Autism and Life Hiding in Plain Sight

 

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the 1988 film “Rain Man”
Much value is placed on being part of a victim class today. A whole political party has banked its future on creating a hierarchy of social status based on separating people into groups and judging them on their misfortunes relative to each other, and superficial characteristics are emphasized and manipulated to entice people to use them as a crutch preventing upward societal mobility. Conversely, it is traditionally a conservative notion that people be measured by their individual ability, merit, character, and ethic — both work and moral. That is why we should be celebrating and encouraging the movement to liberate autistic and mentally affected people from a negative stigma and open the doors of opportunity and independence of which they rightly want access.

Although we don’t fully understand the causes of Autism or other cognitive disabilities (tip: it’s not vaccines) we do know that diagnosis has risen in recent years from an expansion of the medical definition of Autism and now it’s time to look ahead to how we as a society value people most often seen for their disability than for their unique abilities.

In a leap of awareness in which many people associated autism or neurodiverse people (such as those with Asperger’s Syndrome) with Dustin Hoffman’s character in the film “Rain Man” or the famed professor and autism advocate Temple Grandin, to likely having first-hand interaction with someone on the Autism spectrum, the employment rate for these same individuals has not kept pace. With an estimated employment rate of 37 percent according to the Disability Statistics Compendium released by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire, there is a large pool of hidden talent ready and willing to unleash their potential — they are just waiting for an opportunity.

One unintended consequence of the burgeoning economy is that companies are creating opportunities: they are widening employee searches and accepting of less traditional job applicants, (which for the purpose of this commentary are neurotypical) and are taking job seekers on the autism spectrum. Major companies are recruiting, hiring, and supporting them. Microsoft, Deloitte, Dell, JPMorgan Chase, and EY are working with non-profit organizations to help identify needs within their companies and pairing them with skill sets of Autistic individuals who are then hired and become invaluable assets. In turn, the newly hired employees gain confidence, an opportunity to thrive and create, and most importantly a life of independence previously closed to them. Some companies have gone further, developing internal neurodiversity programs. In a May 7 Yahoo Finance article, an EY program director described a recent hire: “The young man had been living at home, supported by his parents. When his father passed away recently, he was able to buy his own home and move his mother in with him to take care of her.”

This is the exact definition of valuing every life based on his inherent worth as a person. We should continue to champion an environment of opportunity and unlimited potential. When we meet someone on the autism spectrum are we merely seeing the superficial characteristics – maybe the different speech patterns, the aloofness and averting gaze – or are we assessing them based on skill, merit, or work ethic?

We are near a precipice in our culture where we must decide what value we place on life. Do we nurture and cherish it as a gift? Is a disability, however defined, a curse or death-sentence or part of a life worthy of every ounce of love and opportunity as any other person? Or do we look at those who are perceived as a burden as just that: an obstacle to be worked around, to shutter away and place in the “dependent” bin and treated as a piece of broken furniture that has outlived its usefulness? A November 27, 2018, New York Post article reported doctors in Belgium under investigation for the 2010 death of Tine Nys, a 38-year-old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, who was “improperly euthanized” according to the criminal complaint filed by her family. According to the article: “[In Belgium] It is legal for doctors to euthanize patients who have psychiatric problems that cause ‘unbearable and untreatable’ suffering. Among Belgians put to death for mental health reasons, the most common conditions are depression, personality disorder and Asperger’s.”

Contrast that culture of death to how Israel embraced neurodiversity: The Israel Defense Force has a “Visual Intelligence Unit” known as Unit 9900 consisting of an inspiring and highly intelligent group of soldiers diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Unit 9900 is dedicated to geography, mapping, interpreting aerial and satellite photographs, and space research. The soldiers in this group are lauded for their ability to successfully detect small details that go undetectable to most people because they have high visual and analytic capabilities. Further, they are now included in a sort of rite of passage for Israelis from which they previously were excluded: service to country and protection of homeland, and they are doing a spectacular job.

As we look at the current debate on when life begins, I hope we keep in mind that it isn’t just about babies or court decisions, but families and adults and the chance to break free from a world of isolation and forgotten dependence. Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue happiness and live a life of liberty. By chance, I happened on a television show on A&E titled “The Employables.” It’s a miniseries in which each episode follows two neurodiverse people on a journey to employment. At the end of one episode, after hearing his adult autistic son received a job offer at a computer software company, his mother said with tears in her eyes, “For the first time, I am not afraid. I think he’ll be okay.” We should never be afraid of embracing life and giving every opportunity for it to thrive.

