Does It Matter if Barron Has Autism?

Joe Scarborough has a big article in the Wash Post about how he and Mika have been attacked for socializing with DT. He says that the media are hypocrites, because they all hung out with Obama.

Whatever. Talk about that if you like. My attention was drawn to one small paragraph in the middle.

At 7:30 p.m., Mika and I were guided by security through a sea of tuxedos and evening gowns, were introduced to a 10-year-old boy by PEOTUS, and quickly made our way upstairs. The topic for Sunday night’s discussion was intended to involve an interview we wanted to conduct before the inauguration, but personal topics came up, as they do in many such meetings we have with public officials. Mika and I have known Trump for more than a decade, so we caught up on each other’s families and we asked how his son was adapting to the big changes happening all around him. Without getting into personal details, the entire family is nonplussed by the transition process and is taking most things in stride, other than the relentless media glare that exasperates every presidential family.

So, I’ve been participating in some whispered conversations with journalists and some UUMC parents in New York City, who have kids with autism. They all swear that Barron has autism and that Milania has turned their apartment into a huge ABA therapy zone for Barron. I was dissmissive of these rumors at first, but some pretty good sources made me rethink things.

Well, if Barron does have autism, does it matter? On a personal level, I have to admit that it makes me slighly less hateful of DT, because I’m irrationally protective of any parent of an autistic kid. It’s going to make the transition to DC more difficult for the family, and I feel very badly for Barron and Melania for having to deal with the spotlight. My guess is that they’ll never really move to Washington, and we’ll have a president that commutes between DC and NYC for four years.

On a policy level, it might make a difference for other families of autistic kids, if DT listens to the right people. If he listens to the anti-Vaxxers, then we’re all screwed. Here comes a measles epidemic! If he listens to the scientists, then we’re going to just get more research on the causes of autism and little funding for existing children and adults with autism. If he listens to families — the sane, rational families – then we might get more funding for special education, more housing and job training for adults, and more insurance coverage for outside therapies.

I hope he listens to the right people.

35 thoughts on “Does It Matter if Barron Has Autism?

  1. This is off-topic, but it’s fascinating that he and Mika say they have known the Trumps for ten years but had to be “introduced” to their 10-year old son. In what universe do you know someone for ten years and not meet their kids? High society New York, I guess. I know it’s primarily a business relationship, but it’s still weird.


  2. I fear that it won’t translate to any broad policy initiatives as they seem so against any collective responsibility. Think of their views on healthcare and specifically abortion – they’ll happily ban it here, there & everywhere but you can be sure than any Republican women requiring one have private access.


    1. I agree that the least likely consequence of personal knowledge and interest of the Trumps (on autism, but also on anything else) would be support of collective responsibility to pay for services for others that the elite/rich already have access to. If a Trump family member needed therapy, educational services, housing, job training, . . . , the Trumps can pay for them. Their personal experience wouldn’t give them insight into the challenges faced by those who struggle to pay for therapy that might help their child.

      Personal experience might spawn interest in projects even the superwealthy can’t just pay for themselves (research, and, hopefully not, but anti-vaccine sentiment that they themselves can’t avoid, legal issues on parental rights, . . . .).

      On the question of whispered conversations — I do believe that they children of celebrities should be given broad privacy unless they chose to are pulled by their parents into the public arena. I also believe that though I believe that comfort with talking about these issues (autism, developmental disabilities, mental health, cancer, infertility, . . . ) has a huge impact on the public, that the choice has to be individual.


      1. I agree with the privacy for any children with parents who are in the public eye. They didn’t choose to be “famous” and aren’t fair game.

        And as to the infertility – it drives me bananas when the press trumpets the pregnancy of 40+ actresses like they are somehow uber fertile naturally when in reality, the odds are unlikely of falling pregnant without any assistance. It creates a false sense of possibility. That being said, it is their choice to keep it private.


    2. Agree about the fertility, because it spreads misinformation. That said, it still is a private decision. I do think those who chose to be public — remember when it was a big deal that Betty Ford spoke about her breast cancer (not to mention to the drug/alcohol addiction that followed). I think lives were saved by that decision.


  3. OK, I had to look up nonplussed, because I couldn’t understand that sentence. I see that I was right about my SAT understanding of nonplussed and am disturbed that a neologism has developed that has the opposite meaning. Feels like a 1984 moment, though presumably innocently.


    1. I had the same trouble with that word! I’m still not even sure what it’s supposed to mean in the above context.


    1. Yes, he was. I’m not sure that him paying lip service to anti-vaxxers will have much impact on policy since most of it is taking place at the state level, although I suppose we could have a supreme Court case about California’s vaccination requirements.

      I think he courted this group because they are, pretty much by definition, rabid conspiracy theorists and easily swayed by by Trump’s fear-based demagoguery. It’s an easy and extremely vocal group (of ignoramuses, in my opinion) to have on his side.


