That boy ain’t right.

I need to do a limited skinback here. I’ve been mulling something over since Hank brought it up in comments last Thursday, when we discussed the strange case of Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan assistant attorney general waging a one-man war against Chris Armstrong, the gay student-body president at the University of Michigan. Hank said:

Someone I know, a high-functioning autistic man who would certainly know what he’s talking about in this regard, looked at the Shirvell interview and immediately diagnosed a fellow high-functioning autistic man. It’s what happens, he says, when the rigidity and obsessive behavior fails to find an appropriate outlet.

I’ve watched the video a couple of times since then, and I think he’s right. There’s something about Shirvell that’s not quite all there; he seems to have no idea why what he’s doing is at all inappropriate. (It’s hard to judge a person’s demeanor in one of these on-camera interviews, which do not favor amateurs — you sit in a chair, staring into a camera lens while Anderson Cooper yaks in your ear. You have no conventional feedback to tell you how you’re coming across; if you’re lucky you might get a monitor, but not always.) Turning to the wisdom of the crowd, i.e., Googling “‘andrew shirvell’ + asperger OR autism” turns up many other armchair psychiatrists who recognize the same traits they live with every day in a colleague or loved one with this condition. It’s good enough for me. While by no means excusing Shirvell’s behavior, it’s safe to say that outraged umbrage and gaydar jokes here are uncalled-for, and I apologize. Shirvell, meanwhile, has decided this is an excellent time to take a leave of absence. Wise move.

However, I’d like to use this as a jumping-off point for a subject that’s interested me for years — how we deal with, or don’t deal with, mental impairments/illness/less-than-normal brain functioning in our society.

When I was a columnist I wrote a bit about mental health, and I always liked to bat this balloon around with my sources, asking them how we draw the line between eccentric and crazy. “Not very well” was their answer, in a phrase. They often spoke of the frustration of dealing with, say, the very religious family of a schizophrenic patient, who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand things like brain chemistry and psychotropic drugs and 72-hour commitments, but had a very easy explanation in “demonic possession.” Sometimes a person’s symptoms fit very nicely into a particular culture’s drawer, and it takes a while before anyone figures out they have a person on their hands who needs help and support, not reinforcement.

I have no idea at all what sort of family or community Shirvell comes from, but it’s entirely possible that among his tribe, this is normal behavior, even admirable. It’s funny how the internet has made a certain sort of obsession — and what is a blog called Name of Person I Hate Watch but an obsession — not just acceptable but normal. And if people you hang with hate the same people you do, it becomes noble, a cause. And soon no one questions whether Andrew is getting a little too engaged in the cause, he’s just a man with admirable energy and focus.

Maybe we should all undergo a periodic life audit by a panel of friendly strangers with board-certified Common Sense ™. They’d go over a few key documents in our lives, we’d submit to a short interview, and two weeks later the report comes in the mail: Nice work on cutting back on your drinking and increasing your exercise, but you’re starting to become a bore about your vegetarian diet. Watch that.

And so another weekend vanishes in the rear-view mirror. I spent most of it in the kitchen. I’m experimenting with a new food this week — quinoa.

“May I have a pound of kee-no-ah?” I asked the girl at the store.

“I have some keen-wa right here,” she said, handing over a bag. Nicely played. So far I’m finding the Aztec’s magic grain interesting. Yesterday — cold bean salad with cherry tomatoes, mixed greens and quinoa. Today: Fried quinoa in the style of rice. I’ll keep you posted.

