Prepare to enter the wild and wooly world of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism characterized by intellignce, quirks, social difficulties and downright strange and oddish behaviours.

People with Aspergers generally are high functioning in everyday life but have great difficulty connecting with others due to the inability to read faces, body language and subtle verbal clues. They also tend to take words literally and have a hard time multi-tasking.

Oversensitivity to touch (clothing has to be soft and often the tags removed), light (do not leave home without the sunglasses), sound (loud noises and noisey places are avoided), taste (many Aspies have quite a limited diet and are frequently very picky eaters) and smells makes the everyday existence more of a challenge.

Fasten your seatbelts and come on in...
To find out more about what Aspergers is..please check out my earliest blog entries

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ways to Amuse an Autistic

There are a number of things that amuse me and that I could sit and watch for hours. Here are some of them:
Anything that spins and twirls of its own accord. Personally, I am fascinated by mobiles and how they balance and move. I have made a variety of them with various materials. Long ones made of branches with a dreamcather center and feathers, beads and other nature found items. One was made completely out of Legos with people's hanging in precarious positions. Wildly painted wooden dowels and assorted small wood pieces composed another which still hangs in my basement. I am quite fond of the all lightweight metal one with sheet metal circles which is currently in my kitchen.
Not only mobiles but any little toy that moves or bounces from wind or solar is also good. My grandparents had one of those...dipping ducks that somehow continuously bent over looking like it was drinking.
I have a lightbulb shaped radiometer with a little twirly doodad inside that spins in accordance to how much sunlight hits it. My bank has three of those little solar powered dancing flowers for my pleasure and one of my friends has a similar dancing snowman.
I loved the Newtons Cradle my grandparents also had. My Aspergian grandfather had great toys at his house. Newtons Cradle is a motion device with five silver balls hanging by strings. If you pulled one, they hit in sequence. Very cool.
Aquariums are always easy ways to pass the time. For many years we had at least one in the house. Im glad to see that a number of offices are using them in their lobbies these days.
When I worked in the nursing home, I approached the activity director and talked her into putting up funds so I could purchase and maintain two aquariums for the residents.
Currently, I have a couple of parakeets in a cage in my dining room. They are akin to a very noisy aquarium with the occasional fluttering of feathers.
On our deck, we feed and water an assortment of birds and grey squirrels. I would easily get lst watching them frolick and play.
And then...if all else fails, if no toys can be had...all I need is a good window wherever I may be. I very much enjoy watching clouds, snow and the occasional rain. Simple pleasures....enjoyable visuals amuse me so.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Verbal Processing = Listening Ability

Lately, I've found myself using the phrase "verbal processing" in lieu of "listening". My ability to process verbal incoming information via talking and chat, heavily varies from day to day. The times I am more heavily engaged in my internal self-reflection pretty much dictates how much external information I am able to process.
At home with my Partner and Son, I can often listen fairly well because we have a low extraneous noise environment with lots of comfort and predictability. I know that I can stop my train of thought if Younglink asks me a question because it's really easy to find the thought pattern again. There aren't a lot of interruptions.
Stopping an internal train of thought Is somewhat similar to trying to stop a moving train at about ten to twenty miles per hour but I have learned how to do it when necessary.
Listening can be extremely difficult in a noisy environment with people and sounds in the background. I've learned to ask people's to kindly repeat things if I don't catch them and am unable to process.

Growing up, both at school and in my parents home, I often had great difficulty hearing and comprehending verbalizations as the two environments seemed to always be very noisy with multiple peoples, sounds and movements continuously taking place. On more than one occasion I was punished for not "listening" and complying when I seriously had no clue as to what was said to me. I wasn't stupid or an idiot, I just had very sluggish verbal processing skills.
To use a visual analogy, talking...words come towards me and travel half way around a city block and as they travel they turn, twist and form visual pictures so that I can process, that I can understand what is being said to me. This mechanism has good days and not so good days and continues to vary based on my involvement and engrossment in my internal world.
Learning to speak English did not come natural to me and the same could be said for listening. I was not born equipped to listen to human speech....I had to learn this skill.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Growing Up Aspie

Thinking back upon my childhood, trying to find the main mood feelings...I always felt oddish, like I was different but I didn't know in what way. Perpetual confusion would probably summarize it best. It was as if something was always wrong but I was completely clueless as to what that something was.
Starting school at the tender age of five was my very first experience with pure, paralyzing terror. The only world I had ever known, to that point, was the very isolated one of my parents home where no one was ever allowed in and the children were fearfully taught to stay in and secretive.
At that age, the physical and sexual abuse had yet to start so this ginormous event, this separating and venturing outside this backward little world, leaving mother and siblings, my bestest of buds who tolerated and cared for me was profoundly traumatic.
I recall the steps to the school like it was yesterday. I was soaked in fear at what they were telling me would transpire. My mother, sensing my fears, kept repeating soothing and reassuring words, probably to keep me from bolting more than anything else. Yeah, I had that habit way back then also, bolting, running off when I became afraid or felt like a trapped animal being led to slaughter.
Those first few months of schooling are full of vivid memories that I would care to forget, so great was the pain. I remember subtle elation when hearing about this whole summer break thingy. I may have even smiled, always a rarity, as if I had to put on a mask, disingenuous as it may be.
Then I found out the awful truth, that this matter of school, angst and separation was going to continue in a few more months...and then, for a large number of years. I found it heartbreaking, to say the least. So I made the most of summers and tried spending every day outside, mostly hiding out in the woods or playing on the swings at the playground.

I can't say that I smiled much or showed emotion with any kind of regularity. It could be said that I kept very much to myself. I was a good girl and did what I was told. Taking care of my younger siblings, making almost daily trips to the little grocery store for milk and bread and doing my chores as best I could filled up my days.
I have a very hard time remembering happiness. The most noticeable times were when mother brought home another new baby. Their were ten of us kids in all, so a new one arrived every couple of years or so.

Somewhere in those early grade school years, things got really ugly. My father lost his job and became quite violent. He was angry all the time and with great ease took his wrath out on the nearest child or my mother. Physical abuse became the norm with objects, projectiles flying through the air without warning. Punishment for such infractions as teasing and failing to complete a chore became harsher and harsher. At first, standing in a corner would suffice but it quickly moved into hitting children with whatever object was handy, grabbing and pulling someone by their hair, or just plain hitting.
That was the daytime stuff anyway. At night the punishment took on a completely different form.

I lived in a state of perpetual confusion. I didn't understand that which was going on in my parents house as wrong, per se, because I had nothing to compare it to. I was only allowed to go into the homes of two neighbors and that being quite sporadic. So, I really did not know how other people lived. I just figured, the hitting was part of life and that it happened to everyone.
Food became quite sparse and inconsistent. Meals were these little melees of whatever could be found in the cupboard and thrown together. We had a couple serious spells where there was very,very little to eat. I think it was at that time that I figured out how to turn off and fear hunger. What an empty, hollow, unnurtuing feeling that is.

The sexual abuse started when I was about seven. So, my days were spent trying to escape the poverty and the nights were spent unsuccessfully trying to escape my father. I lived in constant fear, always trying to find a way to escape. Forever searching for something I couldn't quite grasp, safety and security. Damn, I felt so completely and utterly trapped. I lived hell, I kid you not. I lived hell.

I sought employment as soon as my age permitted and married the first guy that came along, who happened to be twice my age. I was soo willing to do anything, anything, to get out of my parents house.
I managed to hold down jobs, for the most part, as a nurses aide working in nursing homes and private homes. I needed a paycheck as my husband had great difficulty finding and keeping a job. We moved and ran from bill and rent collectors, borrowed whenever we could and lived paycheck to paycheck.
I don't recommend living in poverty to anyone. Its a...pardon my French, mind fuck. Ones whole mentality becomes rearranged to finding and securing money and sources of food. Poverty of house and mind is extremely demoralizing and degrading. Its hard to have any self-esteem at all when you are begging for a meal or a ride.

