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2008 May » Blogging AS an Aspie
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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.
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29 May 08 Practical Panicking

I’ve been reading blogs again, as you do. As usual, it was Nickopotablog, and he was talking about exams and how stressful they are. That reminded me to write this, something I’ve been planning to do for about a fortnight now!

Back on Monday 12th May, I had my AS Chemistry practical examination. As predicted, this involved a titration of sorts, starting off with mixing a homogenous solution of acid. Nothing new there then, it’s the ‘bread and butter’ of secondary school chemistry lessons. One would like to say “impossible to fail”, however, I had somehow lost the better of my senses, and managed to screw it up. What’s worse is that I actually knew I screwed up; because I’ve done similar practicals, and know many different methods of calculating things like basicity, molar mass, percentage composition, and so on.

At this point, I should possible I’d spend most of Saturday at a party, getting rather drunk, so it can’t have done wonders for my brain cells…

The mixing of the homogenous solution was easy; I recorded the masses, calculated concentrations, and so on. I wrote up my table perfectly, and noted the data for the alkali. I carried out some very accurate titrations, and obtained a correct, accurate mean titre. I then set forth on the analysing steps, following the prescribed method to calculate the basicity of the acid. And then, I got the wrong answer, in fact my answer wasn’t even on the paper, so I had to pick the best of the bunch. But, because I’d noted the correct data into the tabulations at the start, I knew the answer I was looking at had to be wrong.

So, I went through, three more times, and still got the wrong answer. What could I do, apart from look at it in sheer frustration?

Now, I’ll explain this from an Aspie’s perspective, highlighting extra causes of stress.

Firstly, the examination was conducted in an unfamiliar laboratory (change one), with new equipment having been bought for the exam (change two). Then there were some unfamiliar invigilators (change three), and a technician the class had never spoken to (change four) aside from when he’d shouted at us some mumbo-jumbo about the costs of breaking equipment! Oh, and not being able to talk to your mates increases the stress factor too!

Also, not being able to use your own method for things (ie having examiners break the paper into separate calculation stages) may confuse people, or else cause them to get the wrong answers…

27 May 08 Arguing

True to form, my holidays have started off in what is now their traditional way, an argument with my parents (from an Aspie perspective, one could argue that it is at least reassuring that some things never change and that there is a level of consistency). I can now pretty much guarantee that on the Saturday evening after I return home, there will be an argument relating to some aspect of “my behaviour” and “keeping me safe”.

But why am I in this state? Why do I always get myself in a state where I want to cry because of the arguments?

This time, it’s about meeting my friend, to help her revise. For some reason, I had it in my head that my Mum would be reasonable, and let me go and meet my friend to help her. But no, I was wrong. I told her after I got back from Newcastle that I had met this friend; the usual lecture began, an exact copy of what the service provider has been over-exaggerating. I was, as usual, reminded of the risks, that there is a strong possibility I could make my friend feel scared in my presence, that I could do something socially/sexually inappropriate, that I could ‘not conform to the unwritten rules of society’, or that my friend could accuse me of something. That last comment leads to the usual reminders, I could be branded a “rapist”, or a “paedophile”, that I could have allegations show up on a CRB, which would ruin my career ambition.

I was finding it difficult enough to trust the management of the service provider; considering I now no longer genuinely believe that I have a chance of a reasonable outcome when I ask for things to be considered. For my Mum to be taking the same approach really upsets me; I do not wish to not trust my Mum.

I text my friend after this argument, and she replied:

Wel I KNOW tht u wudnt do anything like that. and they shud too! [...] bt if its best then il just revise by myself, then u wnt hav ths shit

This made me happier. As far as I’m concerned, it proves one thing, that I can cope, and that I can cope quite well. All that matters to me is that she is ok with things. My main problem is that I’m in a ‘catch-22′ situation, I can’t prove I can cope being with her independently without going against my Mum’s wishes or service provider’s orders and thus getting myself into trouble.

