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momsparky
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14 May 2012, 12:24 pm

I was horrified when reading this particularly sensational article in the NYT today: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magaz ... opath.html

Here's the lead-in from FB: "Michael's mother mentioned an episode of “Criminal Minds” that terrified her, in which a couple’s younger son was murdered by his older brother. “In the show, the older brother didn’t show any remorse. He just said, ‘He deserved it, because he broke my plane.’ When I saw that, I said, ‘Oh my God, I so don’t need that episode to be my life story down the line.’ ” She laughed awkwardly, then shook her head. “I’ve always said that Michael will grow up to be either a Nobel Prize winner or a serial killer.”

I find it interesting to note that they've diagnosed this child with everything BUT autism: OCD, bipolar, ADHD, sensory integration disorder. I can totally see the trajectory of autism in this child (as opposed to the little girl manipulating him) from the onset of symptoms at age 3, to the tantrums and mood swings, to the very specific language.

I fear this trend in pathologizing child behavior: the primary issue this article avoids is that "child psychopath" doesn't seem to have any other meaning than we-professionals-don't-know-what-to-do. Diagnosis should equal a plan of action, not a label for a collection of symptoms. This kid and his family's life is NOT going to improve just because they named his behavior.

I hope they find the help they need.



Wreck-Gar
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14 May 2012, 12:38 pm

I read the article and it sounds nothing like autism to me.



League_Girl
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14 May 2012, 1:04 pm

I think kids can he psychopaths, Jeffery Dahmer for example. He was already torturing animals at age eight and look what he grew up to be.

I wonder if you can get the psychopathy out of them if they get the proper treatment they need in their childhood?

I also agree that it didn't sound like autism. if I were the parents, I would have gotten rid of the kid a long time ago. I would not want a psychopath in my home. Too dangerous.



OliveOilMom
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14 May 2012, 2:33 pm

Read "We Need To Talk About Kevin". It's about a child psycho who ends up killing a bunch of kids at his school. That fact is known from the beginning of the book, but it's got a twist at the end.


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spectrummom
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15 May 2012, 6:13 am

I read the article too and thought the same thing at first. But as I kept reading, it sounded much less so. This kid is highly articulate and charming. He and his peers manipulate to get what they want. Whatever the overlaps with autism, typically kids on the spectrum are honest to a fault, sort of the opposite of manipulative. Though my child struggles with theory of mind, I don't see him being able to get away with the calculated behavior this child displays, if only because he's (thankfully) a bad liar. Ultimately, my child seeks my love and approval while the kids in the article, apparently, do not.



Mummy_of_Peanut
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15 May 2012, 7:32 am

I hate to admit this, but I've met two young children for whom I see a future of sex and/or violent crime. I was very concerned about them and my suspicions were confirmed when they both did things, (two unconnected incidents) which have completely stunned me. My daughter and my neighbour's daughter were the victims. The incident with my daughter happened after I had told the mother that I no longer wanted to meet her, because I was worried about her violent son. She then approached my husband at my daughter's after school class. While they were having a heated discussion, the boy pulled my daughter into a secluded corner of an L shaped room, pulled her underpants down and touched her, totally against her will. A similar thing happened between my neighbour's daughter and the other boy. More importantly, the parents in both cases refuse to accept that the incidents happened. Neither of these children appear to be on the spectrum; I would say they are the opposite of that in fact.


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Last edited by Mummy_of_Peanut on 16 May 2012, 7:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

momsparky
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15 May 2012, 7:58 am

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying all kids with problems are on the spectrum. What I am saying is that this label "psychopath" is doing nobody any good. It doesn't mean anything - and let's remember, a not dissimilar label was applied to autism ("childhood schizophrenia") back in the day when they just locked kids up.

Here's what I see in this kid: first of all, he's being manipulated, not manipulating: doing what you're told by someone without examining their motives indicates a TOM deficit. (the little girl, OTOH, does NOT sound like she's autistic.) The timing and trajectory is typical (tantruming starting at age three.) That this child can get through most of a day successfully until there is a disruption or a social situation. That this child is incredibly articulate and overstates fact without offering an appropriate emotional response.

There may be more to it, but I see signs of social communication problems that make me wonder why nobody's looked at autism in general and pragmatics in specific.



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15 May 2012, 3:55 pm

Wow!! ! This could be really dangerous, especially considering that the entire field of psychology is based on subject interpretations of things. It is bad enough our kids have to be labeled as ADD, ADHD, Autistic, etc. Interestingly, my son LOVES his pets. However, he is really rough with them and we have to remind him constantly he has to be nice to them. He has a rat, whom he talks to all the time. The problem is he thinks he an roll with the rat on his therapy ball, um no. I remember when he was younger he tried to ride my parents dog, she was about 15 lbs. He sits often and pets and talks to our cat. Some psych could interpret those things as him harming animals and then label someone like him with psychopath. I remember when he was 3 or 4, the school psych flew off the handle because she thought he was schizophrenic. Why? Well he just randomly started talking to her about this old man that lived in a cabin, who had three dogs. She started to ask him, can you see this man. To which he replied, yes. Does this man talk? To which he replied, yes. It wasn't until another teacher came along and said, "Oh, where did you find out about this man and his dogs." To which he replied, " Oh its my favorite book from the library." This teacher then asked him, " Do you think this man is real or made up?' He then said, well duh he is made up. Its just a book. This women was hell bent on the fact that he just had to be schizophrenic!! ! So..