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There are 40 comments.

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  1. Kay of MT Member

    May I copy and paste your article to my granddaughter whose 7 year old son has recently been diagnosed both as autistic and with Auditory Processing Disorder?

    Both myself and my granddaughter have had a life time of APD that most people haven’t a clue about. We’ve only found out about this disorder in the past several years. It is true I have hearing problems but probably made much worse by not being able to process what I did hear.

    I now have an audiologist going to work with me at age 81. Granddaughter is in CA and hopefully things will work out for them, as she has the boy in a Charter school. She doesn’t want her son labeled as difficult and incorrigible by associates, as both I and my granddaughter have been.

    • #1
    • May 24, 2019, at 9:29 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. Mark Camp Member

    I appreciate this article for highlighting these facts about people with autism and related conditions. There is an unconscious bias among employers against hiring them; and this bias works to the employer’s disadvantage, not just to the that of those who aren’t getting earning opportunities because of it.

    The fact that people with this handicap have skills that could be profitably used is no surprise to me and many of us Richocheteers, but it bears being emphasized. Handicaps (relative weaknesses) are always accompanied by relative strengths. We all have lots of both.

    (Note: this new Politically Correct doublespeak, the term “neurodiversity“, makes me want to puke, but that’s not important. As long as we conservatives aren’t lured by it into supporting the noxious political cause of those who have foisted it on us.)

    • #2
    • May 24, 2019, at 9:29 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Kay of MT Member

    @markcamp, I had a co-worker in L.A. in the 1960s who had a variety of physical and other problems. Her sense of humor was wonderful, with a large sign on her desk,

    “God isn’t finished with me yet.”

    Everybody adored her and we all worked to make things pleasant for her.

    • #3
    • May 24, 2019, at 9:36 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. Mark Camp Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    @markcamp, I had a co-worker in L.A. in the 1960s who had a variety of physical and other problems. Her sense of humor was wonderful, with a large sign on her desk,

    “God isn’t finished with me yet.”

    Everybody adored her and we all worked to make things pleasant for her.

    Thanks, Kay. I love that sign.

    I’m sure she backed up her good attitude, persistence, and inspiration of others with doing a good day’s work!

    Note:

    I hope I did, too, before the world decided that it was “going in a different direction and would no longer require my services”, as folks say nowadays.

    But I do wonder if at times I only kept my job as long as I did because I was so adorable.

    • #4
    • May 24, 2019, at 10:03 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Aaron Miller Member

    JennaStocker: When we meet someone on the autism spectrum are we merely seeing the superficial characteristics – maybe the different speech patterns, the aloofness and averting gaze – or are we assessing them based on skill, merit, or work ethic?

    This is the essential consideration, and it needn’t be limited to people with autism, other disorders or eccentricities. By charity or by pragmatic needs, sometimes one must ask if a person’s failures are insurmountable or relevant to a specific role. Even jerks can make good employees.

    An autistic person is mentally crippled. Like someone with severe arthritis cannot grasp things tightly or someone with a twisted back or busted knee cannot bend well, there are some things an autistic person simply can’t do well. Most of us have something to offer even while crippled. But that something might not be useful to everyone, so it’s not incumbent upon every employer to find that opportunity.

    I understand you are using the clinical “neurodiverse” merely as a distinction from “neurotypical” (a person sufficiently normal to function in society and not arouse suspicion of mental handicap). But it reminds me of Monty Python’s black knight referring to a severed limb as a flesh wound. Autism isn’t just an uncommon personality type which can be regularly accomodated.

    I applaud employers who can find opportunities for the mentally impaired. Publix employed my schizophrenic cousin as a bagger for many years. He has a genius for statistics and sports history. He can remember details vividly from any of a thousand games he has watched in 40+ years. But I never expected ESPN or another sports network to hire him because he is too easily distracted and unreliable for a job like that, even behind the scenes. His extraordinary talent can’t be professionally utilized without conditions he is sadly unable to provide.

    In short, I agree that finding work for troubled people is good. But I worry that expectations are not always realistic and that inclusion is sometimes more about show than charity.

    • #5
    • May 24, 2019, at 10:20 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Kay of MT Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    I’m sure she backed up her good attitude, persistence, and inspiration of others with doing a good day’s work!