  4. I’d be very skeptical that the child has any very severe neuroatypicality, as opposed to the slight Asperger-ism that Steve has described as frequent among bond traders. He is at a fairly high-powered school (Columbia Grammar), not any sort of special needs school (even of the fancy kind). Those high-powered Manhattan private schools don’t really have the capacity to mainstream borderline children, because while you might drive a borderline child through the basic high school curriculum, it’s tough enough to drive even the median child through the AP curriculum.

    I know a number of UUMC parents with neuroatypical children, and they aren’t at Columbia Grammar.


    1. That’s a very broad range of schools! Churchill is for children with fairly severe disabilities. Columbia Grammar and Dwight are a little less high-powered than Collegiate or Brearley, but when they say “learning disabled,” they mean dyslexia or ADHD, not autism.


      1. Many kids with high-functioning autism are in mainstream classrooms with an aide. It is completely believable that Barron could be one such child and that his parents would personally fund more than one aide for him so that he could participate in a mainstream class in a well-regarded school.


      2. Kids on the autism spectrum often (enough) have ADHD. The connections are all still so little understood.


      3. You are underestimating the broad spectrum that fits under the autism diagnosis (especially with the removal of the asperger’s diagnosis). It is certainly possible for a specific child with an autism diagnosis to attend a school with rigorous academics or a gifted designation.


    2. I live literally right next door to Columbia Grammar. The traffic is not appreciably worse since the election. I went to school with John Kennedy, Jr. The security was not disruptive to the school. My Upper West Side neighbors have (i) a great capacity to work themselves into a frenzy about almost anything and (ii) an amazing ability to dispense with analytic clarity when it suits them, so that opposition to Trump’s policies transmogrifies into complaints about the traffic caused by his son with no apparent recognition that one has nothing to do with the other.

      That said, Columbia Grammar has always disrupted neighborhood traffic considerably, not due to Barron Trump, but to the large number of little darlings who can’t walk to school or ride the bus, but have to be brought by a parent or servant in an SUV.


      1. Folks at Sidwell have certainly reported that the security is disruptive to the school, but that it’s a price that most are pretty willing to pay for having the President’s child attend. I’m guessing that the same would be true at Columbia Grammar, though it might entail some shifting of the population at the school, for those who have choices.

        Security disruptions for our local billionaires’ children aren’t particularly onerous, but I suspect that the demands of security for a President’s child are much more significant. I’ve always sympathized with the burden.


      2. bj said:

        “Folks at Sidwell have certainly reported that the security is disruptive to the school, but that it’s a price that most are pretty willing to pay for having the President’s child attend. I’m guessing that the same would be true at Columbia Grammar, though it might entail some shifting of the population at the school, for those who have choices.

        “Security disruptions for our local billionaires’ children aren’t particularly onerous, but I suspect that the demands of security for a President’s child are much more significant. I’ve always sympathized with the burden.”

        Having a kid at Sidwell, that’s kind of what you’re signing up for–there will almost certainly be a high level kid at some point in the kid’s school career.

        Sidwell has got to have things worked out pretty well by now.


  5. “Pre-K–12 • Students: 990
    LD-friendliness: Individualized programs
    Getting in: 1 in 75 applicants accepted in LD track
    Tuition: $44,000 for LD track”

    That sounds very good.

    I’m a BIG fan of being able to stay in the same school PK-12, especially for a special needs child.


  6. Nannies. Staff. If people see each other at adult events, it’s likely they don’t see any children at those events. It’s amazing how much adult social life centers around children’s activities. I would assume that a significantly older, very busy father, an immigrant mother, and the extreme isolation great wealth can bring (security, frequent travel, etc.) would make for a highly unusual childhood.

    I am also always stunned whenever I see a shot of photographers and news media around a public personality. You know, the bank of cameras If he does have autism, or some sensory issues, he’s doing very well to get through political events. You don’t see many 10 year olds at such events. I think if there were anything serious, he wouldn’t attend such public events at all. I’ve often seen typically developing kids of about the same age making it through school events like concerts by the skin of their teeth, aided by cell phone games and books, neither of which distractions would fit the image of the scion of a political family.


  7. Trump has famously gone on and on about genetics and how great his genes are. That is why he has also said that he has seen with his “own eyes” vaccinations turn kids autistic (you can easily google both videos).

    The vaccine “theory” is the only way he can square the Trump family’s great genes with whatever level of neuro-atypicality Barron has. Because I’m betting Barron is not completely typically-developing, though I don’t ever expect my suspicions to ever be confirmed.

    I also do not expect the Trump administration to ever do anything that will help the autism or larger disability community.

    The ACA has just entered the crosshairs today; Medicaid and Social Security, which are the funding sources that support adults with disabilities (think group homes, transportation services, day programs, etc.) aren’t far behind.

    I mean, it is a lovely thought that Trump will somehow be an autism champion but that is up there with rainbow-pooping unicorns. Not to put too fine a point on it…


  8. That was snarky of me, sorry. My only excuse is that I’m as tired as only an autism mom can be after 18 days of no school.


