Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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I had high hopes for Julia, but now, just like Quincy, I too am fumingly mad about this.

Have you heard of the Sesame Street character Julia? She’s one of the newest characters in the Sesame Street lineup, and when she was introduced represented what was perhaps one of the most important steps forward for broader autism understanding and acceptance. Julia is Sesame Street’s first autistic character, and one of the first openly […]

via Sesame Street partners with Autism Speaks – A step backwards for autism acceptance. — Speaking of Autism…

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I wonder what she wants?

On Wednesday morning around 8:40, the front doorbell rang. On opening it I saw a youngish middle aged, smartly dressed woman. Her hair dark hair, as was her attire and even her makeup. She was carrying a ring-binder folder in one hand and what appeared to be a guitar case in the other.

For the life of me I couldn’t think of a reason why such a person should be calling. Door to door sales people are a rare as hens’ teeth these days, and the guitar case kind of ruled out an official visit from some sort of authority. The possibility of this being a religious caller sprung to mind, but they usually arrive in pairs, and  such visitors turn up less than once a year.

Within two seconds of opening the door, I was leaning towards this being someone on a personal campaign, a survey of some sort, or someone representing a charity, but why the guitar case? To be honest I was puzzled by her presence, And I wondered what the purpose of her calling was all about.

Just then my peripheral vision caught something rapidly approaching from my left. Just as I began to turn my head to see what was bearing down on me with undue speed, the woman spoke.

 

“Hi Dad!”

That cleared it all up. The visitor was our daughter, and that object approaching at near the speed of sound was Milo, her Whippet/Labrador cross.

If you’re thinking that I rarely see our daughter, you’re wrong. She typically drops in four or five times each week. Nor was her appearance any different from what it normally is when she calls in before work, and that occurs at least twice each week when she drops off Milo. So why didn’t I recognise her?

Two obvious clues:  (1) Milo had been distracted by something she saw or smelled, and wasn’t at the door when I opened it; (2) I didn’t see our daughter’s car coming up our driveway. Either of these are conditions that prepare me to expect the visitor to be our daughter. Always, as it was in this case, her voice is what confirms her identity.

Face blindness, or Prosopagnosia affects about 2% of the general population, but is much more prevalent among those on the autism spectrum. I rely on features such as gait, mannerisms, body size and shape, but especially voice to recognise others.

Some clues such as hair style and colour, and skin tone are less reliable, especially with women, as they have a tendency to change these from time to time. This has lead to some of my most embarrassing moments. With women, even gait changes depending on the height of the heels they’re wearing. I’m very grateful that my wife does not like wearing heels, and even on occasions when heels are expected they’re only about 3 cm high (a little over an inch high) and doesn’t change her gait significantly.

I’m also grateful that she’s much shorter that almost every other adult (1.47 m or 4′ 10″), and has a gait typical of many Japanese farming families of her generation. Lets just say that the Western view of deportment was not a consideration. Both these characteristics help me pick her out in a crowd, but it’s her voice that truly identifies her. The accent and volume are very distinctive.

Couple face blindness with an inability to read facial clues and a similar inability to display them, and I find myself at a considerable disadvantage in social interactions. Unfortunately this is one area I have made very little improvement on through experience or experimentation.

I’m no better today than I was sixty years ago as a ten year old boy. Way back then first impressions of me ranged from odd, peculiar or quirky to just scary – the latter especially so if I made the first attempt at communication; it was safer to wait for others to make an approach. I would like to think I have made an improvement with first impressions since then, but have I?


Oh, and on the off chance that you’re wondering about the guitar case: On Wednesdays, I pick up the grand children from school. The guitar case, its content, and the ring binder belong to our granddaughter who has guitar lessons after school on that day.

Time hasn’t help me improve the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test linked to above. I typically score somewhere in the vicinity of  12 out of 36 (the median for males is 21/36). I tried the test today when searching for the link, but today and I achieved a lowly 7/36. I could probably done better by covering the images and randomly choosing one of the  four emotions provided for each image.


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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.