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college » 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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18 Feb 09 Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill

Disclaimer: I do not, at present, agree to using hormonal contraceptives as a method for controlling behaviour in females with autistic traits!

I don’t want to say too much about this, because it is simply my own personal observations of somebody who may or may not have any autistic traits – certainly I don’t think she is formally diagnosed with anything. This article is a follow up to Maybe, maybe not!

My observations

None of the observations from the previous post have changed, and the young lady concerned is still the same as always when in class. I’ve noticed her more often outside of class, mainly in the college canteen where she is still surrounded by her large group of friends, and, often, her boyfriend.

The difference comes in her behaviour towards me. When I first met her, she was alright with me, not exactly best-of-mates, but certainly no trace of dislike. Admittedly I can be a bit very patronising at times, and that can cause people to dislike me, but I wasn’t expecting her behaviours towards me. Within 2 weeks of meeting her, it would appear to anybody who saw us that she hated me. She would be very ‘bitchy’ to me in class, and my support worker overheard her saying quite a considerable number of horrible things about me to her friend.

Then, for no apparent reason, she simply ignored me, then would talk to me, ignore me, and go back to the bitching. Funny, but that cycle took about 28 days – give or take… After October half-term, it happened all over again, and I basically go used to the fact that she was never going to get on with me, even if her life depended on it! But then, something changed leading up to Xmas. She was civil to me – which was, for this situation, quite a breakthrough. Obviously, I tried to stay civil, and polite with her, although I was very confused by her sudden change; particularly as I was subsconsciously bracing myself for another lesson of bitchiness.

One of the girls I used to know at high school will tell you that I have an almost uncanny ability to predict, with a 1 day accuracy, when a girl’s period will fall; based solely on what one person has told me about her in two weeks. Amazingly, I was spot-on for some considerable time – althought it was never a topic we brought up often!

So, completely confused by what my mind was guessing, and what I was noticing, I quickly flicked through my notebook. One thing I sometimes do is to make notes at the top of any pages when a social situation is turning negative, to see if there is a trend (ie is it getting worse, and is it continual). I wrote the dates where I had made notes (only twice) in the back of the notes, and calculated the interval – 27 days. Then, I worked out the time between the last note and that day – 57 days. Without medical evidence, but using solely mathematics and gut feeling, I assumed I was calculating when she was ‘on’.

Since the Xmas holidays, she’s been even more bubbly than usual, and has started asking me for help. Sometimes complimenting or thanking me, although almost invariably in a sarcastic way. I could be seeing things in too much of a positive way, but I like to at least think that she has become much more civil and polite with me than she was.

The final observation was actually a physical one – and that was thing young lady taking a small white tablet from a foil packet which she kept in her bag. My medical knowledge guessed that it was likely to be a COCP, and based on what I’d seen of them, I would hazard a guess at Microgynon-30.

Conclusions

I can’t really say. I can timeline things, and figure that she started seeing her boyfriend in either October or November, that she became more civil/polite towards me in late December, and that I witnessed her taking a small white pill about 2 weeks ago. But that is all circumstantial.

Whatever has changed her, and stopped her being so bitchy to me, and horrible about me behind my back, is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. I can’t say what it is, but I can guess…

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…

25 Mar 08 Parents’ Evening

I’m really proud of what I was told tonight by my two college tutors, both academically and socially. Most of all, they backed up what I’d been trying to tell the service provider for many months now.

Firstly, my Physics lecture expressed her disappointment at my latest exam result – a ‘b’. I was only 1 mark off an ‘a’, but 1 mark is too much to miss by! However, she is very happy with my work rate, informing my Mum that I am regularly provided with extra work which I always finish to a very high standard. My punctuality and attendance are excellent, both being 100%. Then my Mum asked about my social interaction, after explaining about my Asperger’s and how it affects me. And the lecturer was very positive, explaining I get on well with everybody, and help people when they ask me for it. I asked the direct question “Do you think that I need support in the class?” I was answered with a “No.” My Mum mentioned to us that she would bring up these comments at my forthcoming review in May.

Next, we went to Chemistry. Again, I was told by my very enthusiastic chemistry lecturer (he’s brilliant, bless him) that I perform to a very high standard in class and should not have any problems in achieving an ‘A’ for AS Chemistry. I was reminded of the deadline for the planning exercise, and advised to submit a draft of it soon, which of course I will. My lecturer then re-advertised his study clinics, which I admit to not having yet attended. The problem is that they fall when I’m usually with the specialist college in Sunderland. However, I did explain that I will be able to come in for the Tuesday session from the start of May, because it falls at good times for trains and I can miss about an hour of Duke of Edinburgh to revise a past module. I might attend the general study clinic over a Wednesday lunch leading into the exams, just to make sure I can do it all! Then, rather shockingly, he asked me about the trip to Nottingham; I was puzzled by this, because I’d explained to him that due to a lack of support I’d be unable to go. But, then, suddenly, an idea lit up!

