularity is important to you?"

"Well, yeah."


"Well, I'm not a jock, and I'm not a brain, so that pretty much leaves being in the popular clique if I want to have any friends."

"And do you have friends from being popular?"

"Well, sure, there's Stacy.  And there's Joey and Jeffy and, uh, Jamie.  All of them adore me.  And Sandi and Tiffany are in the Fashion Club with me."

"They adore you?"

"well, Sandi's ... like, really competitive and sometimes its hard to be around her, but she is my friend.  Tiffany is a bit manipulative, but she's never malicious."

"What about Daria, is she your friend?"

"Daria, no way."

"why not?"

"She's a brain, and she's my sister."

"And someone in the Fashion Club can't hang out with a brain?"

"No way."

"But, if you were the most popular person in school, wouldn't you be able to hang out with whomever you wanted?"

"Obviously, you don't understand high school popularity dynamics."

"I admit, it has been a while.  Let's change the subject, sort of.  Tell me about your sister's friends."

"Well, her best friend is Jane, she's a painter.  And Jane's weird older brother ... he's a musician, and he's kind of cute, but he doesn't seem to like me much.  Ummm, Kevin and Brittany, and Mack and Jodie.  That Ted guy.  Probably others, but I don't spend much time paying attention to her or her friends."

"So who are Kevin and the others you didn't describe?"

"Well, Kevin is the quarterback of the football team, and Brittany is the head cheerleader; they're dating.  Mack is captain of the football team, and Jodie does everything; they're dating, too.  Ted is kind of strange, he was homeschooled for a while and works on the yearbook.  He's sort of popular, but I don't know why."

"So, Daria's friends with a lot of the jocks, and the other brains, and the fringes of the popular crowd?"

"Definitely not all the jocks.  Most of them wouldn't know her from anyone else."

"But the important jocks are her friends but not your friends?  I know I'm a little rusty on high school politics, but I thought the jocks and the attractive were supposed to be in the same crowds."

"Ummmmm, well, I, uh, um ...."


Location:  Dr. Bacon's office

"Well, Daria, here's the list I promised."


"I had an interesting conversation with Quinn."

"That's a first."

"What do you mean?"

"Someone having an interesting conversation with Quinn is a rare event."

"I doubt that."

"You're entitled to your opinion."

"You don't like your sister?"

"Well, she does some things that really annoy me, but I think the main problem is that I don't really know how to talk to her."

"Let's take both parts of that separately.  What does she do that annoys you?"

"Doctor-patient confidentiality applies, this won't get back to Mom and Dad?"

"Of course."

Daria pauses, gathering her thoughts.  Then finally, "The thing that annoys me the most is that she doesn't live up to her potential.  She is almost as smart as I am, but refuses to apply herself and wastes her energy on fashion and dating."

"But, if she's autistic, as we suspect, she may need to _direct_ her energy toward those activities."

"Well, um ... yeah, I guess you're right."

"Anything else."

"I guess all the money she spends on clothes instead of letting Mom and Dad save for college, or their retirement, is kind of the same thing, isn't it?"


"And I already read that the obvious lies she tells are probably a manifestation of Asperger's."

"What sorts of lies?"

"She tells people at school that I'm her cousin, a foreign exchange student, the maid, etc."

"You're kidding."

"No, I'm not."

"And people believe her?"

"I don't know."

"And you've confronted her about this?"


"And did it stop?"



"Let's move on to the other part."

"All right.  So what do you think is the problem communicating with her?"

"I speak English, she speaks popular."

"Daria, you aren't really answering the question."

"No, I suppose not."

"Care to try again?"

"All right.  The lies bother me enough that I go into every conversation like we're going to fight it out."

"And do you ever have it out?"

"No, we just deal with the immediate issue and let everything else slide."


"For me, I don't want to go ballistic like my father."


"Location:  Dr. Hinkel's office

"Well, Mrs. Morgendorffer, that was very informative."

"I'm trying to help as much as I can."

"You're doing great.  Let's turn now to Daria."

"All right."

"How is she doing, socially?"

Helen sighs, "I worry about that.  Too often she just hides in her room.  But, at least I don't worry about her friends the way I did when we were living in Highland."

"What kind of friends did she have in Highland that worried you?"

"Well, there were these two boys.  Locals there would say, 'them boys just ain't right' and I agree.  I think one of them had a problem with fires, and they would hit each other and both were quite profane.  Daria said she liked to mess with their minds, but that doesn't sound like a healthy relationship."

"But for someone learning social interaction, having two exaggerated lab rats might have been quite helpful for her learning how others react to her."