    She certainly did, as she was an Eligibility Worker with LA County. She was the only worker we had that the clients never crabbed about. A lot of our clients complained if they were denied something they weren’t eligible for, as we must hate the blacks, or Mexican or the Roma, or if they had been black we would have given it to them, or for some reason. I forgot to mention that she was a young black woman. It wasn’t as bad then as it is today, being a victim client. We didn’t have the racial problems then as we do today among our employees.

    What kind of job did you have Mark?

    • #6
    • May 24, 2019, at 10:29 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Kay of MT Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    An autistic person is mentally crippled.

    Not in all cases. There are different degrees of limitation. I have two autistic great grandchildren. Both of them were excellent readers before age 4, both have problems with being still, so they are given plenty of opportunity to work off energy with play activities. Both are from different daughters with different fathers, both developed their autism at about the same age between 9 and 11 months, both after having been given multiple vaccines. One is in CA and one in MT. One is 7 years old and one is 8 years old. Please, try to convince me that the vaccines had nothing to do with it. There is no history of autism in my extended family.

    • #7
    • May 24, 2019, at 10:47 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thank you for this post, Jenna. I don’t think you’re suggesting that we should anticipate putting everyone in a job; that’s simply not possible. At the same time, we shouldn’t let our biases get in the way of putting some people to work because of a label they carry. We often have baggers at Publix, @markcamp, who have some kind of mental limitation. Some are so talkative that they forget to keep bagging; others are simply slow; still others rarely make eye contact. But I am so happy that they are having the reward of a job. I can wait a few more moments and appreciate their contributions.

    • #8
    • May 24, 2019, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  9. Mark Camp Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    I’m sure she backed up her good attitude, persistence, and inspiration of others with doing a good day’s work!

    She certainly did, as she was an Eligibility Worker with LA County. She was the only worker we had that the clients never crabbed about. A lot of our clients complained if they were denied something they weren’t eligible for, as we must hate the blacks, or Mexican or the Roma, or if they had been black we would have given it to them, or for some reason. I forgot to mention that she was a young black woman. It wasn’t as bad then as it is today, being a victim client. We didn’t have the racial problems then as we do today among our employees.

    What kind of job did you have Mark?

    Unnecessary, I guess?

    I worked for IBM in a wide variety of jobs over the years. I was a EE by training, and they were all primarily technological (as opposed to physical labor, finance, etc.); most were customer-facing.

    • #9
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    I won’t try to convince anyone that vaccines are unrelated to autism because those who have never been reasoned into an opinion cannot be reasoned out of it.

    There is interesting research on autism and the behavior of prairie voles.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30713102

    Here we describe the efficient generation of oxytocin receptor (Oxtr) mutant prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, and describe initial behavioral phenotyping focusing on behaviors relevant to autism.

    There are two strains of prairie voles. One nurtures pups by both sexes and shows community association and the other is solitary. The difference seems to be receptors for oxytocin. There was a treatment of a young woman with Asbergers last year using oxytocin nasal spray.

    But not all voles exhibit pair-bonding. The close relatives of prairie voles, montane voles, prefer a rather free approach to relationships. They are more promiscuous, do not pair-bond, and do not exhibit aggressive behaviors to defend a mate or their offspring. Intrigued by this difference, neuroscientists compared neuropeptide expression, receptor distribution, and nerve pathways between prairie voles and montane voles. Two molecules were hypothesized to be implicated in pair-bonding behavior: oxytocin and vasopressin.

    https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/10/28/oxytocin-nasal-spray-boosts-social-skills-in-young-kids-with-autism/94084.html

    It is expanding as a treatment of autism.

    For the study, 31 children between the ages of three and eight received a twice daily course of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Overall, the nasal spray was well tolerated and the most common adverse events were thirst, urination, and constipation.

    “We found that following oxytocin treatment, parents reported their child to be more socially responsive at home, and our own blind independent clinician ratings also supported improved social responsiveness in the therapy rooms of the Brain and Mind Centre,” said autism expert Dr. Adam Guastella of the Brain and Mind Centre.

    This is the first time a medical treatment has shown this type of success for children with autism and the findings reinforce outcomes from a longer sustained program of research by this team.

    One of my medical students was interested in pediatric neurology. I gave her the literature on this topic and encouraged her to pursue it.

