Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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They Were Wrong — Speaking of Autism…

Too often, those who are neurodivergent are written off and denied the opportunity to shine. It takes an exceptional amount of determination and good fortune for most autists to break through the barriers that society, in its ignorance, places in front of them. Success stories are rare, not because it’s an innate characteristic of autism but because society has decided to write off autists as failures, rejects, and broken, even before formal education commences. So I rejoice when a kindred spirit is able to demonstrate how wrong the system is. Here is the success story of one autist who, with just the right amount of determination, support and happenstance, has proven that the system and society are indeed wrong.

Congratulations Quincy!!

Well, folks, it’s official. I am a high school graduate! Well, technically I’ve been “graduated” since May, but the school held the actual ceremony this week. Despite the delay, I walked across the stage and got my diploma last Thursday on the school’s football field. I think that for everyone a high school graduation is […]

They Were Wrong — Speaking of Autism…


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When chaos reigns…

Today is day one of a six week renovation project, the major part of which is our main bathroom upstairs. And being the first day, it is, in the words of one of the project chippies (Kiwi slang for carpenter or builder) the best part of any project: knocking things down. That means noise – lots of noise!

Noise is one of my autistic hypersensitivities, And although it’s just half an hour after noon (at time of writing) I already feel somewhat jaded. Roll on 5PM when once again silence will reign until 8AM tomorrow morning.

Being mid-winter here, the option of retreating to the garden isn’t really an option on most days. Yesterday was an exception, warming to 15°C (59°F) and I spent most of the afternoon outdoors, but today it’s on and off drizzle, a stiff breeze and a high of 11°C (52°F). So, when chaos reigns…

…relive the calm

What better way than to enjoy the garden as it was yesterday. It might be mid winter but there’s sufficient flowers out to remind us that spring is just around the corner. To top it off, there’s the sweet perfume of over a dozen Daphne shrubs scattered alongside the pathway. Here’s a few snapshots taken in the front garden yesterday


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Birthday anniversary

Today would have been my mother’s 100th birthday if she had not passed away in February 2017.

I’m reminded of the occasion because the wife showed me a Facebook posting by my sister (the wife has a Facebook account, I don’t, but that’s a story for another day). Otherwise the occasion would have gone unnoticed by me.

The wife mentions that she misses Mum, but it’s not a feeling I share. Not because I have any negative thoughts towards her, in fact I can’t think of anything negative to say about my mother, and I’m still very fond of her. But that’s where it ends. I feel the same about her now as I did four years ago, when she was a 96 year old bundle of energy. Her passing hasn’t changed that.

I have been told that it’s unhealthy not to have a sense of loss when losing someone close, but I have no idea what a sense of loss is supposed to feel like, but then I find it difficult to identify most emotions within myself. I’m more empathetic to emotions in others than in myself if they are emotions related to sadness or distress or joy, but otherwise I’m virtually blind to emotions in others as well as myself.

Alexithymia is characterized by difficulties in identifying, describing, and processing one’s own feelings, often marked by a lack of understanding of the feelings of others, and difficulty distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations of emotional arousal. It’s more common than most people realise

Around 10% of men and 2% of women have alexithymia to some degree. It’s also often associated with PTSD. Research indicates that between 50% and 85% of autistics have alexithymia. Whether it a characteristic of autism or a comorbid condition is open to debate, but it’s definitely a condition that many of us on the autism spectrum share.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m devoid of emotion. I suspect I’m just as emotional at the next person, but I’m not able to differentiate one emotion from another, especially when it comes to feelings. On the other hand I have come to recognise the physical manifestations associated with some emotions. For example, I recognise that I clench my fists and clench my jaws in situations where unfairness or injustice arises. I presume these are physical responses of anger?

Do I miss Mum? Not that I’m aware of.
Should I? I Haven’t a clue, And for me it does not matter.


Edit: For anyone who knows the actual date of my mother’s passing, and wondering why it’s being published on the wrong day, all I’ll say is I’m a slow writer.


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Freedom!!

