May 31, 2007

Emma and Elaine

A young girl posted a comment to one of my recent posts on bullying:

"Yes i get bullied. Bullying makes me feel sad. I don't want to have autism anymore. My mommy tells me that is what makes me special."

"ps: hi i am emma's mom and she is telling me that she doesn't want autism anymore and i am wondering if you can help her with some advice.thanks,emma and elaine"

I want to help in anyway that I can, but I need to understand more about what is happening.

I do want to restate that I'm not a clinician, not a DR., nor a therapist of any kind. I'm just a Christian Aspie from Kalamazoo, Michigan. That said, perhaps we can think this through together and help Emma find a solution that works for her.

So, please post in the comment section to this blog posting. Please tell me your story of what happens. My belief is that in bullying situations it's often the same people doing the same things over and over.

Nothing is ever exactly the same every time, but I bet it might be mostly the same each time.

So, please tell me
  • Who and how many (you don't have to use names). Boy or girl?
  • Where - Does it happen most at school? If so where in the school. Does it happen in your neighborhood?, then where in your neighborhood. At the shopping mall?
  • Who else - Who else is there witnessing this. I mean non-bullies. Are you with your friends, teachers, other adults, or is there hardly any one else around.
  • The Script - Movies and plays have a script so that the actors know what to say. The bullies might not say exactly the same thing each time, but what do they say most often? What do you usually say or do in response. It will help if you can make it like into a play with dialogue and actions. The play could be called, "The Typical Bullying Thing".

This is the first step in the process of stopping the bullying. I call this step IDENTIFY AND OWN. I've heard over and over, and it's true also for me, that we Aspies feel comforted when we can write down things and feelings. Also, the bully or bullies have you believing that they have power over you. By writing down all the Who, where, who else, and the script it will help you to have power over the situation.

Emma, your greatest power is not unkind actions like pushing, grabbing, or fists. Nor is your power in unkind words. Those are things that bullies use. Bullies use unkind actions and words, because they are week and sad.

The truth is, Emma, that your mommy is right. You are special. Autism does give you some special things. Some very smart and talented people have Asperger Syndrome or Autism. Autism/Asperger is a real hastle sometimes and I have days that having it makes me feel sad or angry, but it is who I am, and having it gives me some special ways of thinking that others might not have.

What makes you really really special is something that makes every person special and unique. I believe that every human being (even bullies) where made by God. I believe that God is the most special of all. I believe He is very creative, wise, and beautiful. God is like the most wondrous artist of all, and Emma, he made you. That means you are special, wondrous, and beautiful. God would never make a mistake or make something ugly.

I'm sad to say that the bullies are not acting like one of God's creation nor are they treating you like one of God's creation. Somewhere inside those bullies there is something special too, but over time they have covered the beautiful parts of who they are with lots of ugly and dark parts. I don't know if there is anything you can say that will stop them from being bullies. What you can do, is help them stop bullying you. That is good for you and them both.

So, please tell me the stuff I asked for above, and I'll try and help you. I tried this on my son, and it helped him.


May 25, 2007


Sitting in a meeting at work 11:30am

Funny, but I'm sitting in a meeting, and I'm feeling fairly focused and quite calm. It's not a very interesting meeting, but it's important. Normally, I would be so stirred up that I would need to blog, check e-mail, and surf the net in order to keep myself calm. Right now I'm jotting this idea down on paper so that I won't forget it later. Otherwise my mind is at rest.


I'm not sure the cause. I've made some major changes to my diet. I've also been riding my bicycle to work more, and have been wearing ankle weights at home. The ankle weights are something I'm trying. They actually have a calming effect. I've also been praying a lot and been spending more time reading and thinking about the Bible.

There is clearly more stress in my life with preparations for a trip to Eastern Europe, but I am feeling better than I have in quite some time.

May 22, 2007

No Link Found Between Autism And Thimerosal In Vaccines

"The increase in the number of diagnosed cases of autism in recent years has sparked concern that environmental toxins may cause this complex disorder. However, a new University of Missouri-Columbia study concludes that exposure to Rh immune globulin preserved with mercury-containing thimerosal before birth was no higher for children with autism. "

"The study - 'Lack of Association Between Rh Status, Rh Immune Globulin in Pregnancy and Autism' - was published in the May 2007 issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics."

Quoted from

So, what does this mean? I think that it means that there is no way to prevent autism by removing a something from your environment. Mercury is toxic and just all around bad, but not necessarily the cause of Autism/Asperger. Ofcourse, I don't think this one study will or sould put this topic to rest.

