Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Wow! I’m not into poetry, but very occasionally something speaks to my condition (to use a Quaker term). I am quite familiar with the experience described below. Bombardment of the senses, especially in social settings, is something many on the autism experience.

The hourglass is set, sand fills the corners of my eyes. Dust particles react to the sounds like fairies grouping around a newborn. Swarming, the buzz can sometimes be unbearable and all I want to do is wake up. But no matter how hard I pinch or how sharp a pin I prick myself with […]

via Overcrowded — Treeshallow Musings

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As a male autistic, I was less aware of social norms than many females on the spectrum seem to be. I was in my early twenties before I learnt the hard way that I needed to make a more conscious effort to appear “normal”. Violence is a very “effective” teacher in that regard.

Although it would be some forty years later before I discovered I was autistic the effort of masking has had an impact on my health and that of my family. Here is a post from a female perspective about masking, although a lot of it applies to everyone on the autism spectrum to varying degrees.

This topic was requested by two different people in two different ways. One friend wanted me to talk about masking, and another asked what seemed to me to be a really challenging question: “How large is the area within the spectrum which is better treated by teaching coping skills and social conformity? Thinking of hyperactive […]

via Masks! — K807


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“This is what the misuse of the [Autism Speaks] puzzle piece symbol feels like to me; shut up about the positives of autism, we want to medicalize your neurotype and strip away what makes your life enjoyable.” I agree with KALEIDOGRAPHIA 100%

I spent the new year at my cousin’s beach house, overlooking the warm waters of the Southern Brazilian coast. Inside the open plan kitchen/living room, cooled by the chilly ocean breeze, we gathered round for one of our old family pastimes: six pairs of hands, or seven, or eight, depending on who dropped in or […]

via [Reflection] The Final Piece of the Puzzle — KALEIDOGRAPHIA


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I find social events extremely tiring, not because people are unaware of autism, but because people fail to accept autism.

It is World Autism Awareness Day and my autism is making itself known. One of the most frustrating parts of my being autistic is the exhaustion and headaches that follow big events. All that processing, all that sensory bombardment, all that concentration on interactions, and no matter how wonderful and amazing the day, I shall […]

via All the Autism Awareness — Autism and Expectations


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I, like the majority of adults on the autism spectrum, am highly critical of Autism Speaks. It does not speak for us. In the post below, Quincy explains why.

Well, here we are. “Autism Awareness Month.” The time of year in which talks about autism will permeate well into the public consciousness. One of the larger organizations you will see leading the charge this month is one called Autism Speaks. This is rather unfortunate, as Autism Speaks is a charity that is loathed by the autistic […]

via Why You Should Not Support Autism Speaks — Speaking of Autism…


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Here are the words of a young autistic person that speak far more eloquently than I can on why autism awareness is not enough. What is needed is autism acceptance. In his blog post, Quincy calmly but forcefully details how autism can be portrayed in a harmful manner. I’ve experienced it myself. Believe me, like Quincy, I’d be protesting outside the theatre where All in a Row has been running if it were not for the 18723 Km (11634 miles) between my home town and London. This is my contribution: the reblog Quincy’s article.

There is also this YouTube video that came out before the show opened, and is also critical of the use of a grey puppet to portray an austistc child.


Imagine that you are trying to create an autistic character for use in a play. The plot of this production centers around autism, and you claim in all of your promotional material that the intention of this performance is to create “love and acceptance.” You’ve had plenty of opportunities to receive input from both autism […]

via “All in a Row” Demonstrates how to NOT Portray an Autistic Person – #puppetgate — Speaking of Autism…


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Quincy, over on Speaking of Autism… explains why giving functioning labels is counter-productive, even harmful.

Spend enough time in the autism community, and you’ll notice the popularity of the “functioning label.” “I’m a high functioning autistic,” people will proclaim. “My brother has low functioning autism,” people will say. You could also put talks of severity in this category with “My son is only mildly autistic” or when people ask “how […]

via The Fallacy of Functioning Labels — Speaking of Autism…


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Why it’s curmudgeon day

Why the grumps? I have had two nights of fitful sleep, among other things. A little over three months ago I decided to try another regime of Migraine medication as I was finding I was down to less than 10 migraine free days each month. And even on those days I usually woke with migraine-like symptoms that would take two to three hours to pass.