    • #10
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:41 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  11. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker Post author

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    May I copy and paste your article to my granddaughter whose 7 year old son has recently been diagnosed both as autistic and with Auditory Processing Disorder?

    Both myself and my granddaughter have had a life time of APD that most people haven’t a clue about. We’ve only found out about this disorder in the past several years. It is true I have hearing problems but probably made much worse by not being able to process what I did hear.

    I now have an audiologist going to work with me at age 81. Granddaughter is in CA and hopefully things will work out for them, as she has the boy in a Charter school. She doesn’t want her son labeled as difficult and incorrigible by associates, as both I and my granddaughter have been.

    Absolutely! I hope it helps educate and enlighten. I think the more people understand autism as a different way of cognitive reasoning instead of a disease or unmanageable disability, the better opportunities for learning from each other exist.

    • #11
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Mark Camp Member

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    I won’t try to convince anyone that vaccines are unrelated to autism because those who have never been reasoned into an opinion cannot be reasoned out of it.

    There is interesting research on autism and the behavior of prairie voles.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30713102

    Here we describe the efficient generation of oxytocin receptor (Oxtr) mutant prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, and describe initial behavioral phenotyping focusing on behaviors relevant to autism.

    There are two strains of prairie voles. One nurtures pups by both sexes and shows community association and the other is solitary. The difference seems to be receptors for oxytocin. There was a treatment of a young woman with Asbergers last year using oxytocin nasal spray.

    But not all voles exhibit pair-bonding. The close relatives of prairie voles, montane voles, prefer a rather free approach to relationships. They are more promiscuous, do not pair-bond, and do not exhibit aggressive behaviors to defend a mate or their offspring. Intrigued by this difference, neuroscientists compared neuropeptide expression, receptor distribution, and nerve pathways between prairie voles and montane voles. Two molecules were hypothesized to be implicated in pair-bonding behavior: oxytocin and vasopressin.

    https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/10/28/oxytocin-nasal-spray-boosts-social-skills-in-young-kids-with-autism/94084.html

    It is expanding as a treatment of autism.

    For the study, 31 children between the ages of three and eight received a twice daily course of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Overall, the nasal spray was well tolerated and the most common adverse events were thirst, urination, and constipation.

    “We found that following oxytocin treatment, parents reported their child to be more socially responsive at home, and our own blind independent clinician ratings also supported improved social responsiveness in the therapy rooms of the Brain and Mind Centre,” said autism expert Dr. Adam Guastella of the Brain and Mind Centre.

    This is the first time a medical treatment has shown this type of success for children with autism and the findings reinforce outcomes from a longer sustained program of research by this team.

    One of my medical students was interested in pediatric neurology. I gave her the literature on this topic and encouraged her to pursue it.

    Thanks, Michael. From these fragments, the papers, especially the first, sound a bit dicey. I presume that they are legit, and just sound hokey from these few sentences.

    • #12
    • May 24, 2019, at 11:57 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Aaron Miller Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    An autistic person is mentally crippled.

    Not in all cases. [….] 

    Certainly, there are variations, which is why psychos — I mean, doctors — talk of an autistic spectrum. Psychiatric models on this will probably be very different 10 or 20 years from now. 

    Years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s (before the DSM removed the term). For me, the diagnosis was just a clarifying summary. But I haven’t cited it to anyone in a long time because the reasons for my oddities don’t matter. Generally, it is my responsibility to adjust to society, not the other way around. 

    By adulthood, one has probably already developed comorbid responses to one’s initial challenges. The first disorder is compounded with another, like depression or aggression. That makes oxytocin or other treatments more complicated. On the other hand, Aspies tend to adjust enough by middle age that many symptoms are no longer obvious or problematic. 

    When you’re screwed up (mentally or physically) and people don’t know what you are not good at, that’s when life gets really interesting! It matters more that people communicate realistic expectations of each other than that we understand the reasons.

    • #13
    • May 24, 2019, at 12:49 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s (before the DSM removed the term). For me, the diagnosis was just a clarifying summary. But I haven’t cited it to anyone in a long time because the reasons for my oddities don’t matter. Generally, it is my responsibility to adjust to society, not the other way around

    Hear! Hear! A man who takes responsibility for his life! That is one powerful statement, Aaron, and I must remember it–for myself!

