Watch the video below. How do you step into the shoes of Cameron?

What I “know” or “understand” about autism is next to nothing.

But having the camera crew there, that’s

a) a deviation from routine, which is upsetting to him;

b) creating a flood of sensory impulses, which throws his brain into overload mode;

c) undoubtedly accompanied by bright lights, which does makes things worse. Or do TV crews no longer require bright lighting nowadays?

I don’t consider his room calming either. It screams WHITE. Painting it a different colour might make a huge difference. Do I know that for sure? No, of course not. I have no experience with autism (other than with my very mildly autistic friend, as I learned a week or so ago) and hardly know a thing about it. But this white is not calming. And if I think about how an autistic person’s brain might work and remind myself that white does not exist but is the combination of all colours, then perhaps the use of one primary colour might be relaxing for an autistic mind whereas white might do the opposite.

It’s been said that colours that are relaxing during the day can give off a very different vibe at night. Is that also the case for autistic people? I have no idea. But does anyone else have an idea?

Does his room have an ability to play soothing music or other sounds that he finds soothing?

How do autistic people respond to white noise? Does anyone know? Has anyone ever looked at whether noise-cancelling headsets can support them, and if yes, how you could make those in such a way that the headphones don’t cause too much sensory input?

Autism. A little understanding goes a long way.

I have often written and said that I have no experience with autism, that I don’t know anyone who is autistic.

I was wrong.

For years, I had been following Henny K and her music work with autistic children – many of her clients cannot speak – to some degree. I had e-mailed her once or twice and gotten slightly unexpected responses, but figured that she was simply very busy.

Then I ran into the video below (bottom of page). Oh! I had no idea that Henny is autistic! A whole new world opened up.

Some time ago, when I found myself slightly annoyed with the responses from a friend in the Netherlands, the coin dropped. Might she be…? I looked at some checklists, thought back to experiences I had had with her over the years. (I have known her since the early 1980s, from before I went to university.) Some things seemed to click. Yes, she might be slightly autistic, and that realisation suddenly put my experiences – the one that annoyed or exasperated me, lol – in a very different perspective.

I also looked into what you should do if you suspect that someone may be autistic. You cannot “diagnose” someone else, but you can tell the person about your suspicion so that they can look into it and possibly find tools and methods that may make life a little easier for them, if they are indeed autistic. So I did.

There was no specific response.

A few weeks later, while we were Skyping, she said “Oh, by the way, you asked whether I might be autistic.” Turns out that her sister’s daughter is a psychologist and she bluntly told her mother “You’re autistic.” one day. The two sisters have talked about it and have also concluded that their dad is slightly autistic as well.

She is not highly autistic, my friend – to the extent that I can assess that – but the puzzle of her has now clicked into place for me. I’ve for example been in discussions with her in which she would suddenly apply such a “warped” kind of logic that I didn’t know how to respond. And I have gotten angry, too, a few times.

But there was something else that happened in recent years that had baffled me and that, so I now understand, comes from that inability to assess certain things from the perspective of others, who apply a different kind of logic. This is not “lack of empathy”. They step into other people’s shoes a lot. More than most of us. It’s just that when they step into another person’s shoes, the view can be very different from ours.

(Logic is not always what we think it is, no. We often apply logic on the basis of what we already know. It was one of my parrots who made me aware of this, that others can apply logic and still arrive at very different conclusions.)

Below is the video that I referred to at the start of this post. It took me a while to wrap my head around this. But eventually, I started to get a sense of it and once you do, you understand why environments with lots of flickering lights and lots of noise can be so hard to deal with for autistic people.

A little understanding goes a long way.

From now on, I can approach my friend with a lot more compassion than I had done in the past decades. (Oh yeah! I can be amazingly patient – or so I have been told – but I can also be very impatient – and I know it.) All it takes is for me to step into her shoes and try to see the world from her perspective. And then a lot of things start making a lot more sense and you – I – stop demanding the impossible.

My friend is only slightly autistic but the way in which she is little bit different has often annoyed me in the past and I have also sometimes attributed too much importance to remarks she made. At other times, the way in which she is different has also delighted me.

Observing the extent of neurodiversity can be like tiptoeing through a fairy tale land with delight and wonder. Oh, look at that elf and that gnome and that troll! Oh, saw that fairy flutter by on her delicate gossamer wings? And there, there is a genuine giant!

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:

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:

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.


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).



WOW (neurodiversity including autism)

The more I read about variations in neurological makeup, the more confusing it becomes at times. Turns out that I really had no idea what autism is.

(Until relatively recently, I’d vaguely thought that autistic people are shy and quiet, withdrawn.)

I’d never heard of PDA. I knew next to nothing about Asperger’s.

But reading up a bit on Asperger’s made me wonder what distinguishes it from borderline personality disorder (BPD). (I have some ideas about that but almost no experience. I’ll come back to that.)

Turns out I am not the only one!

Wow. If that is the case… That raises lots of questions. I’d already heard – and I understand why – that people with Asperger’s are sometimes mistaken for people with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) with or without psychopathy or sociopathy. Wow.

And I can imagine that any condition with a Jekyll & Hyde aspect – which apparently Asperger’s can have – can make people with such conditions wonder if they are bipolar. Bipolar disorder is probably not well understood either (certainly by people who don’t have it or don’t have anyone with it in their close surroundings?). Wow.

What I have picked up after admittedly only reading a little bit is that autistic people can display physical symptoms and they do not occur in the other conditions, to my knowledge. Things like clumsiness, “flapping of hands” and avoidance of eye contact. BPD does not have that. Neither does NPD. But I also get the impression that not all autistic people have these physical manifestations.

