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Communication » 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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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 Nov 08 Coexistence

In the last two years, I’ve lived in the same place. This year, you’ve heard me whinge about what I hate about it. This post is different, I’m not whinging, but it’s more of an exploration of curiosity.

The hall where I live is surrounded quite nicely by a private school. Now, naturally, that means we’re surrounded each weekday by hoards of screaming kids, a few teachers, and so on. Yet in my two years, I’ve barely seen any interaction between “us and them” as it were. Why? I want to challenge that, and also write about 2 years worth of minor observations.

Firstly, let’s look at the teachers. I know who the headmistress is, she was the one who turned up when the school caught fire last year, and is generally to be found randomly appearing near the crossing with words such as “Katie, tuck your shirt in!” or else “Brian, your tie has turned invisible again.” I can take a guess at one or two others – the large gentleman who parks in the back lane in his 4×4-ish car; I think he may be a head of year, he’s strict when he needs to be, but he’s always so friendly to the students, plenty have I seen him make sure someone wasn’t standing alone in the dark awaiting a lift home. Then there’s the older man who gets off the LRTS at the bus interchange and walks through the civic centre, I can set my watch by his arrival off the 0741; I think he might be a form tutor for the younger year groups. Based on the service he gets off, I can conclude he lives North of the river, towards (or in) the neighbouring town.

I’ve seen one or two of the older ladies come off the buses after school finishes, so I suspect they may be in the humanities department, after all that is where most school trips come from. I think one of them has a daughter at the school, or else some other school-aged member of her family. And you can’t miss the PE department, in their school-branded tracksuits, they’re often found walking a group of young adults to wherever it is they do outdoor sports. I can even tell you that students congregate in a corner of a certain car park before walking down to compulsory games lessons.

But, throughout my time, one student has stood out above the others, and for no other reason than her looks. She is rather well known by most male students in my hall, although until recently nobody knew her name. The rest of this post is a story about how the internet is a risk to privacy, and how such small things can lead you to a mountain of information. This young lady was noticed often in the mornings, waiting for her games lesson, always talking. I think what made it hard for everyone to forget her was the stunning curly auburn hair; that, and something else about her that nobody can describe.

Over the next two years, the students at halls have seen her come from gossipy-style-schoolgirl to a mature sixth former. Of course, she didn’t help us to not notice her. We discovered she had a boyfriend quite easily, as he moved his lips with hers, his hand through her hair, as they fell backwards over the railings at the zebra crossing. It was watching a love story unfold before our very eyes; and to think, people will pay 6 quid to watch inferior actresses in the cinema. Not that we could miss it, most evenings we had to walk past this sweet expression.

Should anybody have managed to ignore it though, there was one time that was so obvious; the two caused quite a fuss within the building! We were sitting waiting for our pizza to arrive, and it so happened to be the school’s open evening, and then one of my mates shouted across, “Isn’t that the fit one from that school – is that her boyfriend!?” After hastily slamming the windows so as not to interrupt their time together, a discussion broke out deciding who the young gentleman in question was; much deliberation settled on him being the ‘school jock’, but we were undecided on the issue of rugby or football. As our pizza arrived we settled in the kitchen, where we ended up with front-row tickets to the latest. There, sitting on our wall was what can only be described in the most intimate you can get without falling foul of the law! Another window-slamming ensures they don’t hear the wolf-whistling and vulgar comments from within, although it does disturb them slightly.

By this point, I know she is 16; I’d defy any visually-typical person to tell me they walked down the street and missed that badge covering her blazer! Not to mention, she was now in the 6th form, so must have been in Year 12. I could also pretty much say she lives in town; she walks down past the day college site, which only leads to the posh area of town or a bus route that stays in town. I also know what school she goes to – obviously! I don’t know her name, but I figure it’s time people in my hall and that school should be talking; for one thing, I ought to apologise for slamming the windows and disturbing her. Of course, in two years, I’d guessed at her name, Amy, Megan, Jessica, Louise, Cheryl, and many others were guessed!

So, in come trusty Google and Facebook. Nothing could be found from Google at this point, except to note that she’d been in the photoshoot for the school’s website when she was younger. Facebook didn’t reveal too much, except two groups related to the school; one of these was a current appreciation group for a current teacher. I couldn’t find anything to help me in the members list, so I posted to the wall and discussion board, hoping for an answer. It didn’t take long for somebody to give me a name, which I searched on to discover she doesn’t have a Facebook profile. Not to worry, as Google came up with plenty…

Put her name into the engine and the first link will tell you that she is 5′ 7″ tall (guessed that), has blue eyes (knew that), auburn hair (knew that), is dress size 10 (guessed that), vital stats of 34B/25/36, shoe size 7, inside leg is 32″, and specialises in photographic modelling! Sorry, but, whoa, isn’t this far too much information to be having on the internet about a 16 year old girl? Next result gave me her old Bebo profile, complete with pictures, and information including that she is a season ticket holder for the local premiership club as well as a “netballer obsessive”. The third result of relevance was a deleted Wikipedia page (information still available on Google’s cache) informing me that her boyfriend played football for a local academy, and lives in a suburb of town. I now also know her boyfriend is the Head Boy at school.

