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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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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.

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.

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.”

IMHO

Just a little bit about me, and this blog, FYI.

I write this blog from a number of viewpoints. First, I write as a parent of a child with Aspergers. I have a 6 year old daughter who also happens to be the cutest little girl in the world (sorry to all of you people out there who also have daughters, but it’s true). She inspires a lot of what I write here.

Second, I write as a “medically informed person.” Notice I did not claim to be a doctor, nor did I claim to have all of the correct answers when it comes to medical problems. This blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, cause, cure, or worsen any disease or mental health state.

Third, I write this blog form the viewpoint of a person with Aspergers… presumably. You see, I was never formally diagnosed with Aspergers, but while getting my daughter diagnosed I began sensing a lot of… shall we say “odd, unexplainable behaviors” on my part. I came to learn that Autism tends to run in families, and things began to clear up a bit. After months of soul searching, I finally became comfortable with the fact that I have Aspergers. A diagnosis now would be redundant. A lot of what I write will end up sounding strange and unbelievable, but it comes from my inner feelings as an Aspie myself.

So I wear many hats when I type these posts up. First and foremost, I write these posts because I expect NOBODY to read them. That’s right. I don’t have delusions of grandeur; I don’t expect to be this massive blogger reaching thousands of people, spreading Autism awareness, and making the world a much better place to live in. I’m just using this blog to help express myself, figure out my feelings, and hopefully connect to the world a little better.

Now, if someone other than me happens to be reading this… awesome! Welcome! Don’t be afraid to comment or e-mail me at aspieblogger@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter (@mindofanaspie).

I just ask one thing of you readers – please don’t take what I say as the gold standard of facts about Autism. My posts contain my opinions based on the many aforementioned hats I wear. I may be commenting on something my daughter did, or something I read while reading about Autism research. I may be talking about some private feelings I have about how hard it is to try to fit in with you normal people. But please remember that all Sprectrumites are different. We are all unique. In fact, I fully expect other Aspies to read this blog and claim I’m full of crap. Just try to keep an open mind, and we all might learn something from this.