Tag Archives: Autism

Sixth of Asperger’s Ten Traits – “We have feelings of dread about even one event on the calendar”

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“6) We seek refuge at home or at a safe place. The days we know we don’t have to be anywhere, talk to anyone, answer any calls, or leave the house, are the days we take a deep breath and relax. If one person will be visiting, we perceive the visit as a threat; knowing logically the threat isn’t real, doesn’t relieve a drop of the anxiety. We have feelings of dread about even one event on the calendar. Even something as simple as a self-imposed obligation, such as leaving the house to walk the dog, can cause extreme anxiety. It’s more than going out into society; it’s all the steps that are involved in leaving–all the rules, routines, and norms. Choices can be overwhelming: what to wear, to shower or not, what to eat, what time to be back, how to organize time, how to act outside the house… all these thoughts can pop up. Sensory processing can go into overload; the shirt might be scratchy, the bra pokey, the shoes too tight. Even the steps to getting ready can seem boggled with choices–should I brush my teeth or shower first, should I finish that email, should I call her back now or when I return, should I go at all? Maybe staying home feels better, but by adulthood we know it is socially “healthier” to get out of the house, to interact, to take in fresh air, to exercise, to share. But going out doesn’t feel healthy to us, because it doesn’t feel safe. For those of us that have tried CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), we try to tell ourselves all the “right” words, to convince ourselves our thought patterns are simply wired incorrectly, to reassure ourselves we are safe… the problem then becomes this other layer of rules we should apply, that of the cognitive-behavior set of rules. So even the supposed therapeutic self-talk becomes yet another set of hoops to jump through before stepping foot out of the house. To curl up on the couch with a clean pet, a cotton blanket, a warm cup of tea, and a movie or good book may become our refuge. At least for the moment, we can stop the thoughts associated with having to make decisions and having to face the world. A simple task has simple rules.”

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

In the neurotypical (NT) world, going to work next day, is just another day of going to work…

Get up, (and now I’m starring at the screen, as even the attempt of “thinking” neurotypically absolutely confuses me…), usual morning stuff, drive to work, work, drive back, evening stuff, sleep, another day tomorrow…

Compared to the above, anything in a neurodivergent’s life, even going to work, becomes a conscious “event”, which needs to be properly considered, thought through, planned, routine respected, analysed upon progression and evaluated.

To give anyone reading these posts an idea of how a neurodivergent (ND) brain functions, of what a High Functioning Autistic/Asperger’s adult’s mind has to abide by, please consider an example about stages of progress onto going to work, on a “normal” day:

-getting up in the morning without any clock, after another rough night of consciously trying to find the same position at every turn, while concentrating every time on one’s own breath in order to avoid absorbing al the chirps, cracks, breaths, squeaks, drips, ticks, tocks, sirens, etc

-consciously attempting to arrange the cover on the same side, the same way every time upon uncovering, followed by lifting left leg, right leg down, balancing left leg up and down, while body on the right side is pushed up on right elbow, left hand counterbalancing with wave motion from left side to right side down

-sitting on the side of the bed, rubbing nose/beard/nose, scratching head with right hand, planning the short walk to the slippers left exactly in the same place, by a piece of furniture which serves as a balance support for dyspraxia

-walking towards slippers, holding on to the furniture, putting on slippers, always left first, right second

-walking to the chair where depending on season and therefore temperature and air humidity, a sleeveless grey body warmer or a navy blue/black hoody is put on, back first, left arm second, right arm third, hood adjustment fourth, zipper fifth

-grab tablet on the way to toilet by placing right foot between chair and desk, hold it right hand between thumb and fingers 3, 4, 5, as index is used to open the door, while left hand pushes aside clothes on the tree hanger

-sit on the toilet, open tablet, start tablet, wait for log-on, logging on…

And I’ll stop here, for obvious reasons, even though it’s been around 1 1/2 minutes (90 seconds) since getting out of bed, with only 1438 1/2 to go until next morning’s identical/similar routine…

And EVERYTING else follows, same way, same routine, same order, with every detail thought about in advance as the minutes roll on.

So, in order to clarify why at the end of a day, a ND nearly collapses, please try to imagine the conscious thought process which has to go in our life’s each progressing detail, while all stimuli arriving through all senses are being processed throughout most of our cerebral cortex, with each and every unplanned and therefore unexpected event/detail mandatorily processed, categorised, catalogued and stored accordingly.

One of the reasons for the precise and detailed visual memory of NDs, called sometimes eidetic, is our brain’s capacity to assimilate randomly arrived information into well-established routine patterns, making therefore an incidental detail an incorporated part of a pre-existent pattern. From there, using other stored memory cues, these can be retrieved for periods of time depending on the individual’s unique neurobiology.

