Category Archives: Thoughts

The Cognitive-Behavioural Interpretative Isolationism of Autism and Asperger Syndrome – Part 1: What the “Theory of Mind” doesn’t understand about the Autistic Mind…

 

Part 1- What the “Theory of Mind” doesn’t understand about the Autistic Mind

By Romuald Feldmann© FDScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd,

PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,

PgCert Autism & Asperger’s, QTS

On the back cover of the seminal “Neurotribes” (Silberman, 2015) the inquisitive eye should spot a hidden gem of apocalyptic proportions, basically stating that “the future of our society depends on our understanding” of what autism is. The statement is so powerful and frightening or maybe totally insane, that when I first blogged it, it attracted virtually no likes or comments. I will attempt to better understand why.

Surprisingly for a pathologized, general view of autism, Attwood (2002) mentioned research by Hans Asperger (1906-1980) in identifying “a consistent pattern of abilities and behaviour”.

The battleground becoming contention is therefore seeing and accepting the autism spectrum as a pattern of abilities or disabilities, branching itself further into seemingly endless explanatory theories and terminology wars, which I will attempt to deconstruct and re-construct from a personalised academic and philosophical perspective.

1.The Theory of Mind (ToM):

‘[…] ToM is the ability to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, to imagine their thoughts and feelings, so as to be able to make sense of and predict their behaviour. It is sometimes called mind-reading or mentalising.‘ (Baron-Cohen, 2008, 57)

Expanding further on his own statement, Baron-Cohen summarises on the same page, that ToM can be thought of as a theory which explains that a neurotypical (NT) person is normally/usually able to explain and predict other people’s behaviour, thus leaving autistics unable to use the ToM to interpret or anticipate the actions and/or intentions of individuals whom they have contact with, and therefore mind-blindly disadvantaged.

In my opinion, -and leaving aside a random personal thought about the fairly entertainment industry resembling concept of ‘mind-reading’-, Baron-Cohen and other scientists considering this theory, have attempted through ToM to understand why autistics seem unable to mentalise/mind-read, having observed NT and autistic children/adults, comparing their reactions mainly from an observable, neurotypical-behaviour perspective, without focusing on the much more important, individually specific, selectively volitional, pre-behavioural aspect. Because regardless of age, autistic individuals may possess a more functional capacity to individually and gradually select -or not-, a momentary focus of attention, leaving a NT observant genuinely mind-blind to the fact that autistic pre-decisional mental analytics are de facto behind what could be perceived as obnoxiousness or an inability of perception. However, especially at early stages of individual development, autistics are less aware of the reasons why mentally they may decide to fixate on some encountered aspects while actively ignoring any others, even if someone tries to divert their fixated attention, oftentimes provoking as a result, unexpected reactions commonly called shut- or meltdowns. Depending on an autistic individual’s level of what I propose to be identified as a Neurobiological Socio-Interconnectivity Predisposition (NSIP), unfortunately mistaken sometimes for other, valid learning disabilities (LD) such as ‘congenital abnormalities of the frontal lobes’ (Attwood, 2002), adult autistics may decide to learn (or not), to mentally re-negotiate maintaining, or shifting the focus of their fixation, identified by Murray et al (2005) as monotropism.

Because each individual is entitled to have someone else’s undivided attention, as much as the individual(s) from whom they expect such attention, decide for reasons they should not be expected or forced to disclose, to grant it or not. Autistics have the inalienable right to ignore at least as much as we are oftentimes ignored, without any obligation whatsoever to provide a reason for our choice to socially interact or prefer to remain asocial.

(to be continued…)

 

-Attwood, T., (2002). Asperger’s Syndrome – A Guide for Parents and Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

-Baron-Cohen, S., (2008). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. London: OUP

-Murray, Dinah; Lesser, M.; Lawson, W (1 May 2005). “Attention, monotropism and the diagnostic criteria for autism”  Autism. 9 (2): 139–56.

-Silberman, S., (2015). Neurotribes. London: Allen & Unwin

 

 

 

 

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Per aspera ad astra…

Yes, I reverted my Twitter handle back to @Aspergreatness

I was diagnosed with ASD/Asperger’s Syndrome according to DSM5/ICD-10.

What Hans Asperger shouldn’t have done in history’s darkest hours, I can’t change.

The legacy of his research into understanding my neurobiology, saved my life.

I became an Asper 😡♿✡

Proudly 🐉

Asper Latin DefPer_aspera_ad_astra,_1894

Embrace…

Dragon soul 2

There…

Where no thoughts remain at the door to nowhere.

Where autumn crawls under each fallen dream

to carry it beyond forgiveness…

I’ve learned to count backwards from illusion,

hoping to reach the point of no return

into some stranger’s thoughts about my own defeat.

When we sit down,

my soul and thee,

it’s me...

