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His vision of free software and social cooperation stands in stark contrast to the isolated nature of his private life. Stallman considers himself afflicted, to some degree, by autism: a condition that, he says, makes it difficult for him to interact with people. Such speculation benefits from the fast and loose nature of most socalled " behavioral disorders" nowadays, of course. As Steve Silberman, author of " The Geek Syndrome," notes, American psychiatrists have only recently come to accept Asperger Syndrome as a valid umbrella term covering a wide set of behavioral traits.

The traits range from poor motor skills and poor socialization to high intelligence and an almost obsessive affinity for numbers, computers, and ordered systems. Reflecting on the broad nature of this umbrella, Stallman says its possible that, if born 40 years later, he might have merited just such a diagnosis. That's because they fail to take into account the vulnerable side of the Stallman persona. Watch the Stallman gaze for an extended period of time, and you will begin to notice a subtle change.

What appears at first to be an attempt to intimidate or hypnotize reveals itself upon second and third viewing as a frustrated attempt to build and maintain contact. If, as Stallman himself has suspected from time to time, his personality is the product of autism or Asperger Syndrome , his eyes certainly confirm the diagnosis.

Even at their most high-beam level of intensity, they have a tendency to grow cloudy and distant, like the eyes of a wounded animal preparing to give up the ghost. Billed as a "coming out party" for the Linux software community, the convention also stands out as the event that reintroduced Stallman to the technology media. Amy For the first five years of her life, Amy lived with an abusive and neglectful mother who suffered from a host of problems, including alcohol and drug addiction, OCD, and AIDS.

Both Amy and her younger sister were in and out of foster placements until they landed at the home of Krystal and her husband. Krystal's household contained a mixture of foster, adopted, and biological children, many suffering from various disorders, including Asperger's syndrome , attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD , Tourette's syndrome, and OCD.

Amy and her younger sister arrived as foster children and were adopted by Krystal and her husband within two years. Krystal was a very bright and capable woman who seemed undaunted by the problems in her brood. She spoke of them all lovingly, without minimizing the significance of the problems they faced.

'All my life suddenly made sense': how it feels to be diagnosed with autism late in life

At the time I interviewed Krystal, Amy was twenty-two, had just finished college, and was living with several roommates and working in New York City. For all four children profiled here, hoarding was one problem among many, and usually not the most serious one. But it was one the parents could control with some clear rules and careful planning. Perhaps parents' ability to control this problem explains why so few clinicians have seen hoarding in children. Hoarding is often not mentioned at all. In addition, mental health clinics do not ask questions about clutter and saving possessions as part of their routine diagnostic interviews.

Julian's hoarding was episodic and seemed to occur mostly when he was upset about something—such as his broken arm or his new math class.


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For most adults, however, hoarding is chronic and unremitting. In our study of the course of hoarding, for instance, less than 1 percent of the cases reported that the hoarding became less severe over time. Compulsive hoarding in children: 6 case studies. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 2, 88— Rufer, M. Temporal stability of symptom dimensions in adult patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Journal of Affective Disorders, 88, 99— Russell, A.

Obsessions and compulsions in Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism. British Journal of Psychiatry, , — Storch, E.

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Clinical features of children and adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding symptoms. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 48, — Tolin, D. The course of compulsive hoarding and its relationship to life events. Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. Bilington, and S. Essentials of human memory. Barlow, F. New York: Philosophical Library. Baron-Cohen, S. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 14 , Batchen, G. Forget me not: photography remembrance. Bolzoni, L. The gallery of memory: literary and iconographic models in the age of the printing press.

Toronto: University of Toronto Press. The web of images: vernacular preaching from its origins to Saint Bernardino of Siena. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate. Bor, D. Savant memory for digits in a case of synaesthesia and Asperger syndrome is related to hyperactivity in the lateral prefrontal cortex. Neurocase, 13 , Bourtchouladze, R. Memories are made of this: how memory works in humans and animals. New York: Columbia University Press.

Brady, T. PNAS, 38 , Brown, A. He sure has a flair for drama. At GRASP we envision a world14 where all individuals on the autism spectrum are respected, valued, and fairly represented; where appropriate supports and services are readily available to those in need; and where people on the spectrum are empowered to participate in policy and personal decisions that affect their lives. The Lancet. Chapter 17 talented mimics had lower levels of activation in brain regions related to speech: Many of these results and others are discussed in Grzegorz Dogil and Susanne Reiterer eds.

He is an autistic savant — both challenged and gifted. Despite the media interest in it, the remarkable musical, mathematical and artistic abilities of savantism are rare. In reality, autism forms a spectrum of symptoms, from those with average or above-average intelligence — known as Asperger syndrome — to those with severe autism and significant learning disabilities like Andrew Bolte.

In common to all with autistic spectrum disorder ASD are difficulties with social behaviour. It was this feature that prompted the American psychiatrist Leo Kanner to identify autism as a distinct syndrome in So just as much as they can say something sharply funny, they can also jab you with a quick, hostile but also funny remark…. The atmosphere at SNL, although we all liked each other, could become highly competitive based on the fact that there were 10 writers and only so many sketches could go on the show, so we all did our best to write the winning sketch or make in my case the best short film.

That was a phrase I used a lot. The National Autistic Society estimates that there are currently around , people living with autism in the UK — more than one in every of the population. Some of these people have learning disabilities. Asperger syndrome is distinguished by the fact that people who have it display no language delay as toddlers or small children.

It has since been dropped from the relevant American diagnostic manual , but is still used in the UK.

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No national figures for adult autism diagnoses are available, but anecdotal evidence suggests numbers are rising: Baron-Cohen tells me that four years ago, cases in Cambridgeshire were referred to his clinic; in the first four months of alone, it received referrals. My own interest in autism began when my son James received a diagnosis of ASD at the age of three.


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  • Back then, some things seemed strange: the social distance between him and his peers; his fixations with particular music the Clash, the Beatles or places; his pointed dislike of some foods or sounds I still curse whoever invented the public toilet hand-dryer ; his amazing facility with technology. Now, these things are simply part of the fabric of our shared life.

    Unfortunately, the everyday world has yet to catch up. A week after talking to Baron-Cohen, I take the train to the Lancashire town of Wigan, to meet year-old Peter Street, who got his autism diagnosis only 10 months ago.

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    He is an impish, funny presence, and says he loves conversation, perhaps a little too much. And then all of it comes out, and it empties. After 20 minutes, it becomes clear that Street has the most astonishing life story of anyone I have ever interviewed. His mother, he says, became pregnant with him when she was raped. In his native Bolton, the two of them were taken in by a man much older than her, who employed her as his housekeeper, and then married her and adopted Street to give the arrangement a veneer of normality.


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    He grew up, he says, with no extended family and very few friends. A lot of the time, I overpower people.

    When I was a kid, when I made a friend, I would go and sit on their doorstep, waiting for them. I used to go and sit on the doorstep, maybe six, seven in the morning.

    Asperger syndrome

    At school, he found it almost impossible to tune in to the teachers. They were good at it. They were bullies. They used to stand me in the corner, in the wastebasket, and hit me over the head with the board rubber, to knock some sense into me.