Category Archives: Articles

Stimming vs Fidgeting…

MagnificentHummingbird flapping is living

I personally think it is unfortunate that many NDs have so easily accepted that stimming is “just” the autistic version of fidgeting, because as I see it, the difference is actually neurobiological.

The problem starts with wrongly associating stimming with anxiety relief, concentration and other similar, secondary types of human behaviour, because while fidgeting does certainly and most of the time unconsciously assist with especially concentration or stress relief, stimming, as a behaviour sequence mostly specific to autistic conditions, is actually a primary neurobiological undertaking, with a very clear role in an autistic individual’s life.

If an autistic person would observe themselves while stimming, they would notice that the stimming activity they are engaged in, requires their dedicated attention, through which the stimming routine is carried out according to a deeply ingrained routine. Stimming is as important as any other autistic routine, probably even more important, because while other routines, e.g. replacing the toothpaste tub in the same place and at the same angle after each use (as the routine’s objective), has the toothpaste tub as its object, stimming’s object & objective are identical, permeating actually the person engaged in stimming. While stimming, the autistic individuals employ all their task specific dedicated senses. Now this wouldn’t be unusual, if the respective sense(s) would be analysed, evaluated and responded to, as usually in NT cases, by specific areas of the brain. But since autistic brains are thought to analyse, evaluate and respond through the entire cerebral cortex to all/any stimuli (this being the very reason of sensory overload), an overlapping of sensory receptor(s) and stimulus happens, with the stimulus remaining nevertheless auxiliary in achieving the desired stimulation, with the brain and its response as the ultimate goal. Let me exemplify.

You sit in your car, and start drumming on your steering wheel, knee, door armrest, etc. But this is not your usual drumming on your favourite tune, or unconsciously fidgeting with your fingers while looking at the red light. No, it’s none of these, but your well known, always the same rhythmic sequence, the perfect product of your autistic brain’s systemising function, which combines not only the same audible rhythm, but the sensory impulses received by the same areas of your fingers’ skin from the soft, always the same areas of the wheel, the soft rotating movement of your wrists, dwelling always on the same areas of your legs, while your vision has switched to enhanced peripheral vision, seeing the beginning and the end of your journey, your next WP post and the irregular helix of steam arising from your next coffee, just to name a few…

Having said that, I hope I’ve answered any unasked question about “autistic fidgeting”, which yes, it is certainly possible, but in my opinion never to be mistaken for stimming.

Stimming is like the magnificent wing flapping of a hummingbird, in which all its neurobiology is implicated, which defines its entire being.

What about self-harmful, injurious repetitive actions, one may ask?

According to Lorna Wing (The Autistic Spectrum, New Updated Edition, p.45, 1996), a self-injurious repetitive action such as self-biting, head-banging, etc, “more often […] is a response to distress, anger or frustration […] but self-injury can be a repetitive habit in someone who has no other way of occupying themselves”.

In light of the above, having also witnessed this type of behaviour in non-autistic children and adults with congenital or acquired learning disabilities or limitations, also in animals confined to very small places, I would suggest that such behaviour isn’t necessarily autistic, but a physiological response to pathological stimuli, and therefore shouldn’t be necessarily considered stimming, except in cases of severe learning disabilities when according to Wing “self-injury can be[come] a repetitive habit in someone who has no other way of occupying themselves”. In such cases, protective gear and pharmacotherapy are considered as means of ensuring that the individuals themselves and their environment are protected as much as possible from harm, while maintaining the highest achievable degree of dignity and autonomy.

