Apr 27, 2007

I did it! I went out to lunch!

My department participated in a personality profile exercise that was intended to expose how each of us interact and work along with our personality strengths. It has been helpful for me as I try to understand the others in my department and their actions.

I've been studying the report on me and beginning to realize that I don't do chit chat and I avoid social gatherings with people from work. I don't go out on the team lunches. I quit doing them partly to save money, and because so few people would show up. But since our department was merged with another, the team lunches usually include eight or more people.

I also realized that social interactions do help others with whom I work. Also, if I am planning on changing careers and being a missionary, most of my work will be social interactions, so I decided to go on the team lunch.

I'd forgotten what an auditory assault a restaurant at lunch time can be. Wow. There is so much talking that it sounds like the roar of a mighty ocean or a giant water fall. I really had to focus in on what people's words so that I could catch what they were saying. Fortunately I sat next to a man and women that each had teen or pre-teen children heavily involved with sports. Soccer to be exact. That made it easy to make open ended questions in my mouth (I know that's improper English, but that is how it starts in my brain). I listened and asked clarifying questions about as much as I talked.

I have a new goal. It is to become a better communicator. I think that I have always been approachable and, at least, middle school age kids feel comfortable telling me anything. Social "outsiders" tend to approach me more readily then others, but I want to be a warm and welcoming person to whom people can speak even while I maintain a measure of control commensurate to the situation.

I know this will take time and conscious effort, but I've seen people do it. People that you just wanted to talk to, because you know they would listen to what you had to say without mocking or judging. Yet, those same people would guide the conversation so that you didn't "spew" for an hour. An Aspie can get going and "vent" for hours, sometimes without really saying anything. It isn't necessarily helpful or productive.

At other times I've been in productive meetings in which an individual controlled conversation in such a way that everyone had their say without any one person monopolizing the time. That same person kept the conversation on task and the meeting on schedule. He also did it quietly and confidently. He never seemed to have to yell or compel. He just was the leader. Now, he was the "official" leader, but I bet in informal settings this individual portrays a similar sense of leadership.

Such skills will be of great benefit to those around me regardless of where I work.

O.K., so back to lunch. It was fun to hear about other people's children. I enjoy that. The food was good, but I like what I bring in better than restaurant at lunch, and I also like to sit quietly and think at lunch. Yet, those around me seemed to enjoy the experience as a normal part of life.

I think that it is a good thing to do.


Apr 25, 2007

What do I do for my child?

Here is a question from an anonymous reader:

"I have a 8 year old son who has apergers. I am trying to avoid any anxiety in school years. Please give me some advise on helping him through. You mentioned that Christian High School was your salvation. Why? I would appreciate any suggestions on making friendships, school easier. Thanks."

Here is my disclaimer: I am not a trained clinician. Everything in this blog is just the uninformed opinion of an Aspie guy from Kalamazoo, MI.

I'd like to focus on one specific part of your question: "I am trying to avoid any anxiety in school years."

Take a step back and ask yourself, what are the points that cause my child anxiety? What I think is that there are two core sources of anxiety:
1. Sensory integration / sensory defensiveness
2. Social/Emotional awareness

To me dealing with the sensory issues will bring about so much relief. I'm just learning about that and realising that I'm under so much stress, frustration, and revulsion from sensory input that most people have no trouble dealing with. I must be one tough dude to be distressed this much of the time and still be fairly well balanced.

For the Asperger/Autism person, the world is a chaos of sensory input and they need help feeling grounded and calm. I just started reading a book called Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World. So far I like it a lot, because the author is explaining what happens in the brain, and how (from a brain chemistry perspective) the exercises she recommends help.

I think that for an eight year old the most important thing is to get some Occupational Therapy (OT)services if you can afford it or insurance covers it. Ask the OT if he/she is familiar with a technique called the "Wilbarger Brushing Protocol". A brief explanation of the technique is at this link. I have not had experience with the technique, but would vouch that deep pressure has helped me.

I sleep under a heavy blanket, and if I could get away with it at work, a weighted vest would be nice. Bike riding, rocking back and forth to music, and stretching are also helpful.

I think that you should also give diet some serious consideration. I think my changes in diet have helped me in various ways. A good place to start in learning about diet is a dull book called Special Diets for Special Kids. My wife owns it, has read it twice, and refers to it with some regularity. There is a sequel to Special Diets for Special Kids, Two, but I don't know what is different about it.

All of the book titles in this blogs are links directly to the books at Amazon.com. If you can't afford to purchase books, check with your local library to see if they have a process for you to request books. The Kalamazoo library has bought all of the books that I have requested (five so far).

