The Numbers Game

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Happy 12/12!!!

Dates like this always make me smile. Jackpot Day (7/7/07), Deca-Day (10/10/10), and any time Sequence Day rolls around (11/12/13 was the last one)… I love them all.

One of my “aspie passions” is math – I love all of the things you can do with math. The laws of the universe are written in the language of math. If you can interpret the laws, there is so much magic to be experienced. I love that I can use math for very important and also very silly things. I’ve become a pretty decent poker player over the last few years as I realized that successful betting boils down to a strong understanding of probabilities (a.k.a. MATH!). Then I find myself doing useless things with math like calculating expected value coefficients in order to choose between the Big Box or Curtain 2 on Let’s Make a Deal.

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3X + cos(2XY – 20) – X/R = ZONK

I think that sometimes numbers can be integral to a person’s life, if one’s mind is open enough to see the connections. For example… a very long time ago, for no apparent reason that I can remember, I chose 28 as my favorite number. I used it everywhere I could. When I was in high school I found out that 28 is a “perfect number” – all of its factors besides itself (14, 7, 4, 2, 1) add up to the number (14 + 7 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 28!). The number I chose as my personal favorite just happened to be perfect! And not only that, a few years ago I looked at my birthdate and found out that the digits of my birthdate add up to – you guessed it – 28.

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Brain asploded.

I’m not saying that I believe in horoscopes or things like that, but I do believe that numbers and math play an important role in the universe and our lives. I think recognizing patterns and number sequences in nature is a way to pay respect to the power that these forces play in our lives.

Interaction

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It has been brought to my attention from one of my followers – who also happens to live in the same house as I do and also happens to be married to me – that I need to be more interactive with my commenters and followers. Apparently, this “follower” has not been paying attention to any of the posts on this blog… or the behavior tendencies of her husband for the past fourteen years.

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She also doesn’t know about the meth lab I have running in the basement.

Breaking news: I have Aspergers. Also breaking news: people with Aspergers are generally bad at interacting with others. So yeah, you could say that my people skills are not exactly up to par. When interacting with people, at best I come off awkward and strange. At worst, I come off like a heartless, uncaring sociopath. And I thought one of the goals of this blog was to attract readers, not repel them.

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I would not be the first person to make that mistake.

With that being said… as much as it pains me to say so – because I’ll never live it down – this “follower” is right. I should be conversing with my commenters and followers. Sure, I can post personal and interesting things for you to read, but what better way to reach out than to talk to my readers and respond to their questions and comments directly? We might start a a conversation that never would have been explored without that direct level of interaction.

So, along with responding to emails, I will also be answering comments on my posts when the situation calls for it. And yes, I will also be responding to comments from that certain “follower” as well.

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If I have the strength left after heaing “I told you so” 1,364 times.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

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I just wanted to wish all of my readers and followers a safe and happy Thanksgiving! I am truly thankful for the ability that this blog gives me to reach out to each and every one of you.

Enjoy your day with whomever you spend it with, even if it’s just yourself! As for me, I’m off to Golden Corral to stuff my face with some Thanksgiving goodness.

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And the God of Thanksgiving bequeathed all foods with a chocolate sheen.

Autism and Bullying

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Bullying seems to be a hot topic nowadays. I’m not sure why all of a sudden EVERYBODY is all up in arms about this. It’s not like bullying is something new that kids just came up with this year, like listening to crap music like Lorde. Bullying has been around for quite a while. The first recorded use of the word “bully” occurred in 1530 (yes, I looked it up; I don’t spend all day making up fake facts for this blog, I’ll have you know), but the concept goes back way before that. There were even bullies in the Bible, for Christ’s sake.

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Jesus likes!

Because of the nature of bullying behaviors, children on the autism spectrum at at a higher risk of being victims of bullying. Bullies often single out those who are weak or socially outcast and make an example of them. It’s not always about physical violence. The main motivation is an attempt by the bully to feel superior to others and to be looked at as being in a position of power. Due to the characteristics of autism (weak sensory perception, social awkwardness,  etc.), children with autism or aspergers are juicy targets for the bully to get what he or she wants.

A parent of a child with special needs is then faced with a difficult situation. Very often, children with autism will have difficulty communitcating to the parents that they are being bullied. The emotions that come with being pushed around are hard to understand; the child may claim to feel sad, tired, or simply hide their feelings in order to avoid them. It is the parents’ job to keep an keen eye on the child’s temperment and watch for any changes that may indicate that something is wrong.

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Or just outsource the job to the Chinese.

Bullies prey on fear; they count on their targets being to afraid to report them or do anything about it. Children with autism are already scared and anxious to begin with. A bully doesn’t even have to work hard to intimidate these kids; half the job is already done for them.

