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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.

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The Sensory Experience of Autism

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People on the Spectrum experience the world in a different way. The senses of someone with autism are wired in such a different way that it is almost like they are living in a different world than a neurotypical people. Different stimuli lead to different behaviors that are considered “abnormal” – imagine if everybody in the world was wearing sunglasses except for you. You would think that the sunlight was too bright, and everyone else would just think you are crazy.

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They would also be so much more cooler than you.

That’s what what autism is like… sort of. A child on the spectrum will react to loud noises that are not quite so loud to everyone else. A person with Aspergers will tune out everything in the room except for the smallest little thing that has grabbed his or her attention, simply because it is not so small to him or her. It’s not only that our reactions are different; our perceptions are altered, as well.

I went to the orthopedist the other day to address some pain issues I’ve been having in my elbows and wrists. The doctor begins examining me and asks me if it hurts if he does this, what pain level am I at if I do that. Now, I’m lucky to have been blessed with a high tolerance for pain (possibly due to my Aspergers). In order to answer his question to get the desired result  – him actually giving a fuck about my arm hurting and doing something about it – I need to do an “Aspie-to-NT Pain Conversion” calculation. Simply put, I lie and say my pain is worse than it really is.

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“… then we multiply by the indifference constant to overcome the “Who Gives a Shit” factor…”

But the skewing doesn’t just go one way. If the doctor asked me on a scale of 1 to 10 how big of an annoyance having a fold in my sock is, I’d answer “OH MY GOD, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HELL I’M LIVING IN AT THIS MOMENT!!!!” So it’s not like I’m completely numb in one direction or overly sensitive in the other; it swings both ways. My stimulus filter is tuned differently than most other people’s are. So I’m forced to adjust, and as I grow older I learn the ways to adjust the way I see and feel the world to fit closer to what would be considered”normal.”

Mapping Autism

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An interesting article was brought to my attention about mapping the brain’s connection signals and perhaps being able to diagnose Autism with the results. I will admit , the article was a good read. And it seems to make some sense, at least to me.

The study mentioned in the article discusses the linkages made between different parts of the brain, and the patterns of those linkages are different in the presence of different conditions (such as autism and spectrum disorders). What this means, basically, is that people with ASD have brains that are wired differently than neurotypical people. This is not earth shattering news; this has pretty much been an accepted idea for quite some time now. The importance of this study is how these connections are mapped, and how this mapping info can be used to confirm a diagnosis of autism.

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Just trust me, it can.

Currently, a diagnosis of autism is very subjective. It pretty much comes down to “you look like you have autism, you must have autism.” Uh, duh. What this mapping info gives us is a way to compare and contrast traits of an ASD brain to a neurotypical brain. Some of these differences are quite striking.

One difference the article mentions is the presence of “redundancy connections” in the ASD brain. This sounds like a good thing, but it’s not really. It allows the ASD brain to focus intense concentration on location-centric processes, but it fails when using cross-referencing skills (i.e. deciphering emotions, social interactions, etc.). Details like this in the study push me more towards believing the results are accurate, because we all know that spectrumites have issues with those types of cross-brain processes.

I suggest giving the article a read. It’s very interesting. And hopefully this will lead towards a better understanding of autism and other ASD conditions in the future.