Then, the very next day after discovering all that, I had a random young lady add me on Facebook from this high school. I accepted, placing her onto my limited profile, however going with my ethos of getting some interaction going between the two establishments. After some messages back and forth on the wall, I discovered she added me because “xxx told me to” – my, my, doesn’t popularity do wonders for you these days? Weird how things can happen like that – apparently she had seen my original posting on the appreciation group and wanted to know if she knew me. Not having Facebook herself, she asked one of her friends to check me out…

Finally, this whole story is almost pointless. Her boyfriend has recently passed his test and now drives her home from school each night. I assure you he is a very good driver, and incredibly cautious with reversing! Except to say, the young lady who added me on Facebook will say “hi” if she sees me around – no doubt she will what with me living next to her school!

But back to the original… Why do people seem to have so little time for simple pleasantries such as “Good morning”? It seems sad that, looking back, there has been two attacks on the back lane between “us and them” and neither of the establishments has either been able to help, or cared much about them.

04 Jan 08 Xmas holidays

I don’t celebrate xmas for religious reasons. I celebrate the commercial aspect of xmas. All of the student parties, workplace parties, and so on. I give presents to people who are special to me (or at least try to, in the case of a young lady at the local sector college).

But best of all, is the fact that I get to go home from the hall of residence. I spend some time with my Mother, and some time with my Grandmother (who lives at the other end of the country to my Mother). Of course, the extra money I get from the DLA does help matters…

Now this has got me thinking about what I can do during holidays that is different from what I can do when I’m at the hall of residence (under the care of the service provider). The most obvious one, and potentially the riskiest is that I travel independently via plane to see my Grandmother; that’s at least 1 hour in the airport (more when there are delays, which is often), then there’s 1 1/2 hours on the plane itself, and finally 1/2 an hour at the arrival airport to collect my luggage and meet whoever is picking me up. Other things I can do include access Newcastle city centre independently, for an arbitrary period of time, for an arbitrary purpose, whenever I would like to; I done this twice these holidays, once to finish my xmas shopping, and a second time to go and watch a film at the cinema.

I can, of course, meet up with my friends if I so wish. They could be male or female, and of any age. I remember it being only in September when the senior management of the service provider called me in for a meeting to remind me of things such as the sex offenders register and how the police operate, the reason: I had met a female friend, who happened to be 15, in the middle of Newcastle, on a Saturday during the preceding holiday period, with the full knowledgeable consent of my Mother (note: I was 17 at the time).

As for the internet? That’s completely unrestricted. I’m sitting here at my Grandmother’s house using my laptop wirelessly as I compose this post. I can use Facebook, and upload photographs, download music and generally do what normal teenagers do when they are at home. Yes, that does mean I use Windows Live Messenger a lot during the holidays!

Oh well, at the time of writing, it’s only 2 days until I fly back up to Sunderland and voluntarily walk into virtual imprisonment where harsh rule is imposed upon me again. In my “best interests” of course, because the service provider has a “duty of care” to me which they must follow. As my good friend Bekki once said “I prefer prison to here, you get more freedom when you’re there…

20 Dec 07 Social Networking

Being a typical teenager in this day and age, I regularly use websites such as Facebook, Bebo & MySpace. I use them to keep in touch with my old friends as well as colleagues from St John Ambulance, peers at college (both the specialist and local sector), and my family.

So it’s an understatement to say I was shocked when the service provider had installed filtering software on the network to prevent access to these particular websites. In my past, I was quite good at bypassing network restrictions (a skill I perfected at high school), and proceeded to do so; using little-known (found using Google) cgi proxy servers I was able to access Bebo and MySpace. Facebook, however, has a security restriction on its own servers which only enables you to login directly to their servers – cgi proxies are not allowed! Not that not being able to access Facebook at the specialist college bothers me too much; I have signed up to Facebook Mobile, which enables me to access most Facebook commands via a text message and my laptop is also registered with The Cloud, which convienently has a hotspot at the local sector college.

Being a curious young adult, I asked the member of staff in the IT suite why this had been put in place, and more importantly, why hadn’t the learners been informed of such change; remembering at this point Aspies do not cope with change very well, especially when they are not notified of the change. His explanation was much less than satisfactory, in that he had not been informed of the change, and neither had any of the senior staff on duty. Hiseducated guess was that some learners were extremely vulnerable when using such websites, and the filtering was in place to protect them; he then went on to explain equal opportunities and that if it has to be blocked for one leaner, it has to be blocked for all.

I had a problem with this equal opportunities idea. Quite a large problem at that. If we use the theory of “If one learner can’t, then no learner can“, the whole risk assessment system collapses. As an example, during all of my first year, my behaviour was considered too risky for me to be allowed to access the local city centre independently; but all of my mates were allowed into the local city centre independently. Why? They had completed a successful risk assessment to enable them to do so.

My argument was such that learners should be risk assessed to access social networking websites in exactly the same way that they are risk assessed to go out into the community independently, or self-administer their medication, or complete their weekly chores. My other main point was that at minimum a senior member of staff on duty should have a satisfactory explanation, at best there should have been a memo at least 7 days prior to the change taking place, in order that learners are aware of it.