Meeting of Minds

 

In this month’s issue of Catskill/Cairo magazine is an article about Common Ground, an organization that specializes in mediation. As an example of how it works, they present a California case between two neighbors of different cultures and languages. Neither spoke much English. The woman, a Hmong from Southeast Asia, owned a flock of chickens. The man, from Mexico, was accused of stealing one of the flock.

 The woman became frantic and demanded that he return the chicken or pay her $3000. The man didn’t have $3000, nor could he return the chicken because it had been served at a family barbecue.

The mediator didn’t speak much of either language, but managed to elicit the fact that the woman had recently lost a son. The man asked, “Did the chicken belong to your son?”

The woman, whose religion espoused reincarnation, claimed the chicken was her son. The man, at last understood what the situation meant to her, apologized most profoundly, and promised to take the place of that son. She, in turn, was able to grasp his lack of awareness and to accept the apology. We’ll assume he still had to make some sort of reparation for the theft.

Two cultures, two languages. Even with those barriers, the mediator succeeded in bringing about a mutual understanding and a peaceful solution.

As I read that on what would have been Ryo Kiyan’s 52nd birthday, I remembered his own idea that the issue between him and Miss M (see earlier posts), which ultimately led to his suicide, could have been settled with a simple mediation session. Those were his words, “a simple mediation session.”

Later, when I mentioned this concept to others, some were horrified at the thought of forcing poor, frightened Miss M into the same room with her nemesis.

Who said anything about forcing? It never occurred to me that anyone would think that. Needless to say (or perhaps not so needless), such a session is entirely voluntary. Mediation cannot take place if either party is coerced. Presumably both sides would agree that talking things out through a skilled mediator could help them settle their dispute to mutual satisfaction.

This was something Ryo suggested privately, not to the powers in the Sullivan County government who prosecuted him. Being lawyers and bureaucrats, they did it the bureaucratic way, which meant holding a formal hearing at which no witnesses were called for his side and he was not permitted to speak for himself, only to answer questions. Even Michael Sussman, the attorney he hired to defend him, did nothing to bring up the Asperger issue which, in the long run, was the crux of the problem. Aspie minds are organized differently from those of non-Aspies. They simply cannot see things the same way, and vice versa. And because they’ve been Aspies all their lives, they often don’t realize how different their worldview is from that of others. The same is true of those others. They can’t grasp how an Aspie sees things, or the size of the gulf between the two minds.

Ryo’s cousin, Sharleen, understood. Her actual words were, “His reality was different from the norm, but that was what made him unique.” She knew him well enough to appreciate those differences, rather than feel threatened by them, unlike Miss M and Sullivan County. A mediation session would have explained to Miss M that Ryo meant her no harm, that he only wanted answers. He didn’t think of himself as a danger. He thought they were friends, and knew his intentions were benign. It never entered his Aspie mind that she might have a different take on things.

Mediation would have made clear to him that she did have a different take, that his persistence frightened her to the point of carrying a knife and pepper spray for protection. It would have explained that the friendship he valued so highly was only a casual office acquaintance and to her, his constant insistence on dialog seemed more like stalking than talking. He learned the truth only at the hearing when it was too late to change anything.

In my last post I promised to talk about a piece I came across by an Aspie in which he describes what it’s like to have Asperger’s. My plans for that went awry when I read the article on mediation. It seemed so apt, I just had to get it in. Next time I will discuss the Aspie story.

 

Lack of Understanding

Again it’s been many weeks since I last posted. My excuse this time is that I was occupied with finishing my latest wip (work in progress), the third novel in my young adult Revenger series.

 I never set out to write a series. But when I planned a sequel to Twenty Minutes Late, the publisher suggested a series might be the way to go. Both Twenty Minutes and this blog were inspired by the same event, that is, what happened to Ryo Kiyan, which resulted from a widespread ignorance of Asperger’s Syndrome and the prejudice engendered by that ignorance. I gave the syndrome to my hero, Ben Canfield. A novel needed more than that, so I added a mystery-suspense plot. That became the core of the book, as has been true of all its sequels.

Twenty Minutes was written in the third person with several different viewpoints, including Ben’s. He has two or three chapters that show his feelings about what’s happening to him.