Would it be now maybe easier to understand why seeking refuge at home or at a safe place becomes a necessity?

And in case you still wonder why, please remember that even if our minds seem to possess peculiar computing capacities, our brains, together with our bodies, still burn the same carbohydrates as anyone else’s, making them therefore susceptible to fatigue, low fuel levels, and unfortunately burn-outs…

The difference is that while the NT brain/body engines count the carbohydrates burned per hour, the ND engines count them per minute…

Stimming vs Fidgeting…

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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.

Fifth of Asperger’s Ten Traits – “… people aren’t as open or trusting as we are”

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“5) We learn that to fit in we have to “fake” it. Through trial and error, we lost friends. We over-shared, spilling out intimate details to strangers; we raised our hand too much in class, or didn’t raise our hand at all; we had little impulse control with our speaking, monopolizing conversations and bringing the subject back to ourselves. We aren’t narcissistic and controlling – we know we are not, but we come across that way. We bring the subject back to ourselves because that is how we make sense of our world, that is how we believe we connect. We use our grasp of the world as our foundation, our way of making sense of another. We share our feelings and understandings in order to reach out. We don’t mean to sound ego-centered or overzealous. It’s all we know. We can’t change how we see the world. But we do change what we say. We hold a lot inside. A lot of what we see going on about us, a lot of what our bodies feel, what our minds conjecture. We hold so much inside, as we attempt to communicate correctly. We push back the conversational difficulties we experience, e.g., the concepts of acceptable and accurate eye contact, tone of voice, proximity of body, stance, posture – push it all back, and try to focus on what someone is saying with all the do’s and don’ts hammering in our mind. We come out of a conversation exhausted, questioning if we “acted” the socially acceptable way, wondering if we have offended, contradicted, hurt, or embarrassed others or ourselves. We learn that people aren’t as open or trusting as we are. That others hold back and filter their thoughts. We learn that our brains are different. We learn to survive means we must pretend.”

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

The early period of my assessment and diagnostic of Special Learning Difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorder/Asperger’s (Twice Exceptional, yay… 😊) was the hardest…

I oftentimes felt like a convulsing, unborn breech baby, arriving into what would prove to be an unwelcoming world in a most peculiar way, unsure to go into the light, or stay in my unspacious, rocking wombcraft…

Having lost a managerial job because I didn’t ‘manage’ to do three people’s jobs, of which two have fallen out to undue workplace stress, and the third was the area manager’s acting butler, I arrived to my next station, just to realise that my curse of being “too educated and overqualified” followed me, obviously…

“Drama queen” because I shared my honest opinions and concerns, “victimiser” because I raised concerns of unfair workloads, “arse” because of being sincere, “with an overly attitude” because I expressed my frustration for being bullied, just to mention an average page from the “Diary of an unsuspecting Aspie…”

But one of the most intriguing happenings was the “why have you gone cold?” after being told that “you ask too many questions, be more confident…” episode.

As Samantha so brilliantly put it, “We share our feelings and understandings in order to reach out. We don’t mean to sound ego-centered or overzealous. It’s all we know”. As a consequence, I was sharing feelings and understanding, literally trying to reach out, genuinely thinking that it’s what’s expected of me, just to be quite sharply “advised” to show more confidence and do not seek approval for everything…

It felt really humiliating and inconsiderate, but I swallowed my hurting dignity and did the only thing I know, i.e. if it’s not one than it must be zero, and went quiet…

Guess what, after a week or so, the same person asked what happened, and why have I gone “cold silent”? Is anything wrong? I said, no, but since I was told that I talk and ask too much, I respectfully obliged and gone silent… “Oh but that’s not how that was meant” came the excuse…

In the end, we clarified that my mind comprehends only yes/no, black/white and one/zero, with not much in between, which when my Autistic Traits were diagnosed, made much more sense to my environment.

Did my environment adapt at all after my assessment? I must surprisingly say that yes, to some degree, for which I am thankful.

