Mar 27, 2007

Read Light! Green Light!

I finally admitted to my wife recently that the color of traffic lights holds no special meaning for me. I know that it means STOP, but to me it's just red. If the red light had the word STOP in it that would make more sense. I've actually seen a traffic light (long time ago), that had the word STOP in small black letters printed on the lense. When the red lense lit up, it not only was red, it said STOP.

Most of the world sees that little red light as meaning STOP, but to me it's just a red light. Maybe I already said that. So, I have to remind myself "Red means STOP", when I come to a stop sign. It's usually second nature, but often enough I'll be talking to my wife while I'm driving, and she'll say, "It's red honey".

The other drivers in Michigan (and other parts of the U.S.) owe my wife a debt of gratitude I suppose. I don't get nearly as distracted when I'm by myself. O.K. there have been occasions that I've gone careening through a stop sign or traffic light.

It's inconvenient, but I actually enjoy that Marge and I only have one vehicle. Then, when it's warm enough, I just ride my bike to work. Much simpler. I also enjoyed taking rapid transit to work when I lived in the Chicago area.

Mar 24, 2007

I am NOT a National Emergency

It still bugs me that the National Autism Association (NAA) is calling for the CDC to declare Autsim a national emergency. What are the implications of a national emergency? Rates of diagnosis have jumped, I grant you. What isn't being discussed is any assessmnet of unreported or undiagnosed cases. Asperger Syndrome was largely undiagnosed until recently. I was never diagnosed. I got no real special services as a child. I just struggled through. I new other nerdy people like me who loved books and didn't fit in to the popular mainstream. None of us were diagnosed.

Now I am a parent, and I didn't expect my children to just muddle through nor did I assume that my child's struggles were just part of his personality. My wife and I studied and searched and consulted our physician. Our searches led us to Asperger Syndrome (AS). NAA needs to do some kind of assessment of how many of the newly diagnosed children have parents with Asperger or a subset of the Asperger symptomology.

Better to dianose a child at age four, so that child can devote a large bulk of time to sensory integration training, social skills training and other assistance. They will have to adopt a special diet that eliminates foods to which they are intollerant. However as that child makes his/her way through school, they will have an easier and much more typical experience.

Don't you wonder how many of the geeks, freeks and nerds who sat on the periphery of the popular culture as loners . . . how many of them are Aspies?

Doesn't a national emergency imply an attack on our nation. Isn't a national emergency a threat to our economy, stability, or national security? Early intervention is critical. Advances in intervention is crucial. Elimination is wrong. I have so much to offer, because I am an Aspie. Great care must be taken not to eliminate our unique culture in the name of curing our dysfunctions or delayed abilities.

Mar 22, 2007

Poke Those Babies?

I had to work late on Wednesday, and when I got home my wife was warming up some potatoes in the microwave. The microwave timer said "beep beep", and my wife handed m a fork and said, "Poke those babies and see if they're done."

It made feel a little ill to think of poking this little babies with a fork. There were about four of them in the dish, and I could hear them all crying in their little diapers. It was a bizarre image.

I felt bad for them, but I ate them anyway. Maybe I shouldn't had.

Don't I sound certifiably insane? I hear this sort of thing from my daughter all the time. It is the Aspie brain's concrete way of navigating the world. There are certain books that are sacred to me, and I've thought of them as friends at times. My son said the same thing the other day. We understand that objects are not people, but there is a sense of . . . I don't understand it.

I feel badly for my wife. She is thrust into the Aspie weirdness every day. She is a saint.


Mar 18, 2007

Is That Part of Asperger?

The Isabella character in Mozart and the Whale said that she said things as they came into her mind, and that she said things to shock people. She made it sound like that was part of Asperger.

I thought it was just my personality. I find that I have to constantly work at not saying the most shocking thing I can think. As I become more confident and comfortable I still work at it, but after a while I start loosening up.

For example, today I made some vanilla flavored coffee, and the delicious aroma wafted throughout our work area. My boss came over and said, what is that delicious smell that is filling our area. I looked at him and in all seriousness said, "Well, actually I have body odor today."

No one who wants to keep their job should ever say that, but it sure was funny. In a paper for Autism Independent, Digby Tantam wrote referred to something called 'pathological demand avoidance'. It speaks of a behavior that disrupts a social situation before that environment can
place expectations upon the individual. So, Donald told Isabella to be on her best behavior that evening because his boss was coming home with him for dinner. If pathological demand avoidance is a real thing, then without realising it Isabella feels compelled to disrupt dinner that evening rather than having to face the vague and troubling expectation of "best".