In my twenties, I just figured I had some sort of mental illness going on as by this time I had glimpsed the outside world and was very much aware of how my thinking and feelings were radically different from everyone elses. I sought therapy and was told I was bipolar with a smidgen of schizo affective disorder thrown in. I had my share of medication trials and errors. Nothing worked for long, go figure...I wasn't mentally ill, I had Aspergers but back in the 90's no one could recognize it.
My days continued to be filled with fear and trying to survive. I was unable to fit in anywhere and continued to wonder why I was so different. I pretty much attributed all my anxiety and troubles with the whole growing up abused theory and that worked, making sense in my head.
It wasn't until many years later, in my late thirties when I had my Eldest son tested at a local clinic that it finally dawned on me that I had Aspergers. Funny, not really but took me about two years of little bits of research and pondering here and there for me to finally grasp the full meaning of the phrase, "I Have Aspergers".

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Going Non-Verbal Voluntarily

On to More of Verbalization or Non-Verbalization as the case may be
So I have explained Selective Mutism and the episodes when I am completely unable to speak…Now I will move on to Elective Non-Verbalization and explain the many instances where I would rather not talk.
Not only did I grow up in one of those infamous Irish Catholic household where children should not be heard or seen, but my family was so large that I would be hard-pressed to be heard above the everyday din and roar.

A few months ago, as I was walking with a friend of mine, I very off-the-cuff stated half-jokingly, that there are 101 reasons Not to talk. Whilst it was an exaggeration, there really are a couple dozen valid Aspie-headed reasons not to say a word.

This is kindof hard to admit and may seem blaringly obvious, but, I don't follow conversations easily. My verbal processing skills are extremely slow, thus if I don't know where the conversation is at or if I fail to understand what is being said...I Don't Comment.
You would not believe how very long it took me to lessen everyday embarrassments by simply refraining from saying anything at all. The sheer volume of times that I have misunderstood and offered my two cents when the conversation was no where in the vicinity of what I was thinking, is more times than I care to imagine. Laughter, ridicule and embarrassment are definitely the three ugly sisters I used to hang with the most. I found them to be quite unpleasant, self-deprecating and downright meanies. It takes a certain amount of humble self-realization to be aware that chats are not my bag and not something to be entered into lightly. I think low-self-esteem has to come into play when one realizes that normal, everyday activities are beyond ones capabilities.

Along similar lines, I realized that one of the main reasons that I do not, as a rule, ask personal, socially acceptable questions like, "How are you?", "What are you doing?", "what do you think?" is that if I ask a question, say, "What do you think?" then that opens me up to get that same question asked back at me, otherwise known as “verbal retribution” (another neologism, made up word group), which people practice quite religiously as a societal norm Its an acceptable custom I noticed years ago. And I avoid that at all costs.
Its like, I am very inquisitive and curious as to how those neuro-typicals operate and think, but in order to find that info out, I have to take a huge risk and I might very easily, be put on the spot and the question mimicked back. Don't really want to go there.
As an example...I don't recall ever asking someone, "What are you thinking?" other than my Partner of 17 years. Before I even ask, I had to seriously contemplate whether it was worth it to ask when it might rebound. I took that chance and thankfully, it did not bounce back. Whew.
"What are you doing?" is a big toughie as it feels like I am invading someone’s privacy, sanctity, space and private world...OH, that's right...nt's don't live in little secure, predictable fortresses like I do..Note-to-self :)
I am finding that the average NT frequently likes to share thoughts, inner musings and such with a much greater frequency than I ever imagined. Its like, with some people, the door is always open. Hmmm, as opposed to the Aspien way of the door is always shut and "Don't you dare Knock" attitude is often present:)

What I consider as serious, heavy-duty personal questions (How do you
feel about that? and "What do you think about that?) are nothing more than average NT social questions. So, you can see why this Aspie has been rather seriously hampered in the social graces and everyday inquiries and banter.
Plus, if I ask, "How are you?" , they might really, really tell me and it could be they think ill of me or there is a huge family drama going on or they might solicit my advice on their intimate personal problems or tell me something graphic or otherwise, upsetting. Too Much Info. Plus, factor in the, sometimes I really don't care and I am trying to be polite. Call it Hurdles and Obstacles in the form of verbal banter.
Questions are huge challenges and full of potential problems. So, except for friends and the perfunctory "How are you?" I tend not to ask them too often.
And its none of my business. Ouch, where did that come from? I guess rejection and rudeness is also a potential that concerns me. I mean, how many times, in my sweet, family of birth, did I ask something and was told to "Shut Up" and that it was none of my business?....far too often.
I definitely have days, where I almost forget my autism, as long as my lips aren’t moving so anyone can hear.

One reason that I will not talk, at times, is my brain is miswired and if I go to say "good morning", even to someone that I normally say that emotions will pour forth in a semi-violent and uncontrollable manner.
Sometimes, I am aware that the emotations (another neologism otherwise known as emotions and feelings) are lurking directly below the surface and I know, I Know, that if I say a single word, any word at all, it needn't be about what is causing this emotional uproar, I will have an emotional break down immediately.

Been there, done that, Do Not like that.

It makes no sense from the outsiders point of view, watching me exploded into tears at seemingly innocent questions and I usually do not feel like explaining why that is taking place. (Most of the time, I seriously may not even know)
I tend to sing at home and frequently, when I start and get it going, the first couple of songs or so, I have to just let ...emotations express before I can get back to a semblance of order and enjoy my little singing venture. More often than not, that is simply what happens with this Aspie.
Verbalization is such a complexity and I am really just starting to understand, comprehend and be okay with my emotional expressions due to their erratic, unpredictable and often, uncontrollable nature.
There are definitely times, where I have to decide whether it is worth the embarrassing emotional display in order to speak and get a point across.
For this Aspie, the emotional center is often directly tied to my verbal center.
In the informal and poorly funded study, where I observe the NTs, this is far from usual. Their verbal centers and emotional centers are definitely not as connected. They seem to keep emotations far from their lips, easily within its own compartment which they can access or not access at will, for the most part. Oh, to have such a grasp!

I feel like I have taken a lot of beating, much strife, from myself if not from others, regarding my verbalizations or lack thereof. It is kindof nice and reassuring to discover the whys and howcomes.
Yet another example of how very different and complex the Aspie way of life is.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Topographic Agnosia...I get lost very easily

In searching the net I have come across the term, Topographic Agnosia, also known as "Place Blindness", Navigational Agnosia, Developmental Topographic Disorientation (when the condition is present at birth) with "agnosia" meaning loss of or inability.
Some people with autistic spectrum disorders such as Aspergers frequently become lost because they can't remember previously known places. It has been estimated that up to one third of those with Aspergers (no idea where the writer got this number from..would love to know) suffer from topographic agnosia, or place blindness, which causes them to become lost easily. This can happen in areas they know very well if familiar landmarks change.
I can attest to the fact that I use various landmarks to navigate and that the toughest times for me are when the seasons change as the house with snow on it looks quite different from the house in summer minus the snow.
To get to one store on the main highway, I look for the cell phone tower And the black mailbox to know when to slow down and make my turn. I frequently take the same exact routes and I insisted on my newest car to be equipped with a navigation system.
On a recent vacation when we stayed a couple nights in one small North Dakota town, I had a heckuva time figuring out where to go as half the corners were missing street signs. Luckily it was a very small town and I could eventually find my way back to the motel.
A person with TA could live in a neighborhood for years and not recognize local houses if he sees them out of context. When out on hikes, the place-blind individual might remember particular special landmarks such as unusual trees or unique bridges but otherwise be unable to find his way around the woods even on a route he has travelled many times.
I cannot tell you how many times I have logically known that I was on a familiar road but I felt lost and could not locate my usual landmarks. When it is raining or snowing and omg, especially at night, everything looks different, new, scary and strange.
Place-blind individuals tend to rely on very specific landmarks such as particular billboards, telephone booths, or hedge but if the hedge is cut down or even trimmed differently, the phone booth is removed or painted a different color, or the billboard changed (PANIC!), the individual may become lost even on a familiar route that she has traversed many times.

Topographical Agnosia may occur in conjunction with prosopagnosia, or face-blindness as the areas of the brain responsible for both functions is in close proximity. Having one condition does not necessarily mean that the other will also be present.