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Third of Asperger’s Ten Traits – Escape Artist, from the World into my Box…

Boxtroll

“3) We are escape artists. We know how to escape. It’s the way we survive this place. We escape through our fixations, obsessions, over-interest in a subject, our imaginings, and even made up reality. We escape and make sense of our world through mental processing, in spoken or written form. We escape in the rhythm of words. We escape in our philosophizing.  As children, we had pretend friends or animals, maybe witches or spirit friends, even extraterrestrial buddies. We escaped in our play, imitating what we’d seen on television or in walking life, taking on the role of a teacher, actress in a play, movie star. If we had friends, we were either their instructor or boss, telling them what to do, where to stand, and how to talk, or we were the “baby,” blindly following our friends wherever they went. We saw friends as “pawn” like; similar to a chess game, we moved them into the best position for us. We escaped our own identity by taking on one friend’s identity. We dressed like her, spoke like her(/him), adapted our own self to her (or his) likes and dislikes. We became masters at imitation, without recognizing what we were doing. We escaped through music. Through the repeated lyrics or rhythm of a song–through everything that song stirred in us. We escaped into fantasies, what could be, projections, dreams, and fairy-tale-endings. We obsessed over collecting objects, maybe stickers, mystical unicorns, or books. We may have escaped through a relationship with a lover. We delve into an alternate state of mind, so we could breathe, maybe momentarily taking on another dialect, personality, or view of the world. Numbers brought ease. Counting, categorizing, organizing, rearranging. At parties, if we went, we might have escaped into a closet, the outskirts, outdoors, or at the side of our best friend. We may have escaped through substance abuse, including food, or through hiding in our homes. What did it mean to relax? To rest? To play without structure or goal? Nothing was for fun, everything had to have purpose. When we resurfaced, we became confused. What had we missed? What had we left behind? What would we cling to next?”

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

When I first watched “Boxtrolls” I had no idea what to do with it…

It was one of those instances of a disturbing deja-vu, a pervasive sense of not exactly having seen, not even having been, but rather being still there, here…

And I realised it is the story of me, the great escape artist, escaping not from some box into the welcoming wide open, but from an unfriendly and oppressive “wide open”, into a world where everyone is entitled to the box of their own choice, size, colour, smell…

A world where everyone has a similar, nevertheless unique “box”, where no one criticises the other box tenant for their choice, where the “world above” is of less importance…

As I see it, our individually unique boxes are exactly what makes us fit together. We may not like physical contact and closeness, but in our perfect boxes we are closer than one could imagine, we communicate, we hear, we “feel” each other in inexplicable ways, respectful and sensitive to the openness or unopenness of someone else’s box.

In my box-world it doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you love your box, my box, our boxes; because regardless of how similar the boxes are, inside is comfortably “hiding” a perfect universe’s uniquely autistic inhabitant.

You don’t need to shout, you don’t need to knock, you don’t even need to “understand”. Just respectfully wait by the box you want to better know, until its inhabitant who knows you’re there, comes out, hoping that by that time, you may have hopefully decided to accept and respect whosoever you’ll see…

“autism: […] the future of our society depends on our understanding it.”

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Over a lifetime spent with mostly futile attempts to drift with the flow, I’ve discovered a mostly disturbing quality of my mind, namely the “finding the needle before seeing the haystack” capability, which made me a persona non-grata at meetings where those having an interest in hiding matters, oftentimes forbade me of taking notes, or even a notebook and pencil, because even though I am unable to see any “bigger (especially false) picture”, I can identify key words/concepts which my mind uses to profile the real picture with its oftentimes dreadful consequences.

A couple of hours ago, I’ve been delivered via St. Amazon a copy of Silberman’s “Neurotribes”. As my “religious” routine is to read first the title, copyrights, ISBN, etc page followed by the back cover, I have found the following, most distressing statement:

“What is autism: a devastating developmental condition, a lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more – and the future of our society depends on our understanding it.

Now, one of the advantages of a(n oftentimes identified as mainly) male Asperger’s binary thinking (yes/no, black/white), is an eerie capability of identifying absolutes, ultimate type of words or statements, axiomatic effects of a perceived completion of premises necessary in order to postulate them. And while these could be frightening for example to the clearly disadvantaged counterpart of a debate, from a purely contemplative perspective of judging deductive reasoning, its pure perfection becomes compelling.

