Category Archives: Aspergers

Vacation Anxiety

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So last week, my family and I went on vacation to Disney World. We drove all the way to Florida from upstate NY, which wasn’t a major deal considering I work midnights and I’m usually awake at night anyway. Then again, it was a near-24 hour drive, so yeah it kinda sucked. Sleeping in the car was no picnic with my kids singing “Let It Go” over and over again for thirteen hundred miles.

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Yes, I am fully aware that you are one with the wind and sky.

Considering my aspieness, you would think that being on vacation and messing up my normal routines would put me in a bad mood. And yes, I will admit that I end up missing my video games so much that by the end of every vacation I consider bringing my Xbox along on the next one. But it’s actually not that bad for me. I don’t mind being in a weird place because I know that the point of the trip is to experience somewhere new.

The one thing I do really need when I’m on vacation, though, is a “nothing day.” I’m fine with having lots to do on vacation; I just can’t have every moment of every day filled up with activities. If I don’t get any time to relax, then it just feels like work. And when I’m on vaca, bumming around in a cramped hotel room watching non-HD local sports and eating vending machine food is relaxing for me.

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I am so there.

So, as I said, the family and I went to Disneyworld. I don’t know if you know this, but it seems to be a very popular place to visit. My GOD was it crowded. And it was in the middle of the school year! What terrible parents these people must be, pulling their kids out of school to go to an amusement park! Excluding us, of course.  🙂

Anyway, yeah, LOTS of people. But you know what? I handled it fine. My daughter handled it fine. See, it’s not really people themselves that freak us aspies out, it’s the social interaction that goes with being around people. Most aspies are perfectly fine if they can blend in anonymously with a crowd. That’s what Disney felt like;  it felt like walking through Times Square in New York City – tons of people around, but nobody paying attention to anybody else around them. It was great! We had a great time. The kids really enjoyed the rides and stuff, and my wife and I enjoyed being able to act like kids without looking creepy.

Disney

Shit like this don’t fly anywhere else.

The vacation was practically stress free, except for the Disney germs we all came down with when we got back home. I didn’t expect the most stressful part of my trip would be going back to work and having to talk abou my vacation with my coworkers. But that’s another post entirely.  🙂

Funeral Footwork

View of a group of people's feet standing in an office

Now that things have settled down just a bit, perhaps I can get back to blogging.

 My family and I traveled out of state to my father-in-law’s funeral during my last hiatus. I have posted before about the experience of attending a funeral from an aspie standpoint before, so I already knew I was in for a slightly uncomfortable time. However, I was also very aware that I was going to have a very important job at this funeral – my FIL’s death hit my wife pretty hard. She handled it surprisingly well, but she was still emotional. I was there to support her, because aspies are superheroes when it comes to lending support during emotional times.

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Able to not understand what the big deal is in a single shrug.

There were times where I found myself standing around with nothing to do, so I started doing what I enjoy doing in these types of situations: I began to observe human behavior for interesting patterns. It didn’t take me too long to find one. I started noticing how people were standing and talking together. I noticed that when two people stood together, they almost never faced each other. They stood with their feet at an angle to the other person, like a conversation deflection of sorts – I’m not really interested in talking to you, but I don’t want to seem rude and ignore you, so I’ll meet you halfway. It was pretty consistent no matter the age or gender.

I decided that I needed to learn this move, post haste.

Even more interesting was how this dynamic applied when there were more than two people standing together. The “angled feet” behavior was still present, with each person angling themselves to avoid directly facing either of the other people. And as the group grew, the people adjusted their angles to fit the group’s size, often positioning themselves to form a social semicircle.

It was fascinating. Seriously. I felt like Pavlov, only my subjects weren’t drooling dogs.

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And my beard wasn’t quite as bitchin’.

The most interesting thing happened when…

Wait a minute…

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That’s totally Robert Duvall with a humongous beard!