Another reason why it may be hard for parents to detect when their child is being bullied is that the child may not even realize that they are being mistreated. To children with social deficits, a bully may seem like a friend. After all, it’s someone who is talking to them and giving them attention. That’s a friend, right? Doesn’t matter if that the “friend” is taking their stuff, slugging them in the arm, and calling them names behind their back. That must be what friends do!

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“Mom! Tommy and I are gonna go play ‘Get Beat Up By Tommy!’ “

Now, it’s clear that special needs children are especially vulnerable to bullying. However, all of you special needs parents shouldn’t jump up on your high horse and think your child will always and forever be free of blame when it comes to bullying. Remember all of that anxiety and fear I was talking about before? Well, a funny thing about those negative emotions – they tend to send you child’s self esteem crashing faster than Healthcare.gov.

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Obama no likes.

These drops in self esteem can lead to children with special needs becomingthe bully. If the child has trouble understanding how to address social situations, the chance of inappropriate behaviors evolving into bullying is higher. We can’t just look at our children as wonderful little angels and allow ourselves to be blind to the other side of the coin. If you don’t want you child to be bullied, you have a responsibility to make sure your child doesn’t turn into one.

It’s clear that bullying is a critical subject that should be discussed with our children. We need to teach our children to be respectful of one another no matter what the situation. Remember, kids grow up to be people; the last thing you want to be responsible for is letting you kids turn into assholes when they are older.

Aspie Halloween!!

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Halloween was probably my least favorite holiday as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, getting the tons and tons of candy was great. I was strung out on sugar just as much as the next kid when I was in grade school. The problem I had with Halloween was not the treats, but the tricks you had to pull and the hoops you had to jump through in order to get them.

Hoop 1 – Strength in numbers: Getting a group of kids together to wander through the neighboorhood wasn’t that big of a problem when I was very young, but it got more difficult as time went by and my aspie tendencies started to thin out my herd of friends. And trust me, nobody wants to see a kid trick-or-treating by himself. It’s lame, it’s sad, and all the kid ends up with is pity candy.

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Doesn’t really work when you’re 8 years old.

Hoop 2 – Diversifying your palette: The Mount Rushmore of Halloween Candy is as follows: Tootsie Rolls, Twizzlers, Snickers, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These are the candies you fight your brother for or steal right out of your sister’s hand. But Halloween isn’t as simple as gorging on chocolate, peanut butter, nougat, and plastic strawberry goodness until you pass out from sugar overload. There are some seriously disgusting candies out there, and eventually you have no choice but to choke them suckers down.

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What did we ever do as a human race to deserve those pink and white pieces of poison?

Hoop 3 – Privacy Invasion: Only on Halloween is it acceptable to ring someone’s doorbell at odd hours of the night unnanounced and demand something from the resident and offer absolutely nothing in return. Is this strange to nobody else but me? If I knocked on your door on August 18th and asked for a bag of Doritos, you’d think I was completely insane. Yet on October 31st, this behavior is not only normal, but it is encouraged. Needless to say, I was extremely uncomfortable as a child, intruding on someone’s life and confronting them in that situation.

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“He’s back again, Mary! Hide the Cool Ranch!”

Halloween hasn’t gotten any better for me as an adult, either. Now I feel like a complete asshole, sending my kids up to some stranger’s door to get candy. They look down their driveways at me, and I can tell they think that all I want to do is hog my kids’ stash and eat the whole thing for myself. Just because they happen to be correct doesn’t give them the right to prejudge me.

It’s even worse when I stay home. Every year I tell myself I’m going to handle the trick-or-treaters with smoothness and grace. And every year I end up running around the house, cowering in fear, hiding from the windows when the doorbell rings. It’s pure torture.

If I can just go to Wal-Mart and buy a bag of candy and eat the whole thing myself, why can’t everyone else just do the same thing?

Family Business

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Today I found myself wondering about my parents. Specifically, I was considering the possibility of either one of my parents having Aspergers. It’s common knowledge that Aspergers and autism seems to run in families. Could either of my parents have been an aspie?

When measuring the possibility of mental disorder, my mother comes to mind first. I love her to death, but I’m not going to deny that she is kinda nutty. She does possess some aspie-like traits: she is ritualistic, slow to adapt to change, and fairly antisocial. One thing that doesn’t fit, however, is her expression of emotions – if anything, she is OVERexpressive. Last time I visited, she got upset and tried to console me when I dropped an egg on the kitchen floor.

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The funeral procession for the embryo was not at all necessary.

She might have OCD tendencies, she might not be a social butterfly, but I don’t think she has Aspergers. My father, on the other hand…

I’ve brought up the possibility of my dad having Aspergers to my wife before, and she has easily dismissed the idea in the past. “He had a good sense of humor, he was very sarcastic,” she says. “Aspies aren’t usually good with sarcasm.”