The next two books are written in first person. In the latest, Under Cover, I discuss those previous events in retrospect. My heroine, Cree, who has become Ben’s girlfriend, muses on how it was for Ben:

Aspies often have a problem with social connections. For some reason, their neurological set-up makes it hard for them to understand how those things work. In his junior year Ben got to be friends with a girl who shared a lot of his interests. He must have thought he found his soul mate. After a while he got up the nerve to ask her out, something he’d never done before with any girl. When she refused and started avoiding him, he thought he must have done something horribly wrong. He kept trying to find out what it was and apologize. She, the neurotic bitch, accused him of stalking and got him in real trouble.

 

Ben? Stalking? He might have come on a bit strong, but he thought they were friends and never dreamed she’d see him as a danger. It’s tough being an Aspie, with people thinking the worst of you. They always seem to.

The school bigwigs were too dumb to know that his persistence was part of the Asperger’s, that he had no malicious intent whatsoever. They held all sorts of hearings and were getting ready to expel him. Before they actually did, Ben transferred to Southbridge High.

That’s a big chunk for a quote, but it’s my book so I don’t think I’m infringing on anyone’s copyright. What happened to Ryo happened in the workplace. Since this series is for young adults, my characters are all teenagers and the events take place in school. The basic problem is the same as it was in real life. In the first book, Twenty Minutes, we see it happening as it happens.

Ben is a recurring character in the series, as are several others. Only in the second book, Long Sleep, did I refrain from dwelling on his Asperger’s, although I believe I mentioned it. I’ve tried to show how it affects him, how he copes with it, and how others view him, some with affection and understanding, others not. In Long Sleep there is more of an emphasis on sociopaths. People of that ilk make another appearance in Under Cover. They will also figure in the book I’m starting now, with the tentative title of Blackout. Even so, Ben and his Asperger’s will play an important role, for the simple reason that my main purpose is an attempt to bring about a better understanding of that syndrome. I firmly believe that if the people in Ryo Kiyan’s workplace had known something about Asperger’s, his fate might have been entirely different.

Next time I’ll discuss a post I came across by an Aspie who tells us what it’s like to have Asperger’s. (Hint: it’s rough.) I wish I could reproduce the whole thing but there are rules about that. I can only give you the link, which I will.

Xenophobia–Again

Several posts ago we talked about xenophobia: a fear or hatred of persons who are different from ourselves.

A recent example of this came about with the election of Nina Devuluri as the new Miss America. Many people would not bother getting excited over the outcome of a beauty contest, but there were those who found it an earth-shaking political threat. The social media erupted with tweets and other messages expressing disapproval and disgruntlement over the choice.

This was not about Miss Davuluri’s looks or her talent. She has plenty of both. The problem, as they see it, is her Indian heritage. Not American Indian. Who could argue that Native Americans aren’t American? Although no doubt there are those who don’t see it that way.

Miss Davuluri’s heritage is from India itself (where Columbus thought he had landed, and American Indians have been stuck with that mistake ever since.) Davuluri’s family is Hindu. Hindus are not the same as Muslims. It’s an entirely different religion, but that distinction eluded the tweeters. They hurled accusations of al Qaeda and terrorism. Aside from the fact that Miss Davuluri isn’t Muslim, not all Muslims are terrorists. Most, in fact, are not, and they deplore the terrorist acts that give their faith a bad name. Nearly all the major religions have their lunatic fringe, extremists who insist everything must be done their way.

Some tweeters made reference to 9/11 and how close the Miss America election was to its anniversary date—whatever that statement was meant to prove. Some referred to Miss Davuluri as “the Arab,” which she is not. Others, although they got that part right, still felt that her background disqualified her. “This is America, not India,” they ranted, forgetting that most of us have ancestors who came from somewhere other than North America.

These are flagrant examples of xenophobia—literally, “fear of strangers or foreigners,” or of anyone who seems strange or foreign, or just different. That includes any person with a cultural, physical, or neurological characteristic that puts him outside the norm, in looks or behavior or both. According to this philosophy, the only safe world would be a world of clones.

Where does such hatred come from? Is it a genuine fear of what someone “different” might do to us? It may well be that this is what motivates terrorists themselves. Because they feel threatened by differences, and by difference of opinion, they feel the need to make a proactive strike and get there the firstest with the mostest.

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, who writes for the Miami Herald and other papers, addressed the bigots head-on in a recent column. He even named some of the tweeters as he quoted them. They shouldn’t mind being “outed.” Obviously they weren’t ashamed of flaunting their bigotry, not to mention ignorance, for all the world to see.

