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Autism, sexuality, law

Title:

The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law: What every parent and professional needs to know

Authors: Tony Attwood, Isabelle Henault, Nick Durbin

Review:

It is not difficult to understand that individuals with hampered ability to recognize social cues, interpret interpersonal data, and process the long term outcome of antecedent/behavior/consequence will at some point also have hampered ability in the realm of sexuality.  The premise of this book is to take a specific circumstance, that of Nick Dubin, and make that circumstance tangible and educational for individuals affected by Autism, their families, care providers, doctors, therapists, and legal counsel.  That is a lot to ask of one book.  Unfortunately it falls short of the mark, not because it doesn’t aim properly, but because some of the contributors don’t make the effort to put power into their pull.  

Dubin’s tale is disturbing because it is both relatable and abhorrent.  His story will be particularly difficult to accept by those who were victims of childhood abuse.  At the same time, so much of the story is believable and creates compassion for Nick and his family.  Nick’s chapter and his mother’s chapter are least beneficial in terms of actual education and material.  By contrast, Nick’s father’s chapter is gripping, and filled with applicable information from the very beginning.  It is worth the read of this book simply for this section. It may have been preferable to have an entire book written in this voice. 

Tony Attwood’s section is perhaps the most disappointing.  His section reads like a university psychology student’s homework assignment, writing 500 words based on a bullet list of subjects.  Considering some of the monumentally influential work Attwood has contributed to the field of ASD literature, it is disappointing.  He does include a nice list of reading suggestions for the reader to pick up from their local library or bookstore, if they are seeking more specific information.

Dr. Isabelle Henault’s section concludes the book, and is secondary only to the section written by Nick’s father.  Henault does the work that we previously expected of Attwood, as she takes the reader through developing sexuality, how social and relational deficits in conjunction with targeted bullying and conflicting sexual sensory data can cause those on the autism spectrum, particularly those with Asperger’s Syndrome, to struggle with their sexual identity.  Many will confuse issues of privacy and legality.  Henault provides information for therapists and psychologists, assisting them in identifying risk factors and in assisting their clients as they navigate this new and confusing territory.

This book is not for those who are teaching emerging adolescents about their sexuality. Books on that subject matter, such as Sexuality and Relationship Education for Children and Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorders by Davida Hartman, are great guides on the specifics of adolescence and sexuality.  The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality, and the Law is appropriate for those who feel they, or their clients, are already struggling with this intense issue.

*Review originally appeared in the Psychology section of Library Journal

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On Someone Else’s Island, 

A picture for his eyes

to rest upon, Face, tilted up

and to the left, smile meeting

the light. Dark Hair, Golden

Glowing in the sun.

A pen for his hands,

paper to hold stories

or poetry, lines

to contain thought.

A toolbox with saw

and lathe; trees to work

into useful things; practical

on deserted planes.

Seed, a seed to sow

his seeds, to grow his fruit

into dripping delicious

delight.

No company; for we know

that his best work comes

when he longs for contact,

is lost in the reality

of human shortcomings.

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Round 2 of the Flash Fiction Challenge came at a seriously busy time for me.  I had about 5 hours of total writing time on this story.  My prompts were:

Genre: Sci-Fi
Location: An all you can eat restaurant

Object: a water gun

Where the Water Flows

 In near-future California, the need to create alternatives for energy and water sources foments extremists on both sides of the divide.

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light…The Eagles, Hotel California

*****

“Hello, Sis.”

My hands began to shake. I nearly dropped my mobile onto the floor. I took several deep breaths before responding.

“Well, Tony. Imagine hearing from you. It’s been, what, four years?”

“Something like that.” The pause, this time, was at the other end of the line. I heard a sharp intake of breath, and a sentence travelled quickly along its exhale. “Sorry I wasn’t there. You know. For Dad.”

I looked down at my feet, counting the tiles that outlined the space I occupied. “Well, I somehow managed to get through. Though probate is turning out to be a bitch, since they want me to prove you’re dead before they’ll settle the estate.”