I told my friend that I enjoy spending time with her, that the revision is something fun, worthwhile and sensible. I told her my feelings on what the adults around me are doing; that they are refusing to believe me (or listen in some cases), that I’m not going to let it bother me, and that it’s basically just crap what they’re doing.

13 May 08 Craving acceptance

Sometimes, I read books like I am now (Aspergers in Love by Maxine Aston), and reflect on to what extent the different traits affect me, and how I’m balanced with regard to the ‘triad of impairments‘. Now is one of these times, and the trait I’m considering about myself is that of being accepted by my peers and those around me. It stems from the party I was at over the weekend, and also the photographs I was taking.

When I was showing the people I was with the photos on the small viewfinder, they were impressed with the initial view, and so was I. It was only when I got back to halls and loaded them up on my laptop did I realise how good they actually were. They were so good that I spend considerable time editing them in Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® and taking some prints of the best. The only things I’ve done are cropped, manipulated exposure, changed the tonal curve, and sharpened. I have not opened a single on in Adobe® Photoshop® CS3 to remove any blemishes or red eye.

I put the prints in plastic wallets, and attached a model release form to each photo. This was because I was taking them into college to give to the people in them, and I may well want to use some of these shots to start a proper portfolio. But, even though I knew what to expect, I was still shocked at the reactions to the photos; the girl in one of them hugged me, and her boyfriend (also in the photo, as they were kissing) just said “nice one, that’s brilliant, mate” as he shook my hand. Everybody commented on one particular photo of another girl, mainly saying that she should be a model and was I “like, a proper, real, photographer” (as one girl I’d never met asked)!

This is where the craving for social acceptance comes in. I would like to find her in college this week (not hard, you can’t miss her boyfriend – who I have another photo of, which he likes) and I’d like for her to accept my photo of her. I’d also like for her to actually frame this shot, and put it up in her house, and for her friends to say “Wow, that’s a good photo of you!” I know, being a photographer will not gain social skills, but it will provide opportunities to develop them (if you’ll pardon the pun).

PS: Before you ask, I have consent of all the subjects of to take the photos concerned above.
PPS: Once I get the model release from the young lady concerned, I’ll strip the metadata and post the shot up here!

11 May 08 Crisis management

Well, as I did say, I was at my mate’s 18th birthday party last night. It started out really well, with us meeting together in Newcastle and then going for some drinks, which were generously bought by the rich and now legal birthday boy. Afterwards, we took a walk to the bus stop where we had a 20 minute wait, so I ended up impressing my new-found acquaintances with my photography skills.

After arriving at his house, which is a very nice place, the drinks kept on flowing as we helped finish putting out the food and blowing up balloons (along with all the teenage innuendo that goes with it). The food was absolutely brilliant, home cooked by my mate’s Mum, and I thoroughly enjoyed it – having decided that I’d best eat a fair bit before drinking much more. Again, my camera was out, snapping away at different things here and there, all the time impressing those who saw the shots.

Its fair too assumes that by the time most of his family had left, all of us teenagers were fairly drunk. We started enjoying ourselves a bit more; I can remember dancing with a lovely young lady to High School Musical. With the lager now finished, we drank a bottle of wine between us before opening the bottle of vodka to have as shots. A useful thing to remember is that vodka burns, and gets to your bloodstream quite quickly. Now, I can recall a set of drinking games cards was being looked at as we had our second shot, and third, but then as we toasted to friendship, the young lady became extremely upset; the situation changed rapidly from a drunken party into a crisis management because she was in floods of tears about something. Present at this were myself, who’d only just met her 8 hours earlier, my mate who knew her well, and her boyfriend.

As you’d expect her boyfriend tried to comfort her, but physical comfort can only go so far, my mate tried to talk her through what he knew of the situation, but it didn’t appear to be helping. Thankfully, my mate trusted me at this point that I knew what to do, so I hinted for him and her boyfriend to effectively shut up and go away. At this point, I have adrenaline kicking in and therefore I become fairy sober in the space of about 15 minutes. The first thing I done was to comfort and reassure, without saying anything I simply put my arm around her and let her cry silently for a few moments. I then distanced myself emotionally from this all by telling her I don’t know the situation or the people to who it refers, I also told her that I was going to listen to her explain it to me and how she feels.