Mr. Pitts said it far better than I could. He has an especially lovely putdown for those so uneducated as to lump all Eastern religions together as Islam. It shows the level of their thinking. I hope he won’t mind if I quote him here, giving him full credit:

“And you are almost—almost—less appalled by the bigotry than by the slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging ignorance of people so stupefyingly uninformed that they can’t even hate straight.”

Thank you, Leonard Pitts.

A Web Site

Recently a friend steered me to a Facebook page with the title ASPERGER SYNDROME AWARENESS. Of course I was already aware of Asperger Syndrome, but this site spelled out many things very clearly. I found it fascinating.

It’s a place where Aspies and their friends and relatives can ask questions, find answers and other information, or simply post comments. New material is added every day. Along with the posts are “posters” that are informative and in many cases inspirational.

The posters offer such messages as:  Awareness leads to understanding      Understanding leads to acceptance      Keep moving forward. That was by Stuart Duncan.

Another was a quotation from Dr. Temple Grandin: “Different . . . not less.” She should know.

And from Autism Spectrum Disorder: “I thought I would have to teach my child about the world. It turns out I have to teach the world about my child.” How true.

Another poster reads: “Autism: Don’t assume you know what it is because it probably isn’t what you think.”

Yet another enumerates “10 Amazing Life Lessons You Can Learn from Albert Einstein.” I won’t list them here but one of them had to do with Focus. It is well known that Aspies have an extraordinary ability to focus on details that aren’t apparent to other people. This makes them especially valuable for handling certain types of endeavor.

According to this site, the best Asperger book ever is THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO ASPERGER SYNDROME by Tony Atwood. He is perhaps the world’s most renowned expert on Asperger’s.

Another highly recommended read is RAISING MARTIANS FROM CRASH-LANDING TO LEAVING HOME: HOW TO HELP A CHILD WITH ASPERGER’S SYNDROME OR HIGH FUNCTIONING AUTISM by John Muggleton.

If the title seems cute and fanciful, it is an honest reflection of how truly different Aspies are from “regular” persons, or NTs (neurotypicals). Many people have trouble grasping the depth of that difference. Since Aspies look like everyone else, people expect them to be like everyone else and to understand how the rest of us think. That’s too much to ask. An Aspie can’t put himself in your shoes any more than you can put yourself in his.

The second time I looked at that site, someone had posted a video that tried to show the difference between Aspies and others. The first half of it was a walk down the sidewalk by a neurotypical. With buildings on one side and parked cars on the other, the scenery was so ordinary that one didn’t even think about it.

Then suddenly we transition to how an Aspie would experience the same walk. The first thing you notice is the intense brightness. That’s because many Aspies are sensitive to light. It’s part of their sensory overload. That overload goes for other senses as well, such as smells and loud noises. The video gives us a jumble of sounds all mushed together. An Aspie has trouble filtering out what’s relevant, and can be quite overwhelmed by the cacophony.

And don’t forget fluorescent lights. Most neurotypicals aren’t even aware that they flicker. For many Aspies, that flickering can be painful. Another thing the video points out is all the little details, such as a discarded cigarette butt, that can prove distracting to an Aspie, but which an NT wouldn’t notice.

Some of the posts ask for, or offer, help with frequent Aspie problems, especially the social ones. A parent wrote about what a joy her two daughters are, adding, “But like many Aspies [they] struggle with friendships.”

Another reads: “I have Asperger’s and it’s tough . . . I have trouble picking up on social cues and I take things very personally, whenever I go to parties. I feel like I don’t belong. If I didn’t have Asperger’s I wouldn’t be the great drummer that I am, but I could pick up social cues and start actually getting a girlfriend. With Asperger’s I’m a great musician but lousy at parties.”

And yet another: “I love this page and support it wholeheartedly. I have a brother with autism and the ignorance surrounding autism is astounding.”

That ignorance can cause huge problems. Aspies simply aren’t what other people expect them to be. As I began this blog, I referred to several Aspies who were fired from their jobs because they made other people “uncomfortable.” They’re just different. Those differences can often cause them to be bullied. In my novel TWENTY MINUTES LATE and its sequels, the Aspie hero, Ben Canfield, still bears scars on his arm from when he was pushed off his bike by bullies at the age of 11. Although fiction, that is not far-fetched.

In past posts I’ve mentioned Jesse Saperstein, the author of ATYPICAL: LIFE WITH ASPERGER’S IN 20⅓ CHAPTERS. Jesse says that, growing up, he was bullied all the time. Along with being told he would never amount to anything, would never have a girlfriend or be accepted and respected, he was informed that whatever abuse he suffered was self-inflicted.