“What?” Tony’s laughter echoed down the line. “Being an international criminal doesn’t exempt me from inheriting? ‘Wanted – At Large’ isn’t enough to write me off? I want my half of that diner, sis.” We both laughed a bit awkwardly, and then Tony turned serious. “I can’t stay on the line. I need to see you. You still opening the diner every morning?”

“Yes, since Dad died. Every morning at 6. I took leave of absence from the lab.”

“Be there early. All next week”.

*

I turned on the grills and started the fryer heating. The incessant whirring of the air conditioner created a soothing white-noise for my pounding head. Four days had passed. I hadn’t slept much. I looked out the diner windows. The sky lit with purples and pinks, and the shining halos were beginning to glow. My childhood had been illuminated by those halos. Everyone had believed Mom and Dad were crazy, building their diner off the 15 Freeway at the infamous Zzyzx road exit. They’d thought the name would draw crowds. At first it did. The real draw, however, was the halos.

First installed in 2013, the landscape of the Mojave Desert was now filled with thousands of reflective mirrors and towers that created those shining orbs. They had fascinated me. I studied their effects, and began to experiment with other ways to help our drying environment. Creating potable water in the desert, without wasting energy? That became my obsession. I’d achieved it.  My Hydrologic towers, filled with hygroscopic brine and photovoltaic cells, dotted the desert landscape.

I prepped the first batch of biscuits for opening, and tried not to remember the halos were also what led Tony into eco-activism.

*

I heard a thud coming from the back hallway, and tensed up. Seconds later, Tony came around the corner.  The pulse in my neck thrummed; that rakish smile was the same, but weariness had etched itself into Tony’s face. My only sibling hesitated, staring at me. “The window in the Men’s is still broken. No one thought to get that fixed?”

I practically sprinted into Tony’s arms. I felt a bit of my weariness ease into the embrace. I felt like home.

*

I poured us both a cup of fresh coffee, and we slid into the booth beneath the chalkboard sign. Still in Dad’s handwriting, it read “All you can eat breakfast, $10.99”. I hadn’t brought myself to erase it yet, and I caught Tony’s eyes lingering on the old-fashioned script.

“How was he, at the end?”

“Surprisingly, better than I was.” I took a sip of my coffee, setting it down with a gentle clink on the Formica table top. “I think he was just ready to be with Mom.”

“Yeah.” Tony stared out the window at the halos lighting the sky, and turned a critical eye on a tower beneath one. “I wish I could have…” he trailed off.

“So did he.”

We stared down at our cups for a few minutes. Finally Tony cleared his throat.

“I need your help.”

*

“It’s a gun?”

“Not in the sense that you’re thinking of.  It uses your technology, Sis. It pulls moisture from the air, in any environment. The water collects here”, Tony pointed to a small square within the structure of the gun. “Once there is enough water, this cartridge containing compressed carbon dioxide solidifies the water.”

“Into an …ice bullet?”

“Exactly!” Tony beamed proudly. “This secondary compartment compresses the gases released, and …projectile. Activated by three sensors on this side, of course, so no accidental firings happen. But I can only get it to fire once. I  need more.”

I reached out to touch the box. Its width fit in the palm of my hand well, with the length easily four times that. The whirring of the air conditioner grew louder in my ears. I looked up at Tony when I realized it was not the air conditioner, but the sound of drones. Two or three, perhaps.

Tony’s face heated with anger. “You didn’t. You wouldn’t!”

I ached with sudden sadness. “I didn’t, but I would have. If I’d known. If I’d known this” I pointed to the gun, “was what you needed me for. It’s intended to get through security, anywhere? This proves no matter how much we loved you, Mom and Dad and me, that the stories about you were true. The embassy. The train. The hospital. You did them all, didn’t you? To save what? A few hundred birds?”

Tony sighed, and stood up. “I wasn’t involved directly in the hospital, no, but the organization was, yes. It’s unfortunate. I didn’t want children to die.

“Well, they did. And now here we are.” I picked up the box and stood, walking to the window. I could see the drones approaching from the west, flying away from the halos which could damage them.

