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Case ends, still feels unended

Monday, a year-long case came to an end in 40th Judicial District Court, but it doesn’t feel like it’s finished.
Those of us who have first-hand experience with mental dysfunction — our own or that of others in our lives — are left with questions about the way this subject’s mind works and was working at the time of the crime.

Make no mistake in what I’m about to say: There is no room in a functioning society for kidnappers.

The parents of the 13-year-old who was taken last year thankfully still have their son to hold and no further harm was done.

We must make sure those kinds of behaviors do not happen again by removing perpetrators from the street.

However, 25-year-old Brandon Fox is an interesting case for both the local legal system and for the state justice system at large.

Fox has been a troubled person for his entire adult life, according to testimony given by his mother Joy during a competency hearing in the late part of the summer. He’s had social problems that some specialists have called Asperger’s Syndrome.

It’s a curious affliction, a persistent developmental disorder. That is a circumstance that creates a complicated prisoner, to be sure.
Consider the characteristics that people diagnosed with Asperger’s, classified as a form of autism up until 1994’s version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, exhibit:

• Not pick up on social cues and may lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking.
• Dislike any changes in routines.
• Appear to lack empathy.
• Be unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech.
Thus, your child may not understand a joke or may take a sarcastic comment literally.
Likewise, his or her speech may be flat and difficult to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent.
• Have a formal style of speaking that is advanced for his or her age.
For example, the child may use the word “beckon” instead of “call” or the word “return” instead of “come back.”
• Avoid eye contact or stare at others.
• Have unusual facial expressions or postures.
• Be preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he or she may be very knowledgeable about. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are overly interested in parts of a whole or in unusual activities, such as designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes, or studying astronomy. They may show an unusual interest in certain topics such as snakes, names of stars, or dinosaurs.
• Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized.
• Have delayed motor development. Your child may be late in learning to use a fork or spoon, ride a bike, or catch a ball. He or she may have an awkward walk. Handwriting is often poor.
• Have heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures.

There is a bit of each of us in one or more of those concepts, I’d think.

It’s quite daunting to think about how we would function if we bore the combined might of all or most of those problems.

A person unable to respond correctly to social stimuli would very easily be a black sheep at the very least and marginalized by society at the worst.

Imagine how difficult it would be to hold a job, make money, maintain self-sufficiency or feel good about yourself if around every corner existed a social hurdle you weren’t equipped to navigate.

Think about how hard it would be not to be able to adapt to changes in routine or make eye contact.

How hard would it be to constantly push people away because we hold conversations with ourselves AT other people?

Fox, in a hearing in August, was judged competent for trial. As a part his guilty plea, Fox will be in the state judicial system for at least the next 10 years, or so the prosecutor asserts.

If he is truly suffering from this kind of persistent disorder, then may we do our best to serve his problems with the grace we should expect from ourselves.

Either way, it brings up a very worthwhile topic for thought and conversation.

I’d like to hear what you have to say about it, if you’re interested to share.

Nick is intrigued by the way the mind works, especially as science finds more ways in which it malfunctions. He can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Oct 27 2010. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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