Nevertheless, as undesirable as it would be contemplating a nuclear explosion from within, the same must be said about the above highlighted statement. Why? Because from here and now, the future looks and resonates nothing less than an Armageddon riding the Apocalypse for a socio-globality which still considers autism a “historical anomaly”, clarifying on a quod erat demonstrandum level, that there’s virtually no reasonable understanding of autism. Should there be any, searching for illusory “cures” in order “to stop the autism epidemic” would have become long ago shamefully obsolete.

Why have I written this post? Because I have become genuinely frightened at the idea of a future dominated by a neurotypical majority which is about to unleash through its deliberate ignorance, a chain reaction of wrong decisions about me, without having at least spoken in a meaningful way with me first. But even worse, the same majority seems even further ignorant that its wrong decisions shall have an effect not only on me and those alike, but as the quote’s author suggests, on society and ultimately the world as we know it.

Has the author of the quote gone mad writing such belligerent statements disturbing our state of -the art- denial?

I’ll leave it to your further inquiries, reminding you only that Silberman’s book has won “The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2015”, with someone writing the aforementioned quote in bold, on the back cover.

And the Prize’s motto seems to be “All the best stories are true”…

First of Asperger’s Ten Traits – Extreme Intelligence

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Driven, probably by the systemising neuro-biology of my brain, I’m constantly looking for an organised understanding of facts, where “the three…”, “the seven…” or “the ten…” somethings, constantly attract my semantic mind. On such a fortunate occasion, I have found Samantha Croft‘s -now former- blog, Everyday Asperger’s.
In her new website‘s own words, “Samantha Croft, autistic writer and artist, […] a former schoolteacher, with a Master’s Degree in Education (special emphasis on adult education and curriculum development), […] has been published in peer reviewed journals, been featured in autistic literature, and has completed several graduate-level courses in the field of counselling. Some of her works, especially The Ten Traits, have been translated into multiple languages.”
Now it is exactly The Ten Traits, the subject of a ten-post series, through which I am hoping to better understand the “Ten Commandments” by which my mind attempts to understand and process an oftentimes avalanche of stimuli. Even though the blog’s main title is “Asperger’s Traits (Women, Females, Girls)/February 10, 2012” I have found its applicability in my -male- case, around the more than satisfactory 99% which provides the necessary reassurance for a general applicability.
Samantha has kindly agreed to my humble enterprise, for which I am forever grateful.

“1) We are deep philosophical thinkers and writers; gifted in the sense of our level of thinking. Perhaps poets, professors, authors, or avid readers of nonfictional genre. I don’t believe you can have Asperger’s without being highly-intelligent by mainstream standards. Perhaps that is part of the issue at hand, the extreme intelligence leading to an over-active mind and high anxiety. We see things at multiple levels, including our own place in the world and our own thinking processes. We analyse our existence, the meaning of life, the meaning of everything continually. We are serious and matter-of-fact. Nothing is taken for granted, simplified, or easy. Everything is complex.”

If you look for a better compacted definition of the Asperger’s mind, rest assured there isn’t… I mean, one might attempt reverse engineering the above paragraph, perhaps writing a whole chapter of a book based on each statement, but the true genius of it is the elaborate conciseness, encompassing the cause-effect functionality of a neuro-divergent mind, with all the blessings and non-blessings of a misunderstood genius.
And if you may be asking yourself, what or where is my geniality, let me share with you something I’ve learned somewhere I can’t remember anymore, which helped me better understand myself, something which would makes sense mainly to the Asperger’s mind. That “someone” said, that the true genius of the neuro-divergent mind, is not simply finding the needle in a haystack, but to notice the needle before seeing the haystack.
Have you arrived at the conclusion that most philosophies should be re-written as you noticed flaws leaving you wondering why aren’t they studying your works? Was it easier for you to write a metric rhyme poem instead of a nonfictional story? Were you having a panic attack way before your boss finished outlining next year’s strategy for success, because you already saw the imminent collapse, should the team follow their uselessly high-paid stupidities? Were you listening to some prestigious piece of music from a highly-acclaimed orchestra, just to nearly have a heart attack caused by a false sound or faulty rhythm?
The problem isn’t with your “appliance”, but with a world unprepared for our next-gen perception and understanding of it.
Welcome to your(true)self, and start valuing yourself. Trust me, there’s no better judge of yourself than your(true)self

