- “We’ve had so many people tell us so many different things,” Anne said. “Oh, it’s A.D.D. — oh, it’s not. It’s depression — or it’s not. You could open the DSM and point to a random thing, and chances are he has elements of it. He’s got characteristics of O.C.D. He’s got characteristics of sensory-integration disorder. Nobody knows what the predominant feature is, in terms of treating him. Which is the frustrating part.” . . . . Following a battery of evaluations, Anne and Miguel were presented with another possible diagnosis: their son Michael might be a psychopath.
- Currently, there is no standard test for psychopathy in children, but a growing number of psychologists believe that psychopathy, like autism, is a distinct neurological condition — one that can be identified in children as young as 5.
- “If they can get what they want without being cruel, that’s often easier,” Frick observes. “But at the end of the day, they’ll do whatever works best.”
- “This isn’t like autism, where the child and parents will find support,” Edens observes. “Even if accurate, it’s a ruinous diagnosis. No one is sympathetic to the mother of a psychopath.”
- “As the nuns used to say, ‘Get them young enough, and they can change,’ ” Dadds observes. “You have to hope that’s true. Otherwise, what are we stuck with? These monsters.”
- “They’re not like A.D.H.D. kids who just act impulsively. And they’re not like conduct-disorder kids, who are like: ‘Screw you and your game! Whatever you tell me, I’m going to do the opposite.’ The C.U. kids are capable of following the rules very carefully. They just use them to their advantage.”
- Their behavior — a mix of impulsivity, aggression, manipulativeness and defiance — often overlaps with other disorders. “A kid like Michael is different from minute to minute,” Waschbusch noted. “So do we say the impulsive stuff is A.D.H.D. and the rest is C.U.? Or do we say that he’s fluctuating up and down, and that’s bipolar disorder? If a kid isn’t paying attention, does that reflect oppositional behavior: you’re not paying attention because you don’t want to? Or are you depressed, and you’re not paying attention because you can’t get up the energy to do it?”
- Most researchers who study callous-unemotional children, however, remain optimistic that the right treatment could not only change behavior but also teach a kind of intellectual morality, one that isn’t merely a smokescreen. . . . “I try to tell him: You’re here with a lot of other people, and they all have their own ideas of what they want to be doing. Whether you like it or not, you just have to get along.”
- “I’ve always said that Michael will grow up to be either a Nobel Prize winner or a serial killer.”
Some of these selections are regarding a clinical study/camp for these youngsters. That was probably the most entertaining part--seeing how they interact with each other.
- The study had a ratio of one counselor for every two children. But the kids, Waschbusch said, quickly figured out that it was possible to subvert order with episodes of mass misbehavior. One child came up with code words to be yelled out at key moments: the signal for all the kids to run away simultaneously.
And this little vixen:
- Charming but volatile, L. quickly found ways to play different boys off one another. “Some manipulation by girls is typical,” Waschbusch said as the kids trooped inside. “The amount she does it, and the precision with which she does it — that’s unprecedented.” She had, for example, smuggled a number of small toys into camp, Waschbusch told me, then doled them out as prizes to kids who misbehaved at her command. That strategy seemed particularly effective with Michael, who would often go to detention screaming her name.