According to statistics, 94% of children with a diagnosis of Asperger’s have, at one time or another, or in some cases all the time, faced bullying. Jesse talks about that in a video he made in which he discusses his own experience of being different from the norm. “People were scared of me,” he says. Indeed, people tend to be afraid of those who are different from what they’re used to. That reaction is known as xenophobia.

The video Jesse made is titled FREE-FALLING TO END BULLYING IN 2012. It’s on YouTube. While it probably didn’t end bullying completely—people do enjoy the sense of power they get from tormenting others—it’s a masterful film. Several autistic people are interviewed about their experience with bullies. One of them is Dr. Temple Grandin who asserts that “high school was absolutely the worst part of my life.”

Jesse contrasts the powerlessness of being bullied with the freedom of flying that comes from skydiving. He and several others jump out of a plane and float to earth. That freedom is symbolic of how life could and should be lived if only other people would cease their persecution.

A Mental Misprint

For decades now I’ve been writing the jacket copy for my books. Many publishers prefer that the author handle this chore. As they explain it, the author knows the book better than anyone else can.

Despite all that experience, when it came to writing the back cover copy for my latest release, TWENTY MINUTES LATE, I made a careless mistake that seemed to negate my whole premise. I never realized it until a reader of this blog pointed it out.

Briefly describing various elements of the plot, I wrote:

“Maddie has just escaped from an obsessed and violent boyfriend who continues to stalk her. Her handsome brother Ben, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of the same kind of behavior, although in his case it was unintentional.”

This blog has several readers who argue intensely against my premise that Aspies, by and large, despite their sometimes odd behavior, are NOT inherently dangerous and don’t deserve to be treated as such. With that unfortunate misstatement, I appeared to be going against the very premise myself. No wonder the reader pointed it out with such triumph.

I certainly never meant to saddle poor Ben with obsessed and violent behavior, which is most untypical of Aspies. True, occasionally an Aspie does manifest aggressive behavior, as in the case of Adam Lanza, who shot up the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. There were claims that he had Asperger’s. I don’t know if he was formally diagnosed. If he had the disorder, chances are he had something else going on as well. Most of us have more than one attribute and you can get all sorts of combinations. There is nothing inherent in Asperger’s syndrome itself that would make a person violent. At times they may feel out of sync with the larger world, even more out of sync than they appear to you. When Ryo Kiyan, the main subject of this blog, was accused of stalking a girl, he had no idea what they were talking about. He began seeing a therapist, and cried out, “I just want to know how the world works!” He really didn’t know, and really wanted to. Malice was never his motivation, which is why a mediation session, in which he could be explained to the girl and she to him, might well have made a difference.

Needless to say, I changed that unfortunate wording in my jacket copy. The change was also made on my website (carolinecrane.com), in my blog, and I hope soon on the book itself, although a few advance copies slipped out without the change. All it took was a single phrase. It should now read:

“Her handsome brother Ben, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is also accused of stalking, although in his case it was unintentional.”

So thank you, dear reader, for pointing it out to me.

Aspies have trouble understanding the larger world, and the larger world certainly doesn’t understand them. This can lead to erroneous perceptions. My friend Jesse Saperstein authored a book on what it’s like to have Asperger’s: ATYPICAL: LIFE WITH ASPERGER’S IN 20⅓ CHAPTERS. In describing his bumpy love life, he wrote “My persistence is so overwhelming that girls misconstrue it as stalking.” That is exactly what happened to Ryo Kiyan, with disastrous results.

Yes, Aspies can at times seem “different.” That “difference,” in many cases, makes people “uncomfortable,” which translates itself into fear. Ryo himself understood that much of the world. He knew he was an oddball. As such, he was perceived as a danger, not only by Miss M but by the Sullivan County government. Dangerous people, he acknowledged, have to be weeded out, which is exactly what they did.

Would you like to meet some really scary guys? Scary would not be your first reaction. They can be personable, handsome, well-spoken, well turned out, and very, very charming. Charm is in their nature, for their own purposes, but what is underneath it? If this link doesn’t work, you can copy and paste it into your browser.
http://profilesofmurder.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/women-who-fall-in-love-with-a-psychopath

TWENTY MINUTES LATE

Today is publication day! Or part of it, anyway. As of about noon today, my young adult mystery, Twenty Minutes Late, can be had from its publisher, fireandiceya.com. Four to six weeks from now it will be available for Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, as well as print versions from both.

