Blog Archives

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.

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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.  🙂

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Funeral Footwork

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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.

Picturing Aspergers

(It only took me to March to get posting again… not bad, right?)

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There’s nothing I hate more than having my picture taken. It’s not bad enough that I think I look terrible in about 96.318% of the photos I’m in – my wife will argue that it’s way less than that… okay fine, 95.279%, better? Everyone seems to have that problem. My problem is the actual taking of the picture. I can never have my picture taken without standing there and feeling like a complete ass.

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“When you said ‘cheese’ I thought you meant the camera was made of cheese.”

Think about the whole process for a second. I am extremely uncomfortable making eye contact with other people. Now, I have someone pointing a camera at me, most likely zooming in close on my face. It’s very intimidating. At least in regular situations I know when people are looking at me so I can avoid eye contact. With the camera in the way, I’m flying blind. My defenses are down! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!!!!

Hence problem number 1: I always end up looking away from the camera when my picture is taken.

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I call it the “terrified of something just out of frame” look.

Next comes the “direction” phase. Ah yes, how I hate this part with an immeasurable passion. This is the part where the photographer tries to get everything to get everything in the picture to look just right. For most people, this consists mainly of the person taking the photo saying “smile!” and then taking the picture. For me, not so simple. Instead, I get “okay smile… come on, bigger! Whoa, okay, not THAT big. Why are you tilting your head to the side like that? Straighten up a little. No, now you’re tilting farther, the other way. Okay, hold still. And smile… look at me now, and… head up just a bit… okay, you’re smiling too big again… you know what? Fine,” and they take the picture.

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It’s the “whatever is out of frame should be terrified of me” look.

How am I supposed to look normal in a picture when I can’t even make myself normal in real life?

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.

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.