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2008 January » Blogging AS an Aspie
Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is writing this blog so that people can gain more of an insight into how people with the condition process thoughts, feel emotions, react to situations and generally handle life.

31 Jan 08 Police following

My instructor is rather curious about my AS; and that’s a good thing, I’d far rather have somebody ask me about it and how it affects me than read some generic book that is based on the diagnostic criteria in worst case. He was interested in medication, whether people on AS had it; personally, I don’t, nor am I aware of any, but I am aware of a few people with AS & AD/HD and I know they receive controlled drug Ritalin for their AD/HD. We chatted about the supported hall of residence, and he seemed quite shocked when I told him it had 30 staff on the books, with between 7 and 15 on any given shift.

A quick recap of last lesson, and seat change before starting. I completed the cockpit drill whilst chatting to my instructor about mobile phones (as I silenced mine), and how his daughter was attached to hers; I’m attached to mine, I admit, but she puts me to shame! It’s a good thing small talk comes fairly naturally to me, one of the few areas of socialising my AS has not affected.

This lesson, I moved up to third gear, and was expected to use my mirrors before preparing for any manouvre, in addition to checking them every few seconds whilst driving anyway! I also started to handle junctions correctly, stopping for closed ones, and slowing down for all of them; not something I like doing is slowing down. Still, I got used to the idea fairly quickly, that came in the form of following an articulated flatbed, complete with about 25 brake lights fitted to the rear of his cab… The next time I turned the bend to go down the bank, I noticed a white van pull out behind me, but I didn’t think anything of it. My instructor, however, did, “Matt, I would like you to take this corner perfectly, because there is a police van following us!” Now I re-checked my mirror, and noticed the large blue “POLICE” on the front of the vehicle.

As usual, I stalled a few times, once for doing such a stupid obvious mistake; stopping at a give way line, finding the biting point, applying some gas, but not remembering to change down from second to first. I was allowed to try moving off in second from a parked position, and needless to say, I couldn’t manage it! Overall, a very good lesson in my opinion, I definitely saw some improvements.

27 Jan 08 Cancellation & Evacuation

It’s a well known fact that Aspies don’t cope well with change. Or is it? I’m not too sure whether it is or not; personally speaking, there are a few examples this week when I have coped extremely well with change. Flexibility must be one of my non-aspie strengths!

The changes begin on Monday, after my Physics exam. I was expecting a nice long three hour lunch, maybe a walk into Newcastle to grab a bite to eat, but otherwise chilling out on my laptop in sector college before my next lecture. No sooner do I go downstairs than I have my support worker informing me I’m going back to the specialist college for about 30 minutes where I can eat my lunch, before being taken back to sector college for my lecture. Marvellous. No chillout time on the internet for me. Did it bother me? Not at all, I’d downloaded my emails earlier in the day, and I had a book to read.

The next change came on Tuesday. I had already been notified of it; well, I had the new plan thrust upon me when I wasn’t supposed to be in the specialist college on the middle of Monday. We were meant to be going for a walk to Teesdale, but due to the snow, and one of the tutors being snowed in at home, we didn’t. Instead, I had an extremely chilled out morning, because the only other student in the session was out at a committee meeting. So after spending 30 minutes planning a couple of routes, I spent the rest of the morning looking into support provided at different universities. In the afternoon, we went out to collect some donations for our fundraising activities.

The changes continued on Wednesday, with Physics being cancelled due to lack of students. Another exam was on, and the majority of students were taking it. Then, I went down to Chemistry after spending some time on my laptop, only to find a room change. After waiting at that room for 15 minutes with a couple of my friends, the lecturer failed to show up, so we went back to the specialist college earlier!

Thursday was even more changes. I slept in, and when I heard the knock on my door, I assumed a bollocking was about to be given; instead, I was informed of an evacuation of the specialist college due to a gas leak, so we all had the day off. Then I went in for a quick chemistry lesson, which was followed by two physics lectures being cancelled because all but four of the students were in a general studies exam!

Thursday night was no better. It was my birthday meal out, and it was arranged so that my keyworker and another member of staff would be accompanying me and my 4 friends, travelling via public transport. Then, one of my friends dropped out. Next, my keyworker was allocated to the overnight assessment student. Then, my manager was the one taking us via the college vehicle. Finally, I was asked to invite the overnight assessment student to my meal.

Friday was the only day this week that went without change…

I felt that I coped very well with all of the changes, and they did not affect my mood or behaviour for any of the week. Oh well, damn stereotypes!

24 Jan 08 First to second

Well, last night was my first time behind the wheel of the car. God help the residents of Hendon I thought as we approached the area where we were to change seats.

The atmosphere in the car was relaxed, and I had raised the subject of my Asperger’s Syndrome within moments of sitting in the passenger seat. This was greeted with a quick question of whether I was ok working 1:1 with my instructor, a welcome surprise given that most professionals just assume it would be. I briefly mentioned the impact AS has on me, for example my social interaction, strange ways of doing things; I even joked about how it mainly affected young lasses that I fancy, given that I’m not too sure on how to go about making friends, or what’s expected of girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. As the young-to-middle-aged male instructor was not a “young lass that I fancy”, we both seemed fairly happy that my AS would have minimal impact on the lessons.

