I was living there while this was going on

This is a running commentary on the film below.

Apparently, this film is based on a true story. I was living there while this was going on, but I’ve only just started watching this film so I can’t say any more yet at this point. It does not look like the film was shot in St Pete. No Spanish moss, for example. And nothing that I recognise.

A few minutes later: No, the movie came out while I was living there. It all happened earlier:
https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1993/10/14/family-s-terror-comes-to-nbc/

Another stark reminder – to wake up from their silly daydreams – for people including way too many cops who are convinced that being stalked is flattering and romantic.

The problem with doing things like barring someone – in this case from the junior softball activities – and from getting protection orders is that it can make a stalker so furious that it encourages (that is, motivates) him and escalates the situation. It rarely stops serious stalking. It often stops stalkers who aren’t really stalkers.

There is no “one size fits all” approach that you can execute without professional assistance and going to the police to report stalking is a complete waste of time in many countries.

I assume that this Curtis was autistic and on the one hand overflowing with his own emotions but on the other hand unable to grasp how his actions were affecting others. Autistic people can have limited Theory of Mind (mentioned in my previous post), which makes them look like they have no empathy at all, but unlike with psychopaths – who genuinely do not care – autistic people do care.

And they are capable of learning and understanding and can be motivated to adapt some of the behaviours that may be causing severe concern for others. If only there were enough people who are capable of serving as interpreters in such a context and are willing to do that.

But I am only 20 minutes into the film at this point.

So how could you resolve a situation like this peacefully and perhaps even prevent it? By making sure that the healthcare gap between mental health versus physical health is addressed and that people like this Curt have good support that helps them understand how the rest of the world works? That’s generally speaking.

How did the stalking begin?

Because the girl who was stalked, who was 14 when it started, was the only child who did not tease the ADULT who ended up stalking her and terrorising her family. When the film came out, five years after the stalking began, the girl was still in hiding.

But later on, he does seem to become deliberately mean. That is not a sign of autism. Or is it? That’s an issue that I too have been grappling with. What exactly is autism? Could all of what I am exposed to be autism and anger in response to the world and to me not wanting this guy to go into my flat when I am out and all of that? Or is it something else and if so, what?

Almost no data on this:
https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR842864.aspx

https://ibcces.org/blog/2017/04/26/stalking/

https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/harassment-reduce-situations-people-autism/

http://www.theneurotypical.com/an-open-letter-to-high-functioning-autism-experts.html

The problem is – for me too – that none us know how to deal with stalking behaviours and often are being made to feel that we need to be nice to the person in order to get him to behave appropriately and stop him from getting angry and do damage. But that often encourages the person. Telling him “no”, however, doesn’t work either and can make him very angry.

(I didn’t even know the guy who started stalking me. I thought someone else was doing this, which was someone I couldn’t really claim to know either.)

Watch the bit between about 31:00 and 36:00 in the film and you have all the agony and disruption and dilemmas and frustration associated with being stalked.

It starts with the friend who makes fun of the girl, knowing fully well that this girl just threw up that afternoon after her stalker turned out to be sitting a few rows behind her at a sports game, to the young family members making fun of the situation, the disruption by the stalker the following morning and the resulting frustration and anger, the anger that comes back from the stalker, and then the legal situation and the utter lack of understanding on the side of the stalker and the dilemma the parents face between wanting to ignore the guy and pretend he does not exist and also not wanting to make him angry. (The only bit that is missing in this fragment is the role that cops play.)

The “I hear! I hear!” response in that bit of film makes me suspect autism again. His response seems literal. Just like his “You can’t do that! The law does not allow that!” about Linda threatening to spray-paint his car purple and orange is a bit unusual.

I looked after someone with Alzheimer’s, a Canadian woman who got stranded in St Pete, for a few days in 1995 and that taught me a lot.

One thing I do know is that I do not have the patience to deal with autistic people around the clock, in the fringes. Because it’s a full-time job.

I have never had any relatives, colleagues, acquaintances etc who are autistic, to my knowledge, but the impression I get is that they’d likely quickly drive me nuts. I can’t be the only one who feels that way in spite of having enough compassion.

(The family portrayed in the film has said that the film is pretty accurate. Only the daughter’s bleeding lip at some point was different and one other bit, apparently.)