Topographic Agnosia can be thought of as a neurologically based impairment in finding ones way around. People with Ta are not able to make maps of geographic space in their heads and have an extremely poor sense of direction and tend to get lost very easily.
On a personal note, yet again...there is a reason my partner does most of the driving and I rarely venture outside of my small town. Partner has remarked on many, many occasions that I could not find my way out of a paper bag. I have often referred to myself as agoraphobic but that may not be entirely accurate.

There is a reason I enjoy small town living..I can't get lost very easily. I have lived in the same exact house for 17 years and that really helps.
I had two jobs from hell...go figure, one was pizza delivery in a large city and the other was flower delivery in my hometown. The latter was not so much a problem except that I always asked for extensive directions even if I had been sent to that same neighborhood the day before. Thankfully my boss was very kind and patiently explained.
I get lost in buildings quite readily. Even in a familiar doctor office, dentists, places I frequent often, I have to stop and figure out which way to proceed. I have no sense of direction and get turned around quite easily.
Vacations are fraught with anxiety and I usually just stick with my partner all the time. I have noticed that when we would drive into a city to spend the night, I immediately would start looking for landmarks around our hotel and try and remember them, sometimes actually writing them down.
This simply explains so much. Growing up, I rarely left the house alone. As a teen at work, I often rode with someone else. I have a hard time being by myself when out of the house.
Truth be told, I live on a small mile loop of a street and in the past couple of months, I went for a walk by myself and at one point, I had to stop and locate familiar houses because I suddenly felt that I was in a strange, new place.

The change of seasons, omg, places look different...trees, which are common markers for me, look quite different with leaves and then without. Snow covering roads, brush and houses simply look quite different. I rarely drive at night and when I do it is as if every stretch of road is new terrain. I kid you not.
There is a good reason this Aspie typically travels with someone. Its amazing I ever leave my house.

Lost in the Woods Coping with My TA
Okay, so I have a bit going on and for solace I go for a walk in the woods. My friend, T, first introduced me to this long series of trails a couple of years ago. The first time I went with her, my kids and hers. I really liked the area so I had to ask her to go with me a second time so I could become familiar enough with it to go on my own. She complied. Then I decided to give it a go without her and went solo with my boys. Since that time, I have consistently taken to the woods by myself. It is very peaceful and sparsely used by others and I feel pretty comfortable there. The trails can go on for a few miles and I have taken to using the mid-length trail and going the same exact route each time.
Thus today, armed with camera and smart phone, I set off into the woods. I heard a number of birds and kept scanning the horizon and canopy to see if I could capture anybody on film.
About halfway through my trek, I heard a new and most unusual call. Camera on and I started searching the treetops. After a number of minutes, I was able to locate the still unidentified songstress but did catch him/ her in a few distant shots to be blown up and examined......then as I turned off my camera....I looked down and quite suddenly realized that the ground on which I stood, the pathway, looked completely foreign to if I had never been there before in my entire life (I had been on this exact pathway....wait for it...yesterday).
I looked left....I looked right...not a single thing looked familiar. Of course it is spring and the topography, the trees and their burgeoning leaf and flower production is dramatically changing almost within every moment and especially day to day.
The ground, well, it was darker, which I later attributed to an early morning rain, but it looked quite different. Looking left, the pathway appeared...crowded, as the newly forming leaves were now hanging closer to and slightly over the way. Going back to my right, nothing at all looked recognizable. I realized that I had come from the left and needed to proceed right...yeah, I had to formulate from whence I had came and which way to go.
When the topographic agnosia hit, which I find rather curious in that I was fine as long as I had been in movement, walking and it struck when I paused for a number of minutes and changed my viewpoint upwards....I immediately started an internal dialogs to alleviate the ensuing panic that had started to rise.
"I know where I am...even though nothing looks familiar. This is my usual path and I have walked this path dozens and dozens of times. I was here just yesterday. Yes, this is my brain, my topographic will be okay..figure out which way is out...stay calm...I know where I am intellectually, logically, yes, I understand, even though my physical body feels panicky, it's okay, I can do this."
Taking that first step....after figuring out which direction was was really tough, to take that first step amongst the subdued panic...but I did it. I also started taking a few helped me to feel in control on some level and off I went.
As I walked, I controlled the urge to bolt and run, throw up my hands and say, "never again...never again will I put myself in a position to feel this afraid...This is why..this is why I dont like to go out alone...I hate this...I hate this....sometimes it sucks to be me." I walked as calmly as possible...constantly internally reassuring myself.
I made it out of the woods...and I will walk that path again...albeit with a small about of Xanax..maybe

Waking up in strange places
I recently completed the most challenging feat of my life, thus far. I drove by myself, 400 miles one way, stayed in a hotel room solo, for the first time in my life, for two nights and drove 400 miles back.....You Have No Idea
I returned triumphantly, exhausted and to no applause or accolades. You have no idea...truly.
Since I have Topographic Agnosia which basically means I often feel lost even in familiar ground, my adventure was filled with little "tricks" and coping strategies.
Umm, I didn't sleep well as I had to constantly tell myself where I eyes and brain on high alert every time I awoke from a few minutes of restless sleep. It was like having one of those scrolling message boards that continually played the same message over and location..I am safe..stuff like that. Always on. Always.

Now I know what it must feel like....people waking up in a strange bed after a night of partying...not knowing where one is...but my brain stayed, pretty much turned-on so I was fine.

Navigation...driving. I figured since my brain doth deceive me Anyway, that the scenery really didn't matter and was more likely to incite a panic if I noticed something astray so I....softened my focus and awareness to my surroundings and only paid attention to my on board navigation system and maps. There weren't a lot of road changes or exits to worry about so just lightened up on my outward focus.
When I would go to park my car, I always made sure I pointed it towards the direction I needed to go next. Like at a gas station or store...thus I knew I could get in and which way to drive towards.
Yikes...a few times I made the mistake of looking at my onboard compass....big mistake because the direction always felt very wrong so I learned to ignore (the very intense feeling of dismay and the compass) and simply check my navigation map. Man, I could Not have undertaken my journey without that navi system!
I had made the same trip a couple times before, with others, and I stopped at semi-familiar places.

Yeah, having my own little hotel room was quite odd. I had never even seen a "single", room for one. It was nice to lay my stuff out where I could see it and locate my things with just a glance...and No, I didn't put Anything in drawers as possession is 9/10ths of the law...I kept all my clean clothes in the suitcase.
All this packing these past few months has enabled me to learn what To pack and what is unnecessary.
I slept with the tv on so I could always see where I was when I woke up.

One nice thing about traveling alone...I didn't have to talk or even look at anybody. I didn't care what anyone thought about the way I dressed or smelled...yeah, changing clothes can be a challenge...I didn't care
Hmmm, odd, one of the other nice things was...I never had to apologize to anyone for my autistic or unusual behavior. I didn't have to preface, explain or apologize...I could just be explanation necessary

When alone..its easier to hear the beat of your own drum....
Im learning to cope with my TA

Original Ideas...GroundBreaking, Fantastico or Colossal Mistake

I can definitely be called a creative thinker. I frequently come up with ideas that are completely outside the box. My problem is...I lack the judgement to tell if they are productive or pipe dreams, positives or terrible negatives. In my head, all my ideas are fresh, innovative, already at fruition and 100% possible and positive.
Then "reality" comes along and oft slams me to the wall. What I think is good very often can be perceived negatively or, quite frankly, be incredibly stupid.
I cannot tell the difference. This is where I would love my own personal advisory board composed of people who are knowledgeable, sane and won't laugh at me, but dish out practical advice. Hmmm, I guess I'd have to like, share my ideas outside of my head for that to become reality. That would involve confidants and chatting. So, probably not.
I soooo wish I knew. I pray for someway to tell the difference. Having made so many costly, grandiose mistakes, my only sure bet is to not do anything at all.
A short post, but a true post...that greatly impacts my everyday life

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Androgyne The Androgynous Asie