Ok, where was I? Oh yeah…

The most interesting thing happened when two groups came together to form a large “supergroup” of sorts. Each group would open up slightly to accept the merging group, and after a moment or two of jostling, the people would fall perfectly into the angled feet position! The supergroup would often be a fairly large circle at this point, with nobody talking or looking directly at anyone else, yet they were all having a conversation with everyone at the same time.

Amazing!

From here, the supergroup would break up and the participants would float around the room until they joined up with others to form smaller group chains. And this dynamic happened over and over again. It was like watching so weird social cellular cosmos, with people aimlessly colliding with one another over and over again. It was cool to watch. It was even cooler not to join in. Instead, in between consoling hugs for my wife, I was able to let my mind wander onto other meaningless things. Such as….

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See? Didn’t I tell you?

Well, There Goes That Idea

Of course, right after I make the resolution to post more, things happen that will make that tough to do for a little while.

There was a death in the family yesterday, my father-in-law. I realize that the impact that his death has on my blogging abilities is probably the least important thing in the world right now, although the Aspie part of my brain is pissed at why this has to happen to me right now. But I know that’s insensitive; I can’t control how my Aspie brain thinks, but I can give it a hard slap in the face when it gets out of line.

Anyways, due to dealing with certain things (funeral, family fallout, etc.), my posting may need to take a hiatus again. Hopefully not months like last time.

Take care, and well wishes for everyone out there.

The Self Aware Aspie

Some people wonder exactly what a diagnosis of Aspergers gets them. Government assistance? Nope. Special insurance considerations? Doubt it. The understanding, care, and love of the general public? Far from it. Some not-so-gracious people may even see the diagnosis as an excuse for acting strangely. I’ll tell you what the Aspergers diagnosis gives me – piece of mind. It allows me to personally understand what’s going on, both in my brain and the brain of my daughter.

It’s not easy for any parent to deal with the meltdowns that inevitably come with an Aspie child. You can hear a lot of things that can hurt you. An Aspergers diagnosis can help you better understand what your child is going through, what your child is really saying when s/he screams “I HATE YOU!” It helps you realize that it’s a stress release, not an attack. Not that it washes your hands of your responsibility of your child, but it absolves you of blame for the tantrum.

In some cases, the diagnosis may be helpful for the child directly. My wife and I have talked to my daughter about her Aspergers; she knows that sometimes she just needs to let off some steam, and we’ve provided her a safe place to do that. When a tantrum occurs, she will loudly annouce to everyone (though heavy sobbing) that she “just need[s] to go upstairs and cry.” And she does. And when she’s finished, everything’s okay and she knows we still love her. This out-of-control feeling could be very scary to a child who doesn’t understand, but the diagnosis of Aspergers helps her understand that this stuff is normal… for her, anyway.

In ths case of adult Aspies like myself (note: although I haven’t been formally diagnosed, I pretty much accept the fact that I do have Aspergers), a diagnosis can help with self-discovery in very much the same way. It can give you insight on why you do the compulsive things you do, and how to handle certain situations in order to diffuse tantrums before they happen. The other day I was trying to make lunch for my family, and I kept running into roadblock after roadblock (not enough ingredients, missing supplies, etc.) until finally I felt it coming on… I was going to blow. But before I did, I took a deep breath, looked at my wife, and said, “I need to go upstairs for a moment before i start tantruming.” I did just that – I laid on the bed, closed my eyes, and just laid there. After a minute or two, I had regained enough composure to come back downstairs to make lunch with the stuff I had to work with.

It’s funny – my wife and I had to really fight to get our daughter diagnosed with Aspergers. At first, we agreed that the diagnosis didn’t really affect us or our love for our daughter; she was the same kid she always was and we wouldn’t treat her any differently. The diagnosis at that time was mainly for the benefit of others, to understand why she acts the way she does and in order to get her the care she needed at school and such. But recently I’ve seen that the diagnosis has helped us, but not in the “We’re ok with it” way. The diagnosis helps in understanding her, making her life and our lives more fulfilling by working with her needs as an Aspie. The diagnosis of Aspergers doesn’t define me or my daughter, but it is part of who we are.

Rejection!