We didn’t get very far before my mate asked me to go upstairs and use his room because he thought it would be best to give her complete space from people she knows. This idea worked well, because she simply lay down on the bed and continued to talk to me as I lay next to her and hugged her. I cannot remember what physical contact went on between us; I only know that we were definitely hugging. I was glad she felt she could talk to me about it, being so distant from it all, but this led to issues of trust, I totally appreciated that she couldn’t trust me because she’d only just met me, and I respected that. At this point, I made five failures that took a crisis to a disaster, and although I stand by my decisions come what may, I accept full responsibility for the consequences that came.

She asked if she could have a cigarette outside, and this was ok (I had been given her cigarettes and lighter to look after), so we went outside and I gave her one, as we continued to talk some more. Then, she asked for another one, and I refused, saying that she’d want it in the morning. She then threatened to stay outside in an unfamiliar place to us both, or to leave, the risks for either were immense, and I therefore felt I had no choice but to do everything possible to safeguard myself and her – this meant giving her the second cigarette. Whilst doing this, we continued to talk, and she was beginning to feel better.

For some random reason she asked me for a foot massage, and this was ok, as it helped her stay relaxed. This triggered her to talk about her boyfriend and how much she wanted him to wake up next to her in the morning. I foolishly promised her that I would ask my mate to ask him if he would; this counts as two failures, one for the actual promise, and another for considering the request as reasonable because I had no information about what was going on inside the house. We then went back inside the house, and after showing her back upstairs, I went down to relay the promise.

When I got back upstairs, the situation had changed dramatically, and she was no longer relaxed but quite agitated and didn’t want to talk to me. She wanted to run downstairs, but I knew that this was not in her best interests, so I placed myself between her and the door. She then threatened to shout “rape”, or otherwise, but I held firm, and attempted to persuade her to sit down and talk rationally about this at the same time as trying to reassure her that I had her best interests at heart. I finally conceded that I was no longer helping her, and that I needed backup, so I rang my mate to come upstairs and take over me. What had happened was that she had became scared of me, and what might happen, I think the drink was wearing off and she was realising that she was in a room in somebody else’s house with an older lad she’d only just met. Quite rightly, this scared her, and made her feel very anxious.

I switched roles, and went downstairs to sit with her boyfriend to watch Dr. Who. It took my mate 40 minutes to repair the damage caused by me making her feel scared, and to get her back relaxed and how she was before we came back in from the cigarettes. It took another hour before we asked her to come in and listen to my apology. However, after we woke up this morning, we spoke more, and both agreed to put the incident behind us, and to move on. The positive thing is that she is now able to think about what was making her upset and how she can make herself feel better about it. She’s also more confident, because she is able to relax, and she’s going to attempt to give up smoking for her health.

A good party overall. At first, excellent handling of a crisis incident, but then I got a few things wrong which led to a disaster. However, benefits of hindsight are wonderful, and I took immediate steps to resolve the situation, which worked. I can see my faults, yes, but I can also see the positive aspects of it all.

09 May 08 Party

Well, I’m looking forward to tomorrow night. For once, I’m doing something that normal teenage lads do – I’m going round to my mate’s house to celebrate his 18th birthday. That involves drinking alcohol, and having a laugh.

It’ll be a “normal” social situation, with lots of social scenarios going on around me, and therefore I’ll need to handle myself appropriately. I believe I have learnt the skills to do this from the staff at the service provider. It will be a massive positive achievement for me to show that I can do this, and it will reflect good on the service provider as they are giving me the chance to prove myself in a context without staff support and with my peers. Surely they agree?

Well, no, they don’t. They won’t allow me to go directly from there, and instead I have to “go home” so that I’ll be in the care of my Mum, who is letting me go. Big question, why don’t they let me, knowing full well that my Mum will?