Androgynous: having the characteristics or nature of both male and female

I have always considered myself to be an androgynous being. Being the oldest daughter, my mother took great delight in buying me dresses and tights and shiny black shoes, but I found them quite odd and most uncomfortable. As soon as I had a choice over what clothing to wear, I chose long pants, sneakers and ambiguous shirts that were gender neutral.
In school, the few friends I did make we're an equal mix of boys and girls but by high school, the female friends became more of a superficial, hang out with light chat kind of thingy, whilst my guy friends were the ones that I had longer talks with and spent more time hanging around with.
I have never been comfortable in dresses and was last coerced into wearing one...gosh, it's been so long, I honestly don't remember...years.
I remember being sixteen years of and having one of my first paychecks. I went to the local second hand store and was immediately drawn to the menswear section. Dang, I love the look and feel of a decent sports coat! I think I bought myself a sports coat, pants, shirt and even a fedora.
In a big city like Grand Rapids, where I grew up, all manner of clothing was acceptable and I easily blended in with the riffraff. Since I have been living in my very small town of seven thousand, I have to be really careful not to draw attention to myself so I dont dress as I secretly desire to.
I love ties, hats, coats and harbor a secret desire to be fitted for a tux....maybe I can get away with that some Halloween. I wish.
Fitting in with "the girls" and being a "girly girl" has never worked for me. I've tried makeup here and there but it usually causes a skin reaction and looks phony. I don't do chick flicks, purse parties or sitting around gossiping about the latest mancandy.
Nail painting is something I have tried three or four times but find it feels as if my nails are suffocating, so I don't go there.
My voice is more on the deep end and I frequently sprout very butch crew cuts which I find incredibly comfortable. I adore running my fingers through the soft, 1/4 hairs. I cannot tell you how many dozens of times people's have addressed me as "Mr."
I'm on the tall end for a female at almost 5'6". My feet are extra wide and quite boyish. I buy men's shoes just because they fit and are roomy and comfy. My broad shoulders would rip out the majority of women's...blouses. And I dress for my own comfort in a mostly masculine manner.
Often times I don't think of myself as distinctly female and I have no desires to be male but my characteristics can be considered quite ambiguous.
One thing that I have noticed with the male Aspies I know is that by and far they are somewhat effeminate, not overtly feminine by any means and not in a gay or queer manner either. Hmm, how to say....they have softer voices, use flowing, frequent hand gestures, dress in very ordinary, casual ways instead of traditional macho men gear. They do not reek of testosterone or machismo. They lack that harsh callousness that I find most men possess. I definitely enjoy the company of Aspie men over nts. What a huge difference in mine eyes.
In relationships, I have spent more time with women than men. I consider myself sexually ambiguous as well and fall in love and form relationships with the Person, not the gender. So if someone really nailed me down and asked for my "orientation", I would definitely have to go with bisexual.
By far the time when I was most at ease and comfortable with my female self was when I was pregnant, which I very much enjoyed.
Today, well, I am who I am, androgynous, a mixture of both worlds

Of Pocket Treasures, Fidgets, Geegaw and Gimcrack

Geegaw: a showy little trifle: bauble

Gimcrack: a showy object of little use or value

I love pockets! I can never have enough pockets on my person. I often, if not Always, have a treasure or two in my pockets. Well, lets change that to usually there are a couple of geegaws in my jeans pockets and another two or three in my coat pockets.
These are like me little pocketpals, talismans, worry stones, or, as my friend Buffy says, Fidgets. Whilst I carry them around all day long, I rarely fidget with them unless I am out in public. Either way, home or out, they are little bits of comfort and security.
I stumbled upon the word Gimcrack and found it so appropriate, but figured few would know its meaning. Besides it almost sounds like a decadent profanity and is quite amusing in that regard. Whilst gimcrack is the most descriptive, suitable word, frequently geegaw, doodad, trinket or bauble would probably works as well.
From what I remember about children...they frequently are quite happy to have pockets but typically outgrow their fondness in those teen years...not this Aspie.
So what pocket treasures can be found in me pockets? Oh, almost always a semi-precious crystal or two, ranging from hematite (for staying grounded), rose quartz (for self-love), fluorite (my personal favorite rock mineral with translucent shades of green and purple), tiger eye (for protection), petrified wood (some form our vacation to South Dakota...another grounding stone) and amethyst, to name a few.
Coins are a lot of fun as fidgets and whilst engaged in social conversations with me hands in pockets, that is what I am amusing myself with. Lighters are kindof fun to carry around as I like the smoothness and rounded edges.
During the Spring/ Summer months, in addition to picking fresh sage and lavender from my garden, I also tend to put a leaf or two into a back pocket. Flowers and herbs of varying kinds typically can be found in my shirt pockets. Every time I pass my garden, I grab a few stems as I find it irresistible and fragrantly fun.
Both my Eldest and myself can be found scanning the ground as we walk and picking up small amusements. Any pretty, odd or unusual little stone, bottlecaps,broken jewelry such as rings and cheap necklaces oft found in grocery store parking lots, small pieces of sculpture (ooops, I mean attractive rusted metal scraps), pieces of broken pens and dead lighters, discarded or lost bike reflectors, colored leaves and swirly twigs, buttons, busted never quite know what you will find in the autistic pocket.
I deplore pants without pockets and refuse to buy or wear them. That's why I like to stick with good old fashioned jeans. I wear a lot of sports coats for the fit but mostly for the pocket spaces. I simply adore those inside pockets. So much can fit into them especially my checkbook and ever present reading glasses.
Just wanted to share......time to fidget with some gimcrack...toodles

The Affectionate Aspie

As I sat reading various articles on Aspergers and autism, 'twas late last night, I became quite bothered by the portrayal of Aspies as being distant and nonaffectionate as parents and Partners for I am anything but. So I would like to write about affection, parenting and being in a relationship.
Both my sons have enjoyed a very hands-on physically demonstrative mother who loves to snuggle, hug and hold hands on a daily basis. One of my rather secretive reasons for choosing to have children was so that i would have someone to hold and cuddle. Even at 17 yrs of age, it was a common, daily occurrence for my Eldest to walk in the room, arms extended in the gesture, "may I have a hug."
As infants, it wasn't uncommon for me to hold them, gently running my fingers through their baby soft hair even after they were fast asleep. I am very tactile, minimally verbal, and I convey my feelings through my touch.
On weekends and during summer months I tend to sleep in. Eldest had the very sweet habit of waking me up in the morning with a kiss on the cheek or forehead. My Younglink, on the other hand, awakens me with an extended index finger poking my face. Both boys are quite at ease with the whole holding hands with Momma in public places thingy.
Whilst I am can be on the low end of being able to express myself verbally, I make up for it with the ability to convey how I feel with hugs and touch.
I probably do not verbally convey appropriately enough, my love and gratitude for my wonderful Partner, but I hope that my warm embraces get the message across. I would love nothing more than to publicly hold her hand or wrap my arm around her as we walk through a store or park, but due to the aversion to public displays of affection by same sex couples, I am forced to resign myself to nothing more than intermittent handholding at movie theaters where no one can see us in the dark. It is not by my choice that I cannot show my affection more often in the public realm, but I love her dearly.
I only see a handful of relatives once or twice a year at holidays, but boy, do the hugs flow freely. If I love and care deeply for someone, it shows.
All this talk or rather, written words about nonaffectionate Aspies may be true for some or maybe even the majority of Aspies, I definitely differ and take offense at the notion. I am a very affection person.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter and Seasonal Changes...Being Autistic