In my experience there are environmental factors that contribute to and exacerbate symptoms of Asperger/Autism. It's important to understand how and to what extent diet, toxins, etc impact Asperger/Autism and how changes can be brought to bear in the life of individuals to ease some of the distressing symptomology.

That said, my pet theory is that Asperger/Autism is primarily genetic, which means in the absence of some high tech gene treatment, you are what you are. I don't know if I want there to be an absolute cure for ASD. It is so much bound up in who I am. Perhaps what's more important is what does having ASD mean about who you are? Are you o.k. with this label? If you are a parent or care giver, what message are you sending your child? Are you willing to accept the way they are and help them live a full and healthy life?

If there can be not cure, can you still live a meaningful life? That's really what's most important.


Fibromyalgia - Asperger/Autism Connection?

Aryeh Abeles, MD and other contributing doctors have authored research recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study put forth the notion that Fibromyalgia sufferers have a lower pain threshold.

Maybe it's better to sayt that they have a greater sensativity to everything. Maybe Fibromyalgia sufferers sensory defensive.

Having recenly been reading the book "Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World", I started wondering if there is a connection between the overstimulated state of our Aspie brains and the existance of chronic pain.

I wonder if Aspies have more occurance of Fibromyalgia and other similar conditions?

This is a very short post. Just posing the question, curious of what anyone else is thinking.


May 17, 2007

Durable Pets, Weighted Vests, and Trampolines

I saw Jerry Newport speak once. He has a great book called You Are Not A Label. In his presentation he talks a lot about getting durable pets for people in the Autism Spectrum. He means a dog or some pet that can endure/enjoy being hugged and squeezed.

I don't remember if he discusses the background behind why that might help, or if he helps people decide what will help their child. I wonder how many parents and care givers are stuck in the "fix my child" mode, without coming to terms with what they are trying to accomplish? I wonder how many people misunderstood Jerry's point and ran out to buy a dog for their child.

Others are trying to find out if I've tried weighted vests or if I've bought a trampoline yet.

If I were to pose the question of, what values are behind your decision to purchase a dog or trampoline, the person might reply with, "I'm just trying to help my child!"

That response or one like it is unacceptable anywhere else you know.

At a restaurant,
Waiter: May I take your order?
Diner: I want dinner. That's all I want.
Waiter: Please, be more specific about what it is you want for your meal.
Diner: "I just want dinner!"

With a realtor,
Realtor: What are you looking for in a home?
Home Buyer: Look, I just am trying to find a home o.k.? Just get me a home I can buy!"

Auto Mechanic: What specifically seems to be wrong with your car?
Customer: "Look, I just want to fix my car!"

My wife and I have considered numerous treatments and therapies for our children and have taken advantage of very few. Our primary intervention has been at home, and what we teach them about our faith and values (identity). What treatments or therapies we choose are based on thoughtful consideration. What we choose would be different based on our child's age, but at the fore front of our thinking is our child as a person, and what will enrich his/her life as a person (identity).

Just a thought.

One final note. I am going to buy leg weights this weekend. I plan on wearing them all day. It may help me feel more grounded as the weights will trigger nerve endings in the joints. If you can come to the Aspies Inc. coffee 20-June-2007 I'll let you know how it is working. I have been doing some other exercises and notice some small improvement in tension. ''



Do Aspies Need Faith?

O.K., here's what I hear when parents and care givers get together:

Have you tried vitamins?
I hear vestibular stimulation can cure some!
Have you tried rolling on a medicine ball?
You should send your child for chelation!

Upon receiving the diagnosis parents and care givers switch into panic mode, and jump at things to cure or nearly cure their children. At worst they are engaging in action without direction. At best they are engaging in action that has short sited direction.

Unless our plans/actions are based on some kind of purpose and values we are going to be often frustrated and may even harmful. This might irk a parent or care giver who could respond by saying, "I just want what's best for my child!"

I would say something nice, but inside I would think, "No, you are trying to fix your kid. You are panicked that your child is disabled, and you can't deal with it." So, like all good Americans we just do more, instead of going back to the values position of our live's before planing what to do.

If you saw my talk on Four Square Life Planning you'll know what I'm getting at.

This is especially important for Aspies and others whose disabilities tend toward impulsiveness. Please read this very carefully: My faith and my identity (translation: values) saved my life. They were the reason I never committed suicide.

So, you've just received a diagnosis of Asperger or ADD or OCD or you-name-it, and you are panicked. You might not call it panic, but it is (at least a little). You may also feel anger. Those are normal reactions. Panic and anger are secondary emotions. They typically mask other more troubling feelings such as helplessness and guilt. Panic and anger will shift and change over time and they are looking for a quick fix. If you follow them, you will be looking for a quick fix.