When you read a lot about these things, and this may particularly hold for the spouses of people with some of these conditions (or in general, people who’ve endured years of abuse/gaslighting and isolation), you can find yourself mentally checking if any of it might apply to yourself… That too can be confusing, I bet.

For a moment, it made me wonder what I thought I was doing when I wrote the book that I wrote some time ago. Luckily, I do have the answer to that question. (Phew.)

Driving and autism

Here is some information about autism and Blue Badges, for those of you who have caught a bit of British news about that recently:

This is a complicated matter.

A few days ago, I received an e-mail about autistic people in the state of New York not wanting marks on driving licences of autistic people, out of fear of stigmatization as driving licences also serve as ID. In most circumstances, disclosing that you are autistic at the same time serves no purpose. It could be a bit like disclosing you have aids.

In the UK, the

“DVLA has … clarified that you do not have to disclose your autism diagnosis to the DVLA if it doesn’t affect your ability to drive safely, and their online advice to drivers and medical professionals has now been changed to reflect this.” (30 Aug 2019)


Autism and such

Yesterday, I received a petition in my in-box against adding an indication on someone’s driving licence – in the state of New York – that the person is autistic.

I am torn over that.

More confusingly, the e-mail asks me both to help support and oppose the bill and refers a letter in response – by autistic people, that is nowhere to be found (because the link to the document went .

When I searched for it, by clicking on links in the e-mail and clicking on other links, I did find it, here:
And upon reading that letter, and the entire e-mail, it becomes clear that the word “support” (the bill) in the e-mail should have been “oppose”. A typo.

I can see both sides and I don’t know what the golden compromise would be.

Discrimination is not a good thing.

But it’s happened – and not just once –  that police officers unleashed a lot of violence at someone who was (or still is, if the person survived) autistic. Or simply deaf. Because police officers didn’t realise it.

Would an indication on someone’s driving licence help? On some occasions, yes, I am sure. In many other circumstances, not at all.

For autistic people, I can imagine it might help more if they simply call one of their friends or relatives whenever they encounter misunderstandings. Would that work in practice? I don’t know. Police officers often act first, ask questions later. Someone trying to take a phone out of his pocket, it could easily be misinterpreted as the person going for a gun, in some countries.

It wouldn’t work for deaf people as they might not even be aware that one or more police officers are calling out or yelling.

The main problem appears to be that driving licences are also used as ID in many situations in which disclosing that someone is autistic serves no good purpose, certainly in the States, where most people have no passport as Americans have a giant country at their disposal and rarely have a need to cross an international border.

Any good ideas? Is this a real problem or does this kind of stuff happen just as often to people who are not autistic?

Wearing dorky glasses or having become a bit shy because of some things that happened to you does not mean that you’re autistic. As far as I can tell, people who are autistic have brains that work differently and that makes them look at the world differently. Autistic people may lack abilities that other people have in varying degrees (social skills) but they also have abilities that others lack and they’re certainly far from “stupid” or “naive” or whatever else may be said about that. I too find autism very hard to understand, but I watched a video a few days ago that I first found very confusing, but when I thought about it some more, it became highly enlightening. Maybe it is not that dissimilar from, say, synesthesia (in which the senses overlap and words printed in black and white can have colors or pitch, for example).

Autism, and the fourth dimension

I just received an e-mail from Henny Kupferstein that was an eye opener. I knew that she works with autistic children via music, often using services like Skype. I had no idea, however, that she too is autistic!

As far as I know, I’ve never met anyone who is autistic or at least interacted with the person extensively. So I’ve been wondering what it is like to be autistic and I’ve watched videos that weren’t very enlightening to me, other than to make me realize that autistic people deal with the world in a different way, and find ways to deal with the expectations of mainstream people.

I’d previously gotten the impression, from Temple Grandin’s TED Talk, that autistic people have different abilities, special abilities.

In this video, Henny explains in detail how the visual/mathematical world works for her and that it is a thing of great beauty.

Now I understand it a lot better!

“Law change threatens rights of 300,000 people with learning disabilities”

Campaigners in the UK fear that new legislation may result in the erosion of rights of people with learning disabilities, autism and dementia, as it may take away many of their rights to make decisions for themselves, including how and where they are cared for.

This would be outrageous.

It makes me recall one case in which someone was moved 200 miles (off the top of my head, because the person turned 18) and the parents successfully took a human rights approach to reverse that. That is only one example of what could go wrong.

Legislation drawn up for the right reasons but drawn up badly can do a lot of harm.

Read more:

The Irony of Susceptibility to Manipulations: Grooming Neurotypicals for Social Ineptitude

Henny Kupferstein

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The stereotypes of autistic people perpetuate a myth that they are socially inept. Yet non-autistics, also known as neurotypicals, portray ineptitudes on the basis of their susceptibility to body language, communication, and perceptual manipulations. How we learn these signals opens the debate for nature versus nurture, and the acquisition of social skill aptitude. Who is more socially equipped? The one who is capable of surrounding himself with pretentious body language, or the one who is mindful of her full spectrum of awareness? A neurotypical who communicates with learned body gestures is currently considered evolved, while the acquisition of those skills are a direct result of the inability to survive otherwise. The autistic who remains authentic in order to adapt to the current environment is potentially most equipped to function in society.

The cycle of life requires attracting a mate, reproduction, and adaptations for exploitation to those who threaten…

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