Basically, the story is this:

Cree arrives late for her babysitting job to find the mother gone, the older child in a daze, and the baby missing without a trace. The police, the neighborhood searchers, even the FBI can find no clues. At school Cree makes a new friend, a girl with troubles of her own. Maddie has just escaped from an obsessed and violent boyfriend who continues to stalk her. Her handsome brother Ben, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is also accused of stalking, although in his case it was unintentional. Cree and Maddie team up to find some answers. But there are those who don’t want the answers found. As things come to a head, Cree finds an odd connection between the two cases. If she can live to tell about it.

Twenty Minutes was originally inspired by the ordeal of Ryo Kiyan, which is mostly what this blog had been about. That by itself made for a depressing and not very exciting plotline, so I added the mystery, which is the primary plot. The Asperger situation is more of a subplot but is intermingled with the mystery, and the young man’s complainant is given a concrete motivation for her fears. The whole thing seemed just right for a young adult book, so that’s what it is, with characters in their mid-to-late teens.

The first six books I ever published, many, many years ago, were for young adults, issued by such houses as Doubleday, David McKay, and Random House. After that I had a happy career writing adult suspense for Dodd, Mead, keeping company with such authors as Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters (they are the same person), as well as Agatha Christie. Her books were originally published in the UK, then re-issued in the US by Dodd, Mead.

Unfortunately Dodd, Mead fell on hard times and was taken over by a starry-eyed young woman who had more knowledge of books than business practices. She obtained her financing from a venture capitalist, and in her naïveté didn’t realize she was hooking up with a crook. I have it on good authority that he gutted the company for his own profit, and that was the end of that honeymoon.

At the time they shut down, the new Dodd, Mead (the venture capitalist) owed me $9,000 in royalties. In their official letter, they offered 7 cents on the dollar, as well as the chance to purchase the rights to my own books.

The whole offer was ridiculous and I refused. I had a contract with Dodd, Mead, and the money they owed me had already been earned through my own creative labors. In an effort to get rid of me, they offered dribs and drabs. Finally, their closing seemed so imminent I was afraid I would end up with nothing, so I reluctantly accepted 33 cents on the dollar, and demanded that the rights revert to me at no charge, which they should. The rest of my earnings, he kept. In those days, before print-on-demand, books were printed in large quantities and warehoused. I found out later that said venture capitalist really needed that money of mine. He hadn’t paid his warehouse bill, so the warehouse owners locked their doors and wouldn’t release any more books. (To me that seems counterproductive, but as the heroine of my current work-in-progress would say, What do I know?) It was an especially bitter blow, as my last two Dodd, Mead books had been Doubleday Book Club alternates and now were no longer available for sale.

Fire and Ice, the young adult imprint of Melange Books, is a much smaller publisher than Dodd, Mead, but more stable. No venture capitalists on the horizon. I’m sure not all vent caps can be crooked, but the very term has bad connotations for me.

That’s enough of blowing my stack about vent caps. It was years ago, but it still rankles. Today is a new day, Publication Day for Twenty Minutes Late.

I had wanted to add a photo of my book cover but once again WordPress is making it nearly impossible to insert a photo. It used to be so easy. My profound apologies.

A Reprise

Once I have this post up and running, I can get back to my wip (that’s tradespeak for “work in progress”). It’s a sequel to the book I mentioned earlier, Twenty Minutes Late, which is due to come out on May 26. The sequel is scheduled for November. That means it has to reach the publisher several months beforehand, and it’s not even finished! Plus, I still have to do my taxes.

The blog is important, too, at least to me. Although I did run out of steam for a while, which accounts for that gap of many months in which nothing appeared.

Recently I’ve gotten some comments that take issue with the points I’ve tried to make. Mostly they’re from the same person, with an occasional “Right on!” from one or two others.

The writer went through a harrowing experience of workplace stalking by a man who had Asperger’s. It cost her not only her peace of mind, but her job. From the number of comments she’s left on various posts, I have the impression she’s been going through the entire blog (which is very flattering) and identified her experience with that of our Miss M. My subject, Ryo Kiyan, is therefore the villain and I am all wrong in trying to explain him.

I can think immediately of one huge difference. The writer says she lost her job because of the stalking. In Ryo’s case, he was the one who lost his job, while according to what he learned afterward, Miss M was given a promotion and a $10,000 raise. My correspondent seems to have picked the wrong employer. Why was she, the presumed victim, the one who got canned? Something’s wrong with this picture.

