A recent New York Times article has come out about Darius McCollum being arrested for impersonating a New York City Transit system employee. McCollum is a man who is alleged to have Asperger's symptom and is absolutely obsessed by trains, in particular the New York City transit system. This is not the first time McCollum has been arrested. He has comitted this same crime before multiple times and has even spent time in prison.
As a boy, McCollum grew up near one of the subway stations and would hang out there all the time and became friendly with a lot of the city's transit workers. They showed him the ropes and he managed to learn more about the New York subways than any person alive. He apparently could not get a job working for the New York transit system. This was in spite of his intense desire to work there and considerable expertise. Instead he chose to impersonate an employee instead doing the job as well as a real worker could until he was discovered and busted.
Temple Grandin in one of her many simplistic notions about autism states that the OCD symptomatology of autistics is not a liability but is rather a gift. She states that problems autistics have with making a living can be easily solved. They can channel their obsessions into productive activities and be gainfully employed. The only real example that she gives is of herself and the fact that her obsession with livestock, cattle shoots and squeeze machines helped her to land her lucrative career as a slaughterhouse designer. She lauds her own success in her various books. In Emergence Labeled autistic she states that she shows that the behaviors of autism can be modified and controlled and that autistics can be a success. Many persons with autism no longer need to cry their tears of toasted snow because they are unable to make a living. In one article she wrote, she talks about a man who is obsessed with sliding doors and claims that this obsession could be channeled into helping this man with autism have a career in electronics. She claims that an autistic man who would commit a faux pas by asking women, "where are your earrings" due to an obsession with jewelry could have this obsession channeled into a career as a jeweler.
She gives an example of an autistic Ph.D. level mathematician who had not worked for years, because there were noise sensitivity issues that prevented him from being a math professor. She states a research job would have been more appropriate. If the research job is more appropriate then why couldn't he have gotten it? Could it be that Grandin's ideas are just simplistic solutions for those who cry tears of toasted snow? The prospective electronics specialist and jeweler are also conjecture on her part. There is no evidence that obsessions can be successfully turned into careers so that a person with autism would never have to worry about being on the dole again.
Darius McCollum is an example of someone whose obsession was not turned into a successful career. According to Grandin's logic his obsession with trains, subways and the NYC transit system should have easily landed him a job. This is particularly true in light of the fact that unlike the examples that Grandin gives in her conjecture of what could be turned into a career McCollum actually does have considerable expertise in the New York subway system. His Asperger's however did not help a career in this field to pan out.
News of McCollum's most recent arrest will not spark this issue to the forefront. People will continue to cry their tears of toasted snow, thinking there are easy quick fix solutions to the problems of autistics that so many persons propose. I believe the sad saga of Darius McCollum is an example to show that at least one of these quick fix solutions is in fact bogus.