Having spent the last two or three weeks reading through the literature I received with my “Pass Promise”, the instructor was quite impressed at my knowledge of the pedals, main controls, clutch and biting point. It didn’t therefore take him long to introduce me to the cockpit drill or the fine art of moving off and stopping; so much knowledge that I had, I was rather surprised that I moved off, drove along a straight road and stopped the car – all without stalling it. What I did do, was underestimate the sensitivity of the controls, and felt a sharp jolt when I pressed the brake pedal a little harder than perhaps it needed. Oops. And my lovely skill of not stalling the car was soon to diminish, I managed 4 stalls before the lesson had ended, each time was the same cause – I sharply raised the clutch without first applying enough gas.

However, stalling has advantages, as I discovered on my penultimate drive of the evening: just as I stalled, the instructor said “Stop!”, and then asked me why he said it. My response assumed he had anticipated my stall, and so I answered as such. As it was, I had failed to check my right blind-spot, luckily there was nothing in it! When travelling at 10-15mph, I have reasonable clutch control for a driving virgin, managing to press the clutch (just) in time to prevent the car stalling when I stop; I can also use the biting point to slow the car or let it coast as I pull into the side at a snail’s 5mph!

Despite many people telling me that the hardest thing when driving was the gears, I found them remarkably easy. Though greeting the instruction of “keep going straight, use more gas, and when you get to 2500 revs, change up to second” with nervous anticipation, when it actually came to it, I didn’t even think about the gearstick. Clutch in, gas off, hand, clutch out, gas on to same speed. Easy as pie, I didn’t even look at the stick, just felt the pleasing knob at the side of my hand, and pulled back on it gently. Of course, when stopping in second, one has to remember that neutral is up from the position, not down as I kept trying! Then came the stories every instructor must be able to attest: the learners trying to move the instructors knee from first to second, or in this case, the story of one of his female learners attempting to pull his inside thigh up as opposed to the handbrake – one can only assume where she thought the button was located…

As for my great weakness of not always acting upon what I am told, or coming up with my own ways to do things, I’m quite confident I managed this well. Ok, so I used the clutch before the brake when stopping, but at 10mph, what choice do I have? I listened carefully to what my instructor was telling me, and I acted promptly on any advice he gave me.

All in all, a pretty successful 2 hours. And I should hope so too, for 38 quid!

21 Jan 08 The next day

I spoke to my friend from sector during my Chemistry lesson today. I was attracted to her, a lot; but that is quite normal. Today, I thought I was attracted to her more than usual for some reason. I can’t explain it, emotions are difficult at the best of times, but they get worse when I don’t even understand myself…

So now, not only am I socially unsure, but I’m also unsure of my own emotions.

One worry is that I may be becoming somewhat obsessional when I’m around this young lady. I knew this was a significant risk, because it has happened so many times before with my relationships. On the positive side, I don’t think it is actually an obsession as such, because I’m not actually thinking about her as much as I was. Also,

20 Jan 08 Midterm Break

I will say that I didn’t feel like I was being observed by the staff, I felt more relaxed, and in some ways, as sense of normality about the thing. Before the gig, we went for a meal in a local Weatherspoons, and it was nice just to sit and chat. When we were at the gig, it was fantastic, we knew where the staff was if needed, but in the main, we were left just to enjoy ourselves.

Despite one of the reasons for going to the gig was because one of my friends from sector college was there, I felt a bit out of my depth in social terms. I’ve never been to a gig before, so unsure of a lot of things; certainly I was not expecting the drink to be so expensive! Socially, I was completely unsure of myself, but I think I got by well enough.

But at the same time, I kept having mental blocks on things. For example, when I felt I was losing the conversation, I would try and think of things we had in common, but all I could get was “college”. I would have talked about how good the bands were, but I don’t lie, so I didn’t. In fairness, one of the four bands was excellent, the only problem was it was a support band; Midterm Break provided a wonderful anti-climax, and a lot of people (us included) decided an early departure would be a good idea.

Upon reflection, I can think of a lot of things I could have done better. Firstly, noticing my friend from sector college standing in front of me might have been a start. I ended up resorting to texting her, only to text back the words “turn around”. Why I did this I don’t know, normally I would have just tapped her on the shoulder and said hello – I’m a touchy-feely kind of guy. Secondly, it’s well known I fancy her, but for some reason, I didn’t compliment her at all. Thirdly, actually trying to sustain conversation would have been a good idea; but I think I failed miserably at that particular point.

Now an interesting point – most guardians of people with AS won’t let them go to gigs for fear of something going wrong. Yet, I’ve just proven how hard it is with lack of experience. Maybe I would have found it so much easier if I’d been to a few gigs when I was younger?