Btw, this stalker character in the film has the same weird situationally inappropriate smile as my hacker.

Yeah, this dude is as “nuts” as my stalker. Whether he is autistic or not, I don’t know. But the driving in circles in front of the Anellos’ home – at 45:00 – is exactly the kind of thing that my stalker does too and I don’t know if this is autistic behaviour. It comes across as taunting. Is it “lack of impulse control”? Yeah, maybe that too is related to autism. The frustration with being told “no”, the fact that he just does not get it, it causes a tremendous amount of conflict in him. it is “I want!” and everything and everyone else is of no importance relative to what he wants.

According to the stalker’s mother, he had “emotional problems and a severe learning disability”.

So how do you get someone to move on without being able either to “take yourself out of the equation” as one stalking target put it – and yes, she meant suicide – or relocating as far away as possible and start living under a fake name?

How do you get someone – a complete or relative stranger – to give you your life back? Once stalking’s already progressed big time, taking yourself out of the equation is often the only way left to put a stop to it. Being stalked.

That is just not good enough.

We – as society – can do better, surely.

Am at 58 minutes into the film now. So are stalkers like this one likely to be autistic? If he is indeed a so-called predatory stalker – one of the comments mentions that phrase – then no. But those people are more likely to be fooling the people around them, as follows.

From: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-human-equation/201212/the-predatory-stalker

Okay, at the end of the film I conclude that this Bruce Andrew Raines was is autistic (and so was his mother, apparently, as they’ve both been described as “weird”; he learned his social skills from his mother to a large degree, of course). There was no intent to hurt the girl. Ever. Not even in the film. Just him not getting – understanding – a lot of stuff and getting very frustrated over it.

In those days, nobody ever talked about autism. I am not sure that the word even existed back then. In Florida, you could have people locked up for, well, disagreeing with you. There was a mental health act – the Baker Act – that was often abused. Mom does not want to include you in the inheritance? Just convince the court that she’s crazy. Dad wants to go on a holiday and also do things like learn how to paint instead of stay put in his old folks’ home and play shuffleboard all day? Can’t have that either. Journalists raised attention for the problem and the law was subsequently amended. In 1996, I think that was.

And my hacker is very likely autistic too. His logic is weird and he does not get things the way others do. It is why he thinks that my siblings are bad people – and various other people – and does not want me to be in contact with any of them.

So how do you handle such a situation in real life? When it begins. By sitting down with him, quietly, in a quiet room, not in a hostile atmosphere, with an intermediary and quietly and patiently explaining the WHY to him and finding a different focus for him. Also explaining to the parents and to the girl and to others what is going on.

And not focusing on only such negative aspects of autism but also pointing out the positives of autism.

Watching this film was not always easy for me. I feel that that person leaving notes everywhere is me too these days, because it is often the only way to communicate with English people with their bizarre host of aversions, assumptions and insecurities (not to mention their tendencies for unbridled aggression and whatnot). I find dealing with English people often very exhausting. Frustrating. Complicated. All that convoluted Victorian stuff. All those rules and their upset when you don’t follow their rules. All that avoidance of eye contact. All that shyness. Alternatively, all that crazy bluster to hide their social insecurities. I may have to do some thinking about that… (such as about how I can approach this in a more effective manner).

 

 

The women who don’t know they’re autistic

File 20170713 11780 ttlkuk

Daria Nepriakhina/Unsplash

Fabienne Cazalis, École des Hautes Études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

This article was co-written by Adeline Lacroix, who works with Fabienne Cazalis and was recently diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. A second year master’s student in psychology, she is working on a scientific literature review about the characteristics of high-functioning autistic women.


Let’s call her Sophie. The description we’ll give could be that of any woman who is on the autistic spectrum without knowing it. Because they’re intelligent and used to compensating for communication impediments they may not be consciously aware of, these women slip through the cracks of our still-too-inefficient diagnostic procedures.

Studies reveal one woman for every nine men is diagnosed with so-called “high-functioning” autism, that is, autism without intellectual disability. If we compare this to the one woman for every four men diagnosed with the more readily identified “low-functioning” autism, we can easily imagine many autistic women are left undiagnosed.

