An Invisible Disability


                                                                                                                                March 13, 2012

Fifty years ago today, James Ryo Kiyan was born. He was first named Crane Ryo Kiyabu, but changed it to suit himself when he reached college age.

n some ways, Ryo never grew up. Although brilliant of intellect, he always had a rather childlike naïveté and a puckish sense of humor. He also had Asperger’s syndrome, which no one knew until he was well into adulthood. No one, in fact, even knew the term before about 1980. Only gradually did any awareness of it reach the general public. Even now, most people have a poor, if any, understanding of what it entails and what it feels like. That ignorance proved to be Ryo’s downfall.  

James Ryo Kiyan

 Ryo had a tough time growing up. Who doesn’t? But in New York City, at Stuyvesant High School and later at Grinnell College, there were enough bright and unusual young people so that he had friends who understood and appreciated him.

Adulthood found him unsure what to do with his life. His work record was spotty and unremarkable. Only in his forties did he realize that his lifelong interest in maps could become a career. For several years he studied mapmaking and geography, and landed a job with the Sullivan County (NY) Division of Planning and Environmental Management.

He was happy at last. He made several friends and enjoyed the work. He kept at it steadily through a bout with cancer, not wanting to jeopardize his job.

And then came Miss M. She was attractive. And single. And shared many of Ryo’s interests and concerns.

Those with Asperger’s have a famously hard time seeing into other people. Ryo assumed that he and Miss M had a promising friendship. She may have had issues and problems that he couldn’t fathom. Who, for instance, would feel uncomfortable when someone looks at the books in her apartment? According to her testimony at Ryo’s hearing, this was when she began to have doubts about him. Because he looked at the books in her apartment.

Unaware of her reaction to the book-looking episode, he proposed another get-together, this time a dinner at her apartment, which he would prepare, and a rented movie. He couldn’t make it at his place because, at the time, he was living with his mother and that would be ridiculous.

Miss M was shocked and horrified. He couldn’t miss that reaction, and immediately apologized for what he took to be an “inappropriate” suggestion. She turned such a cold shoulder that he had to keep apologizing, begging her to understand that he knew it was inappropriate, he was sorry, it would never happen again, and he hoped they could still be friends. Her refusal to discuss the matter caused him further anguish. He had to make her understand that he was not a bad person. He did not want to lose her as a friend. He hadn’t many of those and he truly admired her. He even admitted to having an “untenable” crush.

She, in turn, saw him as a stalker and began carrying a knife and pepper spray. She complained to the Division’s management and they ordered him to back off. He tried, but he still needed to be assured of her good opinion. With his Asperger’s, he had no clue that she was now terrified of him. He never thought of himself as a terrifying person. He was a little boy in danger of losing his best friend.

She and management had no clue as to the working of his mind. He told them he had Asperger’s but they were totally ignorant as to what that meant in terms of a person’s outlook, thoughts, and reactions. They expected that his mind should work exactly like theirs even though it was wired differently.

That is why there is No Justice for Aspies, the overall theme of this blog.

It’s understandable that they should be protective of her. Men can do a lot of damage to women if things get out of hand.

Conversely, a woman can be equally dangerous to men, often in more subtle, less physical ways. Especially to a vulnerable man with Asperger’s and a childlike naïveté that often comes with Asperger’s. Ryo never lacked for brains, but this was not a cerebral matter. People with Asperger’s can be extremely brilliant and often are. What they don’t have is insight into other people and sometimes insight into themselves. Despite the warnings from management and rejections from Miss M, Ryo had no clear idea of what was going on until his world collapsed around him, leading ultimately to his death.

Just before he died, Ryo wrote the following note, which was found with his body:

You hear a lot of talk about “community” these days but it’s just an empty buzzword. People who are having a tough time expressing themselves to the people whom they admire and count on shouldn’t be denigrated and trashed and expected to fend for themselves.


Can you tell which of these people has Aspergers?


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4 thoughts on “An Invisible Disability

  1. “Conversely, a woman can be equally dangerous to men, often in more subtle, less physical ways. Especially to a vulnerable man with Asperger’s and a childlike naïveté that often comes with Asperger’s. Ryo never lacked for brains, but this was not a cerebral matter.”

    I disagree. The targets of obsessed Aspies aren’t to blame for the conduct of Aspies. To blame a woman who was the target of an obsession? That’s just not right. It’s quite frightening to be the target. I recently was targeted at a new job by an obsessed Aspie (older man). Within 24-hours he had glommed on to my life. It was frightening. He’d lay in wait for me when I used the ladies’ restroom; stand 1″ in behind my body if I used the copier or other equipment;
    would come up and stare and stare at me; would come up and stand behind me while I was working and stare and stare and stare at me. He would not take “NO” for an answer. He tracked my every move, to the point that I couldn’t use employer-paid-for parking and I had to park my car on various side streets and pay for it so he couldn’t track me to my car. The whole thing was such a nightmare. I refused to go to a going-away lunch because I didn’t want to be around him. My boss then fired me. Police told me that I was 100% correct
    not to go to the lunch as did attorneys. The whole thing is ending up in litigation. Three law enforcement agencies are involved, two government agencies, and attorneys. Such a nightmare. It’s not the target’s/victim’s fault to deal with some person who can’t take “no” for an answer. We aren’t pieces of property.

    • I was not blaming the woman for Ryo’s behavior. What I do blame is the general lack of understanding in the public at large of the fact that Asperger perceptions work differently from those of neurotypicals and the person with Asperger’s may have no idea of how his actions are perceived by others. I happen to know that Ryo was totally unaware of how he seemed to Miss M. He thought they had a friendly relationship and could go on from there. Obviously she didn’t share this perception, a fact he did not realize until it was spelled out for him much later. Which is why a mediation session might well have solved the entire problem and put everyone’s fears and apprehensions at ease.

      On Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 2:41 AM, carolinecrane

  2. Thank you for responding Mrs. Crane.
    1. I don’t really understand why you wrote that about women “being equally dangerous” to men with Asperger’s. Most normal women are scared of obsessed Asperger’s men.
    2. I personally think something beyond mediation needs to be done with people with Asperger’s, given their level of obsession with others (which we who are the targets of them can’t seem to get through to them and no one else can either).
    3. I personally wouldn’t be willing to be in a mediation session with the Aspie co-worker who started stalking me. It’s not because I’m not a nice, kind, thoughtful person. It’s because it simply feeds his bizarre obsession with me.
    4. Employers also have many legal concerns about these situations for negligence: negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision, foreseeability (knowing that there was a problem person
    and not stopping them), sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and stalking
    (a crime).
    5.Then there’s OSHA regulations, and the General Duty Clause requiring employers to maintain a safe and healthful work environment and put a stop to all threats to employee safety.
    6. People with Asperger’s may have an ADA disability, but it doesn’t let them off the hook (or the employer) for threats to workplace safety.

    • Most normal women aren’t “scared of obsessed Asperger’s men,” we;re scared of obsessed men and obsessed women in general!

      Whether they have autism or not isn’t part of our fear because their behavior and their actions give us absolutely no indication of whether or not they have autism.

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