    1. I enjoyed the snark, tbh, and I feel for you. My kids went back to school yesterday and I was So Ready.


  9. Private school here–lots more vacation still!

    Fortunately, Baby Girl went back to parents’ day out this week.


      1. Well, our kids went to public school (on is still going), and there were teacher work days and election day closings so the schools could be polling places and snow days and… it was a good Goddamn thing our employers were understanding.


      2. It is a huge public institution that absolutely refuses to adapt to the fact that there has been a drastic reduction in stay-at-home parents. In many cases, it seems to go out of the way to make things difficult for working parents. For example, using rotating teacher work days – this month it is the first Tuesday, next month the 2nd Thursday. I know they say they do this to prevent kids from always having less math or whatever, but FFS there has to be a better way.


  10. It so ridiculous. There is not one month in the school year at my kids’ public school where they have school all five days each week. The child care situation for my oldest son when he was in kindergarten was the most enraging. He didn’t get into full-day K, so he went half-day for 2.5 hours. Since we are two-career household, we ended paying for school-age child care for 1) before school, since his school started at 9:40, 2) during the school day, to fill out the hours he wasn’t getting in part-time K, 3) after school care, since he school ended at 3:50, and 4) drop-in care for all of the days off. All told, I ended up paying more for child care for him during his public school kindergarten year than any other year of child care in his life.

    I don’t know what there is to do about it, since a massive increase in funding would be needed to lengthen the school day. Personally, I’d rather see the school year compacted and summer vacation lengthened. It’s a lot easier to find one arrangement for summer than to deal with all of the random days off that are sprinkled throughout a longer school year.


  11. So, I wrote an article a couple of years ago for the Atlantic arguing for a longer school year, because of working moms, the cost of childcare, and the slip in skills over the summer.

    I got a lot of push back from people who don’t want to pay more taxes for schools and from families who like to vacation all summer.

    The 180-day school year + a special needs kid + the lack of childcare for kids like Ian = a trashed academic career for me. I mean it’s fine now. I’ve reinvented myself, but it was a major pain in the ass.


  12. It is a good chat. In my opinion, as a mom of mildly affected child with ASD, Barron looks like a classic Aspergers child.Take how apparently interested he is in computers, demands to sleep in white sheets, is very clumsy, and how his mom let him paint the walls to feed his creativity…add how she will “fight cyber bullying” Yep, come on…it is more than obvious.

    Now, being the Donald, I can imagine how he won’t accept that his child has ASD…hence, maybe a deep conviction that his child has now “recovered” might be in the picture here.

    As for the school, I know PLENTY PLENTY of Aspergers and mild ASD kids who go to magnet schools without supports. The only thing that is unusual is that these kids actually have milder presentation at age 10, they don’t present as affected as Barron. For example, two close friends have kids age 10, who did not disclose the label to their schools…the kids are doing exceptionally well.

    I used to be very against “Barron’s ASD discussions”…but when his mom stated that he is NOT Autistic…that is indirect insult towards my child…she could have just said “that is none of your business”, but to bluntly deny it…


    1. Yes, I agree with you, Julieta, a claim of autism is only as stigmatizing as you let it be. We saw through their appearances via the media, with our own eyes, such things as the fact that Chelsea Clinton wore braces and the Bush twins partied a little too hard on occasion…So what?

      We may not see very much of Barron but we will see him sometimes. We will observe such neutral facts about him such as hair and eye color, height and weight. We may also see behaviors that strike us as autistic.

      If so, those behaviors can considered another set of neutral facts. We don’t have to treat our observations of autistic behaviors as a tragedy or a put down. The Trumps may exhibit internalized ableism but we don’t need to.

      On another note, I want to repeat that no one in the incoming administration is a friend to *anyone* in the disability community. The threats to the ACA, Medicaid and Social Security are very real.

      These are the programs that make decent lives possible for adults with disabilities. Maybe at the moment some of our kids don’t depend on any of these programs, maybe some of our kids will develop enough skills not to need them as adults.

      But what happens to our individual kids is besides the point. There is no way Trump can do anything to make him into any kind of autism advocate that will outbalance the destruction to the disability community if these programs are dismantled or severely reduced on his watch.


      1. “The threats to the ACA, Medicaid and Social Security are very real. . . . There is no way Trump can do anything to make him into any kind of autism advocate that will outbalance the destruction to the disability community if these programs are dismantled or severely reduced on his watch.”

        So true. Those are the programs that the vulnerable, which include many with disabilities, rely on. If those programs are undermined, people with disabilities and need will be directly and immediately harmed, and no amount of support of outreach, research, etc. will undo the harm.

        I read the Vox article on Kentucky users of the ACA (with subsidies), including one woman whose job was signing up people for ACA insurance. A lot of elites seemed to think that it was the lack of knowledge, that the benefits they were receiving were part of the ACA that allowed the Trump voters to justify their vote. But, in the interviews, many seemed to just be disbelieving that Trump & the Republican congress would indeed do what they had promised — repeal the ACA.


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