Living in northern Michigan, seasonal changes are quite dramatic events for this Aspie. From my home, in the woods a couple of miles from the mighty Lake Michigan, it often feels like I experience four very different external worlds throughout each year. So many things about me change from my eating habits, desire to socialize, need for solitude, thought patterns, obsessions vary every few months.
I am currently in the midst of winter. The outside world is stark, white, cold, bare...colorless and it's hard to find light. I retreat needing maximum solitude. It's as if I am suddenly very alone and my thoughts have grown quite loud and demanding. It's impossible to hide from my self. I become extremely introverted venturing out only for the barest of necessities and have-to-dos.
Being out-of-doors...the sounds have changed. Footsteps have that odd muffled tone. The wind no longer playfully skirts through leaves and comes at you full force and without restraint. There is nothing to...see except what has been and what is yet to be. I know the flowers are in deep slumber, hiding under the blanket. We are in the midst of a snowstorm and the trees with their one-sided snow look as if they have white fluffy feathers on their trunks. Starvation and survival. How grateful I become for the necessities of life...warmth and shelter.
I often can be found observing, identifying and following critter tracks left in the new snow. Deer and squirrel footprints mostly itch the odd dog, kitty and vole tracks. The other day, I thought I might be on the trail of a coyote or wolf only to discover they were the prints of my own dog, Shadow, slightly disordered from a recent melt. The birds of Spring are gone replaced by cheerful chickadees and suspicious blue jays. Days and days can go by without a single bird singing, save the ever-present survivalist crows who enjoy a good caw now and then.
I miss the sound of birds singing. To have such beauty switched out for howling wind....tragic.
I do enjoy watching the snowflakes slowly dance down on a calm day from the warmth of my window. How they twirl and careen, never once being upset about their fall. Ah, if I could carefree. My other favorite winter watching is those few days when the sun comes out to shine and all the little snowflakes packed on the ground sparkle and shine with blues, yellows and a fallen rainbow that shattered peacefully and without remorse.
The smells of the season are so earthy, gritty and sparse. Essence of dirt and mud mixed with fireplace smells like a vacuum, empty and absent of identity.
I can't remember the last time I picked up the phone to chat with a friend...must have been a couple weeks back. I turn off my phone and take long breaks from social networking. My interests seem to focus entirely within me, my house and family.
One of my oddest habits is my overwhelming desire to build, a model, kit, snow fort...something like that, which takes hold of me every single winter without fail. Way back when I was poor, I would content myself to build snow forts and large sculptures in the yard, always at night, so no one else could see me and often to the very wee hours of morn. I have had phases where I have worked on dollhouse and miniature kits, kinect models, gingerbread houses and this year Lego building. I love my obsessions because they work that patterned, non-emotional side of my brain and I get transported to a very logical, extremely calm and orderly place and I can physically see the results of my actions.
I created the most fantastically, magnificent Lego sphere from directions I found on the inet. It's sixteen regular size bricks tall, about six and a quarter inches. I layered it with black and red stripes. At first I tried going monochromatic, but then I kept losing track of which level I was on so I went two-toned. I am so impressively proud of myself for it took at least four different trys to find the right formula to get the ball rolling...pun intended. My most usual pattern is to give up after one failed attempt, but I chose to persevere because I was enthralled with the idea of it. I must have used hundreds of Lego and my magnificent sphere will remain intact on the shelf for quite sometime. Heck, I can barely resist walking past it without picking it up and admiring it every time I walk by. Oh, and it has a marvelous...sturdy feel to it. Yes, I adore it!
My habits and hygiene transform as well. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I stepped into the shower...probably last week sometime is my guess. I do wash but with much less frequency. Staying in the house allows me to forgo the daily gruel of ritual washing. It's not uncommon for me to sleep in my clothes or wear sweatshirts to bed. The northern Michigan cold has that affect on me.
And speaking of cold, on those rare occasions when I do venture out, I have absent-mindedly been wearing my stocking cap indoors, often keeping it on for hours. It just seems to feel comfy and cozy these days. Yes, I am most fashionable dressed in winter...for a hobo that is:)
My eating habits turn to meat and potatoes mostly, with a sprinkling of fruit and Snickers. Gone is the spring/summer diet of salads, potato salad, fish and chicken. Funny, I can usually tell when Spring is in the air because I start making potato salad.
Winter is a time of deep introspection. Just an Aspie and her thoughts.
Depression lurks, stalks and beckons. Some days it almost seems like a warm, dark...comforting cave calling. Or a friendly out-stretched hand. Sigh
It's about two months I'll tell you all about the plethora of energy, joy, beauty and excitement of Spring as I bounce off walls.
Be good. Don't forget me while I'm gone:)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Aspergers Diet

After at least a full month of eating the exact same thing for lunch and dinner, I have made a number of observations. My breakfast of peanut butter toast and coffee has been in place now for years. The regimen of sameness for lunch and dinner and the amount of consecutive days with this arrangement is quite new to me.
For those two meals, I create a mixture of ground beef, spinach and cheeses. It is really easy and quick, almost painless, really, for me to shop for myself at the dreaded grocery store these days. The only items I need to worry about locating are snack items and there are only a handful of those.
Because I notice the extreme sameness, I am careful to incorporate some much needed fruits and vegetables into my snacks and have at least two for snack times throughout the day.
I have tried eating other, different meals that I used to enjoy periodically, steak, stew, chicken...but they have absolutely no taste to them. Its very much like eating paper. Unappetizing to say the least.
Overall, my nutritional quotient is being met and my weight has stayed the same, so I am doing okay.
My life has become a lot less stressful without having to figure out what to eat and make and cook a variety of food dishes. There is so much less to worry about. The stress of making decisions is now gone, at least for mealtime.

My diet makes me relatively happy. Its working


Empathy: the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being.
Ahh, but empathy has many different meanings. I always thought it was having compassion for someone else but that is only a fraction of what the word can actually mean. Here are some others: The capacity to know emotionally what another is feeling; The ability to understand and share the feelings of another; Knowing another persons internal state, including thoughts and feelings; adopting the posture or matching the neural responses of an observed other; Imagining how another is feeling; Feeling distress at witnessing another person's suffering.
Depending one which definition one uses....I have no empathy in that I am clueless as to what another is feeling or thinking...Absolutely Clueless. I couldn't even begin to guess what another is thinking or feeling. I completely lack empathy in that regard.
The only part of the definition that I do fully comprehend is the last one: feeling distress at witnessing another person's suffering. I have that to a tremendous degree. I no longer watch any reality television shows because I feel so bad when one person is putting down or teasing another, being picked on. I rarely read the paper for the same reason. I feel sadness when I read about a fire,or loss of a loved one. I even give up watching the news on television because sometimes it pains me so.
I think that I empathize with others who are going through an experience that I have gone through myself. I feel greatly for those living in poverty, for people who have been or are being abused. I understand grief and loss and parents of children with disabilities. I get what its like to be a mother and have concerns for their children. I empathize with other Aspies because I know the struggle and hardship. I comprehend those who are depressed and in pain.
Empathy is trying on someone elses shoes....Sympathy is wearing them
So what do I say when someone asks me if I am empathic? Ummm, no and yes.
The English language is so very confusing at times.
I have always considered myself compassionate.and for the most part, I think I had compassion and empathy mixed up...maybe..I think...not sure on this one.
If I had to answer the question, if I had empathy...I would have to say...I Don't Know.

Impulsivity, Impulsive Behavior and this Aspie

Impulse: a force so communicated as to produce motion suddenly; a propensity or natural tendency other than rational

One of the most disparaging issues in dealing with my Aspergers, is how much effort I have to put into "impulse control" on a daily basis. It truly is a bane of my existence (constant source of irritation and misery).
The times when I have gotten myself into trouble have almost always had the mark of impulsivity and not thinking things through.
The only car accident, I ever caused, was when I was 16 and decided that I would follow my friend home to her house and their was this mini chase thingy going on and well, I lost the race and ended up with the dent and ticket.
I work to control impulsivity on a number of fronts. One, through what I verbalize which is the easiest to control if I stay in my own home. Otherwise,if I know that I will be meeting with someone, I will rehearse a few different scenarios in an effort not to say something offensive. Anyone who unexpectedly walks up to me and starts talking really puts me on my game and I am trying to listen, figuring out when its my turn, watching lips move, working to figure out the motive of the conversation and what is my appropriate response...and they are fair game...I never know for sure how those sudden chats will turn out, but my censor is on, hard at work.
Two, I try and control my actions. I keep any and all tics in line and out-of-sight. I am a certified "hug whore" which means I like them and if I see someone whom I like very much, I will routinely run up and hug them without warning. Yes, I have caught people off guard at times and I'm always guessing whether or not it is appropriate. I have been known to startle others by reaching for a pretty, shiny necklace or bauble. I think I slightly scared my poor doctor the other day by doing that. Touching can be intrusive and I have to restrain myself often.
I have figured out that it is inappropriate and considered rude to throw my hands onto my ears when bothered by crowd noise or very loud places. I've trained myself to resist that impulse.
Three, in my own thinking. I get on these impulsive obsessions and suddenly am buying all these items for a craft that never materializes past my fertile imagination. The impulses for these are especially strong and I continue to try and find ways to slow them down. It is very similar to intense, ravenous hunger and not easily managed. So, thinking needs to be kept in check because once I start down one road of can be quite depressing or disastrous, depending on where the road leads.
Impulse control is a feature of my autism that is constantly on or working very hard. The only relief I find is being removed from the outside, the mainstream. Peace is me home alone or with family. And I like peace, a lot.
(I did not realize that "impulsivity" was a neologism, a word I made up. Hmm, it seemed to make sense in my head)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reading Faces....Expressive Eyes