This is a place to start. Start there, and let me know how it is going, what you are learning, what works and what doesn't.

In the mean time, start establishing some clear routines for your child. He/she may take some comfort in that. Also, look for an interest or skill at which they can excel and enjoy. It not only helps them with managing emotions, but it will give them a vehicle with which to enter social situations. My son plays trumpet quite well, and it has helped him build relationships in band. My daughter like to run, do crafts, and art.

Don't drive your child, but encourage their passions, and let them excel in an area that appeals to them. Not much money? Look for grants. We got a grant to help pay for trumpet lessons.


Stranger Than Fiction

My wife and I were about 20 min. into Stranger Than Fiction (Will Farrell, Emma Thompson, Robert DeNiro), and I turned to Marge and said, "This guy is an Aspie!" He counted everything, timed his days, all these charts and visuals where in his head, his coworkers asked him math problems that he did quickly in his head, and He had no idea how to ask a woman out on a date.

He didn't display any self stimming or ritual behavior so I don't suppose he could completely qualify, but he did have the zero affectation and obvious lack of emotional intelligence. It was fun to watch.

For me the most fun was him talking out loud to the person narrating his life. I thought that was hysterical. The sad thing is that, like most movies, boy meets girl, boy has sex with girl (because they like each other), boy and girl fall in love. According to the movies, television and popular culture, that is what is normal.

I suppose it is normal, but it isn't healthy, and it's not the right thing to do. Humans were designed by God to be monogamous, and to mate for life. The damage done by our promiscuous society is evident around us. Sexually transmitted diseases are only one small, but not minor, consequence. The family as a unit of society has degraded, and as a result society has suffered.

On the contrary, men and women who wait until they are married are seen as prudish and mentally repressed (at least in movies). I have seen exactly the opposite over and over again. I've seen couple after couple who waited until marriage, and go on to live very happily.

So, what does this have to do with Asperger? Well as much as I enjoyed the movie, it's a shame that part of the main characters "salvation" included the immoral behavior. The movie displayed his inner moral strength. That was a key to the movie's plot. What made him odd (or possibly Aspie) also was the key to his quiet dedication to doing what was right.

The main character is an IRS auditor. One of his coworkers jokes about busting a tax payer for evasion. The main character on the other hand never uses bravado or condescends to those he investigates. He has a gentleness and quietness about him. The same thing that makes him odd, is also what makes him a good person. It's too bad that he couldn't have risen to a new level of moral purity and found romance and love while pursuing sexual purity.

Oh, that's right, sin sells movie tickets.

I forgot. How Aspie of me.


Apr 18, 2007

Finding My Voice

I've found my voice, I think. It's been developing for some time, and It's been integrating into who I am over the last three years or so, but maybe even in the last year, I've fully come into who I am.

What is voice? I'm sure there are text books and paper backs full of discussion. I've taken some English courses in which the text book spends several chapters discussing exactly what communication is. I always liked that, but almost found it a little silly that some one would have to explain it. I always thought, "Can't we just do it instead of reading about it?"

At the same time I used to feel a sense of derision when an individual would speak of "looking" for themselves or say "I'm trying to find myself". It just seemed like so much fluffy mumbo jumbo. Or I remember in the Seventies, the middle aged father of four that would suddenly buy a Corvette, start leaving his shirt unbuttoned and wear lots of medallions. I think that's when mid-life crisis was coined as a term. I remember thinking, in the old days people didn't go through mid-life crisis, because they were to busy trying to survive. I used to really be afraid of mid-life crisis, because I wanted to always be a kind and faithful husband.

Well this isn't a mid-life crisis. Thankfully, because I can't afford to purchase a Yugo let alone a Corvette. My wife faithfully drives me to work each day and picks me up each night until it's warm enough for me to ride back and forth to work on my bicycle. I also think I should take back all my negative thoughts about "finding yourself", because obviously in finding my voice, I have found the means to know myself, and as a consequence know God and others around me in far deeper, richer, and satisfying way.

So what is voice? Well, I'm writing this part first, and haven't read anybody else's work on the topic. This all started as me being engaged to speak at a church academy series, and the title was provided for me.

My personal definition of voice is this:
The ability to express in either concrete or symbolic terms one's inner person, namely one's emotions, big ideas, reactions to the world around, and closely held beliefs. I have effectively "found" my voice when I can express myself to you in a way that is meaningful to us both, and allows you to reflect back to me using your own voice.