First off: Aspies can be good using sarcasm. I use it all the time. The problem aspies have with sarcasm is detecting it in others, not using it themselves.

Second: I don’t think she quite understands what made my dad so funny. The reason he was hilarious was because he would “act” serious when doing something completely crazy that nobody would ever expect. One example I always love to use is how he used to openly discuss his tipping plans with the waiter while the meal was still underway. My family thought it was so funny, how he would joke around like that.

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The waiters found it hilarious.

What if he wasn’t joking? What if he just had no clue that that’s something that you aren’t supposed to do? Social awkwardness – check.

Another thing about my dad – I only remember seeing him cry once, when my mom was very sick and was hospitalized. Other than that? I don’t recall him showing many emotions at all. Home movies of us show him basically being there, every once in a while telling us kids to quit doing annoying things. I know he loved me, but do I have any concrete evidence showing an emotional bond between the two of us? Inability to outwardly express emotions – check.

There are other reasons that I won’t get into here, but what it boils down to is that there is a decent chance that my dad has Aspergers. Then, of course, I got to thinking…

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What in God’s holy name were they thinking when they came up with this?

Then I got to thinking…

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Hey, wait a minute… what DOES the fox say???

But then I started thinking…

I have some unresolved issues with my dad (I was not aware of them until after he died). Do I really want my son to have those same issues with me when he gets older? Of course not. So I make sure that he knows I love him, every single day. I do more than tell him – I show him. I show him by being there for him when he needs me, by being there when he doesn’t, by being engaged with him even when he tells stories that take ten minutes and six run on sentences to complete. I don’t want him to have to question whether or not his father loved him. I’m going to make that answer obvious for him.

And you know what? It’s EASY. My kids are part of a very small group of people in this world who I feel completely comfortable being real around, and connecting truly with. He may realize when he grows up that Daddy was a little strange, but he’ll never feel disconnected from me. I won’t let that happen.

Bad News is Bad

 

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Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than hearing about someone else’s bad news. Most normal people have trouble with this also, but my reasons are particularly aspie-ish. It’s not the bad news itself that bothers me, it’s the fact that I have no idea how I’m supposed to react.

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Probably not the best reaction.

I really don’t know what to say. I don’t want to brush the bombshell off like it’s nothing, but I also don’t want to dwell on the negatives and reinforce just how bad everything sucks for this person. So most of the time I just get socially paralyzed and try not to react at all, which makes me look wooden and heartless. The best case scenario is when someone else besides me is involved in the conversation, because then I can pretend I wasn’t listening and didn’t hear what’s going on.

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Being oblivious comes off better than being rude.

Then, sometimes my Aspergers kicks in and I just don’t seem to care. It’s horrible to say, but it’s true – often, my first reaction is to figure out if and how the news will affect me. I may be self centered, but that comes with the Aspie territory.

A coworker of mine is currently going through some health problems. As he was explaining the situation to the rest of the staff on the shift, I found myself desperately trying to avoid eye contact, pretending to be heavily involved in my work. What am I supposed to say? I can’t console anybody. I’ll do more harm than good. The situation may involve him missing some time. My thoughts? “Man, this is going to make us short handed. We are going to have to bust some ass to get the work done.” I’m not joking; this guy is gravely ill, and I’m worried about how my work flow is going to change.

What the hell? What is wrong with me?

It gets worse – when he actually started to miss time, I started to get a little pissed off because work was so busy. I was resenting the guy because he had the nerve to get cancer and require chemotherapy sessions.

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“My bad. I’ll be back to work on Monday.”

At least I’m self-aware enough to realize how disturbed and callous this is. That’s why I figure it’s better to keep my mouth shut than to tell him what’s on my mind. Still, I can’t deny that my first thoughts are how the situation affects me, as if that is the most important thing. But that’s the reality of having Aspergers – the whole world revolves around you, even when it doesn’t.

I’m a Failure

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So today I found out that I failed miserably on a school assignment. It was a pretty big thing, and I’m really upset over it. My teacher is giving me another shot at the assignment, but I’m just so mad about it. I should have gotten it right the first time. The answer was right in front of my face if I had just taken the time to look for it.

Needless to say, I’m not taking it well. As I’ve blogged about previously, I can sometimes be a perfectionist. If I’m doing something, it’s gotta be right. I can’t fail, otherwise all of my effort has been one big waste of time. Because of this, I went into “IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD” mode in response to my failing grade.

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Don’t ever ask me what’s the worst that can happen. Because huge bunnies could attack New York City.

