Monthly Archives: June 2017

Eighth of Asperger’s Ten Traits – “Trapped, […] pretending to be normal”

Faceless_Rebel_Morph

“8) We are ourselves and we aren’t ourselves. Between imitating others and copying the ways of the world, and trying to be honest, and having no choice but to be “real”, we find ourselves trapped between pretending to be normal and showing all our cards. It’s a difficult state. Sometimes we don’t realize when we are imitating someone else or taking on their interests, or when we are suppressing our true wishes in order to avoid ridicule. We have an odd sense of self. We know we are an individual with unique traits and attributes, with unique feelings, desires, passions, goals, and interests, but at the same time we recognize we so desperately want to fit in that we might have adapted or conformed many aspects about ourselves. Some of us might reject societal norms and expectations all together, embracing their oddities and individuality, only to find themselves extremely isolated. There is an in between place where an aspie girl can be herself and fit in, but finding that place and staying in that place takes a lot of work and processing. Some of us have a hard time recognizing facial features and memorize people by their clothes, tone of voice and hairstyle. Some of us have a hard time understanding what we physically look like. We might switch our preference in hairstyles, clothes, interests, and hobbies frequently, as we attempt to manage to keep up with our changing sense of self and our place. We can gain the ability to love ourselves, accept ourselves, and be happy with our lives, but this usually takes much inner-work and self-analysis. Part of self-acceptance comes with the recognition that everyone is unique, everyone has challenges, and everyone is struggling to find this invented norm. When we recognize there are no rules, and no guide map to life, we may be able to breathe easier, and finally explore what makes us happy.”

Used with permission from @everydayaspergers. Originally published in Samantha Croft‘s -now former- blog, Everyday Asperger’s, as The Ten Traits.

One of my most intriguing oddities (and I started to adore them all, even when they’re naughty) is the constant failure to recognise my colleagues outside work. Working in a hospital environment requires some sort of uniform, which together with the background provided by the site’s micro- and macro-environment, form the “picture” which an autistic brain memorises.

Now, that wouldn’t be a problem for the neurotypical individual, but it does become a major one for the neurodivergent, because as Samantha brilliantly mentions in her article, autistics seem to memorise people by anything else but their faces. And this oddity doesn’t become obvious until one day, a colleague tells you with a smile/smirk on their faces, that it’s not nice to pass them by at the mall, or another has to stand in your way, looking rather puzzled for the “embarrassing” time your brain needs to remove the previous details from around their faces, implementing them into the new environment, finally triggered by their perplexed voices asking you why would you pretend not to see them?

Been there, done that, now and again, and again, and again…

But the worst of it all, is the involuntary compulsion to act “normal”, switching automatically to puerile excuses of not having seen them, having a headache, being tired, being busy, etc, none of them actually true.

What I am step-by-step realising, is a uniqueness I don’t want to give up anymore, an increasing desire and practical moves to “reject societal norms and expectations all together”, “embracing my oddities and individuality”, caring less and less about finding myself “extremely isolated”, because if that means getting finally isolated from the vain, abusive, infatuated stupidity of “normal” societal details thinking that seeing me is knowing me, it’s more than welcome.

After all, if I am autistic, my world should be myself…

Stimming (Self-stimulatory Behaviour / Repetitive Stereotyped Activity) – 1

stimmers (2)

In her seminal book “The Autistic Spectrum” (1996), Lorna Wing, OBE, FRCPsych, described what she identified as Repetitive Stereotyped Activities, to be “the other side of the coin of impairment of imagination” (pg. 45). The Autistic community has come to embrace the term stimming (as the shortened form for self-stimulation), which unfortunately acknowledges only one of Wing’s identified types, the simple ones, as these activities were further categorized as simple and elaborate. As she explains, “the simplest forms of these activities involve repetitive sensations” such as:

-tasting

-smelling

-feeling or tapping or scratching different surfaces

-listening to mechanical noises

-staring at lights or shiny things

-twisting and turning hands or objects near the eyes

-staring at things from different angles

-switching lights on and off

-watching things spinning or self-spinning

Sometimes, especially when “someone has no other way of occupying themselves“, self-injury can become a repetitive behaviour.

As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, Stimming vs Fidgeting… I believe there is a fundamental difference between fidgeting and stimming, with stimming as a mainly autism-specific Repetitive Stereotyped Activity.

In an attempt to make this article more ‘user friendly’ I’ve photographed some of my favourite stimmers (a term I use and suggest instead of stim-toys), a small American-football and two different hand strengtheners, one of rubber and the other as a small mechanical contraption, with a fountain pen as a dimension guide.

First of all, allow me to explain why I suggest stimmers. One of the reasons is the unnecessary association with toys in general which automatically follows the use of stim-toys, and the other being an even more unnecessary association with ‘toys’ of a more ‘adult’ nature…

Secondly and probably unknown to many, the word stimmer means in German amongst others tuner, used to tune musical instruments.

Now, as I explained in my  Stimming vs Fidgeting… post, stimming is fundamentally different from fidgeting because it requires the individual’s dedicated attention, and somewhat similar to a tuner, it seems to help the individual tune their sensory, cognitive and behavioural functionality.

For example, you may notice in the picture of my stimmers, that due to their material structure, they have particular surfaces, some smooth and soft such as blue rubber strengthener, rough and soft such as the small brown ball, cold and smooth such as the metal coil, strong smooth such as some parts of the mechanical strengthener or strong and rough such as other parts of it.

One may think that these differences are negligible, which may be the case for fidgeting, but not for stimming, because -at least in my case- the surface structure follows a typical need which cannot be met by any structure, but only specific ones. When I use for example, the blue rubber stimmer, my four thumb opposing fingers automatically seek the comforting ‘feeling’ provided by the four small velvety depressions found on one of its sides, and while the thumb provides support, the other four fingers are becoming anything in between trumpet key dancers and Morse code transmitters, and the choreography is endless.

In an autistic’s hand, an object becomes an objective, an instrument which tunes the complex functionality of the autistic brain, with its unusual capacity to process sensory stimuli in more areas than the specialised neurotypical brains.

 

A next post will cover the Elaborate Repetitive Stereotyped Activity, or stimming…