Angst…

Embrace

In times of loneliness,

when all seems lost,

from deep within your solitude

an embrace shall reach

the tears of your anguish,

watering fragile strings of wildness,

resonating echoes of your primal self.

And as they grow,

small purple flowers

will obscure unwanted daylights…

 

© @WingsAutistic – Liberty of Thinking

The #autistic lives of pines…

Solitary autistic pine

I was born in Northern Transylvania’s Maramures, at the feet of majestic mountains, covered by ancient, noble forests, with their trees as brothers to us, and sisters. Strong beeches, venerable oaks, solitary pines, imbued with the crystalline waters of pure streams …

It’s the pines which fascinated my people for millennia, giving us our cradles, our tables, out beds, the pillars of our gold mines, and the coffins of our passing away.

Now, anyone seeing lots of pine trees may think it’s a forest, but they’re not…

Pine trees are solitary. Pines are #autistic

Always alone but never lonely, with one purpose, to reach ever higher, leaving behind as time passes by, as the crown moves upwards, dry, broken branches, like thorns awaiting for the careless passer by…

You see, the life of pines is in their roots and in their evergreen tops, the painful reason why you can’t embrace a pine tree except maybe when it’s young, a child. As it grows older, the crown moves upwards, leaving the naked, dried broken branches around, hurting anyone coming too close…

There’s a secret though…

If one is clever enough, they might find looking upwards to the green crown, a path in the dry broken branches like a ladder, leading the brave to the top. There, there are no sharp branches, just velvety fresh green fragranced new branches, allowing to be embraced and loved… Pines love only those daring to come close enough and climb to find who they truly are. And in exchange, they give something only pines can give, because they always return the careful touch and the embrace. They bleed the most beautifully perfumed resin, coloured of amber, smelling of frankincense, and the stronger the touch, the longer the embrace of the brave who wants to love them, pines bleed more resin, binding them as lovers to themselves, forever…

And when our time has come, we remain standing, calling out in stormy nights the final touch of heavens, the kiss of one last lightning, burning like torches, illuminating the paths of wandering lovers…

It’s “official”, I am Actually Autistic…

R cube LibThink

Since my last post in June, (I hope 😊) you might have noticed my absence, with only some misty mentions of having been withdrawn in my academic shell, and some even more elusive ‘reason’ for delaying more new posts…

The truth is that I have indeed managed to (I again, hope 😊) successfully complete the very last of my university exams, looking therefore forward to my third degree, this time in Mental Health, and also to November, when I should start my PgCert in ‘Autism and Asperger’s’ at Sheffield Hallam University.

The other, more ‘elusive’ reason, mentioned only in a few, sporadic comments, had actually to do with the outcome of my formal diagnostic assessment for ASD, following sessions in March and June. At the mid-June appointment, the clinician informed me that according to her assessment, I am on the Autistic Spectrum, with a complete diagnosis letter to follow. However, since one of my very specific autistic traits is always following a strict, sequential order of events, I decided to disclose all this, only after receiving the formal letter.

Unfortunately, due to unpredictable circumstances, I received my seven pages formal diagnosis letter only today, of which what matters to me is a clear diagnosis of ASD, specifically “Asperger’s Syndrome […] as described in ICD-10″.

The letter is clear and concise, showing a precise understanding of both what I’ve said, but also what I haven’t, a professionally exact observation of aspects of my non-verbal communication, and to my honest surprise, the mention of my own, several pages long, detailed symptoms summary, which the clinician did consider in my diagnosis.

When asked in June about how do I feel finding out to be Autistic, my first thought was, “angry”…

Angry, about everything I couldn’t do because the “world/society” decided that the way I see, I understand, I feel, I act, I think, I walk, I exist, doesn’t matter outside its own, arbitrarily imposed set of rules for a “greater good/picture” type of forced cohabitation.

But then a second thought emerged, that of “relief”…

I know that “formal diagnosis” is a divisive subject, with personally justifiable pros and cons. In my (un)humble opinion though, a formal diagnosis should be considered rather as a shield, a protective barrier against what may be “societal rules” for the majority of neurotypicals, but are surely experienced as an ongoing abuse by most neurodivergents. In other words, if they want me to live in their world, I am entitled to be shielded against what they consider normal, which is nevertheless utterly abnormal for my brain structure, for me… And yes, for some neurodivergents, the words disorder and syndrome have negative overtones, however, I respectfully agree to disagree with their position. Because since I must live on a wrong planet, I’ll proudly accept the protection I am entitled to, in order to preserve and safeguard what I consider to be my non-repeatable uniqueness.

And if you may wonder what’s that blank Rubik cube about, it’s my unique way of understanding and accepting the only logical use of that cube’s structure, which leads back to its basic structure with each move, without any unnecessary twist of rearranging a pattern of colours deranged with no valid logical reason, besides planning to rearrange them…

Because circular reasoning is not at all a valid form of reasoning.

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…