Not that I’m looking forward to it.

COVID-19 has been eliminated in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In less than half an hour, COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted as we drop to Alert Level 1. Apart from our borders remaining tightly closed we’ll be back to pre-COVID conditions. We’ll be able to cram ourselves by the thousands into every type of venue imaginable and we can shake hands, hug and hongi to our heart’s contents with loved ones and total strangers if we are so inclined. I’m not.

One characteristic that I and many other ausistics have is an aversion to large gatherings, physical contact with other people and the need for greater personal space than many neurotypical people find acceptable.

I’ve never felt more comfortable around other people that I have during the past 70 days of the various COVID-19 alert levels. All alert levels have mandated a 2 metre spacing between people if they didn’t belong to the same social bubble.

I’m going to try to maintain at least one metre of social distancing. I find that anything less than that raises my level of discomfort. While I don’t think many people will think it odd to begin with, I wonder how long it will be before my minimum social spacing is deemed unacceptable by the community.

I’ve really enjoyed the occasional coffee and cake in a local eatery over the past month as the nearest person would be seated two metres away, and all food was delivered to the table instead of me having to dance around other patrons all trying to grab items from the display cabinets. What I have I to look forward to?

However, I appreciate I’m an exception and just about everyone else is looking forward to join the throngs and crowds, and get up close and personal to friends and strangers alike. I’m pleased for you.

But please be a little understanding if I take a step back when you take a step forward.


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Living in a bubble

For the wife and I, living at Alert Level Three for the last ten days is for all practical purposes no different from the Alert Level Four we had been living under for the previous 33 days. We are still isolated in our household bubble. We can now drive the few kilometres to Kitchener park and take the boardwalk through the forest, but it hasn’t exactly been “walk in the Park” weather recently.

We had been restricted to accessing only essential services such as the supermarket, pharmacies and medical centres, or exercising in the immediate neighbourhood. Now we can purchase non-essential items either online or through contactless arrangements such as “click and collect”.

If we really felt the urge, we could order a takeaway (I think Americans call it take out) for delivery or through some form of “click and collect” or even a drive thru. Judging by the size of the queues at fast food outlets on the first day of Level Three, we might be unusual in not missing junk food.

Due to the new health and safety requirements regarding distancing, the output at fast food outlets is only a fraction of that prior to lockdown. On day one at Level Three, the queues at some fast food outlets were several hours long! Somehow fast food doesn’t seem an appropriate description.

There are a few people and businesses that want an immediate move to Alert Level Two, but given the cautious approach taken by the authorities, I expect the initial two-week period at Level Three to be extended by at least a few days or possibly a week or more.

Those clambering for an immediate relaxation conveniently ignore the fact that any upward trend in the infection rate under Level Three will not be seen for around two weeks, especially in the light of current new daily infections can be counted on one hand with several digits missing.

The current infection rate has an R0 of 0.4, and I prefer that it stays that way or drops lower. The authorities are expected to make an announcement on Monday of when Level Two will commence, and I won’t be surprised if they announce a date at least a week away.

What will Alert Level Two look like?

The full details are on the official COVID-19 Website, but a more simplified version is available on the the official website of the New Zealand Government.

The most significant change for me is that I will be able to exit out household bubble and to rub shoulders (figuratively of course) with close friends and family. The downside is that I’ll also be expected to rub shoulders with the rest of society.

Over the six weeks of lockdown I’ve realised how stressful I find actual live social interaction, and if I had my way, I’d restrict communication to less interactive forms such as email or blogging. I’ve really embraced such forms over the last six weeks, and don’t really look forward to resuming more “immediate” forms of social interaction. I have little doubt that the most significant factor in feeling this way is due to being on the autism spectrum.

So while there’s no doubt that most Kiwis are looking forward to returning to something closer to “normal” as soon as possible, I’m in no particular hurry, and for my own peace of mind, I’m not particularly fazed if we stay at Level Three for several more weeks.