So I’m feeling down today because one of my idea for my SBB course project got shot down like Porkins attacking the Death Star, so now I feel completely dumb and stupid.

It goes like this: for my SBB course I need to write an evidence based research paper that is publication-ready. For those of you who speak regular English, I basically have to write a thesis paper based on blood bank stuff. While we were discussing the project in Indiana, everyone in my class seemed to have these great original research ideas that included novel ideas, applying to review boards, doing trial experiments, etc.

I had nothing.

After some thinking, I came up with what I thought was a good and interesting idea (I won’t bore you with the details, because you won’t get past this paragraph without falling asleep in your own drool puddle). My education coordinator was a little concerned that it wouldn’t work out, so I asked the director of my lab what he thought and if he could help.

For his answer, see above.

So yeah, feeling kinda stupid today. I know that rejection is just a thing and it’s the idea not me and it’s no big deal and I was maybe overreaching and…. whatever. I don’t do well with rejection. It’s why I never really took writing seriously. But it’s not only that. Everyone else in my class seems to be so researchy-cool and know what they are doing. Am I the guy they are all looking at and thinking, “Well, at least I’m not as dumb as that guy”?

I do have a couple of other ideas that I can use. I just have to settle on one fast, since the plan proposal is due like… now. But I guess I’ll just have to figure something out and get the job done, one way or another.

Or else, I’ll just fail.
(That one’s for you, honey)  😉

Conference Call

Ok, so I’ve been stressing out a bit about next week. I have my first test in my online course next week, but that’s not the worst of things. The thing I’m stressing out the most about is a conference call that is scheduled for Sunday.

First off, I’m working midnights this weekend, so I’m going to be sleepish during the whole thing. Second, the entire class and I will be meeting on Skype to discuss… whatever we are going to discuss. I’m still learning the ins and outs of Skype, so I have no idea if it’s going to go well or not. I also have no idea what’s expected of me in this phone call.

I expected the learning and the work to be the hard part of this course. That stuff seems to me moving along pretty well. It’s all of this other talking-to-people stuff that is becoming a chore.

I Wish I Was Special

I’ve been busy the past week or two with a whole bunch of stuff. I just came back from a week in Indiana for the Orientation Week of an online course I am taking. I’m taking the course to become an SBB, or Specialist in Blood Banking. Basically, I’ll be learning every single in-and-out detail of my job. Hopefully it will give me better qualifications for promotion or a supervisor job someday, which means more responsibility for not a whole lot more money.

The orientation week was… interesting. The point of the orientation was to make sure we had all the materials we needed to start, as well as to get to know and interact with the other people who are taking the course alongside me.

What, what? Interaction with people? I paid $3000 for this?

WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?

Actually, it went pretty well and I had a great time! The beginning of the week was somewhat awkward. It felt like forced socialization, which I find almost as enjoyable as bathing my eyeballs in rubbing alcohol. But the classroom/learning setting allowed me to kind of settle in and focus on the information rather than being normal. By Friday I actually enjoyed talking with these people, which is good because I’ll be conferring with them on projects and stuff throughout the year.

I think what helped me warm up to these people was that:
a) I realized that these people were interested in and passionate about many of the same things I was. I could talk shop with them and not worry about looking like a dork.
and…
b) Thursday night, the education coordinator took us out to dinner and paid for everything including alcohol, and I got a little buzzed.  🙂

But seriously, I was able to talk to these people because I realized they were like me – nerd-ish people who were interested in advancing their knowledge because they wanted to. And they wanted to be there bad enough that they were willing to pay for it. And talking about work with these people led to other conversations where I was able to actually share (gulp) personal things about myself. And it was fun!

Now the hard work begins – a full year of busting my ass to pass this course. Wish me luck!

Friday Night Anti-Socialite

My daughter goes to an ASD socialization group every couple of weeks. I usually can’t go because I work evenings, but tonight I had off so I was able to go. The kids break up into groups to help foster some social networking skills, and the parents are free to attend a special conference event, usually focusing on some ideas and resources for parents to deal with the difficulties of having a child on the spectrum. I thought it would be nice to tag along with the family.