Bloggage: When you get to be my age, you’ve already been puzzled by at least half a million success stories, but the one that’s bugging me at the moment is that of Kathleen Parker, who always struck me as the ultimate media chameleon, one of those women who scored the “conservative” slot on op-ed pages back when female columnists were all Ellen Goodman clones, and then switched sides during the Bush meltdown, thereby earning the Strange New Respect award, and — funny how often this happens — a goddamn Pulitzer Prize, and if that isn’t a testament to how slim the pickings have gotten in the op-ed stable, I don’t know what is. Her column always struck me as content-free, I-was-just-thinkin’ culture-war musings on whatever was on the cover of Newsweek in any given month. But she had one thing working for her, something she’s always been willing to trade on. She’s very pretty. An early version of her website had a collection of photos of her, all taken at the same session, a little brainy pin-up gallery of Kathleen with her head cocked, Kathleen leaning her head on her hand and smiling, Kathleen twirling her reading glasses, etc. She once wrote that her mother died when she was very young and her father remarried something like four or five times, thereby confirming another of my long-distance armchair psychological diagnoses — another woman who, like Dr. Laura, could never get dad’s attention, so she grew up to be a men’s-rights advocate and good little defender of traditional gender roles. I may well be full of shit, and if so feel free to tell me so.

Anyway, speaking of puzzling success stories? Parker Spitzer, complete with a wet kiss for the launch by none other than Howie Kurtz. Break a leg, Katie.

Related, the disarray at CNN, from New York magazine:

“They do not recognize a reality that Fox and MSNBC recognize,” says a former senior CNN staffer. “You have to be real showmen and hook into America, which is blue collar and angry. The CNN culture is still very strange. You walk into that building, you think you’re the Jesuits and you’re protecting a certain legacy. They still look at Fox as a carnival—not Fox as a brilliant marketing entity. It’s weird. They’re decades into it, and they’ll protect it to the end.”

Finally I leave you with a recipe. Someone asked me for it and I copied it down, so I’ll share it with you. Never like to waste a good transcription:

This is from the Junior League’s Centennial Cookbook, and don’t draw any conclusions from that — I am as far from a Junior Leaguer as they come, but the book came to the newsroom a few years ago, and I was pleasantly surprised to find some of those skinny blondes could actually cook.

Anyway, this comes together pretty fast, and it’s one recipe where I don’t mind letting someone else do the prep work — butternut squash are such a pain to peel and dice, I generally buy them already prepped at Trader Joe’s.

Curried butternut apple soup

2 onions, chopped
3 T butter
2 cups diced butternut squash
1 tart apple, peeled and diced
3 T all-purpose flour
1 or 2 t. curry powder
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange (if you don’t have any, a splash of Tropicana is fine)
Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar to taste

In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in butter until soft. Add the squash and apple. Sauté until the butter is absorbed, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flour, curry powder and nutmeg. Cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, milk, orange rind and juice. Simmer slowly uncovered for 20 minutes or so, until vegetables are tender.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Season and serve with a dollop of cream, if you like. Note: This soup improves with keeping. Prepare a day or two in advance if time allows.

Happy soup! It’s going to be soup weather for sure this week.

Posted at 9:57 am in Current events, Media, Same ol' same ol' |
 

47 responses to “That boy ain’t right.”

  1. ET said on October 4, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Here is another great soup recipe, perfect for the fall.

    Pumpkin Soup

    Makes 6-8 servings

    6 slices bacon, diced, cooked, fat reserved
    1 cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion
    2 shallots, finely chopped
    2.5 cups canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
    4 cups chicken broth
    0.5 cups Marsala
    1.5 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
    1 teaspoon thyme
    2 cups heavy cream
    salt and pepper

    Heat bacon fat in stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions & shallots. Saute until onions are transparent.

    Combine onion mixture and canned pumpkin in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.

    Return pumpkin mixture to pot. Stir in chicken broth, Marsala, pepper sauce and thyme. Bring to a boil; simmer 15 minutes.

    Add heavy cream and bacon; simmer 10 minutes, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 4, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Quinoa, for those of us in the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley ecosystem, is directly related to Goosefoot/chenopodium, one of the three major cultivated plants that helped launch the Hopewell Culture of mound building Native Americans 2,000 years ago along with maygrass and knotweed (plus sunflower and squash more prosaically).

    Anyhow, it’s the same stuff, and it turns out to be a great food for nutrition and storage purposes. Under microscopic analysis, you can track the increasing seed size and coat thickness which shows how chenopodium/goosefoot was one of the about eight independent beginnings of agriculture in the world, separate from what went on in central America with large seed grasses (teosinte) selected out until maize and today’s corn resulted. Maize and chenopodium (or quinoa) are the Western Hemisphere’s two agricultural tipping points.