It comes down to the fact that I don’t like looking stupid. I hate not knowing something, and I hate it even more when other people know I don’t know something. It’s why I lie and say I know where a street is when someone is talking about a location that I’ve never been to. It’s why I try to fix any mistakes I make with as little fanfare and attention as possible.

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Nothing to see here, people.

It’s difficult for me, but I just have to accept the fact that I’m not and never will be perfect. There will always be things in this world that I don’t know, and these are opportunities to learn. And most important, I can be smart without having all of the right answers all of the time.

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Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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Making friends is a lot harder than they led us to believe. It should be pretty easy – just find someone that you have something in common with, and figure out a way to bond over that subject. But what happens when the very thing you have in common with some people that you meet is the thing that makes it difficult to form friendship bonds with them?

My wife had a homeschooling friend come over to the house the other day, and this woman has two boys with Aspergers who are very close in age to my Aspie daughter. “They will get along great,” everyone said. Although it wasn’t a disaster, the kids didn’t mesh well together. The boys were actually more interested in spending time with my son who is a couple of years younger. My daughter, in her typical aspie way, takes this as a personal insult. She doesn’t take into account that:

a) children on the spectrum are usually drawn to children who are either slightly younger or slightly older, and

b) they are dudes who want to do dude things.

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Dude things – the most efficient way to make mom completely lose her shit.

You can’t really fault the moms in this situation. People who like to read make friends in book clubs. Kids who play the same sport get along really well. Children on the spectrum should understand each other enough to bond with each other, right?

Right?

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Judges?

In reality, having autism in common provides absolutely ZERO opportunities to bond over. In some cases, it may even hinder the friend-making process. Consider this situation – two spectrum children with OCD-like tendencies are attempting to build a tower out of blocks with each other. One wants to build a round tower, while the other wants to build a square house. Are these kids going to bond over their intense desire to have things exactly the way they want it, without compromise? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s like the one thing that the children have in common is also the thing that makes them completely different from one another.

Aspergers not only gives aspies a shaky common ground, the nature of Aspergers itself drives us away from making bonds. It’s simply easier to isolate. I remember once looking for an online Aspergers discussion board, but I couldn’t find a decent one anywhere on the internet. I chalk part of that up to my Aspergers itself, and that I couldn’t find one that I wasn’t comfortable with because none of them were “perfect.” But I believe another reason is that there aren’t a whole lot of discussion boards out there; we’re just not that into reaching out. To show just how bad the situation is, I did a little web search and found five Aspergers message boards. Then I found fifteen message boards for irritable bowel syndrome. It’s apparently three times as easy to find a friend if you periodically shit your pants that if you have Aspergers.

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As you can clearly see, illustrated above.

One of the few places I’ve been able to form “friendships” with other Aspies is on Twitter. But in all honesty, how deep of a friendship can one develop at only 140 characters at a time? Then again, that could be exactly why I enjoy Twitter so much – I can build my friendships on my own terms, at my own pace. No rush, no pressure. Bite-sized bonding, if you will. It’s tailor made for us Aspies.

Fancy NOT Meeting You Here

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A good rule of thumb concerning my social interactions is to assume that everything is extremely awkward unless otherwise specified. Today is no different.

Today I nearly ran into a co-worker of mine in the supemarket. I say “nearly” because he was literally two feet away from me at one point, only I didn’t notice him because I was busy trying to corral my crazy children and prevent them from running around and making a total mess of the place.

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Cleanup in aisle 4.

I honestly don’t know if he noticed me or not; I only realized it was him when he was walking away and facing the opposite direction. I considered myself lucky, though. I didn’t want to say hi anyway.

I hate that situation. I hate meeting someone that you know well from a certain setting, but meeting them in a completely different environment. It’s like running into someone from your church at the porno shop – it’s awkward, it’s strange, it doesn’t make any sense. For me, it’s escpecially difficult. As an Aspie, I find comfort in routines. This includes social interaction – I know what subjects I can talk about with certain people without seeming weird. When I’m at work with work people I can talk work things. But what do I talk about when I meet work people in the supermarket? Supermarket things?

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“Did you see the endcap between aisles 6 and 7? Crazy deals, man.”

This gets even more difficult when I run into someone and I cannot remember where I know them from, even if my life depended on it. I end up trying to coax information out of them to figure out why the hell I know them. Meanwhile, they have a certain expectation of the conversation, which I am obviously and painfully failing to fill. Now you know why I consider myself lucky that I ducked my coworker.

I spent the rest of the shopping trip looking around nervously, hoping to avoid him. I didn’t want to bump into him without warning, but I also didn’t want to make accidental eye contact while trying to locate him. Thankfully, I was able to avoid him for the rest of the shopping trip.

Now, all I need to do is come up with some excuse why I didn’t say hi when I see him at work tomorrow.

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Works for me.