But overall, it’s me who’s learned that in order to survive, the show must go on…

 

 

Fourth of Asperger’s Ten Traits – “We still question our place in the world…”

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“4) We have comorbid attributes of other syndromes/disorders/conditions. We often have OCD tendencies (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), sensory issues (with sight, sound, texture, smells, taste), generalized anxiety and/or a sense we are always unsafe or in pending danger, particularly in crowded public places. We may have been labelled with seemingly polar extremes: depressed/over-joyed, lazy/over-active, inconsiderate/over-sensitive, lacking awareness/attention to detail, low-focus/high-focus. We may have poor muscle tone, be double-jointed, and lack in our motor-skills. We may hold our pencil “incorrectly.” We may have eating disorders, food obsessions, and struggles with diet. We may have irritable bowel, Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other immune-challenges. We may have sought out answers to why we seemed to see the world differently than others we knew, only to be told we were attention seekers, paranoid, hypochondriacs, or too focused on diagnoses and labels. Our personhood was challenged on the sole basis that we “knew” we were different but couldn’t prove it to the world and/or our personhood was oppressed as we attempted to be and act like someone we were not. We still question our place in the world, who we are, who we are expected to be, searching for the “rights” and “wrongs;” and then, as we grow and realize there are no true answers, that everything is theory-based and limited, we wonder where to search.”

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

The world…

Big, scary, noisy, out there, too close, too much…

I remember as a child, that most comparative sentences from my environment started invariably with “Why don’t you …” and ended again, invariably with “… like all other children?” And it wasn’t really the question which bothered me after getting actually used to it, but the “all other” part, which left me wondering about my disgraceful, shameful and guilty inadequacy, which sent me on a consequentially disastrous warpath against myself…

And literally no one, not one single soul, ever slowed down their pursuit of “integrating” me into their world, a world which kept asking me to prove my worth before any chances of acceptance, even trying to police me out of the only place I felt safe, the world of my thoughts…

Today’s no better…

You see, “the world” pragmatically feels entitled to the “us” and “them” divide, but practically denies someone’s right to the “me” and “them” existential paradigm. You are accordingly expected to coerce yourself into becoming either one of “us” or one of “them”, either in “our world” or “their world”, of Oceania, Eurasia or Eastasia, always at war with one or the other…

But do you really “have to”?

Samantha brilliantly left her question unanswered, leaving one to literally “wonder where to search”. Well, I’ll go no further; I’ve found my ultimate refuge, my world…

I’m autistic. Which means my self is my world

And in my world, no “they” are welcome.

Because “they” always claimed to come “in peace”, but left me torn in pieces…

 

In case you’re not a (piece of a) puzzle… (update 1)

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I know for a fact, that many Neurodivergents, weren’t really happy about what has become the public logo-face of Autism, the “puzzle piece”.

And I was wondering what in the world could have been its ‘source of inspiration’, since besides the sometimes puzzling effect the presence of a Neurodivergent has upon Neurotypicals, our lives are as perfect and complete as an unbroken picture for which even the Louvre would be an unworthy place…

Having said that, I’ve thought of something else, another “logo” which represents a view of how I feel in this world which wasn’t designed for me, maybe as colourful and rich inside as Joseph’s coat, yet unseen and uniquely different, awaiting for the world to realise that circles don’t have angles, and what us rectangles think about, and conceive in our quiet corners, can’t “normally” fit in the bubbly world of Merry Go Rounds…

Let me know what you think, again 🙂

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

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“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…

Second of Asperger’s Ten Traits – Overwhelmed Innocence

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“2) We are innocent, naive, and honest. Do we lie? Yes. Do we like to lie? No. Things that are hard for us to understand: manipulation, disloyalty, vindictive behavior, and retaliation. Are we easily fooled and conned, particularly before we grow wiser to the ways of the world? Absolutely, yes. Confusion, feeling misplaced, isolated, overwhelmed, and simply plopped down on the wrong universe, are all parts of the Aspie experience. Can we learn to adapt? Yes. Is it always hard to fit in at some level? Yes. Can we out grow our character traits? No.”

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

It’s so complicated to write about one’s self, as it feels like those haunting times when belittled and patronized, you were forced into believing that standing out is never outstanding, that the biblically endorsed parental beating you were about to receive -again- was “justified” by your “gullible stupidity” in believing that the worthless toy you traded your brand-new toy for, it’s of equal value… And your attempt to save yourself by honestly saying that your “friend” told you so, just increased the number of blue stripes on your butts…

There you were, 11 years old, not really understanding why your maths teacher keeps slapping you and calling you an idiot for not understanding his lessons, unimpressed that you’ve found faults in the theory of a finite universe, which you can’t mathematically explain, but asked the simple question: “if this line would be the end of the universe, what’s the other side of the line made of?”

Because it’s hard to believe that your “best friend”, whom you’ve just saved from his self-destructive path, offered him a share in everything you had just to see him fulfilling his potential, finally left with your spouse, taking your apartment as well…

One of those days you suddenly realized that life on this planet sucks, and your only true “friend” lives right there, within the walls of your uniqueness, and the “us and them” has been irreversibly reduced to “me, and I don’t care who else”.

(to be continued…)