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15 May 2012, 4:38 pm

I think there is a difference between psychopath and a child hurting an animal. A child is not trying to hurt the animal when they do cruel things to do it like put it in the ball and kick it or pulling it's tail. But a psychopath intentionally tries to hurt the animal and they don't even care. They enjoy seeing them in pain and they do a lot worse things than a normal child would to an animal. A normal child would feel bad if they accidentally killed the animal or hurt it. A psychopath wouldn't feel bad.

I was mean to animals too growing up and sometimes I do wonder if I had some psychopathy in me and I grew out of it. But I doubt I would want to set them on fire or kill them or cause them pain. But wanting to see a cat and a dog fight so I would try and provoke the fight in my pre teens not even understanding the serious danger of it. Psychopathy? I was late in my development and I know most pre teens would know better and even a nine year old would understand making two animals fight each other is cruel. But I didn't know that at that age nor when I was a pre teen. Plus autistic people are very compassion about animals so I am sure they would also know at that age it's wrong just like an NT child would know so too. But I bet if my own cat got hurt or killed, it be a hard lesson for me to learn and I know I would be upset and feel bad that she got hurt or be upset she died and blame myself for it. A true psychopath wouldn't care.



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15 May 2012, 10:17 pm

momsparky wrote:
” She laughed awkwardly, then shook her head. “I’ve always said that Michael will grow up to be either a Nobel Prize winner or a serial killer.”.


Sounds like what one my teachers said about my daughter. One minute doing math or reading 2 yrs advanced of her peers, next minute getting violent with her classmates.



OliveOilMom
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15 May 2012, 10:36 pm

While I understand not wanting to label a child with something like "psychopath/sociopath" because there is a chance that it could be a wrong dx, how would you feel if your own child were hurt or killed by a child whose therapist said they strongly suspect that he's a psychopath, and it was never in his school records because his parents didn't believe or want him labeled?

I think it's better, and safer for everyone involved, to err on the side of caution with such a serious dx. If someone isn't a psychopath, eventually they will show they aren't by their behavior. If they are a psychopath then eventually somebody is going to get hurt.


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16 May 2012, 2:33 am

A psychopath is essentially someone who doesn't perceive other individuals as sentient beings. They might be aware that they are, but they don't perceive they are in any emotional sense.

They do not all turn out to be violent criminals, or serial killers. Many "functional" psychopaths go into politics, medicine, law, or head big companies. Functional psychopaths differ from the violent variety in that they have a sense of ethics as it relates back to how their actions might affect them in life, and how their actions might affect their goals. But if they did happen to bludgeon you to death and were confident no one would find out about this, they likely wouldn't lose any sleep at night either....or at least not much.

I'd be hesitant to label a child a psychopath because there is an implication with that that the child has no feelings, is beyond help, and will always be a potential danger to society. This can result in making in a child who had some psychopathic tendencies, into an actual psychopath.

Children with psychopathic tendencies, however, are not necessarily beyond help. Many children have these tendencies as a result of abuse suffered at a young age, and actually have a form of reactive attachment disorder. These children have a lot of mistrust and rage but some have been successfully rehabilitated.



momsparky
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16 May 2012, 7:53 am

Exactly. I'm certainly not against labels if they actually mean something, but this label in particular seems to be a "catch-all" for kids who are really frustrating their caregivers. I agree with Chronos that it seems odd for psychopathy to form on its own, as it is usually the result of trauma (and there don't seem to be signs of that with the boy in this article.)

Even given that, it's not about the label but about what you DO about it, and the answer in this article seems to be that they warehouse these kids all together and then stand around tsking and wagging their fingers and sensationalizing the whole thing. Yes, I don't want this boy to hurt anyone, but I also don't want him stuck the way he is with no way out. I don't see anyone's safety being improved by the interventions they show in the article: in fact, putting the boy in a class with the manipulative little girl is clearly making things worse for everyone.

I agree that labels can be important; I know that we lost some time due to fear of labels - but only if the label comes with a plan of action that makes things better. There are an awful lot of us whose lives would be considerably different if we'd been labeled "childhood schizophrenics."



Mummy_of_Peanut
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16 May 2012, 8:21 am

Just as with autism, the purpose of labelling a child with for example psychopathy should be for the pusposes of targeting help. Not all people with psychopath genetics (and this is not fiction) turn into murderers and rapists, some become executives and some are pretty decent ordinary folk. But, if a child is behaving in such a way that suggests there may be a concern, then this needs to be addressed.

I'm perfectly aware that there's a child in my daughter's class who is dangerous (the one who assaulted my neighbour). I've never met such a convincing liar in my life and had already stopped my daughter playing with him, before I heard what had happened. He would wait until my back was turned, just for a second, then hit her. I hate to say such a thing about a child who isn't quite 7yrs, but I fear for the other kids, especially my own daughter, who has been targeted by him, in the playground. The school are aware of the incident and others, but as far as I can tell, they aren't taking extra special care in watching out for further incidents. They also don't seem to realise that he lies constantly, even about things which don't benefit him in any way. When I spoke to the depute head about his violence towards my daughter and mentioned that I knew about the serious incident, she was lost for words. Of course, they've been trying to keep it all hushed up, but it would be good to be told whether a psychiatrist was dealing with this child. At the moment, neither I nor my neighbour have any clue as to what help he might be getting. I fear he's getting none and that's really concerning, for society in general.


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16 May 2012, 11:17 am

This seems to be a topic du jour.

I am not at all against the idea of considering the possibility of children being psychopaths. The point is, psychopaths go through life causing an inordinate amount of harm to to others. If it is possible to treat psychopathic children (if there is such a thing) - because children's brains and learning are much more malleable than adults, so as to encourage at least some degree of empathy, then this would not only help that child, but also be socially beneficial.