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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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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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Those of you who know me, know I’m a bit of a poetry nerd.

I am also a little bit of a fiction nerd.

Fewer people know how much of a brain nerd I am.  I am a student of Psychology working toward my PsyD, and the most fascinating part of my studies has been neuroscience and neuropsychology

Could there be a more appropriate article for me to geek out over?

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

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I’ve learned a little bit about communication in the last few days.  Sometimes, miscommunication is even worse than non-communication.  Although I specified with DH that I wanted to know this was 100% sure before I told anyone about it, and he assured me it was 100% happening – it wasn’t.  At least not in his mind.  When he found out I posted about the move he really flipped.  We had an intense conversation about why – it turns out that it’s mostly about what he was comfortable with being communicated.  He is much closer to his sleeve with information than I am.  Any miniscule possibility that this may not happen is enough for him to say it isn’t happening, whereas for me it is a process.  It is happening, or it’s not, but the process of it is important to me and I need to note it, process it and remember it.

FYI: It’s really happening.  He realized he over-reacted and we talked through the why of it.  Being a psychology major sometimes comes in handy.

The latest information we have is that DH will fly out on the 24th to spend approximately 10 days at the client site.  While there he will scout locations for where we might live, and meet with relocation agents hired by the company to help us transition.  Meanwhile, I will be packing/organizing/cleaning the house (how much can you accumulate in 12 years?!).  I will still be working and going to school full time, and caring for the boys as always.  We are actually wondering if my doubling up on classes will be a good idea, as the sooner I can finish this program (right now, scheduled for 11/1 of this year), I might be able to practice therapy over there and perhaps take classes for my graduate program as well.  In the meantime, our schedule for the next month is mind-numbingly crazy.

  • This Monday: DH flies to Austin for project.  He flies out to Austin two weeks in a row.
  • The 24th he flies to the UK.  He is there until the 6th.
  • April 2nd, I hope to take the kids to visit family during Spring Break.  They will not see some of these family members for at least a year, maybe two.
  • April 9th, I leave for Chicago for the RT Bookreviews convention.  Jay is supposed to be home to care for the kids during this time.
  • I suspect he will be flying back to the UK sometime the next week, April 16th or 17th.  He might not return after that.
  • I am supposed to take a trip over there sometime in May to help him find a house, set up schools for the boys, etc.  This is also assuming we can find childcare for the boys – not an easy thing at all.
  • The last day of school is May 31.  The boys and I will somehow make our way to the West Coast to visit my family for a week-ish.  We will probably fly from LAX to Manchester.

 

Somewhere in there, DH and I are both going to need to schedule minor surgical procedures that will take 3-5 days of recovery time.  DH wants me to skip Chicago.  I am not willing to do that, as it’s been planned for a year and I will not be able to attend another RT Convention for years.  Add in that I’m not sure how the logistics of even continuing to review while in Liverpool will work – I suppose only books available on NetGalley will be do-able.

My head is obviously spinning.  I am nervous and excited in equal measure.  So much of what I love here will be sorely missed: Dear friends, family, my job(s).  At the same time, what I’m moving towards thrills me:  Travel.  Adventure. New friends. Friends that I’ve sorely missed.   The loves that I am leaving are breaking my heart, and the loves that I’ll be gaining will make me sing out.   I am taking my greatest loves with me, and am so excited to share the world with them.

We’ll just have to see.

 

 

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