"It is possible.  It might also be that she did enjoy messing with their minds.  Has she shown that kind of attitude toward anyone here?"

"Just her sister."

"Hmmmmm.  And how do the two of them interact?"

"Not very well, and I think a lot of it is my fault."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, when I was getting back to work after Quinn, I really didn't manage my time very well and raising the girls suffered.  You know the saying that time is money?  Well, I tried to substitute money for time, buying cooperation from the girls rather than take the time to talk things through."

"And how does that play out in how your daughters interact with each other?"

"Instead of having one or two good blowouts to clear the air, they buy their way past each other, and a lot of little things build up and linger unresolved."

"What sorts of things?"

"Well, Quinn really plays Jake for money, and it rankles Daria because she thinks it means there might be less money for college for Daria."

"And is that the case?"

"No.  Daria's college money is never touched.  When Quinn wheedles beyond her monthly budget, it comes out of Quinn's college fund."

"You aren't really taking money out of her college fund?"

"No, but we are taking from the account that we created for Quinn's spending money for when she's in college."

"Ahh, I see.  Good financial planning."

"I hope so."

"And do your daughters know about these separate accounts?"

"No.  We plan to surprise each of them."

"And, so your daughters don't fight?"

"Not really.  Daria struggles with her emotions.  I think Daria is afraid that if she ever lets loose, she'll be like Jake's little rage storms."

"That is a not-unreasonable fear, if it is the case.  People with Asperger's get rage storms just like people with Kanner-type autism."


Location:  Dr. Millipied's office

"Well, Mr. Morgendorffer.  Do you think you are autistic?"

"I think I might be.  I seem to have a lot of the right behaviors."

"Such as?"

"Well, probably the big two factors are difficulty reading emotions and emotional outbursts."

"Have you always had these problems?"

"Well, as much as I can remember, yes."

"How did your parents handle the outbursts?"

"They didn't.  My father shipped me off to military school to 'teach me some discipline.'"

"Based on last week's experience, I would have thought that statement would have been the trigger for an outburst."

"Well, that's really the thing, if I'm thinking about it, I can control it."

"Mr. Morgendorffer, that is a very important statement."


Location:  the dining area, lunch

The Morgendorffer's eat in silence, each reflecting on the morning's sessions.


Location:  Dr. Millipieds office

"I disagree.  I think we should tell the parents."

"Richard, it isn't just a confidentiality issue, it is a trust issue.  Betray the trust Daria showed you and she might well reject this entire weekend."

"Hinkel, you've been silent so far.  What do you think?"

"You said she didn't tell you until she had verified confidentiality rules?  Then it is privileged communication.  I am sure Mrs. Morgendorffer would agree."

"Alright.  I won't say anything.  But, I want you to try to talk Daria into expressing her feelings to Quinn."

"Based on my conversation with Mrs. Morgendorffer, I was already planning to do that."



Location:  Dr. Bacon's office

"Well, Mr. Morgendorffer, how did the morning session go?"

"Well, Dr. Millipieds and I spent a lot of time talking about how others react to my emotions.  I guess I really never thought about how I could impact other people when I lose control.  Kind of silly not to have seen it given how over-the-top I can get."

"One of my favorite lines from a book comes from a science fiction story, 'A blind spot is, by definition, something you can not see.'"

"Yeah.  But its really got me thinking about how much I've hurt my relationships with the girls.  Can they really talk to me if they are afraid I'm going to lose it?"

"Good question.  What do you think is the answer to that question?"


Location:  Dr. Hinkel's office

"So, Quinn, how do you get along with your sister?"

"I dunno.  Okay, I guess."

"You guess?"

"Well, we don't really fight, but it isn't like we spend a whole lot of time together."

"Why don't you spend time together?"

"I guess we move in different circles.  Wait, there's more to it than that.  I know she hates when I pretend she isn't my sister."

"Why do you do that?"

"I don't know anymore."

"Anymore?  And what used to be the reason?"

"Well, I guess I liked being the center of attention.  I didn't want Daria taking the spotlight from me.  Then I guess I thought people wouldn't like me if I had a brain for a sister."

"And you don't feel that way anymore?"

"Well, Dr. Bacon pointed out that Daria seems to have more friends than I do, and I know I don't have any friends as close to me as Jane Lane is to Daria."

"And if you could pick any one person, who would you want to have be that close a friend to you?"

Quinn looks down into her lap and doesn't say anything.  Finally, "I don't know."



Dr. Hinkel's office

"So, Quinn is the stereotypical little sister.  She's cute and gets all the attention while you work hard and get ... what?"

"Actually, for the most part I don't work all that hard.  Truth to tell, Quinn probably puts more effort into getting attention than I do into both working and avoiding attention."