    • #14
    • May 24, 2019, at 12:53 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  15. Aaron Miller Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Generally, it is my responsibility to adjust to society, not the other way around

    Hear! Hear! A man who takes responsibility for his life! That is one powerful statement, Aaron, and I must remember it–for myself!

    Well, it’s a philosophy. I didn’t say I was good at it. 

    • #15
    • May 24, 2019, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. Kay of MT Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    But I do wonder if at times I only kept my job as long as I did because I was so adorable.

    Probably because you were good at it. I have to ask somebody to download a photo for me.

    • #16
    • May 24, 2019, at 2:16 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    sound hokey from these few sentences.

    Take it up with PubMed which is a publication of the National Library of Medicine.

    • #17
    • May 24, 2019, at 3:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Anticipating employment initiatives and the Israeli military innovation, Elizabeth Moon wrote a science fiction work, The Speed of Dark, in 2002 in which people with autism made good livings in advanced pattern recognition roles, including monitoring financial market data.

    • #18
    • May 24, 2019, at 4:52 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  19. MarciN Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    I’m sure she backed up her good attitude, persistence, and inspiration of others with doing a good day’s work!

    She certainly did, as she was an Eligibility Worker with LA County. She was the only worker we had that the clients never crabbed about. A lot of our clients complained if they were denied something they weren’t eligible for, as we must hate the blacks, or Mexican or the Roma, or if they had been black we would have given it to them, or for some reason. I forgot to mention that she was a young black woman. It wasn’t as bad then as it is today, being a victim client. We didn’t have the racial problems then as we do today among our employees.

    What kind of job did you have Mark?

    Unnecessary, I guess?

    I worked for IBM in a wide variety of jobs over the years. I was a EE by training, and they were all primarily technological (as opposed to physical labor, finance, etc.); most were customer-facing.

    I am always impressed by IBM guys. IBM is a truly great old American company. :-)

    • #19
    • May 25, 2019, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. MarciN Member

    A big part of employing people with disabilities is simply doing the hard work of matching them up to good open positions. I was really impressed when I spent a week in Disney World at how well they do this. Another organization that does a good job is the Lahey Clinic north of Boston. Both of these organizations put the work needed into matching people’s talents and skills with jobs.

    On the Cape, we have a farm and garden center that is operated completely by developmentally disabled people: Cape Abilities Farm. It’s one of the best garden centers on Cape Cod. I watched this place grow from the time it was just a thought and a daydream. It has been open for a few years now, and it wonderfully successful.

    In the end, we can do almost anything we want to do in this world. We just have to put the necessary time and work into the design.

    • #20
    • May 25, 2019, at 7:44 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  21. Henry Castaigne Member

    JennaStocker: A November 27, 2018 New York Post article reported doctors in Belgium under investigation for the 2010 death of Tine Nys, and 38-year-old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who was “improperly euthanized” according to the criminal complaint filed by her family.

    A study in Sweden found that people with autism are ten times more likely to kill themselves. Other studies place the number as being six times higher. I think suicide is OK. I don’t see any heroism in suffering for the sake of suffering. 

    • #21
    • May 25, 2019, at 10:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  22. Weeping Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    JennaStocker: A November 27, 2018 New York Post article reported doctors in Belgium under investigation for the 2010 death of Tine Nys, and 38-year-old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who was “improperly euthanized” according to the criminal complaint filed by her family.

    A study in Sweden found that people with autism are ten times more likely to kill themselves. Other studies place the number as being six times higher. I think suicide is OK. I don’t see any heroism in suffering for the sake of suffering.

    What about the family you leave behind? The family that loved you and now has a you-shaped hole that can never be filled? The family that is now suffering because you are no longer there?

    • #22
    • May 26, 2019, at 2:19 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. Henry Castaigne Member

    Weeping (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    JennaStocker: A November 27, 2018 New York Post article reported doctors in Belgium under investigation for the 2010 death of Tine Nys, and 38-year-old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who was “improperly euthanized” according to the criminal complaint filed by her family.

    A study in Sweden found that people with autism are ten times more likely to kill themselves. Other studies place the number as being six times higher. I think suicide is OK. I don’t see any heroism in suffering for the sake of suffering.

    What about the family you leave behind? The family that loved you and now has a you-shaped hole that can never be filled? The family that is now suffering because you are no longer there?

    Well it doesn’t seem to bother the Belgium parents that much. 