(to be continued…)

The Asperger Individualism

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Throughout my life and modest literary endeavours, I firmly acknowledged the supreme primacy of detail before the whole, for reasons too obvious to state…

Nevertheless, since discovering that I live with Asperger’s on the neuro-divergent side of existence, I realised that the term autism was coined from the Greek autos which means self, as an essentially correct identification of Autism’s core individualism.

Even though I believe that Autism and Asperger’s share common traits (the Autistic Spectrum), I share the position of the ICD-10 as being different conditions, regardless of DSM-5’s arbitrary otherwise statements, which will be discussed in a future post, finding myself somewhere along Uta Frith’s lines which state that “The terms autism and Asperger’s syndrome are therefore not treated as mutually exclusive. We propose that the Asperger individual suffers from a particular form of autism”1 and also in line with Simon Baron-Cohen’s position of the “six major subgroups on the autistic spectrum”2.

Considering therefore what has been said, I would dare to venture onto a hopefully interesting proposal, namely the valuation of Asperger Syndrome as a neuro-biological orientation towards an individual’s self, from the individualistic perspective of reason and objectivism, which all represent core life values for individuals with Asperger’s.

As seen, I have used a valuable quote from philosopher Ayn Rand, about the ultimate value of the individual, without which’s understanding, any attempt to generalize or even categorize, will have lost its whole meaning, because contrary to popular (mis)understanding, the value ascribed to a category is given by the value of its components.

Therefore, the attempt of DSM-5 to “sacrificially” de-identify the Asperger Syndrome on the “umbrella-spectrum” altar, without maintaining its well-established DSM-4-TR and ICD-10 uniqueness, has thrown everything, from individual identities to research enthusiasm, into a futureless fog. Why? Because research is particular, a narrowing down of scientific interest, from penetrating layer after layer of external data, aiming to the core of anything’s functionality. It is a quest from major onto minor, from the majority of what’s obvious, to the minority of what’s hidden. Who are we, after all? Only “another brick in the wall” of someone else’s understanding of who we really are, or like Michelangelo’s unique sculptures waiting to be freed from their marble confinements, intrinsic values to be discovered with respectful touches?

Yes, I absolutely agree, that an individual is the “smallest minority on earth”, with us, individuals on the Autistic Spectrum as an even smaller and even more self-oriented minority, deserving therefore an inalienable right to be listened and maybe understood.

Because unlike Michelangelo’s marble wonders, we have each of us a heart, and a speaking mind attached to it, and if the majority wants to be whole, let it be reminded that it is made of coexisting minorities…

 

  1. Frith, Uta (ed), 1991, Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Cambridge University Press
  2. Baron-Cohen, Simon, 2008, Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Oxford University Press

­(to be continued…)

“[…] the increase in those who are euthanized because of psychiatric disorders: not just severe depression, but also schizophrenia, anxiety, autism […]”

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Reading the entire article from where the paragraph below originated, I’ve asked myself if I might remember well times not so long past, when people with “psychiatric disorders” were considered not only alleged burdens to themselves, but also to their societies, and subsequently “euthanized” for the “greater good”.

I took myself the liberty to emphasize “autism” because I didn’t really know what else to do… Because I am besides many others, all of the following: Jewish, Diabetic, Autistic, Specially Learning Disabled (Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Visual Stress),  and with symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.

I was wondering what would a “professional” have to NOT offer, in order for me to consider their “offer of Euthanasia”? Because after half-a-century of quietly and unknowingly living with most of the above “conditions” I’ve nearly lost hope… But instead of just being offered death, people and professionals helped me recognize the part beyond the “dis” of my special needs, offering me life within my abilities.