Tony approached, and then stood beside me. I felt the warmth of an arm around my shoulders, and smelled the soap, clean and simple, that Tony used.

“You know they won’t hold back because you’re with me, right?”

“I know.”

Tony sighed. “You know I would never have hurt you, don’t you?”

“Yeah. I know that too.”

I slid my arm across, grasping Tony’s hand. We entwined our fingers. We waited.

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The following is the story I submitted for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction competition, round 1.  I haven’t posted it thus far, mostly because I’ve been sorely disappointed in it.  I wrote this within 24 hours while in the midst of a pretty serious life crisis, that of losing my father.  I couldn’t get my head around the prompts, and I couldn’t access anything inside me that wasn’t trite.

Anyway, here is my offering.

Prompts

Genre: Drama
Setting: A marathon finish line
Object: A box of chocolate

****

Tapering

 All I own are the strides I spend to the finish line, and I’ll give you those.

–Neko Case

Christine and I left Huntington Beach for the East coast work ethic and corporate culture shortly after my graduation. Christine was accepted to the grad program at Tufts. Boston was great during the summer, if a little muggy by comparison. The locals seemed manic in their attempts to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of the sunshine and the outdoors. They simply shook their heads knowingly at us when we begged off to sleep in or lounge at home.

Southern Californians are major wimps. Once removed from our sunshine and our moderate temperatures, our coping mechanisms crumble. Even Northern Californians with their chillier winters and regular rainfall mock us for this weakness. Boston’s winter brought us up short. Suddenly, beach fleece was not sufficient to warm us. We discovered why people wear boots, and that scarves are not about fashion, but necessity. It was too cold to breathe. Christine, usually the first up to play volleyball or to surf, was practically scratching at herself from inside her skin at the forced inactivity. Exercise was indoors, or it was the ceaseless shoveling of the snowy path.

That first winter, she curled into a despondent ball and fell into herself.

***

“I’ve signed up for the Tufts running club”, she told me one snowed-in afternoon. I was perfectly content under the blankets, wrapped around her in bed.

“You’ve never run a day in your life.”

“No, but I’m relatively fit. I’ve downloaded a couch to 5k app to use until I get good enough to run with the club.”

“You’ll run in this?” I gestured out the window at the snow piled up on the sidewalk, streaked with black and gray from dirty roads and snowplows.

“Mark leads the group. He’ll teach me. I’ll buy the clothes and shoes to do it right.”

So it began. I lost her that winter to week after week of training. I began to hear phrases I’d never heard before. Building and tapering. Hydration stations. Kick and Flex. Carb Loading. Christmas became a time for gifting more running gear: Cool-Tec hoodies, moisture wicking thermal fleece, performance and compression socks. Also, all the way from Christine’s mom in Southern California, a box of See’s Chocolates.

“Are you going to carb load with chocolate for the marathon?”

“No. It’s going to be my reward. 26.2 miles earns me as much of the best chocolate in the world as I want.”

Running eased the ache of cold for her. She’d return from a training run, sweat glistening on her forehead, tickling the hollow of her throat and rolling over her collarbones. Her muscles, previously lean from water sports, became more firm. The striations of intense exercise marked her thighs. She’d touch the box of chocolate, running her fingertips over the raised lettering on the white box. It was as if she were touching a bit of home; the memory of sun on her skin and licking melting chocolate off of her fingers.

“I never see you anymore.” I complained. “It’s work, study, or running. You spend more time with Mark and the running club than with me.”

“That’s not true! You get me every evening. Besides, you could join us, you know.”

“No, thanks. I’ve seen the results of snot freezing while it’s still in your nose.”

***

Christine crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon a few months later. I met her there holding the open box of chocolate. Immediately, she reached for her favorite: molasses chip. The candy touched her tongue and her eyes closed in glorious bliss. The spring sun lit her face, and when I closed my own eyes, her glow was still there.

This began her tradition; two more Christmases, two more boxes of See’s Chocolate, two more marathons with the sweet reward at the end. Two more years until the leukemia came, and the striations in her thighs slowly turned concave. The last bit of chocolate I held to her lips was at the end of a different finish line.