    • #23
    • May 26, 2019, at 3:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  24. Weeping Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Weeping (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    JennaStocker: A November 27, 2018 New York Post article reported doctors in Belgium under investigation for the 2010 death of Tine Nys, and 38-year-old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome who was “improperly euthanized” according to the criminal complaint filed by her family.

    A study in Sweden found that people with autism are ten times more likely to kill themselves. Other studies place the number as being six times higher. I think suicide is OK. I don’t see any heroism in suffering for the sake of suffering.

    What about the family you leave behind? The family that loved you and now has a you-shaped hole that can never be filled? The family that is now suffering because you are no longer there?

    Well it doesn’t seem to bother the Belgium parents that much.

    Belgium parents in general or the parents mentioned in the New York Post article you linked?

    • #24
    • May 26, 2019, at 3:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor

    In reference to my comment #8, we had a shy young man bagging for us yesterday. I said hello and he quietly said hello back. But he did one thing that my husband always checks for: he bagged the corn chips so they wouldn’t be crushed!! Bless his heart. We thanked him.

    • #25
    • May 26, 2019, at 4:59 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    During my years as a special education teacher I worked with kids who ranged from the mildest to the most extreme forms of autism. In my last year I had a young man who had a diagnosis of Asperger’s. The ones who were least affected by their disorder were certainly likely to be employable, in a few cases they might be very competitive with top level candidates. I had one young man who could read through a page of the telephone book and then list off all of the names on that page in order without needing to re-reference the page. He had one of the most phenomenal memories I have ever seen. At 16 he was still showing some inability to control his emotions, but I have no doubt that he was destined to be quite successful at whatever field he chose to follow. On the other extreme, I worked with a young man who was essentially non-verbal and socially feral at 17. He would likely have to be in some form of custodial care for his entire life.

    My one Asperger’s case was a pretty good example of stupidity of the left in how they dealt with these kids. In my last year of teaching he was brought to my class in mid-November. I wasn’t told that he had been expelled from his previous school in an adjoining district for assaulting his teacher and classroom aide. His teacher file had been rather thoroughly laundered. He was not a difficult student to deal with initially. There were no signs of his previous behaviors in the first couple of months. There were minor altercations with other students, but nothing exceptional. Academically, he was on the low end of the spectrum of kids I worked with, but he was making progress. Then one day he got into a spat with another student over the use of a classroom computer. Both students were told to return to their desks and were told that they could not use the computers for the rest of the day. This young man threw a pencil at me. I kept the pencil and told him that he would be off the computer for the rest of the week. I then went to my desk to record the event and its antecedents in an anecdotal record. When I was doing this, the student whose desk was immediately adjacent to mine got up, and walked behind me, then he grabbed me around the neck with one arm while he delivered repeated blows to my right temple with his other hand. He was about my size, perhaps a bit taller. I was able to stand and reverse our positions, so that I had him restrained on floor. I kept him in that position until the police officer who worked in our building came and took him away.

    This attack which left me with a mild concussion was a total surprise. Contn. below.

    • #26
    • May 27, 2019, at 2:04 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    There was no indication in his file that he was violent, even though there have been numerous attacks by him on previous teachers and other school personnel. It was deemed inappropriate to include such information in his teacher file. I am sure that the anecdotal records I put into the file were later expunged as well. What is most disturbing is not the attack on me, although in 45 years of teaching special education I had only one other student attempt to assault me. What concerned me most is the danger that this particular young man might pose to another student. Had I given him back his pencil after he threw it at me, he might have used in during his attack with far greater consequences.

    Throughout my years in teaching I saw numerous cases of administrators cleansing student files of any records having to do with criminal or dangerous behaviors. I actually recall a posting on Ricochet some time back in which a person stated that Asperger’s sufferers weren’t violent. If I recall correctly, the young man who took his mother’s rifle into the elementary school and killed or injured a number of kids suffered from Asperger’s.

    The pretense that one can assume that someone who fits on the Autism spectrum is harmless simply because there is no record of their doing something violent is idiotic. What is more so, is the failure to maintain truthful records of behavior and events of minors diagnosed with Autism and the consideration of these records when placing one of these people in a position in which they might be a danger to others. Making them a “victimized” class, and thus immune from normal considerations is a special kind of lunacy.

    • #27
    • May 27, 2019, at 2:19 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  28. Aaron Miller Member

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    Throughout my years in teaching I saw numerous cases of administrators cleansing student files of any records having to do with criminal or dangerous behaviors.