"Interesting.  Why do you try to avoid attention?"

"Well, people don't seem to notice me for the things for which I'd want to be noticed."

"And in what ways would you want to be noticed?"

"Ummm, I guess I hadn't thought of it so much as what I'd want as in terms of what I want to avoid."

"Okay, what do you want to avoid?"

"Being judged for my looks and the degree to which I conform to the expectations of others."

"Hmmmm.  And what expectations do others have of you?"

"That I'll be a good student and otherwise not do much."

"Doesn't sound like a bad set of expectations."

"I guess not."

"But ... ?"

"There should be more.  I just don't know how to articulate what I do want."

"I see,"  Dr. Hinkel leans forward in her chair to emphasize the next question, "Is it that you don't know what you want or afraid to ask for it in case they say 'no'?"


"What would you want from, say, Quinn?"


Location:  Dr. Millipied's office

"Daria is very self-reliant isn't she?"

"In some ways.  In others, she's so afraid of failure that she'll never try to succeed."

"And what, if anything, do you do to try to get her to ... expand her horizons?"

"Oh, Dr., I've tried so many different things.  I've basically ordered her to participate in activities, I've bribed her, I've threatened her with things I know she doesn't like ..."

"And have you ever tried encouraging her?"

"What do you think I've just been talking about?"

"You've been talking about negative inducements.  What positive inducements have you offered her?"

"I'd think money would be pretty positive."

"In some ways, I'll never understand you Americans.  If you have to pay her to do something, don't you think that means she doesn't want to do it and can't see any reason to do it, and that you're just paying her for her time?"


Location:  the dining area, supper

The Morgendorffers cast furtive glances at each other, and everyone looks as if they are about to say something, but no one seems willing to make the first move.  The family finishes dinner in silence, and all head back toward their rooms.

Dr. Bacon, watching from another table, shakes his head sadly, then rises to report on dinner his colleagues.



Location:  the dining area, lunch

"We thought we would present the official diagnoses to all of you at once."

"Thank you, Dr. Hinkel.  Please."

"Well, Mrs. Morgendorffer, you don't get a diagnosis this weekend, since you were the focus of last weekend."

"So why did I have to work harder this weekend than last?"

"Probably because this matters more."

Everyone is silent as the truth of that statement rolls across the room.

Dr. Bacon takes over, "Mr. Morgendorffer, we have concluded that you have High-Functioning Kanner-type autism.  This afternoon, you'll be working with Dr. Millipieds on emotional management and impulse control techniques."


"Quinn, you have the Asperger's Syndrome form of autism.  You'll be working with Dr. Hinkel on impulse control and study habits."

"Alright, the study tricks."

The doctors and Helen all smile a bit at Quinn's remark.  Daria is too busy waiting for her results to indulge in even a Mona Lisa smile.

"And, finally, Daria.  Your diagnosis took the most time for us.  There was some thought that you might be Kanner-type like your father, but ultimately we did decide that you do indeed have Asperger's Syndrome.  I'll be talking to you about safe communication of emotion."

Daria nods, letting the impact of the diagnosis set in.


Location:  the dining area, mid-afternoon

Mr. Morgendorffer, Quinn, Daria, we have small gifts we'd like to give to each of you."

Quinn perks up, "Presents, wow.  For once I really wasn't expecting something."

Helen looks to Daria for a reaction, but sees none, and thinks to herself, "Whatever they talked to Daria about has really turned down her enthusiasm about this.  I think I'm going to have to talk to her when we get home tonight."

Dr. Bacon continues, "Mr. Morgendorffer, here you are," and hands Jake a long slender box.

Dr. Millipieds hands a small box to Quinn, "Here you are, Quinn."

And, finally, Dr. Hinkel hands a box about halfway between the sizes of the other two boxes to Daria, "And for you, Daria."

The three open their respective boxes.

Jake holds up a silk necktie with a four-color jigsaw puzzle pattern, each piece is one color, but adjacent pieces are each different colors.

Quinn pulls a jigsaw puzzle piece shaped lacquered pin from her box, the pin having the same pattern on it as Jake's tie.

Daria gently lifts a metal bookmark from her box, it's headpiece features the same design as Quinn's pin.  Daria's attention, however, is drawn to the handwritten note wrapped around the bookmark.

The note reads, "Daria, never be afraid of your emotions.  Be afraid of never having emotions."



Location:  Lawndale high school hallway

"So, how is life with autism going to be any different than life before autism?"

Daria is about to reply when she sees Quinn and the Fashion Club.  Quinn is sporting a small lacquered pin on her purse.

"Maybe a little bit easier to live with."