Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Darius McCollum: Cause Celebre' for neurodiversity?

Joseph of the natural variation blog posed an interesting question to me in my previous post about autistic subway afficianado Darius McCollum. Is the reason the New York transit won't give the man a job due to incompetence or societal prejudice. I explained in my response, which interested readers can read in the comments section of my previous entry, that I believed it was neither.

Joseph's question, however, gave me an incredible inspiration. The Autistic self-advocacy Network and other neurodiversity leaning organizations are always claiming to be promoting a better life for autistic people. How they did this by putting so much energy in the ransom notes campaign is beyond me. I really don't understand what the ransom notes campaign accomplished. It does not seem to me to have benefitted any person with autism in any way, found them a girlfriend or job or made them function better or made their life better in any way. It did nothing to ameliorate bullying of autistic children or give autistics a better image.

What about them engaging in a more constructive activity? The one I have in mind is providing either some sort of legal defense fund for McCollum or finding a lawyer who could do probono work for McCollum in what will soon be his umpteenth criminal trial. Then, assuming an acquital or suspended sentence could be obtained, ASAN and other organizations could convince the New York Metro Authority to give Darius a job and show somehow that this man would be a dedicated worker and the City of New York would not have to worry about liability.

Is this notion farfetched? After all, if memory serves me correctly Kathleen Seidel found an attorney on a pro bono basis to help her quash the subpoena directed against her (I guess any commenter can correct me if I am wrong about this) An attorney could be found for McCollum also. In one of the articles I read about him his parents were deeply in debt because of all the legal costs his train obsession had incured. Joseph could also do a statistical analysis, which he seems apt at, to show a mathematical model of why the city of New York would not have to worry about liability if McCollum were in their employ. They could engage in the same type of flier campaigns, phone calls, petitions and complaints that occurred during the ransom note campaign. If they would try to advocate on McCollum's behalf, let alone successfully enabling him to land a job rather than return to sing sing the neurodiversity people would earn some respect from me.

I wonder what the probability of them advocating for McCollum is? I suspect they won't do it. Perhaps ASAN and other organizations care less about helping people then they do about their bruised egos. Their feelings are hurt because some people by implying autism needs a cure are saying they are less than perfect people. McCollum presents them with such an incredible opportunity though. It is much easier to engage in a smear campaign against the ransom notes, easier to bash and insult parents who may be misguided but have the best of intentions for their kids. Easier to insult organizations like Autism Speaks and claim they commit genocide, yet flock to Michelle Dawson's comment board and blog like flies to honey in spite of the fact that people in the lab she works in get funding from autism speaks and her boss Laurent Mottron participates in meetings with researchers that autism speaks sponsors and apparently tries to get funding from this organization that neurodiversity hates so much (I know because i met Dr. Mottron at one of those meetings).

To be blunt I think organizations like ASAN and other neurodiversity proponents should put their money (figurative or literal) where their mouths are. Some of them point to the huge success of gay people in advocating for themselves, yet ignore the fact that the gay community is well financed and most persons with autism (a fact these neurodiversity people won't acknowledge) have very little money to offer to a cause. Yet they still believe they can change society to have a more accepting attitude of autistics and they can achieve the same kind of civil rights status.

Well, ASAN members, GRASP members, wrong planet afficianados, ANI members and aspies for freedom and other neurodiversity groups, here's your chance. One of your own fellow aspies needs help. He needs it badly. Are you going to spend some time and money to help him or are you going to just do some more non-productive bellyaching so that I will have to offer you some cheese with your next whine?


jypsy said...

Perhaps before you assume that this hasn't already happened you should research what the autistic community has done in the past for Mr. McCollum. I have information dating back to 2002 (and that's just some of it).

Anonymous said...

I'm all for any such efforts. I'm not terribly familiar with the case, but if you find there hasn't been a whole lot of movement on it, I'd suggest it's because people are ambivalent about it. Check the AutismVox post. People wonder whether a crime actually was committed, i.e. whether Darius can tell right from wrong, and chose to do wrong. The employment situation is a separate matter.

I didn't get your joke about me doing an analysis.

jonathan said...

Well Jypsy why don't you be helpful to me and provide me with some sort of link or send me something in email, i think you still have my email address. I would be most interested in learning about anything at all the autism community has done for McCollum. The young stalwarts at ASAN sure don't seem to give a rat's ass about him.

And, assuming you are correct, that would seem to reduce the credibility of the neurodiversity movement as they can't seem to help Mr. McCollum much or even help defray the costs of his legal expenses or get his parents out of debt.

jonathan said...