Believe it or not, I was 47 years old before I could see...emotion in people's eyes. Granted, I have never been big on face-to-face, eye contact conversations but circumstances were such, that I learned to read eyes.
It came about due to the most unfortunate of circumstances. My Eldest was in jail and our only in-person conversations took place behind a thick glass window and a phone to talk through.
Whereas our previous time spent talking together was full of gestures and sideways glances, the holding of the phone partially eliminated that and we were...forced to look at each other.
Plus our phone conversations were constantly monitored and we needed to communicate in a very new way.
We are not overt, blunt peoples who freely talk about our feelings and emotions....those used to be conveyed with touch and gestures.
It definitely took awhile to learn what his eyes were saying to me, as it was a completely new "language" for both of us. But Momma had to learn....and I did.
So I became adept at reading my Eldest, far removed thru the glass.
Then, I quite suddenly became aware of emotions in the eyes of my Partner. At first, i was clueless as to what to think or do when I say sadness or uncertainty, but I slowly learned. I can't say that I am adept with her yet, but I need to look at her face more.
It is amusing that Younglink, my nt eight year old, is fantastic at reading my face and he quickly points out when I look sad or happy. He has helped me with my own affect.
The only other person that I can semi-read is a close friend of mine. Probably because we have spent a great deal of time talking face-to-face.
It's a very cool, new way of reading a person and finding things out.
I'm not sure that I was even aware that eyes could contain feeling and meaning until this past year. Interesting

Monday, January 9, 2012

Low self esteem...a good article from the net

Emotional Symptoms & Consequences of Low Self-Esteem
Most cases of depression are the result of low self esteem, not the other way around, as our diagnostic manual would have us believe. This is not the only cause of depression, as some people have chronic depression not related to self esteem and which may require medication; overcoming depression due to low self esteem seldom requires medication and then only for a short period. Most individuals who suffer from low self esteem have differing degrees of situational depression at different times in their lives--some have consistent depression for years and until they go through the recovery process.
Discouragement is a common emotion of those with low self esteem who have unusually high expectations of others and who have either unreasonably high or nonexistant goals for themselves. Striving for unreachable goals is a recipe for feeling like one is failing. Others with LSE are too discouraged and fearful to try anything new, to initiate relationships, or even to attempt to develop new skills. They remain complacent willing to accept what life brings rather than trying to better themselves.
Fear and Anxiety
Fear and anxiety are the cornerstone of low self esteem. Based on early life experiences, people develop a perspective of how they fit in the world: whether they are adequate, lovable, worthy, and/or competent. If their view of themselves is negative, they go through life fearful and anxious, on guard, disappointed, anticipating the worst, and unable to relax until they recover from this devastating issue of low self esteem. This anxiety is extreme and permeates everything in the person’s life including the ability to make sound decisions, the ability to maintain ambition, the ability to bounce back after disappointments, the person’s basic emotional stability, the person’s sustainability, the person’s energy, the person’s ability to learn from his mistakes, the person’s openness to developing new skills, the person’s ability to be introspective.
Those with low self esteem have four basic fears:
The fear is of doing something that will confirm their own inadequacy.
The fear is that others will see what they've done and also recognize their inadequacy.
The fear is of losing what one has; fear that success cannot be sustained; fear of abandonment.
The fear is of once more experiencing humiliation, depression, devastation or despair.
Through recovery these fears are gradually dispelled and the person becomes able to respond in healthy ways to the situation in his life.
Overly sensitive, those with low self esteem frequently get their feelings hurt, are easily offended, are quick to become angry or defensive, and are easily provoked. They tend to be overly self-focused and can appear insensitive to the feelings of others or can inaccurately look as though they are narcissistic. Basically they are constantly looking for signs that others are rejecting or disapproving of them and then conclude this is happening even when it is not.
Mixed Emotions
Those who suffer from low self-esteem find their emotions fluctuating frequently and without warning. They may “think” that someone is rejecting or disapproving of them and then feel hurt and despondent, or they may respond with anger. Also, they may at one moment feel confident, worthy, and self-assured and then take a downturn at a perceived slight from someone. At times they may feel competent only to question and berate themselves and then become depressed when they make a simple mistake. Thus the tumultuous roller coaster ride of life is one of unexpected emotions and reactions, usually ending in negative self-talk.
Self-Esteem Attacks
(Similar but different from panic attacks)
Often mistaken for panic attacks, Self Esteem Attacks are always related to how the person feels about himself or herself: inadequate. These attacks then lead to depression and feelings of humiliation and devastation. Common to some degree to all who suffer from low self esteem, self esteem attacks occur when a person perceives she has made a mistake in front of others or that others will hear about and begins to berate herself, to hate herself for her own perceived stupidity. She then not only reacts to those incidents but dreads the possibility of a situation where another mistake is made and such self-loathing reoccurs. Reacting to this fear, she may then: a) isolate or refrain from new activities to avoid looking foolish or inept, b) stay quiet and not share ideas or perceptions for fear of saying something "wrong," c) not initiate with others for fear of rejection, and d) not look for a better job because of feelings of inadequacy, or e) remain in a destructive relationship because of feeling too inadequate to be alone.
"Self Esteem Attacks" occur whenever a person with low self esteem does or says something that he afterwards deems to have been inappropriate, stupid, rude, obnoxious, off target, or inaccurate. At that time, the person may experience immediate remorse, excruciating anxiety, his heart racing, his face turning red, a sinking feeling of embarrassment, depression and/or devastation. Wishing he could sink into the floor or disappear, he may immediately look for a way to escape. He may feign illness, sneak out without saying anything, or just become totally silent, hoping not to be noticed. He will believe that everyone saw his blunder and is thinking poorly of him, maybe even laughing at him. This is a full blown Self-Esteem Attack that may last for minutes, hours, even days during which he berates himself, is fearful of seeing anyone who was in attendance at the time he made his "mistake," and remain seriously depressed.
All people who suffer from low self-esteem have these attacks though they vary in degree of severity and in length depending upon how serious the person judges his gaffe, how highly he values the opinions of those in attendance, and what he surmises the repercussions will be. As people go through recovery, these attacks gradually become less frequent, less severe in their intensity, and shorter in duration. The goal of my Recovery Program is that those with LSE would get to the point where they rarely have a self esteem attack, and that if they do they can control it within 10 minutes; thus it would not control the person’s feelings and behavior.
Shutdown Emotionally
It is not unusual for those who have low self-esteem and who have been abused, abandoned, or literally to have been treated as being in the way, to be unable to recognize what they feel. Having suffered from many emotionally charged and hurtful situations, they automatically feel a need to shield themselves from more such experiences. Having practiced denying their feelings or even acknowledging them. They now find themselves unable to know what they fee. Having been hurt repeatedly, whether verbally, emotionally, or physically, they may also lower their expectations of others and of life in general. They may be available but never initiate with others; they may feel they have little or nothing to offer and above all, are unable to risk rejection.
(Appearance of) Shyness
Low self esteem and shyness are different from one another. A person can be shy and not have low self esteem. A person can have low self esteem and not be shy. Shyness has more to do with introversion and learned behaviors that are contrary to a casual and social society. Shyness is not a sign of dysfunction.
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Aspergers Syndrome...a definition