It what people mean when they say some one is expressing themselves. They are taking part of their inner person and hading it over to an person so that the other person can receive it, handle it and reflect it back to them. It involves an interaction between two.

The interaction might not be face-to-face even, but might be through the printed page. I'm convinced though that voice must involve some kind of revelation of the inner person and be received by at least one other person. I suppose a diary is the beginnings of that.

Good thing this is a blog and not a book that you've just purchased from a bookstore as I imagine I'll be thrashing ideas about in her for a while. I hope you enjoy it. Please jump in with any comments that you may have.

Apr 17, 2007

Upcomming Topics

I sort of fell of the writing band wagon for a week.

Below are some ideas that are bouncing around in my head. Let me know if you have any questions, ideas or comments in general. Also, if you would like me to post your experiences or comments as a "guest" writer I would be willing to consider them. Please send them to adam@parmenterclan.com.

Here is what I'm going to try writing about next:

Movie: Stranger Than Fiction. This guy has to be an Aspie. Why can't they wait until they're married.

Finding My Voice part II or III or who knows

  • First Grade - How Was Your Trip? (The angry Mrs Clark, "Put him in special ed")
  • Second Grade - Spelling backwards and the frost method
  • Third Grade - Ms Paul - Pushing too hard on my pencil, failing advanced math because I was certain I would
  • Fourth Grade - Mr. Obrian - I almost never completed a homework assignment
  • Middle School - Becoming a loner, getting bullied for the first time
  • Junior High - School is a special kind of hell
  • Highschool - Grace Christian School. My salvation.
  • College years - Lost and wandering

Apr 2, 2007


I've been watching the detective/situation comedy show "Monk". At first I didn't find it funny, because it seemed to fit my world too closely. Actually Monk also reminded me of an extreme example of my son.

O.K. me too.

The difference is that Monk does all his OCD stuff. I do it in my head. I notice little things, and choose to just let them go.

I used to think that I didn't have enough self control. Stuff like that makes me realise that I've got lots of it. I crave order and the world around me seems to be wildly chaotic. There times when I am quite peaceful, but often I other must impose order upon the world around me or simply live with the chaos.

We Aspies need to understand that because of the way we are designed, much of the world around us will be annoying or excruciating and that we can only fix some of it. If we can't make our environment suite our needs we need to employ our mind to overcome the need.

It's taken me a long time to figure out how to do that, and I'm not sure how to explain it yet. Part of it has to do with the sense of being separate from my body. I've heard other Aspies speak of their brains as if it were separate from themselves. I often have that sense. Often feel as if I am a passenger in my body. I think that sensation has a neurological component that is part of sensory integration disorder.

I have "leveraged" that sensation that the "me" part of Adam is separate from the "body/brain" part of Adam, and learned how to step away from my brain. I call it filtering. I remove me from the part of my brain that is in anguish. Sense it is at arms length, I can endure it. For extreme situations it takes a great deal of discipline and energy, and sometimes it doesn't work.

It's an important skill that has helped me survive and grow.



Crunch Attack!

I was sitting at work trying to stay focused when the person in an ajoining cubicle starting loudly crunching celery or something. They were loud open mouth crunching down onto the celery stalk. There is a rush of high frequency pulse that are the crunching of the celery. That sound also reflects off of the inside of the mouth like when you talk into a tin can, but it changes frequency and tone as the shape of the mouth changes. I didn't see the celery. I can only guess that is what it was.

It was like shooting needle like daggers through my brain and chest. I felt physical pain.

You know, I think since I went cold Turkey and cut out Gluten, Dairy, and a few other things I've been more alert. That's good. On the flips side my senses seem like they've cranked up a notch. I've also never heard any one crunch that loud. That was yesterday.

Today it was wheat crackers. The crunching wasn't so bad as the sound of some one eating wheat crackers with their mouth open. Accompanied by smacking sounds. I tried to endure, but I finally had to rush out of the building and find my hiding place. I sat down and put my head in my hands and rocked back and forth. Even after I was "over it" my chest still hurt. It was like being under attack.

I have a pair of earplugs that I wear when I mow the lawn, the cut the volume of a sound, but I used to wear earplugs when I was a furnace duct cleaner. I could wear the earplugs while the loud machinery was running and still carry on a conversation.

Sound isolating headphone are not covered by insurance.

When I got home it made me appreciate my wife even more. At her loudest she doesn't crunch and smack like that. I can never tell this other person that I'm appalled at his lack of manners. I'm just shocked that an educated individual would still eat with their mouth open.

Don't I sound like an Aspie. I feel it 100% today.