    I spent much of the weekend discussing the whole asocial, marginally functional personality thing as it relates to TANF and public aid and employment, hope to post a few thoughts on that later. Why do some high-functioning “autistic” personalities hold jobs well, and others can’t make it three days? And how do we help folks bridge that gap? (Or what do we do with a Shirvell who tips back?)

    Edit — ET, whoa. Love that, might make it tonight. Thanks!

  3. Jeff Borden said on October 4, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I lost most of my respect for CNN a long time ago and their efforts to cultivate more right-wing viewers by hiring wastes of skin like Erick Erickson (who once described Justice David Souter as “a goat-fucking child molester”) as a commentator only makes my decision look wise.

    I’ve pretty much lost my ability to watch television news, local or national. The CBS affiliate here has its news team talking about the new shows such as the revamped “Hawaii Five-Oh,” the Fox affiliate cashiered most of its veteran news gatherers, the occasional solid news story is usually floating in a sea of trivia and easily-obtained videotape. My wife enjoys watching the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, but I usually give it a pass, too.

    BTW, a fascinating story over the weekend on how pretty much every single viable 2012 Republican candidate except Mitt Romney is a paid contributor to Fox News. I’d not stopped to think about that fact, but with the recent donations of $1-million each to the rabidly anti-Obama Republican Governors Assn. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it’s clear Rupert Murdoch and his flying monkeys are not even bothering to pretend any more that they are fair and balanced.

  4. Chris in Iowa said on October 4, 2010 at 10:40 am

    ” … a peri­odic life audit by a panel of friendly strangers with board-certified Com­mon Sense ™. ”

    Ay Caramba.

    Some things have happened lately that have forced me to do some introspection. The idea of a panel of strangers doing this … I couldn’t stand up to that — unless they would also implement for me whatever changes they recommend. Making the changes is always the hardest part.

  5. Peter said on October 4, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I could use a periodic life audit right about now, but I really wouldn’t want to hear their conclusions.

  6. adrianne said on October 4, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I pick up the same weird vibe from Kathleen Parker that you do, Nance. Of course, we run her on our op-ed. Of course, she’s our publisher’s favorite columnist. ‘Nuff said!

    btw, it’s definitely soup weather! I’ll have to give your recipe a whirl. I picked up two smallish hubbard squashes from our CSA farm this weekend and am trying to decide what to do with them. They’re ugly-looking, but delish, I’m told.

  7. brian stouder said on October 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

    To me, the definitive characteristic of a “good marriage” is that each person is continually audited by the other – away from the edges and back toward the middle. (by that definition, I’m in a very, very good marriage!)

    edit: this bit made me chuckle – “…and then switched sides dur­ing the Bush melt­down, thereby earn­ing the Strange New Respect award

    since I’m a recent side-switcher, too (Katrina blew down the last shreds of respect I had for the old team, and drowned any possibility of going back – not even mentioning teabags and daughters of Bozo who dabble in witchcraft).

    This past Saturday, I was asleep on a chair in the living room when the doorbell rang, and it was our Republican party precinct committee person. She wanted to confirm that I was still a Republican – which made me laugh! – which drew a puzzled look from her.

    I apologized(!!) for laughing, and said something like – “oh, no no no. Nope. Not anymore” – after which, she bade me good day, and went on her way.

    Go figure, eh?

  8. Moe99 said on October 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Kathleen Parker, Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell. I sense a pattern here.

  9. Julie Robinson said on October 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

    There’s a great line in Arsenic and Old Lace that insanity doesn’t just run in their family, it practically gallops. Ours is like that on both sides, so throw in a few pysch classes and we’ve been sensitized. Our daughter was required to undergo a fairly extensive workup as part of seminary, and not all candidates survived that. Jefftmmo, do you know if that’s standard? ‘Cos it seems that a few pastors I know are not so stable.