Aspergers goes by a few different names: Asperger's Syndrome, Aspergers Disorder and Asperger's disease. I prefer to just use Aspergers and often refer to myself as an Aspie. Its shorter and sweeter.
It is often considered the mildest of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. And there is great individuality to it. Each and every Aspie falls into a different spot on this spectrum, with some individuals being very high functioning, while others are more challenged.
I think that I have run the gamut from severely affected to high functioning. There was definitely a time, in my early 20's where I was very low-functioning in that I rarely left the house, had one or two acquaintances and avoided people at all costs. It was a very isolated, hermit-like existence.
Sometime in my 30's, with the right therapist and friends, I was able to come out of my shell, start interacting with the world and became moderately functional.
Gosh,it really wasn't until the last decade that I became high functioning enough to pass for near-normal. Now, I think, most people would be hard-pressed to tell I have Aspergers. And the majority of my friends would probably be quite shocked if they knew the extent of my....past 30 years.
I consider myself to be quite fortunate as I have lived in a variety of situations and circumstances that have allowed me to actually have a pretty broad view of life.
So when I hear that someone else has Aspergers, while I can understand some of the general traits and symptoms, I would be hard-pressed to figure out exactly what it means/ how it affects that individual. Each and every Aspie is a unique creation :)
Aspergers is a spectrum disorder so everyone who is an Aspie has it to a different degree. I will explain my traits as best I can...
First off, a few facts: Asperger Syndrome (AS) occurs in 1 in 10,000 people. It is 10 times more common in males than females. There is a genetic factor in that an Aspie typically has a parent or other relative with AS or a related disorder such as PDD (pervasive personality disorder), ADD or autism.
My eldest son is an Aspie as is my father, grandfather and possibly great-grandmother (probable) and great-great grandfather (possible). I come by it honestly 

So here are Wikipedias list of characteristics:
1) qualitative impairment in social interaction...meaning I have a hard time making small talk and that interacting with others is not a natural function. I have no idea of what to say with people unless we have a very common bond. When my son was born, my social world opened up because I had a baby to talk about with other moms. It was really my first venture engaging with others.

2) Restricted patterns of behavior...I adore patterns and have a rather strict routine for how things are done from doing dishes to mowing the lawn, cooking, arranging food on my plate and the method with which I eat, dressing and my nighttime routine.

3) Intense preoccupation with a specific subject....I have a deep and passionate love for science, nature, words and sometimes art and can spend entire days reading, researching and exploring these avenues to the extent that the rest of the world is lost and quite a bother when it intrudes.

4) One-sided verbosity...sometimes, but rarely...I have learned the intricacies of everyday conversation and the give and take throughout my 40 something years, so it isn't as pronounced as it had been. I tend to heavily censor my self so as not to talk about my intense special interests because I know others simply are not interested.

5) Physical clumsiness...I have been known to bump into more than one parked car and tend to walk like a drunken sailor. I distinctly remember that darn balance beam in kindergarten and how frustrating it was.

6) Lack of demonstrated apathy...hmmm, to some degree yes. I have a hard time understanding emotions as a rule much less what another person can be feeling in a given situation...unless I have been through an exact experience. Yes, the majority of time I am completely clueless as to how someone else feels.

7) Difficulties in the basic elements of social interaction...I cannot read the emotion on a persons face unless it is quite dramatic. I used to think everyone was always mad at me. Or that so and so really liked me just because she smiled at me once. In conversations, I watch peoples lips move so I know when it is my turn to speak. I miss a lot of what is being said because I am extremely slow at verbal processing. I cannot understand people with heavy accents or those who speak in a fast pace.

8) Impaired nonverbal behavior...Avoidance of eye contact, lack of appropriate facial expression..yeah and I tend to either laugh or cry when I get really nervous. I try and be acutely aware of my body language and read a few books on the subject. It helps me blend in.

9) Stereotyped and repetitive motor behaviors are a core part of the diagnosis. "They include hand movements such as flapping or twisting, and complex whole-body movements. They are typically repeated in longer bursts and look more voluntary or ritualistic than tics, which are usually faster, less rhythmical and less symmetrical." There are times when I am convinced that I may be a lunatic when I catch myself making repetitive, nonsensical hand gestures for absolutely no reason. The more stress I am under, the more gesturing I do. If I am having great difficulty finding the words I want to express, the gestures go up as well. It makes no sense to me when my body parts move in odd, unpredictable ways.

10) Language abnormalities...a) Verbosity-using lots of words...oh yeah..Why use five words when you can throw in another ten, or twenty. I frequently make up new words and sprinkle everyday conversations with Middle or Old English…thee, thou, methinks…etc. I can tell when I am too long-winded..I watch for eyes glazing over in to a dull stare.
b) Abrupt transitions...I used to blurt things out in the middle of others sentences with alarming frequency...still do, if I am not careful c) literal interpretations and miscomprehension of example...someone says "he's a dirty old man", well I picture just old man in filthy tattered clothes. Its like non-Aspies speak in a completely different, very complex language. I take things quite literally. And please, please, please, don't try and tell me a joke. I probably will not get it. d) use of metaphor meaningful only to the speaker. I also tend to repeat the same sentence in a conversation. I don't know if this is obsessive compulsive behavior or Aspieness...I very frequently repeat the same sentence in a conversation...two or three times.

11) Excellent auditory and visual perception. I am such a visual person. To remember things I have to literally write them out on the chalkboard in my mental screen, if you will.
In a nutshell, its like I have way more neurons (nerve cells) turned on them most which makes me hypersensitive to sound, touch, taste, lights, and smells

Emotions are very strange, volatile things which cause me great consternation. I have a hard time identifying them..Which emotion is it?...expressing them appropriately...I tend to bottle them up..Or they may kindof explode and pour forth all at once in a mad dance of tears, anger and nonsensical words...

I don't look at it as a disease or disorder; rather it’s a different way of perceiving life. I live in my own little world but I am capable of going out and playing in the real one, for short bursts of time. Every day life presents itself with more challenges and opportunities to use creative thinking to overcome all the little things that most people don't ever have to think about. Yes, it can be quite exhausting at times...but I do the best I can.

The first and oft most challenging part about writing about Aspergers is figuring out what makes me different from NTS. And if you live within your own walls, if you venture outside of your own home maybe once or twice a day, sometimes...if you get together with a group of people for a social function, funeral, wedding, meeting, less than once every six months...One is a serious isolationist and it is really hard to see outside ones own skin.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Prospagnosia.....I Don't Recognize People Sometimes...Even Myself

Prosopagnosia: (Greek prosopon-face, agnosia-not knowing) a disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces

I somehow stumbled upon this word one day and bells and whistles went off in my head. I have developmental or congenital prosopagnosia. I can easily recognize family members and close friends, but that's about it. One of the disconcerting aspects of this disorder is I rarely recognize my own face, in a mirror or in photographs. I feel no connection to pictures of me. Looking over old school or family photos, I see an adorable little girl but feel completely disconnected and would not know it was me unless someone told me. It is a strange,slightly unnerving feeling.

There really is scant information on this condition. I found the article from the American Academy of Neurology to be the most informative. Here it be:

Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces. Prosopagnosia is also known as face blindness or facial agnosia. The term prosopagnosia comes from the Greek words for “face” and “lack of knowledge.” Depending upon the degree of impairment, some people with prosopagnosia may only have difficulty recognizing a familiar face; others will be unable to discriminate between unknown faces, while still others may not even be able to distinguish a face as being different from an object. Some people with the disorder are unable to recognize their own face. Prosopagnosia is not related to memory dysfunction, memory loss, impaired vision, or learning disabilities.