I understand. When I am in new and troubling situations numerous outrageous behaviors go through my head. Ever seen comedian Robin Williams when he is really in the groove? It's kinda like that. As long as you keep people off balance no one can ever look at you disapprovingly. At the same time I have this vague sensation that there is something hidden that I don't know about that will warrant the disapproval of the person with whom I dealing.

I work really hard, and am largely successful, at keep my mouth shut and just hanging in there until I chill out. For example when I spent the day with a Czech missionary on his layover in Newark, I was really worked up. Not just a new person, but a new place (not to mention that I was near New York). The next day I was better.

Does that mean anything for my career goals / desired life's work of missionary service? I don't believe that I should work in a large city as that would be one constant stream of new places. Also, I will work best in small groups/churches. I also need to remember to give myself buffer time to adjust to new places. It's not always possible to have a chill day in a new place, but it will certainly help me.

Mar 16, 2007

My Favorite Line from Mozart and the Whale

In the Mozart and the Whale movie, the Donald Mortan character had driven a cab for years even though he scored quite high in college. Isobel had worked it out to get him a job interview in the IT department of a local university hospital (or something).

He did the whole interview looking at the wall, but the hiring manager knew that he was autistic so it was no big deal. The man hired Donald, and asked him why he had been driving a cab since he had such skills and intelligence. Donald's said, I interviewed at IBM and when they asked what my plans where I told them I would probably go to McDonald's and then do some laundry.

I wanted to stand up and shout, "Exactly! No one understand that we never understood the question!" I just wanted to scream at employers who misunderstood my intentions or who couldn't figure out how to explain to me. Why did it take so long to find Pfizer (formerly Pharmacia) which values my work, because of how I think. Now that I know I'm Aspie, I don't hide it. It's progressive enough here that I'm not penalised for revealing who I am. They value the me that I am, and not the me that they expect everyone to be.


Mar 12, 2007

Mozart and the Whale

I went to the library in my home town for a screening of Mozart and the Whale. It's a fictional story based on the real life account of Jerry and Mary Newport. They are both in the Autism Spectrum. I think that they are both Aspies.

Jerry was there to introduce the movie, answer questions, and autograph books. While, the characters in the movie are Donald and Isobel, and it is a fictional account, he mentioned that much of the movie is very true to their lives.

It was painful to watch as I saw much of me in the Donald Morton character. I'm not even close to being that smart. Early in my life, I learned to sublimate Aspie behaviors so that no one would see them. The movie cracked me open so that I couldn't hide. He also reminded me of Michael. I also saw aspects of myself in the edgier, slightly out of control side of the Isobel Sorenson character. The art and music that just sort of erupts out of her brain unbidden. I've sublimated much of those instincts in ways she did not in the movie.

There is a scene in the movie in which Donald informs Isobel that he is bringing his boss home for to have dinner. He asks her to be on her best behavior. That sets her off. It would set me off, but it would all happen inside my head. When Donald arrives home the home is in order and everything is ready, but Isobel proceeds to say all sorts of outrageous things. I became so uncomfortable watching her do this, Donald's reactions, and the bosses look of . . . bemusement(?), that I had to get up and leave. It was overwhelming. It was happening to me (or so it felt).

So often stories are real inside me. A cathartic, and I didn't like the way things were going. So I left the room, and then realised that I was still in a library. Then I felt better. It was like the time worn, honor bound, binding of a hundred great classics called out to me, "We are still here". I could feel the aged roughness of their bindings on my hand as I touched them. Yet I was standing on a balcony overlooking the reference section. I could still feel them. It was like they pressed forward to comfort me. It was as if they were saying, "We are books. All is well." And I felt better.

I walked down one flight to actually see these idealised books, but I wasn't sure where they might be. I still browsed some bindings. I didn't expect to see the Iliad quietly waiting for me on the shelf or Chaucer, or Shakespeare. I have yet to read those things, but they have stood the test of time without significant change. Perhaps one of my idealised friends is an old leather bound family Bible (KJV translation). I imagine that it has been passed down from generation to generation. Births, deaths, and family history have been recorded in the front pages, but more importantly it's innards have been rumpled and work from daily faithful family reading over generations. It is truly a comfort that the faith upon which I have based my life and my future is bound in a book.

The Bible is a book that has stood the test of time, the assault of critics bent on exposing it as a fraud, and the attempt of frauds to twist it to their own ends. It has survived and flourished, because it can be studied, tested, and found true.