Today, Sophie, who lives in France, has a job interview. If you could see her nervously twisting her hair, you might think she’s anxious, like anyone would be in the circumstances. You would be wrong. Sophie is actually on the verge of a panic attack. At 27, she just lost her job as a salesperson due to repeated cash-register mistakes – and it’s the eighth time in the last three years. She loved maths at university and is deeply ashamed. She hopes the person hiring will not bring up the subject – she has no justification for her professional failures and knows that she is incapable of making one up.

Learning accounting by herself at home

Sophie’s wish is granted: the interviewer asks her instead about her time at university. Relieved, she happily launches into an explanation of her masters thesis on meteorological modelling, but he cuts her off abruptly, clearly irritated. He wants to know why she is applying for a temporary job as an accounting assistant when she has no experience or training. Although her heart is racing wildly, Sophie manages to keep her composure, explaining that she taught herself accounting at home in the evenings. She describes the excellent MOOC (online course) she found on the website of the French Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, and tells him how one of the questions she asked the teacher on the forum led to a fascinating debate on the concept of depreciation expenses.

Sophie is not good at guessing what people are thinking, but she understands from the way the man is staring at her that he believes she is lying. Overwhelmed, she feels weaker by the minute. She watches his lips move but does not understand what he’s saying. Ten minutes later she’s in the street, with no memory of how the interview ended. She is shaking and holding back tears. She curses herself, wondering how anyone could be so stupid and pathetic.

She climbs into a crowded bus, swaying under the heavy odours of perfumes worn by those pressed up around her. When the bus brakes suddenly, she loses her balance and bumps into a fellow passenger. She apologises profusely and hurriedly gets off. In her rush, she trips again and falls to the pavement. “I must get up, everyone is looking,” she thinks, but her body refuses to obey. She can no longer see properly and doesn’t even realise her own tears are blinding her. Someone calls an ambulance. Sophie wakes up in a psychiatric facility. She will be misdiagnosed with a psychological disorder and given medication that will solve none her problems.

A unique way of thinking, a taste for solitude, intense passions

Sophie’s story is typical of the chaotic lives led by women whose autism remains undiagnosed because they are on that part of the spectrum where the signs are less obvious. In spite of her impressive cognitive capacities – like the ability to teach herself a totally new field of knowledge – Sophie has no idea of her own talents, and neither do those around her, or only rarely. Trapped in a social environment highly critical of what makes her unique, such as her unusual way of thinking, taste for solitude, and the intensity of her passions, Sophie is acutely aware that these are seen as shortcomings.

If Sophie could be given the correct diagnosis of high-functioning autism, she would at last understand the way her mind works. She could meet other autistic adults and learn from their experience to help her overcome her own difficulties.

Autism is characterised by social and communicative difficulties, specific interests that people with autism are capable of speaking about for hours (like meteorological modelling, in Sophie’s case), and stereotyped behaviours. There are also differences in perception, such as hypersensitivity to smells or sounds, or, conversely, reduced sensitivity to pain. Autism is thought to affect around one in one hundred people.

70% of people with autism have either normal or superior intelligence. This form of autism is generally referred to as high-functioning autism, as per the latest version of the “bible” of psychiatric disorders, the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In this version, all reference to older categories has been removed, including Asperger syndrome. The term Asperger’s is still used today in some countries, however, even though all types of autism are now grouped under a single spectrum and classified according to the severity of symptoms.

Appropriate support throughout schooling

Ideally, Sophie would have been diagnosed as a child. She could have benefited from specialised support throughout her schooling, as is legally required in France and other countries. This support would have made her less vulnerable, giving her the tools to defend herself from bullying in the schoolyard and helping her learn with teaching methods adapted to her way of thinking. Upon leaving school, her diagnosis would have opened up access to labour rights, such as disabled worker status, which would have helped her find an adapted employment. Sophie’s life would have been simpler and she would be more at peace with herself.

But Sophie’s problems are twofold. Not only is she autistic, but she’s also a woman. If getting a diagnosis is already tricky for men, it’s even more difficult for women. Originally, autism was thought to only rarely affect women. This erroneous idea, which emerged from a 1943 study conducted by Léo Kanner (the first psychiatrist to describe the syndrome), has been reinforced by the long-dominant psychoanalytical approach. The criteria defining autistic symptoms were based on observations in boys.

Later, when science replaced psychoanalysis as the dominant model, studies were largely conducted on male children, thus reducing the chances of recognising autism as it’s manifested in females. This phenomenon, also present in other areas of science and medicine, has far-reaching implications today.