My GP suggested we try Propranolol again as it has been more than 10 years since I last tried it. Unfortunately neither the doctor’s notes nor my own record why I stopped taking Propranolol all those years ago except that the side effects were unacceptable.

As many people on the autism spectrum will tell you, the effectiveness and side effects of many medications can be significantly different than would be the expected outcome for neurotypical people. In the case of migraine medication, I have found the effectiveness of most treatments have been negligible, and in every case, the negative side effects considerably outweigh any benefits gained.

This is proving to be true with Propranolol. I’m having up to 20 migraine free days each month, but the side effects are getting to me. I can put up with such minor inconveniences as feeling my body has aged 10 years in the last three months, or the return of Raynaud syndrome if it means I can halve the number of days where I can achieve little or nothing. I can even put up with the itching skin and distorted night vision at a pinch, but there are other symptoms that I’m unwilling to live with long term.

Perhaps the most unsettling side effect is a constant feeling of unease, but about what, I’m not sure. I’m also aware of having vague “memories” of events that I doubt very much happened, and I’m unable to tell if they’re recent dreams, distant dreams, hallucinations, or real events sometime in my recent or distant past. They are so fragmented and vague that they make no sense. However my “recollection” of them feels recent. When or if they happened, they don’t seem to be upsetting at the time. In fact I think some might be the opposite. But in the cold light of day, when I’m fully lucid, they make me uncomfortable, but I don’t know why.

Since starting Propranolol, I’ve found my concentration and short term memory has left me. This is a normal symptom for me during a migraine attack, but it’s worse with medication than without it, so what’s the point of taking it?

One of the less common symptoms associated with my migraines is that I sometimes suffer from depersonalisation or derealisation just before or during an attack. Sometime it can extend to dissociative amnesia. In hindsight I’m convinced that this is a much more frequent symptom during those times I have been taking preventative migraine medication.

That experience of sometimes watching myself from a distance and feeling I’m an observer and not an actor is something I seem to have more frequently since starting the medication, even when I’m not experiencing any other migraine symptom. I seem to be achieving less in my 20 migraine free days now than I was in my 10 migraine free days less than four months ago.

Propranolol is not a medication one can safely stop cold turkey. It’s time to arrange with my doctor a plan to wean myself off them.


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Celtic Illusion

Last night the wife and I went to see a show in the nearby city of Palmerston North.


I missed most of it.

The problem is that being autistic and a migraineur is incompatible with watching modern shows. Bright lights, strobe effects, pyrotechnics and loud noises are not only very unpleasant for many autistics, including myself, they can also trigger a migraine attack. Over the years I’ve learnt how to minimise some of the ill effects by closing my eyes, blocking my ears and even covering my eyes with my hands to filter out strobe effects when eyelids prove to be inefficient.

So I spent more than half of the show with my eyes closed and hands over eyes, and tried to ignore the fact the my sternum was vibrating unpleasantly due to the volume of the speakers. Consequently I missed most of the illusions incorporated into the act. I also missed the moment when one of the dancers slipped/tripped/fell, although I did see her being assisted off the stage. I hope her injury isn’t serious.

So what did I see? Our tickets were for seats in the front row, although both of us thought we had booked seats a few rows back as we are aware of how modern productions can overload my senses. Being so close, there were opportunities to observe the footwork of the dancers. All I can say is that it is incredible. The speed and precision is something to behold. I wouldn’t be surprised if injuries are very common to the performers.

By keeping my view to floor level, I avoided the worst of the spotlights sweeping over the auditorium, and I tried to convince myself that as it was Irish dancing, the only thing that matters is footwork. But as the show combined dance, illusion, music and song, there was an awful lot that I missed visually.

We saw another Irish dance show a few years back, and I was disappointed when I realised the the sound of the footwork was not coming from the dancers, as occasionally the sound got slightly out of sync with the dancing. With this show however, there was no doubt where the sound of the footwork was coming from, especially when I noticed tiny floor mounted microphones around the stage.