    The year I graduated from middle school into high school, the school district changed the rules to allow high schools to see middle school disciplinary records. Even though I was not a violent or malicious kid, my powerful imagination and peculiar personality combined with inexperience and teenage hormones (action without consideration of consequences) led to some dangerous situations.

    For example, I plotted to “take over the school” in the 7th grade. For what purpose? None. To what end? A helicopter escape to Mexico was in there somewhere. It was basically an unusual kid applying movie fiction and war novels to reality. But I made a plan and enlisted some fellow students. The school map given to every student probably prompted the fantasy. One kid was seen by his mother putting a pistol in his backpack (not part of my plan). If not for some lying by me and the intervention of a school counselor who trusted I would learn, I would probably have been sent to juvenile detention or expelled. My best friend’s family soon moved, perhaps to detach him from me and that record. 

    Obviously, admitting such things publicly is not beneficial when job hunting or making social connections. But there would be better understanding of abnormal psyches if weirdos open up a bit. I wrote about this on Ricochet once before. As a Christian, I try to be open (without whining or grandstanding). 

    Eventually, like any sensible adult, I grew more critical of my impulses and habits. I learned to slow down when I start to get excited to prevent my imagination from getting too wild. I worried more about causing problems for others. Being a recluse probably helps keep me out of trouble. 

    Ultimately, I believe 3 things “saved” me as an Aspie, despite ongoing difficulties. First, as the middle of 5 kids I was/am forced to socialize with a variety of personalities. Second, my mom was trained in child psychology, taught Special Ed, and likewise forced me to socialize and join regular family outings. Third, my parents are devoutly Catholic. Aspies tend to be rule-driven. What better code to latch onto than an ethical framework for sacrifice, inherent responsibility, unavoidable connections, and constant self-improvement? Plus, God understands my oddities and challenges better than even I do. So I have a companion. Incidentally, my schizophrenic cousin also takes comfort in his Christian faith. 

    I would not have made it this far in life without tolerance — true tolerance — from the many people burdened by my eccentricities over the years. Sometimes it is good to raise awareness about a condition. But teaching people to be kind and patient with difficult individuals is often enough.

    Honesty always helps. Troubled kids don’t need a clean slate so much as a culture of mercy, hope, and discipline.

    • #28
    • May 27, 2019, at 3:59 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Ultimately, I believe 3 things “saved” me as an Aspie, despite ongoing difficulties. First, as the middle of 5 kids I was/am forced to socialize with a variety of personalities. Second, my mom was trained in child psychology, taught Special Ed, and likewise forced me to socialize and join regular family outings. Third, my parents are devoutly Catholic. Aspies tend to be rule-driven. What better code to latch onto than an ethical framework for sacrifice, inherent responsibility, unavoidable connections, and constant self-improvement? Plus, God understands my oddities and challenges better than even I do. So I have a companion. Incidentally, my schizophrenic cousin also takes comfort in his Christian faith. 

    This is a beautiful and courageous statement, @aaronmiller. You have clearly worked hard at dealing with your “Aspie issue”; I’m so glad that you had family help along the way. Clearly your hard work with G-d’s help has paid off. Good for you.

    • #29
    • May 27, 2019, at 4:05 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Eugene Kriegsmann Member

    I would agree with @SusanQuinn and @aaronmiller. Hiding truth helps no one. I worked with kids who had your ideas and intelligence, Aaron. Channeling and redirecting not disciplining worked with them, and I am sure with you as well. The problem with so much of what is done is schools is that that idealistic, leftist teachers and administrators fail to differentiate between those who can be redirected and those who are irreparably damaged or simply sociopathic. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of the latter cases in the schools. In my early career I had far more of the former in my classes and they were joy to work with. In later years the largest number of students I got were of the latter type. When I worked in Seattle Childrens Home the policy there was to not accept kids diagnosed with Conduct Disorder for the simple reason that they did not respond to therapeutic treatment. Those students ended up in special education classes in the regular schools. After five year at SCH, I spent a year teaching in Juvenile Correction in Seattle and then returned to a public middle school where I had far more of the kids who simply had nowhere else to go. Those few who really had potential did not get as much as I wanted to give because so much of my time and energy was spent dealing with the far more serious behavioral problems, those far less likely to be resolved.

    • #30
    • May 27, 2019, at 4:26 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
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