Well Joseph, you seem to miss the whole point, why is the neurodiversity community so ambivalent about helping this man. Seems he should be some sort of cause celebre' for all of you. I would think you of all people who constantly preach acceptance for those on the spectrum would be begging for a chance to help and advocate for this man.

I did check the autismvox post i contributed to it as you recall. He has been arrested multipe times, convicted and spent many years behind bars and apparently a judge, jury or possibly both did not buy his defense of incapacity due to having asperger's, so apparently the judicial system has decided Darius is a criminal, capable of distinguishing between right and wrong.

As for your statistical analysis and mathematical modeling, it was no joke, I was very serious.

jypsy said...

Well Mr. Mitchel, I'm not going to share my email files with you or do research for you to prove to you I'm not lying. Google his name with the word "support" and you'll find at least one entry.

jonathan said...

Hi Mrs. Baine, I did all that. All I could find was the fact the organizations aspires and aspen had wrote out some letters of support for him and had a meeting with his attorney to discuss some sort of strategy. I emailed one of the members whose address was in this group and she said she did not know of any ongoing efforts to support mccollum and was pessimistic and wanted to know if i heard anything.

I was glad to find just this one thing. However, this really is nothing. Most of these neurodiversity groups seem to have no interest. I wrote Ari neeman of ASAN, he expressed noncomittal indifference to me.

Worse, in doing the research you suggested, Michael Carley of GRASP seems to treat McCollum as some sort of write-off, just saying he wants to keep the man away form trains. This seems inconsistent with neurodiversity's acceptance versus cure stance.

We will see what efforts are made in the future to support McCollum, what money will be raised, etc. I suspect there will not be any but will certainly stand corrected if there are. I am waiting with baited breath for these neurodiversity people to practice what they preach and I see the Mccollum case as a golden opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I don't think neurodiversity is about being on the side of any autistic unconditionally, regardless of whether they've done wrong.

That's like saying that the black pride movement should support every black person, regardless of what they have done.

So no, I really don't get your point.

That said, if Darius' family would happen upon this, I'd suggest creating a webpage with a Paypal button; and requesting assistance. They might get a bit of cash that way.

jypsy said...

Sorry about the typo Mr. Mitchell.

-jypsy (Ms. norman-bain)

jonathan said...

well Joseph: Why wouldn't the neurodiversity movement take up McCollum's cause? As jypsy pointed out to me there was a tiny bit of interest from one organization a few years ago. I have been in email communication with one of these people involved and she now seems to think it is a hopeless cause. I have inquired about Prozac or possibly some other OCD medication being tried as a remedy. I am not sure if you and other neurodiversity people would be in favor of this or not as it might change Darius' brain and might be like a death sentence to him as it might provide a somewhat limited cure for him. I also inquired to see if the judge's disallowment of the asperger's diagnosis could be appealed i am awaiting a response for them.

If there is some reason the various neurodiversity movement organizations would be opposed to helping this man, other than this is a lost cause then I can't imagine what they would be. assuming he is on the spectrum then why should not society accept his train joyriding activities according to neurodiversity? Why can't society make some accommodation for him as you and others are always suggesting, like giving him a job with the New York Transit system? Why aren't the various neurodiversity leaning organizations rallying to his side claiming that anyone who would sue the city of new york if he were in their employee ranting bigotry, prejudice and genocide of autistic chants that seem so common to them? I really don't understand it. Michael Carley of GRASP claims that most autistics don't want a cure, he claims we need acceptance and not a cure, yet he treats Darius as some sort of write-off, saying he should be kept away from trains.

I do think these are gross inconsistencies on the part of those involved in tne ND movement.

If you have any reasons Darius should not be helped or ND should not take up his cause, please explain them to me. If you, like Carley, seem to think Darius some sort of write-off, Joseph, please explain to me how you can reconcile this in terms of your acceptance versus cure views?

Anonymous said...

"...Perhaps ASAN and other organizations care less about helping people then they do about their bruised egos. Their feelings are hurt because some people by implying autism needs a cure are saying they are less than perfect people..."

Maybe some of them are so anti-"neurotypical" that they don't want the transit system and its passengers to get any help from darius working there?

Maybe some of them are so anti-"neurotypical" that they don't like what's been said about Darius actually caring about what his passengers thought?

Maybe some of them are so "don't care what other people think!!!" that they're actually anti-public-sector in general? I once saw someone like that (who had an "I got mine, f**k you" attitude to go along with his "I don't care what other people think!!!" attitude) accuse people who take the train of being some kind of welfare leeches (as if none of the roads he drove his privately owned car on got public subsidies too...).