I looked at my Mum, hinting at her to rapidly move the conversation onto my social skills in class, and support staff. “Matt makes fantastic contributions” he told her. He didn’t think I needed any support, even when I asked him to think carefully about my interactions with my two close mates. He did ask me about last Thursday’s support worker, because she appeared to be making a lot of notes. I explained in brief terms why, and then followed up with a question about if my behaviour or interaction with the person concerned was any different to how he normally sees me; historically, I can’t cope with what had happened. We agreed that I didn’t need any support; more to the point I was told I should be supporting the support worker!

As we left, and enjoyed some really nice food from the bake sale for Operation Wallacea (yeah, research, not a holiday, of course), my Mum told me that she wasn’t going to wait for my review and was instead going to send an email to the managers at the service provider, explaining her point of view based on the first-hand information she now has. I tried explaining my arguments for being allowed to go to Nottingham, but it was futile, she told me that there was no way even if she wanted to, because it leaves early on Monday morning, and I’m not back with the service provider until Sunday evening. I tried explaining about the lecturers saying I didn’t need support, and how I coped with everything over the weekend (I briefly appraised my Mum without going into any detail). But she wanted to take it small steps at a time; I countered that I’ve been saying I haven’t needed support for 5 months. But then she used the killer, the one truth that ties it all together, she knew there was somebody going that I fancy. I didn’t argue, except for to say I respect this person so much I can’t bring myself to even think of trying anything on! It was worth a shot, and I did have ulterior motives; a chance to talk with somebody for a short while away from college and any form of distraction would be brilliant, and I think very beneficial.

Anyway, I was really happy with the way things went; I only wish that I could have had one of my managers from the service provider there with my Mum! I’m really proud of what I have achieved at college this year, both academically and socially!

19 Mar 08 A Reminder

This week I have been continually reminded of what it is like to be a typical college student. That is, living at home with my parents, not being surrounded by other Aspies 24/7, and having the proper chance to do my homework and things.

It’s given me the opportunity to think about social issues at a pace I can handle, rather than trying to do it all in about 10 minutes. Of course, having so much time on my hands means that I have been over-analysing things; as an example today, I saw two of my friends from a distance on their way home, they were standing close together and looking at each other, after way too much analysis my mind decided it was perfectly, logically conceivable they were seeing each other and went to her house for some nookie over lunch. Ch’yeah, right, add some reality into that, and I know it’s nothing like that!

But in general, I’ve had a quiet undisturbed place (my room / my Mum’s office) to relax, open my laptop, and get on with my homework. At 7pm, straight after my tea. Trying to do that at halls is impossible, it’s expected that I take part in a social activity at 7:30pm each night! I’m sick of arguing that it isn’t normal to be out socialising every night, certainly not going to the same place about once a week; my experience is that my college mates might see their partners 2 or 3 nights a week. Maybe once a week go out getting drunk with their mates (not always at parties, think walking across fields, or going to gigs (basically no one type of activity more than twice per month). But whatever, they aren’t in the pub once a week, bowling once a week and at the cinema once a week without fail!

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to communicate in a way typical to a student. It’s not that I don’t; I can remember a very personal conversation with one of my college friends via mobile phone one night last November. But MSN messenger, it’s too often I’m reminded indirectly that my friends are talking on it. I’m not, the rather annoying hall of residence has done a number of things to stop it; they only allow us into the IT suite before 9pm, they banned it from the PCs, and they don’t let us have the internet in our rooms; despite some people recently purchasing USB 3G modems… Although I don’t have the internet in my room, I at least have access to MSN over the holidays, which is better than nothing! Having MSN gives me the chance to keep in touch with my old school mates. There’s one I like a lot, and she has great advice for me, but we only really talk over MSN. I just wish I had the balls to ask her for her number.

For some reason, that sounds all-too-similar to not having the balls to ask somebody I fancy for a coffee. Saying that, being at home (and thus needing weekly bus tickets) means that I can go into Newcastle when I feel like it. Therefore I have more confidence in saying “Fancying coming into town with me at the weekend”. I should, I can, but I won’t because I fear rejection; ah, teenage-male syndrome! I could, in theory, meet anybody I like anywhere I can get to on a bus. I usually do meet a few people in Newcastle over the holidays.

Now a thought to leave myself with: one of my (male) mates is having a sleepover for his 18th birthday. Thus equalling lots of alcohol, oh and a normal social situation for people my age. If I was based at home, and my Mum was fully & continually apprised of what’s been going on at college, I know that I’d be able to go. However, I’m with the service provider, so I don’t know whether I will be allowed to go…