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Stereotypes » 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.

27 Nov 08 Maybe, maybe not!

I’m not quite sure how to write this, to be honest. What it is, I know somebody in one of my GFE college classes who I’m not sure if she has a “non-descript undiagnosed underlying condition”, and I’m considering the possibility that it may be “on the spectrum”…

My observations

She is a friendly enough girl, in fact it’s fair to say that she gets on with pretty much everybody at college, has a large circle of friends, and is incredibly sociable. It’s crossed my mind more than once that she may well be in college purely to build a social network!

But in the lesson I have with her, she displays a lack of confidence, which usually comes across as attention-seeking. Though it may be possible that the low confidence and attention-seeking are entirely seperate issues. It’s hard to say why she’s not confident about the work, because in the time I’ve seen her focus and do it, she is more than capable of answering the questions correctly.

As well as that, she is usally asking for help, either by ‘disrupting’ other people or shouting the lecturer’s name out loud. Whilst it’s excellent that she recognises her need for support, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps there are other, more appropriate ways of going about obtaining it! This can often lead to other people trying to help, which may contribute towards the next problem…

The habit of continual talking. I know this is something I am quite an expert on, but not even I am that bad! It starts with the subject, but quickly moves off to everybody’s social life and anything else she feels like talking about. Quite often we have discussion about how long until break is, can it be extended, and can we finish early? This conversation will be ongoing whilst she texts any of her friends not in the lesson! It’s probably safe to assume that she is very easily distracted, and it can be a struggle for the lecturer to bring her back on task.

What I’ve heard

I’ve also heard that she is the same in other lessons, and has been throughout her school life.

My analysis

Well, I’m not sure if she is on the spectrum. I’ve considered the diagnostic criteria for sub-strands of conditions, and I would say that it’s possible that she’d fit some of the criteria for attention-deficiency. She also fits some of the criteria for hyperactivity, but not many.

At present, it may be that she has an “atypical presentation” of a related condition. I know it’s possible to miss ASD completely with girls, and even more so as they mature and the symptoms can be masked as they master the social skills necessary to make up for the deficits.

I simply don’t know if it should be considered a possibility or not – maybe she should see an educational psychologist…?

17 Aug 08 a friend like henry

I’ve just finished reading a friend like henry by Nuala Gardner, which is about Dale, her son, who has been diagnosed with classical (Kanner) autism. It’s about her fight to achieve the correct diagnosis, to get the support he is entitled to, and about his remarkable journey to a full integration into society. A TV drama, After Thomas, is also based on her story, but that’s a separate post due to my differing views on the film.

I almost cried at a few points in the book, particularly when the dog dies in the final chapter. But it was the afterword that actually had me with tears coming out of my eyes. Two quotes from the penultimate part of the book strike a lot of meaning with respect to my knowledge and experience of autism/Aspergers:

If I had to say just one thing about autism as a disability, it is this: we must never underestimate how hard a person affected has to work every day, all day, to live by our society’s rules and to fit in. The anxiety and effort this takes is always immense, and, like their autism, it is for the rest of their life.

It sounds very similar to the words of my Step-Dad a few years ago, and it truly sums up how I live my life. Each day you may see me as a ‘normal’ student at college, chatting, flirting, swearing, getting on with the work, and having a laugh. To do everything except the work itself, it requires a massive effort, whereas by comparison the academic work is as easy as you’re finding the small talk.

You worry about passing the exams, doing well in the subject, and coming home with your anticipated grade – be that an A or a U. I worry about whether I will mess up and be labelled as a freak, whether I will appear ‘normal’, whether I will end up a total loner with no friends. Yes, you may worry about whether you will ‘fit in’, but to do this may require an hour or so in the morning sorting out your hair and make-up. I have to worry all day every day about how I am seen, what I am saying, how people are reacting, and most importantly, whether I am interpreting any of that correctly!

Through the drama After Thomas and this book, Dale and I hope that at long last some lessons will be learned.