The clock stopped for me. Winter was endless.

***

Christmas came, and with it one pound of chocolate from Christine’s mom. The snow once again piled in dark masses on the sidewalks outside. In the lonely apartment, the white rectangular reminder was luminous. I ran my fingertips over the dark brown embossed script, just as she used to do.

The silver back of her iPod beckoned to me. I picked it up, but my breath caught in my throat and I was still for several minutes. Eventually, I swiped my thumb across. On the first screen was the Couch to 5k app. I opened it, and stared at the weekly summaries, her running journal. Our journey.

I’m not sure how long I sat there, but when I shook myself out of my daze, I picked up the phone.

“Hey, Mark. I was thinking…”

***

I crossed the finish line, having lost every ounce of breath I had somewhere along the trail. The number pinned to the front of my shirt was crumpled and damp, and the dedication pin on my back said ‘Christine’ in streaky red ink. Amid the crowd of well-wishers and cheering supporters, I somehow managed to find Mark. He approached me, an open box of See’s Chocolate in his hands.

I reached for my favorite, the lemon cream. Biting into it felt right, like experiencing heaven drip directly onto my tongue.

“I’m glad I did this.” I said to him as we walked toward the car.

“You should be proud, Dan. She would have been, too.”

“Not really,” I smiled wistfully, then laughed outright. “She would have pointed out that it’s only a 10k.”

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I have another idea for a response to this daily post, and if I have time today I will get back to write it. But the instrument response also put me in mind of this piece I wrote, sometime in 2011.

Tempo Rubato

——————————-

The sun dripped spots across my skin,

far-flung freckles in browns,

perfect pencil-tipped rounded map.

With fingertips, teneramente,

you trace them into outlines.

This shape, looped up and back around;

It is a treble clef, and this other-

up, across, back down –

whole note quavers.

 

Tremolo.

 

We wait, each year, for a few days

of gilded sunlight and whispered song.

This is how a decade passes;

moments bound in rosewood boxes,

no strings attached to frets,

no chords for strumming.

Still we anticipate the sun’s return

for months we measure,

count time in beats,

so we can sing.

 

 

copyright Victoria Kelsey

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This daily prompt spoke to me, because it does rather apply to me.  I suppose you could say I am living the scenario described within.  I have left my home to travel the world for a year (or 2, or 5…).  I did have to decide what to bring with me. In terms of decorative or sentimental things, that means: Not much.  Each personal item was weighed against whether it would be useful on the travels, or easily replaced by similar items upon arrival.

There is one thing that I brought with me that serves no useful purpose.  It does not have much relative value; in fact, probably none to anyone except me.  It has traveled with me wherever I have gone since it was given to me.

You see, there are many levels of associative memory involved in this item.  My great grandmother, who taught me to write poetry and was my best friend until I was 12 years old (I wrote her letters almost every day, and she wrote back to me as frequently) collected music boxes.  I also developed a great love for music boxes as a result.  As a graduation gift from high school, my parents gifted me a custom made music box.

Made of rosewood and with a custom swiss movement.

Made of rosewood and with a custom swiss movement.

 

When most other kids were asking for a car or a trip to Mexico (My brother asked for, and received, a television set for his graduation), I wanted this.  I didn’t ask for it, my parents just knew me well enough to know I wanted it.   Mom chose the music to go inside it – our favorite piece of music.  Variations on a theme by Paganini  – by Rachmaninoff. So, you see, this piece has a bit of my great grandmother, both of my parents, my mother and I and our mutual love of something, and myself in it.

Over the years, this has gone with me everywhere I go.  I have taken it to university, to every home I’ve lived in.  It has seen every heartache and every good time.  It has been the one “thing” that has never been lost, misplaced, or stolen.  It holds my memories in it.  Some of you will recognize…some of these.  Tickets to a Chicago Bulls game and tickets to a family reunion dinner.  Tickets to a comedy show and my pass as cast at a Medieval Fantasy Faire.  A ticket to a play in which one of my best friends starred. A tiny ceramic bear with a signed “I love you”, a gift from my first love.  A celtic knotwork cross. There are more things buried underneath this top layer.  But it is where my treasures lie.  It’s precious and invaluable.