I was exhausted by the time the show ended, but the wife was in her element. She’s the kind of person who loudly and vigorously supports a performance with clapping, frequent standing, shouts of surprise, gasps and anything else that displays her pleasure. As a group of women who were sitting behind us commented afterwards, watching my wife was as enjoyable as watching the show itself.

There was I slinking down in my seat trying hard not to become a nervous wreck and wishing the torment would end soon, while she was practically standing on her seat yelling for more! Talk about contrasts. It’s not the kind of antics one expects from a tiny grey haired 70 year old Japanese woman. If there’s anyone else in the world that can beat her enthusiasm, I’d be very surprised. She’s probably the reason they did four (or was it a hundred?) encores. But I wouldn’t swap her for the world 🙂

As for the show, would I recommend Celtic Illusions? A definite Yes! But if you’re on the spectrum or prone to seizures or migraine attacks, I suggest it might be more sensible to stay away.


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To speak or not to speak, that is the question

That dear readers, is a question I’m unable to answer. At (almost) 68 years of age, I still don’t have a clue when it’s my turn to speak. And it’s not for the want of trying.

I often get it wrong even in one on one conversations, but if I’m in a group of two or more other people I’m like a fish out of water when it come to practising  conversational turn taking.

It appears to me that conversations consist of one person leading and others following, adding variable length interjections from time to time  (the nature and frequency of which varies from culture to culture), and then by some mysterious mechanism the lead is transferred to another member of the group.

To a person like me, the ability of others to smoothly navigate a conversation is more than an art or skill. It has the appearance of the participants having some sort of ESP or supernatural ability that is used to negotiate who says what, and when. In fact there was a period in my childhood when I was convinced this was true, which goes a long way to explain my brief fascination of the paranormal at that time.

I’m sure there’s a discipline of science that studies the mechanism by which people negotiate  conversations, but the average person seems to have no idea how they do it. Believe me, I’ve asked. Typical responses are “I’ve never thought about it” (so I gather), “It comes naturally” (no it doesn’t), “It’s instinctive” (no it’s not), “what a stupid question!” (why?), “everyone can do it” (really? I can’t)), “just take your turn” (when is it my turn?), “just observe and you’ll learn” (I’ve been observing for more than 60 years, so how about a hint or clue?).

It was only eight years ago that I learnt there is an explanation for the reason I find conversation so difficult: I discovered I am on the autism spectrum. However being armed with the knowledge why I fail to recognise non-verbal clues (a skill most people don’t realise they possess), does little to help me. If I concentrate exclusively on another’s body movements or tone of voice, I can maybe recognise something that possibly might be non-verbal clues. However, it’s a moot point as the concentration required means the words spoken have gone in one ear and out the other and I’m unable to relate what might have been expressed non-verbally with what the person has said.

When I first learnt I was on the spectrum, my only “knowledge” of autism was through the film Rain Man. I wanted to prove I wasn’t autistic, and tried many online tests in an attempt to prove the experts wrong. I failed totally. One test I tried (on many occasions) is the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. This test measures one’s ability to identify emotions in others by looking at an area around the eyes and without any other input.

The test consists of looking at a total of 36 pairs of eyes and choosing one of four emotions to match the image. The mean score is roughly 27/36 for women, 25/36 for men and 22/36 for people who have been identified as having Asperger Syndrome or “High Functioning” Autism. I’ve tried this test on numerous occasions, and the very best I have achieved is 16/36. However most of my results have been close been between 10 and 13, which is only marginally better than one would expect from a tossing a dice to choose an emotion.

So the next time someone appears to be rude by interrupting inappropriately, just consider the possibility that they might struggling, almost to the point of exhaustion, of trying to fit in and having no idea why they don’t. They struggle to fit into your world almost every moment they are awake. It won’t hurt you to try to fit into their world sometimes.

For those who would like to try the test for themselves, there are online versions at http://socialintelligence.labinthewild.org/mite/ and https://www.questionwritertracker.com/quiz/61/Z4MK3TKB.html. The latter requires Adobe Flash, and provides the answers, both of which are good reasons for me to avoid it.