What your Aspie child needs is for you to help them form a solid foundation in their lives that they can rely on for every decision. They need to be able to turn to something in every situation. So, what are they learning?

If things aren't working do more things to fix it.

That's what we do in America. What ultimately saved me is a solid faith/values framework in my mind that created important boundaries and guides to my actions and direction. I messed up a lot in life, but never completely violated the guiding principals that my parents instilled in me as a youth.

What do people with Asperger need? All the different therapies are good, but more than that we Aspies need a framework in which to live our lives. We need that structure so that we can understand what is right, wrong and preferential. We need a framework to guide our thinking so that we can make decisions about what is a valuable direction for our lives and what is not.

The principals on which I've based my life have changed very little. Often I have done a poor job of living by them, but they have gravity like the sun and pull me back toward them. How? I believe them to be true, and they were deeply embedded in me as a child.

The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." A closer examination of the original language reveals that the passage is not saying that the child won't violate or ignore the way he/she was trained, but the child will never depart from it. Regardless of what decisions I've made in life, the principals instilled in me as a child have never left me, and have drawn me toward them.

My parents began instilling these principals in me from the moment they could talk to me. At the age of four I made a faith decision to be a follower of Christ. I'm an Aspie, I probably could have done it age three.

I'm not sure how to end this one.

Maybe this. It is important to understand Asperger Syndrome and the various therapies that will help your child, but far more important is to understand your own faith and values and to clarify those or teach those to your child. If your child is old enough then the exercise is to help your child clarify them for himself/herself.

Faith and values will outlast any therapies and will sustain your child through the worst "hell" they may experience.


May 16, 2007

Bully, Repeat, Bully, Repeat, Bully, Repeat

I was bullied a fair amount when I was a child. As I think back over the years I think that i see a pattern. I'm 42 now and being bullied at ages 9 or 12 was a long time ago. That said, I think that Bullies tend to elicit the same behaviors over and over, because they enjoy the same response in their victim.

A group of older boys and girls would corner me when they saw me on the street and tell me say, "Adam, you are a jail bird. We are going to send you to jail." I would end up in tears by the time it was all done. They thought it was funny.

Have you ever teased the family cat? Or perhaps your cat likes to fight with you. Maybe you wiggle your fingers around in front of the cat's face and it attacks your hand. It's fun, so you wiggle your hands the same way each time hoping for the same response from the cat. The more you get the response you want and as long as that response is enjoyable, you feel a stronger motivation to repeat the behavior.

Ever get bullied? It's like you are like the cat in a way. The goofy thing is that your tormentors aren't bright enough to think through anything new or creative. Instead they expend their energies on the same behaviors that give them the response that they enjoy.

If you are getting bullied, it is important that you write down everything you remember about getting bullied. Look for a pattern of behavior that repeats itself. Look for location, environment, external events, personal roles present, time/event . . . see if you can identify what bullying events have in common. I think that you will see a number of things that are the same over and over.

If you can identify that and then document it in a journal, PowerPoint or even scrap paper, you will be in a position to gain power over the situation.

My disclaimer is that when I was getting bullied, I never followed this advice. The bullies had dominion and control over me. As an adult, having studied process improvement and quality management techniques, I'm starting to get some ideas. So, I have no personal success stories, but I think my ideas are based on universal techniques.

Let me know what you think.


May 10, 2007


I've been trying to think of how I would handles bullies if I could do it all over again.

A parent was asking me how his child should deal with bullies. I was at a loss in a way, but then I had some ideas on the way home.

A bully is an abuser, just like a man who beats his wife or a guy stalking a single woman. There are patterns of behavior that can be isolated and examined. I believe that his process will work for most any age (with modifications).

Let's start out in the bully's mind. What are the bully's general objective. I believe that there are three:

Isolate (this is key)

The bully must remove you from any kind of support system (isolate) so that they can seem more powerful than you (dominate), and then determine you actions (control). This gives them a sense of being powerful, when actually they are pathetic and deserve your mercy. If you really could find out everything about the bully, you might find that they are bullied by their parents or something.

That doesn't matter right away though. What matters at first is making it stop.

Here's what came to my mind:
  1. Identify and categorize the event(s)
  2. Own the event
  3. Brain storm alternatives
  4. Pick a solution
  5. Own the solution

1. Identify and categorize
When you have interactions with a bully they probably happen the same way every time or maybe there are two or three different scenarios that take place. Think about it. Right down or talk through what happens when you are bullied. Treat it like it is a play or movie.