I’m not so sure I want to go again.

The subject of the conference was helping your ASD child improve their social skills. As the presentation went on, I felt myself getting more and more stressed out. First of all, the presenter decided to go with an interactive format, which threw me off. I didn’t know we were supposed to be answering questions! I was ready to trudge through the boring parts by playing cell phone games. What happens if I get called on? Now I have to pay attention! It felt like I was back in elementary school, without the fun of gym class. And the worst of it is, they are asking questions that I have no idea how to answer. For example:

“What does it mean to you to be social or to have a friend?”

Ummm….

I have Aspergers. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

As the discussion continues, the parents start offering examples of the difficulties that their children face. Many of these are greeted with chuckles or bursts of laughter from the crowd – probably from knowing all too well what the commenter has gone through. However, I experience a lot of the same issues that are being shared… and chuckled and laughed at. Now I feel like I’m being made fun of. Once again, just like elementary school.

It also bothered me that a lot of the conference seemed geared towards how to “fix” the problems of the ASD child, such as coming up with ways to get the child to socialize and make friends or “succeed” in social situations. This turned me off completely. Is Autism something that needs to be fixed? Am I a failure just because I’m not as comfortable in social situations as an NT is?

My wife says I’m crazy, and that’s not what it’s all about. I agree that I am probably oversensitive due to my unique viewpoint. I just think that parents focus too much on their expectations and what they want for their child. What they should be focusing on is what makes their child happy and help them achieve those goals. If the kid wants to be more social, then helping them along is a wonderful thing. But if the kid is happy playing by him/herself and wants to be left alone, forcing socialization skills on him/her is just a self-serving act to comfort the parent’s anxieties of failure and social rejection.

As if to underscore this theme, the conference ended with the parents breaking up into smaller groups to share ideas and solutions that worked for them. I snuck out the back door before our group formed. Thankfully, and this is why I love her, my wife didn’t force me to stay.

I’M NORMAL!!! (for once)

So I did something today that was VERY out of character…

I was assigned by my wife to pick up lunch while picking up my son from preschool. I ordered the kids food, then I ordered what my wife usually gets. In a moment of unexpected brilliance, I quickly checked my phone to see if she wanted something else. Lo and behold, she did. Only one problem…

I had already ordered.

My personal issues with the drive-thru have been discussed before. So she’s going to just have to deal with eating what I ordered, right?

NO!!!! Surprising myself – and my wife, who later said she thought I was making it up – I corrected my order and got the food that my wife wanted!

I’m not really sure what got into me, but I was able to admit that I was wrong and change my order, ignoring my fear of looking stupid in front of people. I did make a self-depricating-yet-truthful comment about me being a pain in the ass (I couldn’t help it), but I still go tthe job done! And my wife truly enjoyed her Big Mac.

Now maybe she won’t nag me as much as usual for the rest of this week.
I don’t think she reads this blog. Whatever you do, DON’T TELL HER I SAID THIS.

Hi, Nice to Meet You. By the Way, I Have Aspergers.

Being an Aspie, I find it very difficult to decide when is the right time for “full disclosure” when meeting new people – by which I mean mentioning my Aspergers. Bringing it up too early may seem weird, or it may even sound like I’m trying to make an excuse. Saying it too late may leave a lot of odd behaviors unexplained.

My wife and I were talking with one of the other moms while waiting to pick my son up at preschool, which means my wife was talking with one of the other moms while I stood next to her silently nodding my head every so often. My attention happens to tune in when they begin talking about the challenges of parenting a child with Aspergers – her son, who was in the same preschool as my son, has Aspergers. Almost immediately and without thinking, I nearly blurt out “I have Aspergers, too!!!”

I somehow managed not to make myself look silly, and once I figured out that my Aspie-ness has nothing to do with parenting and Aspie, I figured I was better off not opening my mouth. But it got me thinking about how to approach the issue when meeting someone new. I guess it should just come up naturally in conversation, but (unless this is your first time visiting my blog) you should know by now that the words “conversation” and “naturally” don’t play well together in my world.