Mar 9, 2007

Obssessive Compulsive?

Many people see Aspie behaviors as OCD, but in my opinion there is a fundamental difference.

I'll say again. This is my own opinion based on my experiences and learning. I don't have a degree in a related field. See your health care provider for proper diagnosis.

O.K. here it is:

An Obsessive behavior is an avoidance behavior. The behavior does not bring pleasure or satisfaction to the individual. It is not done to get or achieve. Instead Obsessive behaviors are done to avoid some typically unrelated thing or feeling. An example is the person who washes their hands over and over. They feel compelled to do it constantly. It doesn't help them feel clean, but by doing it they are able to (for example) avoid their feelings of fear and inability. The young girl takes 5 baths a day. She uses harsh soaps, and just can't get rid of that feeling of being filthy. If she could only feel clean. Is it because she feels dirty or is it because her uncle sexually abused between her ages of 8 and 12? He told her it was her fault. The abuse stopped because he died of a heart attack. I just made those stories as examples. They are extreme, but exemplify what I believe to be the nature of behaviors that can accurately be classified as OCD.

I think of OCD is a mental illness.

I think the Aspie or anyone in the Autism Spectrum (Classic Autism, PDD NOS, etc.) engages in repetitive behaviors for two reasons:

  1. To compensate for neural dysfunction
  2. To compensate for over or under stimulation.
Firstly, the individual in the Autism Spectrum is experiencing symptoms based on physical malformations in the brain. Most if not all Aspies are dealing with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (see the link). So repetitive movements such as spinning, rocking, jumping, touching or sniffing certain things are compensating for a deficit in the typical function of the brain. The movement can help the Aspie achieve a sense of calm and balance.

Needing to touch or physically experience certain things helps them attain a sense of where they are in relation to their world. These movements can help them feel grounded instead of feeling as if they don't quite exist in the physical world or aren't sure what they are in relation to the physical space around them.

Secondly, the person in the Autism Spectrum may have certain behaviors that help them cope with the world around them. Certain rituals that help them deal with a confusing world instead of having a melt down.

Some of the treatments may be the same at first, but I believe long term treatments should include teaching socially acceptable ways for people in the Autism Spectrum to meet their sensory needs, not look for ways to extinguish all of their behaviors.

Ultimately, the parent or care giver needs to give careful consideration to all aspects of the condition. An individual in the Autism Spectrum may also have OCD issues. It would be a shame to take the short cut and treat both Autistic behaviors and OCD as the same thing.


Mar 8, 2007

Heart Warming Impact

Back in the early 80s there was a Christian record label call Heart Warming Impact. Later they changed the name of the label to Impact (I think).

That doesn't have much to do with this post other than I was about to write to some one about knowing something in my "heart" and how certain things were "hear warming". That really doesn't make complete sense to me.

I know what I mean, but I always want to smile since nothing I think in my mind changes the temperature of my heart organ. Yet, there is a time when I physically feel a sensation of calming sensation. As the song says, ". . . a peaceful easy feeling. That calming reminds me of how I feel when I'm riding my bike and the weather is not too cold, and I have sunglasses, and earplugs in. I'm silently sliding through the warm dark air, and I feel calm. My mind is at rest. I believe it is a change in brain chemistry and heart rate.

That's what happens when I hear something is "heart warming". I learned a new word from my daughter whose sense of logic creates new words. That's because the existing idioms don't make sense to an Aspie. Here word is pleasable. I'm not sure exactly what she means when she says it, but when I have that peaceful easy feeling I think of the word "pleasable".

When I was a kid people in church would say, "God has really laid this on my heart." What they meant was that they had an idea and where assuming God had given the idea. They never said how they had decided that the idea was from God, they just expected that because God had laid it on their heart, that we had to take what they said as authoritative.

Some people will live and die by what God has supposedly laid on their heart. They might say, "God gave me the vision (i.e. dream, expectation, hopes, plans) for this ministry, and I'm not going to go against God's calling on my life."

I've been reading an author by the name of Hugh Ross. He is a scientist and astronomer who seems to have studied into physics as well. Hugh speaks of a testable model. I would like to see people say, I believe that God has given me direction. I have the desire and the skills to do it. I have sought wise counsel from other Christian leaders, and I am praying about it. Then you would answer the what question: What about this seems to be useful to the Lords work? Why do you believe God is directing you to do XX?

So what's on your heart?

This posting isn't a coherent message today. Just Aspie prattling.