Scene 1: Where does it take place. Who is there. What do they say. What do they do with their bodies and tone of voice. What do you do and say? Go for as much detail as you can.

Is there a scene 2 or 3? Do the same.

Now you are no longer isolated with the monster. Now the vague amorphous blob of bullying has been reduced down to the repetitive behavior that it is. It doesn't mean you've solved it, but it means that you can realise that you don't have 1,000 problems to solve, but the same problem over and over again. The bully is thriving because he provides you with a stimulus and gets the same response. It's like when you tease the cat, the cat reacts, you laugh. It's funny to you, so you do it again. You don't do something different. You want the same reaction out of the cat, so you do the same thing again, and it's funny again.

The same holds true for bullying.

Most children could do this with assistance and guidance.

2. Own The Event
Use a video camera or make it into a play or reader theatre, and act it out. Your child must play the part of the victim and the bully. They should do it convincingly. I think this is called role playing. Obviously a teen or young adult will feel silly acting out a play, but they could do a read through. If they are playing the bully's part, they need to match the tone of voice and body language of the bully. They also need to teach you how to match their voice and body language when they are reacting.

It's important that your child make an effort to really play the part. This will help take away the bully's power. It will also help them understand and think through the situation.

3. Brain Storm Alternatives
Talk through different things that they could do. Don't put limits on this discussion, anything goes. If your child is hiding some rage and thoughts of violence, they should talk about it. You then react as if it's no big deal, and you talk about consequences and feelings of everyone. Chances are instead that your child will come up with some good and bad ideas of how they could react differently to the bully.

4. Pick A Solution
Pick one alternative that might work better. There is no right one. Just grab one that might work.

5. Model The Solution
Just like you did before, read through or play act the solution. Talk about how well it would work. How will the bully act? Will this help?

Give the child a goal to do the solution three times in a row. If faced by the really bully situation that they have practiced for, and they use the solution they practice, that counts as a point. Three in a row and they get a prize. Then shoot for five in a row.

Each time you do this your child (or you) will internalise one way to break the bully (abusive) cycle.

Let me know if this helps.

When the bully sees that his/her old ways don' t work, the bully is going to try a new approach, so you have to start the process over, and come up with new solutions.

May 7, 2007

Finding My Voice - Part II

When I was a teen I remember getting out my dads oil paint set and trying my hand at painting a picture of our barn. I painted it on an inexpensive paper that was supposed to feel like canvas. I think the paper was meant more for pencil or charcoal drawings. My parents fraimed it and have it hanging up in their house to this day.

When I was 18 I went out and bought some pre-stretched canvases and did a couple of paintings. They were only partly representational. I enjoyed it. I also started writing song lyrics.

My point is, my paintings were o.k., and my song lyrics were quite bad, but they were the beginning. I still really like all of my paintings. There were no rules for me to follow, I would just pick a brush that seemed to be calling to me and then find a color that seemed right and do something. One time I just started swirling the paint in a circle (clockwise of course), until I had a mix of orange, red and burnt umber. The circle became the sun hanging low over a mud brick pueblo in the desert. Sorry to say that I gave that one to a girl friend with whom I eventually called it quits. Never got to see the painting again.

Typically now if I paint, I cover the whole canvas in a wash of a single color. I just loose myself in a swirl of red, blue, or green (let's here it for primary colors). I let that dry completely, then build the rest of the painting on top of that color base. I use fat course brush strokes, and a palate knife with big chunks of paint.

What's cool about it is that what is on my mind comes out as a theme in the painting that is difficult for me to articulate. The painting appears and I realise that there is something I'm saying. Something from deep within. I don't paint much at all any more, but when I do it's always revelatory.

My lyric writing skills improved when I got married, and also once I got together with a childhood friend of mine and we started trying to write music together.

Any kind of self expression is worth doing. There isn't really any definition of "good" or "bad" art when it comes to something you make for yourself. Just start doing something you enjoy. If you want to share your art with the public beyond family and friends, be ready for critique and some rejection. Take note also, that for every song I recorded with Sojourn, I wrote about 10 songs. That doesn't include the other songs that I started and tossed. That's o.k. It's o.k. to make bad poetry or crummy paintings, it's the only way to find your way to something meaningful inside.

You could also write a blog. Blog about anything you want! They're free. If you are an Aspie, parent/care giver of an Aspie and you start your own blog, once you have about 10 posts, let me know and I'll post a link to it in my blog. You have to tell me something about yourself, and not just send me a link.