  10. Deborah said on October 4, 2010 at 11:20 am

    As the mother of a daughter with neurological issues I have some thoughts about all of this. She has brain white matter issues related to her NF. In overly simple terms the myelin sheath forms a layer around a brain axon like the plastic coating on an electrical cord. Some of her’s have “holes” in them which can cause issues related to memory, communication, planning, organizing, coordination, lots of stuff. Her ability to read body language is impaired. Her IQ is quite high and she’s very bright but the other complications make it difficult for her to keep a job. It took a long time to figure this all out, but finally a neuropsychologist nailed it. Over the years we both have been members of an on-line list-serve for people with Asbergers and what’s called NLD (Non-verbal Learning Disabilities) and their families. It’s been very helpful to know others have similar challenges and have shared ways of coping and functioning better. My perspective is that “normal” is relative and I’m more comfortable with “other than normal” rather than “less than normal”. Some people on the list-serve refer to a “normal” person as an NT (Neuro-Typical).

  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 4, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Hey, lay off Bozo!

  12. brian stouder said on October 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Well, I could defend Bedtime for Bonzo back in the day, but Bozo is a bridge too far! (creepy clown factor, with Ms ODonnell in her formative years, and all)

  13. coozledad said on October 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I’ve never tried quinoa, but we planted some amaranth just to watch it die.
    I made fake chicken escabeche last night and it wasn’t too bad. I just used some Quorn cutlets sauteed in olive oil with lemon cured olives and green peppers and lots of black pepper. Served it on pasta with Manchego and a little bit of the brine from the olive jar.

  14. Sue said on October 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Uh-oh:
    http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/10/rahm_emanuel_experts_say_not_a.html

  15. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Johnny Cash, and amaranth. Nice, but hold the manchego.

  16. Peter said on October 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Cooz, are you channeling your inner Johnny Cash? Let me complete that line: “when I made fake chicken escabeche, I hang my head and cry”.

    Sue, what interesting news. Good because that could knock Rahm off the ballot, bad because that would also knock off one of my picks for mayor: Ditka. But Oprah would meet the requirements, so there’s hope.

  17. Deborah said on October 4, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Sue, I hope Rahm can run. I think he’d make a terrific mayor. I’m planning to work for his campaign in any way I can.

  18. John said on October 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Damn you guys! You are too quick with the Johnny Cash comments. I’m never going to get a funny line posted in time here.

  19. Mindy said on October 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    The mentally ill person in my life is a Limbaugh-lovin’,Bush-adorin’ Fox News addict. Which makes me want to ask all right-wing wackos “So what’s your excuse?”

    At Chez Mindy last night, the chef, moi, set fire to the chicken tikka under the broiler. Filled my kitchenette with smoke. Turned on the ceiling fan to clear the room of evidence and now it won’t shut off. Sure is hard to balance a checkbook under gale force winds. But the chicken tikka masala leftovers are sublime and the husband will tame the ceiling fan tonight. I hope.

  20. Susan said on October 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I’ve been married to someone with Asperger’s for 16 years, and trust me – it’s no walk in the park. Jeff (tmmo), many of them (at least those similar to my husband) are in fields like engineering. My husband is very bright at his job, but extremely quirky in the rest of life. I knew nothing about Asperger’s until about 7 years ago when I did some researching, just trying to understand why my life was so difficult. It’s really eye-opening. Folks with this disorder have basically a different brain “operating system” than the rest of us. “Mind blindness” where they don’t understand that there are other opinions than their own. And on and on and on … Further, I think many of them (particularly men) are helped a lot by their wives. I help “cover” for my husband in social situations all the time. Otherwise, he would still be pretty much like a sixth grade boy socially.

  21. coozledad said on October 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    The enteric effects of the Quorn really do make you want to hang your head and cry. Look out Jackson town.

  22. Deborah said on October 4, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Susan there’s also something related to Asbergers called preserverication (spelling? may be a word close to that?), where it’s really hard for them to change gears from one activity to another. They want to “preserve” the activity they are focused on. It can make them cranky when they have to switch to another activity or situation.

