Hung out today at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held on the UCLA campus. What a great event! Got to listen to Holly Robinson and Rodney Peete talk about their autistic son, RJ. What a treat!

This post is not about autism, or the Peetes; it’s about something they said that stirred some thought in me. As they discussed RJ’s growth and battle through autism, they said they were able to, “check off all the things the doctor had said he’d never be able to do.”

Now that got me to thinking about how so many doctors tend to absorb themselves in the diagnosis—got to call it something, give it a label. Then all these preset parameters come along with the diagnosis, and the one being diagnosed becomes exactly that, the diagnosis itself. That has never been my method in my Beverly Hills chiropractic practice, although I do get a handful of people insisting on having a diagnosis (conditioning, I guess). For these people, I play the game, but I always tell them I prefer not to get caught up in labels. There’s a real danger there; people start to identify too heavily with their labels. They start to become their condition (illness, disease, disorder, etc). I am very pleased the Peetes didn’t follow this path.

Medical diagnosis serves a purpose: it’s a way of organizing information common among a group of people experiencing a particular set of symptoms. But I think doctors would be wise to see the bigger picture–the possibilities that exist in treatment and healing. I know, I know…sometimes all they have is a hammer…but there is more than what medical science pushes. It takes a healer to know the difference. Not all doctors are healers; many, if not most, are technicians. The doctor that gave the Peetes RJ’s diagnosis was likely a technician. Safe in his diagnosis, covering all bases to avoid liability. Bravo! Well done; a perfect display of modern medicine—think science and law all wrapped into one. But healing? Not by my definition.

Perhaps it’s peoples’ responsibility to take charge of their own health? That’s certainly the message I promote, since health comes from within. But doctors are facilitators—they assist in the healing process, and as such, I think giving the patient a dose of hope helps the prognosis. No doctor knows whether any one individual will be just another statistic in a particular condition. Doesn’t every person deserve to be considered one of the odds beaters until proven otherwise?

Anyway, I went up and talked to Rodney Peete during the book signing (Not My Boy!), and commended his and his wife’s decision to “think outside of the box.” I’ll let you read the book on your own to find out how the Peetes did this. He was gracious toward my praise and said that it is “amazing how things open up for you,” when you think outside of the box. I asked him what his thoughts were on receiving the diagnosis and daunting checklist of things his son would never be able to do. He said that some doctors are all too willing to nail that type of diagnosis without even blinking an eye.

Yes, I know—not thinking outside the box. Bless the Peetes for finding another way.

I’d also like to plug Holly Robinson Peete’s book, My Brother Charlie, written with her daughter Ryan Elizabeth (who read the book onstage today—very well done!)

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