Music Box 2

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I made it into the final round of NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge.  I was very happy to do so, as many very worthy writers and stories did not make it this far.  I may have panicked a bit, to be honest, as it is my first time in this competition and I definitely did not feel practiced or good enough to make it this far.  However, I determined to give it my best go.

The final round is a 24 hour deadline, based on three random prompts.  The prompts for this round were:

Genre: Open
Character: A fisherman
subject: Jealousy

From that, this is the story I came up with.  I hope you like it.

***

The Loaves and the Fish

During a time of grief, loneliness, and regret, Camille gives up a life of abundance to join a Community that cares for her.

*

 

 

The interview room was warm and inviting.  Soft, deep cushions adorned the two large sofas.  A round wooden table with four chairs stood in one corner.  The walls, soothing greys and blues, held landscapes signed by a serene, if inscrutable, hand. Camille sat at the table, waiting for her questioning to begin.

 

“Tell me about yourself, Camille.” Martin tucked himself into the chair opposite Camille at the table, folding his hands properly in front of him.  His navy suit was tailored and subtle.   Gold cuff links in the shapes of crosses held the French cuffs of his crisp white shirt snug, and he wore a simple gold band on his left ring finger.  Camille gazed at these trappings briefly, then blinked and looked away.

 

“I grew up here, but moved to the city for college.” She paused, but Martin cleared his throat impatiently.  “I only moved back to Albany eight months ago. I…came back for a funeral.”

*

The casket was halfway lowered to its final resting place when Camille stepped to the edge.  Onto the casket, she dropped not flowers, but brightly colored, shining bass-fishing lures.  A little blue fish with a triple hook at its head, a rubbery frog with two legs that flopped and made a faint thud as it hit the highly polished wood, an imitation water plant that looked like a wig for a miniature Cousin It.  That one was the one that made her cry.  One of the few times she went out fishing with Dad and Adam, her brother had put the rubbery weed on top of the blue fish’s head, creating a pantomime for her.  She smiled at the rare memory of laughing Adam, who was too old to play with and too different to befriend. Only minutes later, bored with the slow sequence of cast and reel, Camille had snuck off to lie under a tree, gazing at cloud-shapes and losing herself in one of her countless books.

*

“You were close with your brother, then? And your parents?” Martin shuffled some of the papers in front of him, and then looked at her with a stern expression.  Camille lowered her eyes to the table, and pinched the flowers on her simple calico skirt between her fingers.

“I – wasn’t like them.  They loved me, but didn’t understand me. I felt the futility; I could be successful at everything the rest of the world deemed important, but I could never be Adam.”

*

The gulf between Adam and Camille seemed to grow with the years.  Camille was interested in academics, in the study of ancient worlds, in travel and in exploration.  Adam and her parents were content with their rural lifestyle, running their small bait and tackle store at the edge of Rensselaer Lake.  Returning from University on weekends, Camille watched her father and her brother sort their tackle boxes. They would peek inside the picnic lunches that Mom packed for them. They were easy in the way they talked and laughed together. Worst of all were Mom’s bright eyes whenever she gazed at Adam. The favoritism was apparent, and Camille’s resentment grew.  Mom passed away during Camille’s senior year, and Camille was left with Dad and Adam’s gruff, short phrases and held-back tears.

 

They looked confused, if cluelessly proud, when Camille landed her dream job at an internationally acclaimed museum in the City.  After that, weekend visits became fewer and the silences longer.  The last visit was after Dad had followed Mom to Albany Rural Cemetery.  Adam and Camille spent two silent days, Adam in his comfortable bedroom and Camille in the ‘guest room’, entirely cleared of her childhood toys and books. They ate together, meals brought to them by Adam’s neighbors. Adam attempted to break the ice by showing Camille his new Loomis fishing rod.  Camille realized that the rod cost the same as a pair of her Christian Louboutin shoes. Ridiculously, that made the divide between them seem endless.  When she left that day, it was the last time she ever hugged her stranger-brother, 10 years older and centuries removed.