  23. Julie Robinson said on October 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    And in the unfortunate name category, Barnes & Noble just sent me an email about their Pubit! service. “Live the dream of becoming a published author!” I cannot read it with the short u sound I’m sure they’re hoping for.

  24. a different Connie said on October 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    To more easily peel squash, roast it first; I imagine pre-cooked squash would translate into your soup recipe just fine. This weekend I cut a butternut in half, scooped out the seeds, then put it cut side down on an oiled cookie sheet for about 45 minutes. Soft & easy to separate from its peel afterwards. I also read several suggestions to use butternut in place of pumpkin in pie.

    For quinoa, I tried stir-frying it (after cooking) with a partial bag of broccoli slaw. Yum, and full of fiber.

  25. adrianne said on October 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    My oldest son has Asperger’s. It took forever to get a correct diagnosis (finally a pediatric neurologist nailed it). Elementary school was hell, middle school was a bit better and high school has been the best of all, but he’s still has tremendous pressures to make it through the day without completely misreading social situations. For the most part, his teachers have been very helpful, aside from a few assholes who seem put out that there’s a kid with an Individual Education Plan in their “normal” class. But everyday life is a struggle in a way that those who aren’t familiar with the syndrome can even imagine.

  26. Deborah said on October 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Adrianne, A pediatric neurologist diagnosed my daughter when she was 5 with NF (Neurofibromatosis). But it wasn’t until she was 24 that the brain issues were diagnosed by a neuropsychologist. Her intelligence helped her for a long time, until life got way more complicated when she was in college. Even after we knew there was something going on it still took about 5 or so more years to figure it out and then a few more years to come to grips with it. This is actually fairly common, I’ve learned.

  27. Rana said on October 4, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Jeff B, I’m with you on television news. There’s just something about it that tends to drive me out of my tree any time I attempt to watch it. Something about its shallowness, the lack of thought, and the expectation that I’ll find all of the oh-so-obvious commentary fascinating. Occasionally I’ll watch a YouTube of something from the news as it makes the rounds, but I’ve learned that it’s often better to watch it with the sound off. It’s the visuals that make tv news useful, in my opinion, but I can’t stand the rest.

    Every now and then I play with quinoa, though I have to admit I tend to like the idea of it more than the actual taste of it. I think I prefer my grains to have a nuttier quality or something. Currently I’m experimenting with chia, which adds a tapioca-like gel to the experience, and have been laboriously processing my own crop of amaranth. (If anyone knows of a good way to winnow it, I’m all ears.)

    On the envy in cooking front, this weekend D and I made homemade croissants. Mmm, butter.

  28. Little Bird said on October 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I think I was 26, but who’s counting? I wish I could explain to others what the issue is. I consider myself to be fairly articulate, but when it comes to this I can never seem to find the right words. I guess because I live with it, so to me, it’s normal. It’s like trying to explain to someone who is blind what color is. Many of my closest friends still have no idea why I have such difficulties, despite having been told several times. They just don’t get it. They equate NLD or Aspergers with “retarded”. I tell them to go watch “Temple Grandin”, to point out the whole “different, not less” thing.

  29. Catherine said on October 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Best book on autism I’ve ever read is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Fiction, highly readable and perfectly gets you into the headspace of an autistic youngster.

    I am starting to think there is no such thing as neuro-typical. All our brains fall at different places on different spectrums, and that’s a good thing. What I notice with interest is that people who can’t read social situations get a diagnosis, while people who are highly empathetic but can’t reason their way out of a paper bag are regarded as normal.

  30. Linda said on October 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    …(Katherine Parker’s)Her col­umn always struck me as content-free…

    No, her columns are fake-content-free, with right-wing messaging that pretends to be “can’t we all just get along?” but is really “save us from the crazies and be kind of right-of-center.” Like David Brooks with a vagina.