Because the “right to die” shouldn’t simply mean that it’s just “all right to die”…

“[…] In the Netherlands, more than 5,000 people are now euthanized per year. In Belgium, it has risen to 2,021 in 2015 from 347 in 2004.

Euthanasia in both countries is increasingly provided outside the paradigm of unbearable physical, disease-related suffering at the end of life. Particularly significant, even if still limited, is the increase in those who are euthanized because of psychiatric disorders: not just severe depression, but also schizophrenia, anxiety, autism, anorexia, PTSD and even profound grief.

Euthanasia has been offered to couples who want to die together, people who are disabled and increasingly to people who are just tired of life. […]”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-euthanasia-assisted-suicide-dutch-netherlands-perspec-1018-jm-20161017-story.html

“The real Syrian moderates: voices of reason…”

http://rt.com/op-edge/240797-syria-moderate-voices-peace-stability/

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Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun and Syrian Greek Orthodox Bishop Luca al-Khoury (Photo by Eva Bartlett)

«”While the Western-led, anti-Assad bloc mind-blowingly speaks of arming non-existent “moderates” to fight in Syria, they also continue to demonize and silence the very voices that offer a true means of bringing peace and stability back to the region.

Two of these voices are: Political and Media Adviser to President al-Assad, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban; and Syria’s highest Muslim official and scholar, Grand Mufti Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun. Both are highly-educated and convey messages of dialogue, understanding, and peace. And both seemingly terrify the West, which has been quick to sanction and deny them visas, lest the anti-Syria lies and propaganda be challenged before a Western audience.

From February 24-26, 2015, the US delegation I accompanied met a number of important Syrian figures, including Mufti Hassoun and Dr. Shaaban.

Dr. Shaaban is known to her American friends as “the bridge,” she says. “I always wanted to be a bridge between Syria and Western cultures.” She has lived abroad, earning a PhD in English literature from Warwick University, on a Fulbright scholarship at Duke University, and later as professor at Eastern Michigan University.

She speaks affectionately and respectfully of Americans: “I enjoyed American people, their hospitality and kindness.” Affection for the people aside, she is heavily critical of the US government and allies’ prolonged attack on Syria.

Not only has the West backed and trained terrorists in Syria, the so-called “opposition” they hand-picked to represent Syrians can’t even pretend to do so. “They adopted personalities who haven’t lived in Syria for 30 years! Further, they took the wrong step in closing embassies, instead of communicating with us and observing from the ground. In the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ they are destroying our country.”

As for countries neighboring and near Syria, Dr. Shaaban notes:

“Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar…they are the spearhead of what has happened here.” She points out that beyond President Erdogan’s suits and smiles; he is a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has long sought to disrupt Syria. Add to the fray Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi extremism and the result is the “moderate” organ-eating, head-chopping, crucifying mercenaries plaguing Syria, from the so-called FSA to al-Nusra to Da’esh (ISIS). “With external support and financing, and an over 800 kilometer border with Turkey, it’s very difficult to stop the flow of terrorists.”

In our meeting, Shaaban paints a picture of the Syria that existed prior to this multi-regime attack on its sovereignty.

“Syria was formerly one of the fastest developing countries in the world, and one of the safest. We have free education and health care. We did not know poverty; we grew our food and produced our own clothing. At universities, 55 percent of the students were women.” Already, these are points the West would prefer remain unheard, points which dispute the lies that Syrians were living in miserable oppression prior to the faux-revolution, and also which could not be said about NATO’s Gulf state allies.

“The souk of Aleppo was the most beautiful. It’s now rubble, they destroyed it. In whose interest is it to destroy this heritage? Who is the beneficiary of this? I’m sure if the American public knew the truth about what is happening in Syria they wouldn’t accept Syrian people being slaughtered.”…»

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Presidential Adviser, Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban (R) with former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark (Photo by Eva Bartlett)