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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 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.

31 Jan 08 Police following

My instructor is rather curious about my AS; and that’s a good thing, I’d far rather have somebody ask me about it and how it affects me than read some generic book that is based on the diagnostic criteria in worst case. He was interested in medication, whether people on AS had it; personally, I don’t, nor am I aware of any, but I am aware of a few people with AS & AD/HD and I know they receive controlled drug Ritalin for their AD/HD. We chatted about the supported hall of residence, and he seemed quite shocked when I told him it had 30 staff on the books, with between 7 and 15 on any given shift.

A quick recap of last lesson, and seat change before starting. I completed the cockpit drill whilst chatting to my instructor about mobile phones (as I silenced mine), and how his daughter was attached to hers; I’m attached to mine, I admit, but she puts me to shame! It’s a good thing small talk comes fairly naturally to me, one of the few areas of socialising my AS has not affected.

This lesson, I moved up to third gear, and was expected to use my mirrors before preparing for any manouvre, in addition to checking them every few seconds whilst driving anyway! I also started to handle junctions correctly, stopping for closed ones, and slowing down for all of them; not something I like doing is slowing down. Still, I got used to the idea fairly quickly, that came in the form of following an articulated flatbed, complete with about 25 brake lights fitted to the rear of his cab… The next time I turned the bend to go down the bank, I noticed a white van pull out behind me, but I didn’t think anything of it. My instructor, however, did, “Matt, I would like you to take this corner perfectly, because there is a police van following us!” Now I re-checked my mirror, and noticed the large blue “POLICE” on the front of the vehicle.

As usual, I stalled a few times, once for doing such a stupid obvious mistake; stopping at a give way line, finding the biting point, applying some gas, but not remembering to change down from second to first. I was allowed to try moving off in second from a parked position, and needless to say, I couldn’t manage it! Overall, a very good lesson in my opinion, I definitely saw some improvements.

27 Jan 08 Cancellation & Evacuation

It’s a well known fact that Aspies don’t cope well with change. Or is it? I’m not too sure whether it is or not; personally speaking, there are a few examples this week when I have coped extremely well with change. Flexibility must be one of my non-aspie strengths!

The changes begin on Monday, after my Physics exam. I was expecting a nice long three hour lunch, maybe a walk into Newcastle to grab a bite to eat, but otherwise chilling out on my laptop in sector college before my next lecture. No sooner do I go downstairs than I have my support worker informing me I’m going back to the specialist college for about 30 minutes where I can eat my lunch, before being taken back to sector college for my lecture. Marvellous. No chillout time on the internet for me. Did it bother me? Not at all, I’d downloaded my emails earlier in the day, and I had a book to read.

The next change came on Tuesday. I had already been notified of it; well, I had the new plan thrust upon me when I wasn’t supposed to be in the specialist college on the middle of Monday. We were meant to be going for a walk to Teesdale, but due to the snow, and one of the tutors being snowed in at home, we didn’t. Instead, I had an extremely chilled out morning, because the only other student in the session was out at a committee meeting. So after spending 30 minutes planning a couple of routes, I spent the rest of the morning looking into support provided at different universities. In the afternoon, we went out to collect some donations for our fundraising activities.

The changes continued on Wednesday, with Physics being cancelled due to lack of students. Another exam was on, and the majority of students were taking it. Then, I went down to Chemistry after spending some time on my laptop, only to find a room change. After waiting at that room for 15 minutes with a couple of my friends, the lecturer failed to show up, so we went back to the specialist college earlier!

Thursday was even more changes. I slept in, and when I heard the knock on my door, I assumed a bollocking was about to be given; instead, I was informed of an evacuation of the specialist college due to a gas leak, so we all had the day off. Then I went in for a quick chemistry lesson, which was followed by two physics lectures being cancelled because all but four of the students were in a general studies exam!

Thursday night was no better. It was my birthday meal out, and it was arranged so that my keyworker and another member of staff would be accompanying me and my 4 friends, travelling via public transport. Then, one of my friends dropped out. Next, my keyworker was allocated to the overnight assessment student. Then, my manager was the one taking us via the college vehicle. Finally, I was asked to invite the overnight assessment student to my meal.

Friday was the only day this week that went without change…

I felt that I coped very well with all of the changes, and they did not affect my mood or behaviour for any of the week. Oh well, damn stereotypes!