  31. MichaelG said on October 4, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    My pal Steve has some great stuff here.
    http://unexpectedmushroom.blogspot.com/

  32. LAMary said on October 4, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    MichaelG, love the photo of the traveling musicians. Especially Whistling Carly Fiorina.

  33. ROgirl said on October 4, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Mitch McConnell can’t whistle because he doesn’t have any lips.

  34. Tom M said on October 4, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Susan, Michael Lewis’ The Big Short is an interesting read about the financial meltdown and one of the guys who called it early was an ex-MD turned hedge fund manager with Asperger’s. The condition allowed (forced?) him to focus entirely on his insight. He made millions by being right but he was criticized by his investors (!) for not being right soon enough.
    The criticism finally made him look at what drove him and he finally figured himself out.

  35. Deborah said on October 4, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    RO girl, no chin either. This is mean but he always reminds me of a turtle without a shell.

  36. brian stouder said on October 4, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Dorothy and Jeff tmmo Alert!!!

    If I possibly could, I would absolutely attend this lecture, by Dr Jean H Baker, at Ohio Wesleyan University this week on the 7th, and for free(!!)

    http://news.owu.edu/2010/20100921-baker.html

    Jean Baker wrote a superb book about Mary Lincoln, and I would be very much interested to hear if she has anything to say about Michael Burlingame’s hatchet job on Mary (in his otherwise magesterial opus)

  37. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Ouch! Thanks for the heads up, Brian, but that night is also the Ohio Archaeology Month program at the Ohio Historical Center, with six archaeologists around the state presenting on their current, developing research. Mary and her over-large backside will have to wait. (Abe just doesn’t know when to not quite be honest . . .)

  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    OK, my deux centimes on social adeptness and brain wiring. My dad (and mom) came to town for the weekend, and we ended up talking about the social safety net in general, and my caseload in particular (broadly defined). Dad has the stock old-guard viewpoint “if you give ’em money or stuff, they just keep coming back for it, so the kindest thing is to cut ’em off.”

    We kept talking about this, and my main point was that, contrary to many of my peers, I was for welfare reform back in ’94-’97. We had too many folks who were stuck in an entitlement mentality, and my tipping point was getting involved in “the system” enough to learn that many social workers were “for” welfare reform, since the entitlement system meant they could basically only check boxes, or face sanctions. You qualified for benefits, or you didn’t, end of discussion — which was frustrating for trained folk who wanted to help people dig themselves out of self-excavated holes.

    But my point to Dad and others since ’97 has been this: we’ve peeled some 77% nationwide off of the rolls for “welfare,” once AFDC and now TANF. That was, special pleading aside, a largely good and useful thing. But the problem that policy makers and state & federal administrators don’t get is that the 23% we’re down to are the most challenging to serve and keep hale and hearty, let alone employed.

    To move through the first three-fourths of the rolls took “x” effort to get them out on their own and independent — to move the last twenty percent will take something along the lines of x-times-five. The curve goes up fast on this end.

    These are the people who are not diagnosably insane, who are measureably mentally competent, and who have social skills enough to father or give birth to children, but they are . . . off. If you hand-hold them each step in the process to a job, they will be out of that job in a week, a month at best. They don’t get stuff, and they can’t handle stuff. I can’t diagnose or describe it in technical terms, but the bottom line is that they can’t cope with modern American society. In an earlier era, they would have been charcoal burners or rag pickers and lived in a dirt-floor shack on the edge of town by the swamp. That, especially where kids are involved, is not an option in 2010. But what is the correct option?

    And what is ceaselessly intriguing to me about this problem is that in the boardrooms and council chambers and Rotary meetings I also occasionally frequent are individuals who share many of the same marginally socialized traits. There are among the “successful” those who seem to have the interpersonal skills of an emu, but they have a nice home and the basics of an upper middle class life. What is the break-point here, and how do you help people transition from the shack on the other side of the bridge and your series of very odd jobs, often ending badly, and getting into a work setting where your impersonality is an asset?

    I’m still working on that one. Sorry for the length, there’s no quick way to sum this dilemma up, or at least not for a mildly Aspy-ish obsessive like me. (We’re all on the spectrum, somewhere.)

