Amy Harmon’s “Navigating Love and Autism”

I can’t gush enough about today’s page one story by Amy Harmon in The New York Times.

Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith. Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

As part of her continuing series, Love on the Spectrum, Amy follows a college couple who are emblematic of the relationship and intimacy challenges of young adults with Asperger syndrome or other forms of autism. I thought that CENtral Science readers would be interested in both Kirsten Lindsmith and Jack Robison, the latter having an intense interest and facility in chemistry.

The article leads with a warm and well-edited, five-minute video of the couple (by Sean Patrick Farrell) but I’d encourage you to read the whole piece first, as I did. But when you do watch it, pay attention to Kirsten’s closing statement on the definition of love.

I left the story seeing glimpses of myself and my own relationships, although I’ve not been diagnosed with any spectrum syndromes. In fact, I’d venture to say that many readers here might see some commonalities with Kirsten and Jack. I absolutely loved these two kids and seeing the video has me cheering that they do indeed successfully navigate the challenges we all face between our scientific passions and personal relationships.

While Harmon’s article isn’t open to comments at the NYT, I’d welcome any thoughts here that folks might have after reading her brilliant piece.

Source:

Harmon, Amy. Navigating Love and Autism. The New York Times, 26 December 2011.

Twitter:

Amy Harmon @amy_harmon

Sean Patrick Farrell @spatrickfarrell

 

Author: David Kroll

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7 Comments

  1. David,

    Thanks for mentioning this piece; I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

    I’m impressed with how well the two young people in the story understand themselves and each other and how hard they’re working on developing and nurturing a strong relationship. I think we could all work harder on those things.

    I’m intrigued by Jack’s thoughts on oxytocin treatment to increase empathy. Oxytocin makes us more loving, generous, and altruistic–I sometimes wonder if we all wouldn’t benefit from a supplement. Surely it would reduce gun play and macings during the holiday shopping season. But there must be some evolutionary disadvantage to high levels of the hormone; perhaps we would enjoy each other’s company so much that we would get less work done.

    Cindy

    • HELP, URGENT: I am a single mother of TWO SPECIAL NEEDS BOYS WITH AUTISM. 12/28/11 coming back home from Paris Charles De Gaule Airport to Philadelphia a USA’s fly attendant striked my youngest son with AUTISM, slapped his hands and punched him with a fist in the chin with her ring all these because he pushed the button on and off to call and ask some questions for help. The poor boy was so anxious and afraid with the trip. I said to her:” but excuse me mam my son has autism and just want to ask a question”. She said:” well you need to tell him not to push the button ON and OFF”. I asked another fly attendant for her name she said:” you will ask her your self”. Than I asked for her supervisor , who answer was:” Well, I was not present but we have witnesses that nothing ever happened”. The fly attendant was serving other passengers food but our seats. She walked on the wall way and hit my son again with her albow on his head. Arrived to Phialadelphia international Airport, 6 Authorities came to us with dogs. My two boys were so affraid of this approach. The officers told me:”We can’t do anything for you, you need to file a complain in Paris Airport.” My answer was :”But officers USA is our home” Please help me for any necessary infos and justice.This is a child abuse.. Thank you and GOD Bless you..

  2. Thanks, Cindy – I’m so glad you liked it! Amy’s a magnificent writer and the combination of video, popouts, and stellar storytelling shows just how rich online journalism can be if the resources are available to support it (I have a digital subscription to the NYT and hope that all who can afford it do so for their favorite national and local papers).

    Oxytocin is actually available in two prescription drug forms, injectable and a nasal spray. Here, it’s used primarily to induce labor. However, it won’t cross the blood-brain-barrier. To me, that seems why Jack is so interested in synthesizing a drug that does (although I’m not totally clear on whether he’s interested in oxytocin or SSRI-type agents).

    I’m also hoping that some chemists get a chance to see and comment on this story. It’s a bit of a bummer since most drug and chemical companies are formally closed this week or operating with a skeleton staff and lots of folks in academic chemistry and pharmacology are taking off the whole week (in NC, we’re given Mon and Tues as holidays). Hopefully, our C&EN readers will see this next week and see a bit of themselves in Jack, especially as he’s drawing the chemical structure at the whiteboard and fixing the bottom part of the pyridine ring!

  3. David,

    Oh, I see; oxytocin won’t cross the blood-brain barrier. Thanks for that. But I’ll still wish for a light misting of it over the boarding area the next time my flight is delayed. Egads, the things people do instead of sitting down with a book! (Reminds me of your flight attendant post.)

    I agree, this is such a touching story and one we could all learn from. As you say, Jack fixing the chemical structure was an evocative moment that echoed his care for his relationship.

  4. Thanks for this! I missed this story and will share it with my teen daughter on the autistic spectrum! So encouraging.

    I am paying “blog calls” to all @scio12 attendees to say “Hi” and give a shoutout on twitter.

    I’ll see you again soon, David!

  5. Thanks so much, Joanne, my favorite whacking-liquid-nitrogen-frozen-gummi-bears scientist-educator!

    I love your project to visit all the blogs of @scio12 attendees. It’s a heroic effort but will definitely keep you form saying, “Oh my gosh, they were here and I missed them?”

    See you in a few short weeks!

  6. HELP, URGENT: I am a single mother of TWO SPECIAL NEEDS BOYS WITH AUTISM. Yesterday coming back home from Paris Charles De Gaule Airport to Philadelphia. Mrs Tracy the USA’s fly attendant striked my youngest son with AUTISM, slapped him …in his hands and punched him in the chin with her ring all these because he pushed the button on and off to call and ask some questions for help. The poor boy, he was so anxious and afraid with the trip. I said to her:” but excuse me mam my son has autism and just want to ask a question”. She said:” well you need to tell him not to push the button ON and OFF”. I asked another fly attendant for her name she said you will ask her your self. Than I asked for her supervisor (Mrs Keren) who answered me Well:” I was not present but we have witnesses that nothing ever happened”. Then Mrs Tracy was serving food to other passengers but our seats. Please help me for any necessary infos and justice. Thank you and GOD Bless you.

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