Prosopagnosia is thought to be the result of abnormalities, damage, or impairment in the right fusiform gyrus, a fold in the brain that appears to coordinate the neural systems that control facial perception and memory. Prosopagnosia can result from stroke, traumatic brain injury, or certain neurodegenerative diseases. In some cases it is a congenital disorder, present at birth in the absence of any brain damage. Congenital prosopagnosia appears to run in families, which makes it likely to be the result of a genetic mutation or deletion. Some degree of prosopagnosia is often present in children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, and may be the cause of their impaired social development.
The focus of any treatment should be to help the individual with prosopagnosia develop compensatory strategies. Adults who have the condition as a result of stroke or brain trauma can be retrained to use other clues to identify individuals.
Prosopagnosia can be socially crippling. Individuals with the disorder often have difficulty recognizing family members and close friends. They often use other ways to identify people, such as relying on voice, clothing, or unique physical attributes, but these are not as effective as recognizing a face. Children with congenital prosopagnosia are born with the disability and have never had a time when they could recognize faces. Greater awareness of autism, and the autism spectrum disorders, which involve communication impairments such as prosopagnosia, is likely to make the disorder less overlooked in the future.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research related to prosopagnosia in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also supports additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country. Much of this research focuses on finding better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure disorders, such as prosopagnosia.
View a list of studies currently seeking patients.

I have a hard time following characters in movies, especially after they have had a wardrobe change. The few television shows that I have enjoyed, Dawson's Creek, My-So-Called-Life, The Big Bang Theory, all have a handful of characters, so they are easier for me to follow.
Most movies I have to watch two or three times just to be able to follow the story line and identify who is who.

I remember being in Catholic grade school, which was a Proso. nightmare in that all the nuns wore the same outfit and I was completely unable to tell them apart except for the super skinny one, Sister Peter Mary and the rather round nun, Sister Paul.

I had a hard time telling my own relatives apart. My paternal grandmother and a very close family friend both had similar features; thin build, hair style, glasses and neither had a distinguishable feature for me to recognize.
Whilst still in those pre-teen years, one of my aunts radically changed her hairstyle from very long, to short and butch. I acutely remember sitting at my Grandmas and watching this woman. I was so puzzled because I recognized the voice but the hair did not match.

Just last week at the grocery store, I ran into a woman who started talking to my son in a very friendly manner. I was quite puzzled, until I listened and focused in on her voice. It was his swim instructor. Over the years, I have developed an ability to pick up on and recognize voices to compensate for my Proso. It is a tool that I employ with great frequency.
Phones, especially cell phones, drive me nuts because of the "fuzziness" of the voice and it tends to throw me off to the point that I don't recognize people as readily and often have to ask, "Who is this?" Everyone sounds very different on the phone which may be one of the reasons that I avoid talking on them, if possible.
I thought I had made great strides in identifying personal characteristics and not speaking unless I was positive it was who I thought it was. A couple of months ago, I went to the pizza parlor, placed my order and sat down. I sat really close to this one woman whom I thought to be a good friend of my partners. We chatted for awhile until my order was up. It wasn't until I returned home that I began questioning if I had been mistaken. The first thing that struck me was, "wait a minute...I don't remember Gertrude having teeth like that." As I continued replaying the conversation, other little things stood out.
As when I asked her how the kids were doing. She looked a bit puzzled but added they were fine.
Come to find out I had Gertrude with her two kids and likeable personality mixed up with Matilda who has two dogs and an overbearing air that I try and avoid whenever possible.
Both Gertie and Mathie are about 5'3, with the same hairstyle and glasses and are roughly, the same age. If I had thought about it, the two key points that would have helped me tell them apart would have been weight, Gertie is about forty pounds heavier and, yes, the teeth shape should average made me stop and take a step back, closing my mouth in the process.
Over the years, I have also become very adept at recognizing people by their walk, their gait. Last month I was driving along and saw someone walking a block or two away and I thought...Hmmm, that must be the clerk from the grocery store. Sure enough, it was. Everyone has a unique, characteristic way of walking. To me, it is just like a name tag, perfect for identification.

My Proso. may be one of the reasons that I do not approach people and start up conversations. I cannot accurately convey the deep, unsettling embarrassment of walking up to a complete stranger, whom you mistakenly think is an old acquaintance, and start talking until they, with confused eyes say, "You must have me confused with someone else. We have never met." After that type of incident happening more than a dozen times, I have learned not to approach people unless I am absolutely positive that I do know who they are.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Me Lego Moai Easter Island Heads

I have been amusing myself, playing with the Legos again. i am working on building a most realistic Easter Island head statue. i still have a long way to go...but this was very fun!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Alien Aspie Speaketh

I call my self an Alien and am quite comfortable with it. I see my self as being far removed from the majority of peoples. What makes me Alien? Everything. Almost everything about me is different than you.
I talk different in that I am literal and honest. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I love Old English and tend to sprinkle my writings and conversations with "thee", "thou" and "methinks".
I engage in "neologism", making up new words like "manfear"(fear of men) and aspiestion (a typical Aspie question...usually a question the recipient has never, ever been asked before, like "before you were born, where were you?" or "why do peoples need more than one pair of shoes?")
I talk in visual verbals. When I met someone for the first time, it felt like I walked in one door, he walked in another, we sat at the same table and ordered the same food. ( I felt an immediate, lost-family-member-like connection.) or "my gaping wound from the traumatic event is slowly closing and healing."
I write and speak of emotions as often being weather-related. "When will it stop raining?" and any reference to rain, is about tears and sadness. Tornados and storms are in reference to my internal chaos and emotional turmoil. When the sun is out, I am happy.

I feel quite androgynous...not feeling really female or male. I have feminine undertones but am most comfortable dressing male, in mens attire.
I have a close, odd, intimate relationship with my clothing. It's like my protective layer. I have to wear just the right thing for each occasion and outing. I wear clothes to impress no one nor ever to make a fashion statement. I simply wear what feels and looks "right" to me. It's my outermost skin.

Speaking of skin...I'm not very in touch with my body. Most of the time it feels like a glove two sizes too big with an uncomfortable, clumsy fit. I have physical tics where my hands, arms and legs do unpredictable, semi-controllable nonsense movements or, as I like to call them, little dances, fits or spazzes. Stress makes them much more prevalent and noticeable but even at home, every day of the week, I walk around doing arm and hand dances, grasping, snapping, picking at invisible dust specks, feet moving in patterns to silent music. And these tics...feel good and right.

Most of the time, I am confused by the world around me and what is taking place. I cannot understand why peoples gossip and how they can so easily have multiple conversations and not be completely exhausted.
I wasn't born equipped to talk, to be amongst others, to comprehend the outside world or to handle emotions.
My every day is simply one challenge after another. I have to think and figure out how to do the simplest of things from getting dressed, how to make lunch (even if it is the same thing everyday, which it is, I have to remember all the steps in the proper order), which errand to run first, prioritize the household needs and chores and balance my own needs based on my mood of the day.
It is exhausting.

I look at, the ease with which they flow through their they handle and deal with emotions that are not tsunamis, but small intense blips.....the ease of interaction....their ability to hold down a job and actually they know, instinctively when and where to turn for help and to joke and tease appropriately...I am nothing like that.
Alien and Proud

Socializing...Conversation and the Alien

On any given week I engage in a conversation, with someone other than a family member, on average five or six times. I am introverted by nature and don't go out very often.
Last week I ran into a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in a few months. We played catch up and easily bantered back and forth. Once again, I noticed my Aspie trait of watching her lips move so that I would know when it was my turn to speak. When her lips stopped moving for a few seconds, then it was my turn.
Conversations do not come easily and watching lips is one of the tricks I have learned in order to carry on a normal conversation without interrupting at the wrong time.
When someone speaks to me, there is a...delay in my ability to process what is being said. It's as if...sentence A is a round red ball and it bounces in, hits one wall, then the next, and another and a nother and then hits the button of comprehension, which is way in the back, on the right.
Thus when someone is talking for ...say...a few minutes, I've got all these little balls bouncing to and fro and I am trying to decipher their meaning. The longer a person talks...the more confusing it becomes. Those balls take a long time to slow down enough so I can grab them and read what they say.
It is very common for me to get the full jest of a conversation the next day or even two or three days later.

One could say that I had very limited eye contact during chats, it is quite true, but I find it quite necessary in order to keep the flow of talking back and forth smooth.
Funny, I tend to identify people by the shape of their lips and teeth not by their face and eyes...because that is where I spend most of my time looking.