  39. Rana said on October 4, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I am start­ing to think there is no such thing as neuro-typical. All our brains fall at dif­fer­ent places on dif­fer­ent spec­trums, and that’s a good thing.

    I agree with you. There are a lot of behaviors I see in myself that, if they were pushed along the spectrum just a bit further, would result in my being classified as having a mental disability. I suspect there are some variants that are more a matter of kind than degree (schizophrenia, for instance) but the reverse is probably true for a lot of conditions.

  40. moe99 said on October 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Anyone going to be in Seattle this Saturday? Want to go dancing for a good cause?

    http://www.facebook.com/?sk=events#!/event.php?eid=164994900184038

  41. Denice said on October 5, 2010 at 12:00 am

    My 17 year-old has more sense than a lot of kids her age. She is basically not a social person and people mistake that for being snobby. It’s hard when someone doesn’t fit in, but I hate to call that a mental illness. She’s always been ‘different’ from other kids, and she has no desire to respond or care about peer pressures from her senior high school classmates. So it’s been a blessing in disguise.

  42. Lola said on October 5, 2010 at 3:03 am

    to Jeff the mildmannered one

    I think that some people will always need income support. The issues they struggle with are so severe that the decent thing to do is to provide them with some income so that they can feed and clothe and hopefully shelter themselves. It’s actually cruel to try and integrate some people back into this society in the economic sense (and I’m not talking about people who are obviously mentally ill and eligible for SSI).

  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 5, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I agree completely, Lola; the trick is how to maintain a system that does that, in the absence of a “diagnosis” (the SSI benchmark, basically), without ending up enabling destructive behavior. Which bumps up against the factor that keeps my libertarian-ish side from embracing drug decriminalization: we’d need four times the Children’s Services caseworkers and a similar increase in the already strained number of foster parents. Right now, there are many cases of allllmost but not quite horrendous “parenting” that can’t be effectively intervened with (while the assets we have spend all their time on truly awful situations); drug convictions often are the only way there’s an official intervention short of direct and apparent harm being done to children. If we lost that — which is an ineffective way of addressing the addiction & (IMO) mental health issues that underlie compulsive drug use, I grant that right off — we’d all be waiting for major meltdown and actual suffering to children before help and redirection can be mandated.

    The problem is that we’ve created a society where it’s easy to be independent, and hard to get connected, where too many who most need a support system of people and places outside of the immediate household are living lives in isolation and estrangement, let alone desperation. You can’t and shouldn’t “require” connections, but we all need them. How do you help the hopelessly cutoff to find a contact who’s not their dealer or a weary cashier at Walmart, trying to smile at you at 12:01 am on the first of the month, especially when a big part of their problem is a level of depression that keeps them pushing others away.

    Meanwhile, the children are raising themselves, with the help of cable TV and school lunches.

  44. Dorothy said on October 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for the shout-out Brian, but this Thursday our son has rented the moving truck to get him moved into his new apartment, and we’ll be putting furniture and boxes on the truck to get a head start to the Friday move. I can’t take any time off work so I have to help Thursday evening. I love him but I can’t wait to get all of his crap out of my house. The place looks like a disaster area! He brought home more last night after picking it up from Megan’s house.

    If you ever see anything about lectures at Kenyon and need a place to stay give me a holler!

  45. Little Bird said on October 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I’d like to point out that even with a diagnosis one can be denied SSI.
    People with aspergers and autism and other neurological issues NEED a strong support system to function in society. I wouldn’t have half as nice a life as I do if it weren’t for my mother and her husband. They have my back, they are in my corner, whatever idiom you prefer.

  46. moe99 said on October 5, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Jeff tmmo, How many of those drug convictions are for marijuana? I would guess that the majority are for meth or oxycontin type substances.

  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 5, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I’d call it at a third, a third, and a third in this neck of the woods, except there’s not a few that are the trifecta. But I can’t cite specifics enough to be certain; I’m relying on the shaky ground of impression and anecdote.