*

“And how did you become acquainted with our little community, Camille?”  At that question, Camille perked up, smiling broadly.  “Oh! It was at Adam’s funeral.  Everyone had left, besides me.  And then Jenny just walked right up to me and wrapped me up in the most loving hug.  I knew her, back in grade school, you know.”

*

Jenny and Camille were friends when they were very young.  Theirs was the kind of friendship that was close for a brief time, and then dissipated as they matured.  Jenny was slight and droop-shouldered. She liked picking flowers and talking.  Camille was too caught up in the worlds of her books for much conversation, and eased away from Jenny’s loquacious overtures.  Camille was therefore surprised and grateful at the show of compassion Jenny gave at Adam’s funeral.  Over the course of the next several weeks, Jenny became Camille’s backbone; she began by helping run the bait and tackle store. She stayed a few nights a week at the small house Camille’s parents, and subsequently Adam, had left to her. She did most of the cooking and all of the cleaning.

Jenny was very religious, and spent a great deal of time reading her Bible and books of poetry, which she left lying around the house.  As Adam had not read much and neither had Camille’s parents, they were the only books present. Camille, wandering aimlessly through the house, first fingered the gilt covers of the bibles as she walked by them.  She began to pick up the books, reading snippets here and there. One day, Camille found a slip of paper tucked into a bible. On it was written a poem by Cristina Rossetti, which brought her to tears;

 

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

Yea, beds for all who come.

After that, Jenny and Camille spoke every evening about Jenny’s church.  Within weeks, Jenny had shown Camille how to pray, and eventually they did so together.  Jenny introduced Camille to the Community, and showed her the growing farm where they all lived and worked together.  Camille found herself letting go of old resentments.  She felt at peace for the first time in her life.

*

“The six month waiting period is standard for all new members of our Community.  I know that Jenny has spoken to you of the conditions for Community membership.  I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.” Martin’s pen tapped, slowly but forcefully, against his notepad.

“Yes, I understand.” Camille replied carefully. “I believe in our Lord and Savior with all my heart.  I believe he sent me to the Community to save my life, to bring me home.  I realize how superficial life in New York is.  Even the hipsters are materialistic, though they feign disdain. I want to be here now.  I want to make a home, have chance again…a family.”

 

Martin looked Camille in the eyes for several long breaths.  Nodding, he pushed a paper toward her.  “Very well.  This document gives the Community all rights to the bait and tackle store.” He placed another next to the first.  “This one to Adam’s house. And this one,” he moved a third paper toward her, “to your apartment in the city and all assets within it.  Including any artwork, jewelry, and …your shoe collection.”

Camille smiled again.  “All shoes and fishing rods, yes.” Camille signed all of the forms in front of her. She stood to leave and Martin came to embrace her warmly.  “Welcome home, Camille.  Let us pray…”

*

Jenny waited until Camille left the interview room, and then approached Martin with a broad smile on her face. Martin had returned to his chair, and leaned back when he saw Jenny enter.  Jenny’s face shone as he praised her.

“Well done, Jenny.  Camille is lovely, and makes a great addition to the Community.  She has faith, because you brought her to a new home when she was hurting and vulnerable.  She will always associate you, and the Community, with the Savior’s peace and redemption.’

“Thank you, Martin! I am happy that my old friend has found the path with us.”

“As you should be.  Friendship is nearly as important as family. Family, second only to the Lord.” Martin stood, and then placed his hands on Jenny’s shoulders. “And now that you have a friend here with us, perhaps you’ll have a care about trying to leave us again?” His fingers tightened against her thin collarbones. The ring on his left hand – matched to Jenny’s own – dug into her skin.

Jenny held her breath, lowered her eyes and nodded her head.

“‘And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Martin laughed softly.  “And you didn’t even need a net.”

 

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