Similar test results for boys and girls

To diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD), doctors and psychologists evaluate quantitative criteria using tests and questionnaires, but also qualitative criteria, like interests, stereotyped movements, difficulties with eye contact and language and isolation. But while autistic girls show similar test results to autistic boys, the clinical manifestation of their condition differs, at least in cases where language has been acquired.

With social-imitation strategies, for example, autistic girls have fewer troubles making friends than autistic boys ; they have seemingly more ordinary interests than boys (for example horses, rather than maps of the subway); while less restless than boys, they are more vulnerable to less-visible anxiety disorders, and more adept at camouflaging their stereotyped and soothing ritual behaviors. In other words, their autism is less obtrusive, which means their symptoms are less obvious to their families, teachers and doctors.

Biology and environment explain these differences, and in this case it’s impossible to separate nature from nurture. On the nature side of the argument, some hypothesise that girls are better equipped for social cognition and more apt at caring roles. This would explain why they appear to be more interested in the animate (cats, celebrities, flowers) than the inanimate (cars, robots, rail networks).

When it comes to nurture, girls and boys are not brought up in the same way. Socially acceptable behaviours differ according to sex. Although autistic children are more resistant to this phenomenon, the pressure to conform is so strong it still ends up influencing their behaviour, as illustrated by the case of Gunilla Gerland. As a girl, this Swedish woman didn’t want to wear rings or bracelets because she hated the way metal felt on her skin. Observing that adults could not fathom that a little girl might not like these things, she resigned herself to getting gifts of jewellery, and even learned to thank the giver, before stashing the object away in a box at the earliest opportunity.

Skilled in the art of camouflage

As autistic girls grow up, the gap between how their condition and that of boys manifests widens. As adults, some autistic women can become highly skilled in the art of camouflage, which explains the use of the term “invisible disability” to describe certain types of high-functioning autism. Incidentally, this is the meaning of the title of Julie Dachez’s 2016 graphic novel, The Invisible Difference (Delcourt).

A page from ‘The Invisible Difference’ (Delcourt), by Julie Dachez.
Delcourt/Mirages

More and more women are discovering their condition later in life and sharing their experience. Since September 2016, the Francophone Association of Autistic Women (Association francophone des femmes autistes, or AFFA) has been fighting for recognition of the specific ways autism manifests in women. A learned society on autism in women is also being created in France, bringing together the general and scientific communities, with the goal of promoting dialogue between researchers and autistic women.

A specific questionnaire for girls

Historically, major figures in autism research believed there was significant prevalence in women. The Austrian Hans Asperger (for whom the syndrome is named) put forward the idea as early as 1944, as did British psychiatrist Lorna Wing, as early as 1981. But it’s only in recent years the scientific community has really started examining the evidence.

Some researchers aim to better understand the specific characteristics of autism in women. Since the beginning of this year, volunteers are invited to participate in a study on “autism in women” conducted by Laurent Mottron, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Montreal (Canada), and Pauline Duret, a doctoral student in neuroscience, in collaboration with myself and Adeline Lacroix, working at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris (France). Adeline Lacroix is a master’s student in psychology and has herself been diagnosed with autism.

Other studies are attempting to adapt diagnostic tools for use with female subjects. A team made up of Australian scientists Sarah Ormond, Charlotte Brownlow, Michelle Garnett, and Tony Attwood, and Polish scientist Agnieszka Rynkiewicz, is currently perfecting a specific questionnaire for young girls, the Q-ASC (“Questionnaire for autism spectrum conditions”). They presented their work in May 2017 at a conference in San Francisco.

While there has been an initial trove of interesting results, current research into the specific characteristics of autism in women is raising more questions than it answers. However, the confusion could be considered a necessary step toward the acquisition of knowledge, provided the women affected can contribute to the research and share their point of view on the direction the work should take.

Ordinary citizens can also work towards ensuring autistic girls have the same rights as their male counterparts. By gaining a better understanding of the different forms of autism, everyone can contribute to a world in which children and adults with autism can find their place, and help fight exclusion by creating an inclusive society.


The ConversationTranslated from the French by Alice Heathwood for Fast for Word.

Fabienne Cazalis, Neuroscientifique, CNRS, École des Hautes Études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.