That one simple sentence made me reflect on everything I have been through recently, particularly since starting at this current service provider. My Mum’s fight for my diagnosis and the subsequent fights for adequate provision were all too similar by my recall. I was diagnosed about 7 or 8 years after Dale was, and I can’t say that much has changed. Departments within services are still trying to pass files and the accompanying responsibility around, with nobody quite certain where Aspergers ‘fits’. Multi-Agency teams cannot agree on who should be doing what, and none of them are keeping the important people in the loop.

With my forthcoming transition to the ‘real world’ as it were, I have been thinking on what is out there, how good it is, and is it really worth it? Currently, I describe myself as being “in this cotton-wool padded world, with far too many walls layering me from the real world, it’s going to come all to soon when those walls crumble and I’m the only thing left standing.” My point behind this is that with the current culture in healthcare provision, all too often the actual purpose for providing me with these services gets lost, “in less than a year’s time, it’s likely that I will have to do this anyway.”

To prove that I can cope independently requires being given limited amounts of responsibility, but in this day and age, somebody always has to be responsible for my care, and most of those somebodies are governed by ‘risk management…

29 Jun 08 I’d never guess

I’m away at the minute, on ‘the circuit’ as its called, which means that I’m visiting a few different university open days over a short period of time (the ‘summer season’ of open days, as they get called). Now that’s not a bad thing, I really enjoy being away and being able to travel independently.

But, that’s not what this blog post is about. It’s about a night I had in a pub/restaurant next to the no-frills hotel that I stayed in on Friday night. As I’m on my own, it can get a bit boring, particularly after I’ve eaten and want to have a few more drinks. The good thing, however, is that the bar staff on duty were really friendly, fun-loving people.

As usual, I ended up flirting with one of the beautiful 18 year old lasses, and I must have taken up the last hour or so of her shift just talking generally and about us. Needless to say, I started off a bit drunk, but once I got talking properly, I thought that it would be better to start sobering up, I didn’t want to come across as some sleazy drunk trying it on; she had enough lads that had already tried.

We talked about being a student, where is good in the local city, what we like doing, and so on. And somehow, I ended up mentioning that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. Then, she shocked me: here was a stunning blonde, blue-eyed girl, only 18, with a clue about what Asperger’s Syndrome actually was. She didn’t say it, but her facial expression told me enough. As I asked her more, her first comment was “I’d never have guessed that you had that!”

Naturally, I was quite complimented by that. I learned that she knew a girl on her college course that has the same diagnosis, and the barmaid reflected on how ‘different’ she was. There was agreement when I said I had a “compulsive drive to socialise”. I was still quite pleased at her comments about not guessing I had AS, as it agrees with my views: that I can cope with socialising, going out, and so on…

01 Jun 08 Define “friendship”

An impossible concept for an Aspie, I have learnt from many different experiences. But we are not as alone as we may first imagine. I was amazed at how similar to the neurotypical we are when it comes to deciding what a friend is.

I was talking to my friend last Friday night, albeit for 5 hours, and during the course of the conversation, we talked about our times at middle & high school, and our times at college. She reflected on how she didn’t have many friends at middle school, and then we laughed together when I just said “And here’s me, the Aspie, thinking I had the social difficulties” This moved on to high school, where she had found some good friends, through “forced situations” such as being in tutorial groups that you stick with for most of the day. Again, I shared similar experiences, certainly with my second tutorial group at that school, and also in the science classes, where the groups were together a lot of the time. We could both say how ‘easy’ it was to make friends from the group, and how we just knew they were friends.

But then we moved on to each other, and how we met at college. She didn’t know if I was a friend because she had never been in the situation where she had to make her own friends in a “voluntary situation” like the busy life of college. I commented I didn’t know if she was a friend, because I’ve never been in the situation of having a proper friend, and my “lack of social interaction” makes it even harder.

After looking back at how we think of each other, and the interactions we have, we decided that we were friends, and probably close friends. She knows a lot about me and my life, and vice-versa. Its weird how we had to have a conversation to figure out we’d been friends for 6 months, though. I also mentioned that I used a discreet method to turn a “voluntary scenario” into a “forced scenario”, I used a little quiz, which I was struggling with to start conversations with people (name 10 Disney Classics with just one word in their title); by the end of an hour long lesson, I had the number of two of my classmates, who have both gone on to be considered good friends by me!

Anybody else have any similar experiences or thoughts?

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!