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Ways society gaslights and stonewalls autistic people #4

Taken from 50 Ways Society Gaslights and Stonewalls Autistic People. Visit Neuroclastic if you prefer to see all 50 ways in one bite. Otherwise, expect to see one more way in which we are gaslighted each day over a period of seven weeks.

Autistic people, adults and children, are infantilized, gaslighted, and manipulated regularly by society– individuals and institutions.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.

Wikipedia

Note: Some of these may overlap, and some may not fit squarely within the definition of gaslighting; however, all contribute to the way in which society functions like a narcissistic parent with regards to how autistic people are perceived and treated.

4. ABA “therapy”

When ABA therapists claim that ABA therapy for 40 hours is not exhausting for small children because it’s “just play,” when social play can be beyond-exhausting over extended periods of time for autistic kids.

Neuroclastic

Just because Autistic kids often don’t play in a way non-autistic kids do doesn’t mean they’re not playing. And by being forced to “play’ in a way non-autistic kids do – especially social play – it is no longer play. It becomes hard work and eventually beyond endurance. Such treatment of a typical child would be considered abuse, but somehow it’s okay to subject autistic kids to this sort of treatment.


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Ways society gaslights and stonewalls autistic people #3

Taken from 50 Ways Society Gaslights and Stonewalls Autistic People. Visit Neuroclastic if you prefer to see all 50 ways in one bite. Otherwise, expect to see one more way in which we are gaslighted each day over a period of seven weeks.

Autistic people, adults and children, are infantilized, gaslighted, and manipulated regularly by society– individuals and institutions.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.

Wikipedia

Note: Some of these may overlap, and some may not fit squarely within the definition of gaslighting; however, all contribute to the way in which society functions like a narcissistic parent with regards to how autistic people are perceived and treated.

3. Empathy

When they claim to have empathy and that we don’t, but then only measure empathy in NT ways like eye contact or understanding NT behavior.

Neuroclastic


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Ways society gaslights and stonewalls autistic people #2

Taken from 50 Ways Society Gaslights and Stonewalls Autistic People. Visit Neuroclastic if you prefer to see all 50 ways in one bite. Otherwise, expect to see one more way in which we are gaslighted each day over a period of seven weeks.

Autistic people, adults and children, are infantilized, gaslighted, and manipulated regularly by society– individuals and institutions.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.

Wikipedia

Note: Some of these may overlap, and some may not fit squarely within the definition of gaslighting; however, all contribute to the way in which society functions like a narcissistic parent with regards to how autistic people are perceived and treated.

2. Late blooming

Not acknowledging that many of us grew up in environments that weren’t conducive to fostering our talents ended up as late bloomers, then assuming we’re Né’er-do-wells or we’re unmotivated or unambitious. We just haven’t bloomed yet, and it’s a profound difference… but when we do bloom, look out.


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Ways society gaslights and stonewalls autistic people #1

Taken from 50 Ways Society Gaslights and Stonewalls Autistic People. Visit Neuroclastic if you prefer to see all 50 ways in one bite. Otherwise, expect to see one more way in which we are gaslighted each day over a period of seven weeks.

Autistic people, adults and children, are infantilized, gaslighted, and manipulated regularly by society– individuals and institutions.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.

Wikipedia

Note: Some of these may overlap, and some may not fit squarely within the definition of gaslighting; however, all contribute to the way in which society functions like a narcissistic parent with regards to how autistic people are perceived and treated.

1. Sensory differences

Telling us that our sensory differences are “no big deal” and that we just need to “be resilient” and learn to deal with it. They assume their brains are the same as ours and assume we can habituate when we can’t, so instead force us to be in awful environments to try to “habituate us” to the stimulus. Which is just further traumatizing us. Thinking they get to decide what is loud, bright, painful, or tastes funny.

Neuroclastic


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Thinking about the lockdown

This post isn’t so much about the lockdown itself, but about my reaction to it – specifically as an autistic person and migraineur.

