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Social Skills » 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…?

25 Nov 08 Self-control

Against even my own belief, I am proving that I actually have some self-control. For once, I think I can avoid getting myself into what I know would be a stupid and bad argument.

The trouble is, the reason for this new-found self-control isn’t a one that is “easily-transferred”. Once again, I find myself making the right choice because of one person in particular. And it’s that one person that I’ve blogged about at different times of the year, including my self-control at her birthday party.

This time, I’ve just been looking around Facebook, as you do, and my news feed showed some ‘Recently tagged photos’ of my friend; being a nosey sod that I undoubtebly am, I clicked the link and started to look at some of them. Initially, I made a couple of comments, one was in response to another one of her friends. But then, almost immediately, he replied with something that kinda incensed me a little bit.

I don’t know why it did. Actually, I do know why it did, and it stems from a combination of two things: my respect for my friend, and how much I care about her. Ok, so there is a third factor, but I can’t post it on here, I barely admit that factor to myself… So, I went straight for the keypad of my phone to type a response, and started a few words, but then froze. I actually managed to put in place the main strategy everybody around me has been trying to get me to do: STOP, think, act.

My thoughts then centered not on me, my comment, or what I was replying to, but immediately on my friend, and her feelings. I couldn’t post, I just couldn’t; it would most likely end up upsetting her. And that, I think, is something I keep trying to “protect her from”. That sounds bad – God only knows how much I complain about people doing that to me – except I don’t actually do much, or interfere. I’m just there, someone she can talk to, or someone who’ll ask her a couple of questions if I think she’s aiming straight down a path that will only lead to her being hurt.

I just wish I knew why my thoughts were the way they are. I really do, it’s so hard to figure out for most teenage lads, but it’s harder again for me. I’m confused, and right now, I don’t even think that Thought Process Analysis will do much other than end up in an infinite loop!

Well, now just to smile, be happy I didn’t do anything, and try and relax…

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…

24 Jun 08 Marine disruptive pattern material

I was visiting a medical school today, and though that I might blog about the social aspects of the open day, and how I coped with them. Note that this post is paraphrased from a confidential journal I’m doing to help me keep track of things.

The title of this is called “Marine Disruptive Pattern Material”, because it is the first thing I noticed. Not the first thing of the day, but the first thing I noticed when I sat down to lunch. As you might expect, the foyer was rather busy, and there were no free tables; I noticed a young-ish lady sitting on her own, so I politely asked if I could sit next to her, and she said I could. My observation skills picked out that she was wearing a blue DPM style bra and not that I was looking, it was slightly sticking out over her blue strappy top.

We got talking, of course – who can shut me up? – and we spoke about school, A levels, exams, the open day itself and general things like how old we were, where we were from and so on. Funnily enough, I never conversed on any topics that could be considered inappropriate. The only thing I regret was not getting R’s phone number or surname (for FaceStalking)!

However, I did have a “get a grip” moment with myself, when I seemed to lose my flirty personality. I was sitting at another empty table later in the day waiting for the next tour of the campus, and a good-looking young lady came and sat next to me. She was wearing tight-fitting jeans and a white top. I didn’t even open my mouth to say a word. Something must be up with me…

For the rest of the time, I was just talking to the student guides, finding out about the place. I felt comfortable enough to mention my Asperger’s to one of the 2nd year lasses, and she was quite supportive and stuff, looked out for me for the rest of the day, which was nice of her!

Socially, no problems. But then, I always knew I can cope with things, it’s just being able to prove to the service provider that I can do so, without having to go behind their back and breaking their risk assessments…

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.