For those who tuned in late, here’s what happened with Ryo and Miss M. They had become friends at the office, or so he thought. She knew he was looking for an apartment so that he could move out of his mother’s mobile home, a living arrangement he had accepted when he was studying and had no income. Now he was ready to move on. Miss M offered to introduce him to her landlord, after which they had a pleasant lunch together at an old inn.

Ryo enjoyed her company and hoped the relationship could go on from there. Miss M, so it seemed, did not share his opinion. In fact, when they went to her apartment either before or after the lunch, it made her “uncomfortable” (her words) that he looked at the books in her bookcase. He sometimes did that to occupy himself when he was uncomfortable in an unfamiliar place.

Still, he had no idea of how she felt. Aspies are known to be poor at picking up social cues.

But he wanted to get to know her better and there’s where he made a huge, Aspergian mistake. Because of his mother’s inevitable presence, he thought it would be awkward to invite Miss M to his home. He suggested instead that he bring some food to Miss M’s apartment, cook it himself, and rent a movie.

Oops. My female readers are aghast at the very idea that anyone could be so forward. But Ryo had Asperger’s. He didn’t think of it as being forward. To him, it made sense. That’s how much he knew. Miss M was as aghast as my readers, a fact he realized when he saw her expression.

And there he made his second mistake. Having shocked her completely, he wanted her to understand that he realized he’d done wrong. He wanted her to accept his apology, and hoped they could go on being friends. For her part, she wanted nothing more to do with him except in a word-related way. No doubt he was too much of an oddball for her taste, although previously they had had some pleasant and profound conversations. He thought they were on the same wavelength. Still craving forgiveness and understanding, he kept after her, trying to explain himself, even trying to organize a hiking trip, as they both enjoyed hiking. That persistence was his undoing. As an Aspie, he really had no clue about what was appropriate behavior and what was bizarre. At one point during the prolonged aftermath of all this, he cried out, “I just wish I knew how the world works!”

That’s how it often is for Aspies. Many have said they feel as if they came from another planet. Or, as a very perceptive reader put it, it’s as though the two parties were speaking different languages. That reader suggested a mediation session, rather than “criminalizing” a confused Aspie’s behavior. Another reader insists that mediation wouldn’t have helped. True, it might not, if the offender intended to do what he was doing, with malice aforethought. But Aspies have this problem, you see. As my friend Jesse Saperstein wrote in his book, Atypical, his persistence in trying to get to know a girl has more than once been viewed as stalking.

Ryo himself, after he’d lost everything, thought mediation would have made all the difference. He did not know what he was doing in terms of how the other person saw it. He only wanted to discuss what he saw as a misunderstanding that could be put right if they talked about it. Mediation, by its very name, implies the presence of a mediator, a neutral person or persons who would hear both sides and help them understand each other. It would, of course, be entirely voluntary. If each had known where the other was coming from, it would, I’m sure, have put an end to Ryo’s persistence and to Miss M’s fears. She was so terrified, she started carrying a knife and pepper spray. Now that’s something the mediator could have worked on. As it is, Ryo only found out about it much later at the hearing. He was shocked and horrified. He never, ever meant her any harm or realized that she saw him as a threat.

One more point that’s come up in these discussions is that many people seem to think I’m advocating special treatment for Aspies. Rather, I’m arguing for equal treatment for them. As disabled persons, they start with a handicap. Autism is a disability. At the very least, it’s a whole different way of seeing the world, and they can’t help it. “Neurotypicals,” as non-autistics are called, have woefully little understanding of that world. As Ryo’s cousin Sharleen Inouye pointed out in her condolence note to me, “his reality was different from the norm, and that was what made him unique.”

The trouble is, it’s invisible. It’s their thinking, not their appearance, that sets them apart, so people have expectations of them that aren’t realistic. In one of my posts, I likened Asperger’s to hearing loss, also an invisible disability, as I well know. People have no idea what the world sounds like to me. If they did, just maybe they would make more effort to speak up and enunciate. That is, if they really wanted me to hear them. Maybe they don’t!

In my last post, “His Birthday,” I tried to insert some photographs. I’d done it before with no problem, but that time WordPress weirded out on me and I got nowhere. I am trying once again and hope my earlier success reasserts itself. The birthday one would have fitted in better with the birthday post, but we takes what we gets.

Ryo's 3rd birthday in Hawaii, with paternal grandparents and Mom.

Ryo’s 3rd birthday in Hawaii, with paternal grandparents and Mom.


James Ryo Kiyan

James Ryo Kiyan