According to Lloyd Geering, it is thought – specifically language – that separates humans from other higher forms of animal life. With language, we can construct alternative realities (religion, stories, metaphors etc), communicate our thoughts and ideas precisely to fellow humans for example. Without language, we’d be little different from the great apes. I’m not convinced.

Apparently most humans think in words. Take for example, the wife. I’ve asked her how she thinks. She grew up knowing only the Japanese language, but studied English literature in University. As she describes it, she thought in Japanese. For the first few years of living in Aotearoa New Zealand, she continued to think in Japanese and it was necessary to translate English conversation into Japanese, consider the response and then translate that into English to reply – a process that was quite tiring.

Eventually she started thinking in English, which is how she says she processes her thoughts today. However she still retains the ability to think entirely in Japanese and can switch from one to the other more or less on demand. Although the switch is a conscious move on her part, once the switch is made, no further effort is required until it’s time to switch again.

She finds the role of translator very tiring because of the effort of switching modes between the two languages. It becomes exhausting in very quick time. I notice that the sign language translators for our government officials have quite short stints, often requiring more than one person during a single address by the Prime Minister or other official. Mentally it’s hard work. I find this true with all communication.

Many autistic people seem to think primarily in images and it is necessary to translate those images into word patterns in order to communicate their thoughts to others. Here, some autistics will say that the effort to communicate with other autistics and neurodivergent individuals takes much less effort than when communicating with allistic (non-neurodivergent) individuals. As approximately 98% of the population is not autistic, communication with the wider community can be challenging and exhausting.

I have an almost nonexistent ability to form mental images even from quite detailed descriptions. Likewise, when it comes to recalling visual images from memory, I don’t visualise anything. I retain knowledge about what I must have seen, but more or less in the form of a wordless set of bullet points that I can translate into sentences if required.

I have in the past described my mode of thinking as thought bubbles that combine and split, similar to oil in a lava lamp. Each bubble contains a concept or groups of concepts that are constantly reforming through the splitting and recombining.

When it comes to communicating, I consciously have to go through the process of splitting a concept into groupings of progressively smaller ideas until they reach the size of paragraphs. From there it’s necessary to construct sentences, at first without words, and then to choose the necessary components of language in order to communicate in written or spoken form.

I reverse the procedure when taking in what someone has said or written. While the metaphor of bubble seems appropriate when it comes to levels approximating paragraphs and smaller, it is less appropriate for “higher” levels. They are more like clouds, having no clearly discernible boundaries and can combine and split is ways where it’s not possible to precisely know when they split or join.

So what has any of this to do with the COVID-19 lockdown?

Because the translating of thought clouds into words requires effort, isn’t instantaneous and is somewhat imprecise, I usually spend considerable effort practising the translation of ideas into words and refining them so that they will be intelligible to allistics. When I’m happy with it, I can store it away in memory from where I can recall and recite it, rote form, when appropriate.

Nearly all nonconsequential communication – small talk – comes from this memory bank of prepared sentences, both for what I say, and for matching input from others. Under normal circumstance, I need to constantly refresh what is stored, otherwise the content fades over time.

Since the lockdown, the necessity of, and demand for, using prepared sentences and phrases has diminished. So much in fact, that I notice I am not in a state of constantly refreshing existing ones or preparing new ones just in case they’re needed. The outcome is I feel less stressed. I don’t feel I’m in a constant state of rehearsing for a performance commonly referred to as life. Mentally, I feel relaxed, and for me it is quite a novel experience.

For many migraineurs, stress can be one of the triggers for a migraine attack, and I suspect in my case it’s a primary cause. Since the lockdown, the frequency and severity of migraine attacks has diminished significantly.

Particularly noticeable since the lockdown is that often a migraine attack goes through just the aura phase, with a shortened or nonexistent prodrome phase, acute phase (the actual headache and associated severe symptoms), and postdrome phase (the migraine hangover).

I appreciate that for most people, isolation and the lack of communication opportunities can be distressful and can cause anxiety and stress. On the other hand, I’m relishing it. Perhaps when this pandemic is over, I should consider becoming a hermit 🙂