Things I wish people would stop saying to those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado
Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

“You can’t possibly have any understanding of yourself and be Autistic at the same time. That just doesn’t happen’.

Well actually, yes it can and it does happen.

Individuals with Asperger’s are hyper aware of their feelings, their environment and those around them.

So hyper aware in fact that we experience sensory over load.

Yet every time we, as people, try to share our understandings of ourselves with others and  attempt to have our own personal views and needs both met and respected, we run into a brick wall of prejudice.

One that ensures that instead of being listened too, we’ll constantly have to  deal with having our personal truths questioned simply because of the mistaken belief that we are a particularly insular and self-absorbed type of person.

Due to this, instead of  being listened too when we try to talk about our feelings, we usually end up  being told things like:

-‘Why do you always look so sad? You should smile more”.

Well here’s a tip.

Why not try believing us when we tell you that we’re not sad we’re just so completely and utterly lost in thought that our faces automatically relax.

This process of relaxation means that our mouths and lips relax too.

And just in case you’re not up to speed with anatomy, it actually takes muscle contractions to create a smile.

So if a person’s face is completely  and I do mean completely relaxed, there will be no muscle contraction, hence no smile.

Besides, we are aware of the fact that we’re always having our facial expressions read by those around us, as if they were some kind of social barometer that might, potentially, give the reader some kind of insight as to what we’re feeling.

We’re also equally used to being blamed for an observers inability to read us due to our perceived lack of facial expression, whenever such exercises in futility fail to succeed.

Which is, once again, why you should believe us when we tell you that we’re not sad, just lost in thought.

Perhaps a far kinder thing to do would be to try asking us what we’re actually thinking about.

By approaching us in this way you’ll give us an opportunity to bring you a little closer to our world rather than pushing us away with false observations that only serve to make us feel even more self-conscious than we already do.

-‘You should get out of the house more. You’ll feel better for it.’

For those of us who are feeling overwhelmed due to sensory overload, the last thing we need to be told is to “get out of the house’, or to ‘go out and be around people’.

What  we really need when we’re feeling overwhelmed is to be left in the peace and quiet of our own surroundings and to be allowed to withdraw into our own safe space, without any ensuing argument or being accused of being anti-social.

So please, please, please try to understand that when we insist on the need to have our own space and to take things at our own pace, we’re not trying to be willfully stubborn  or malignantly anti-social.

We’re simply trying to do whats best for us by being mindful and respectful of our own needs so that we don’t end up in a full on ‘meltdown’.

Usually it takes years for us to learn how and when to walk away from situations before they escalate into a ‘meltdown’ so please understand that doing so is a sign of our maturity, and not our immaturity.

Please spend a little more time trying to love us and a little less time trying to  judge us.

Thank you.

 

Discussion of Autism in A Different Key – Errors and Revelations…

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In his latest  article ‘The errors — and revelations — in two major new books about autism’ (http://www.vox.com/2016/1/21/10801846/autism-in-a-different-key) ,Ari Ne’eman brilliantly reviews two very different and distinct portrayals of Autism  within the books NeuroTribes by  Steve Silberman and In a Different Key  by Caren Zucker and John Donvan

As Ne’eman unpacks these differences he’s also concise in pointing out that whilst all of the authors concerned are themselves non-autistic persons, Steve Silberman,  shares a unique key  empathy with  Autistic people.

Growing up as a gay man, he too, felt the sting of having both his worth as an individual and the right to make his own life choices, constantly restrained and questioned by the weight of an inadequately informed  public, whose  opinion over his “condition,” has at times, been to his disadvantage.

His experiences give light to the truth that there are many people, with many differing “conditions” who are forced to constantly battle against the subversive majority, whose misunderstandings and judgements of those who are different, in any way, creates the lifelong sets of discriminatory values that we all find ourselves having to fight against.in one or another.

His empathy for Autistic adults over the fact we are often talked at and about, but never talked too, comes from the genuinely  authentic center of having felt the same way for most of his own life.

Hence his sensitivities toward and awareness of many of the issues facing people with Autism, lead him to tackle both the past and the present conversations surrounding Autism with respect and dignity.at all times.

In this manner, Silberman’s work stands in stark contrast to that of Zucker and Donovan, who discuss the issues surrounding Autism from a much more parentally based, outsiders perspective of Autism.

The problem with this is, as Ne’eman so eloquently points out is that “autism happens to autistic people, not their parents”.

As both a parent to two teens with Autism and an adult with Autism myself, I know that there have been many parents over the years who have indeed broken down the majority of the walls that once prevented inclusion in terms of educational policy and funding, but there are still times when I wonder whether or not it was ever meant to become a system where by every single child with Autism, regardless of how well they can handle it, must, by the dictates of state, be placed in mainstream schooling.

In fact these days, I find myself on the other side of the debate. Arguing instead for the right for a child, teen or young adult with Autism to be able to decide for themselves which form of learning environment they find to be the most comfortable and enjoyable.

 This aspect aside, there can be no doubt that parents have played a vital part in dispelling many of the myths that have surrounded the origins of  Autism, particularly when it came to the debunking Bettelheim’s infamous “refrigerator mother” syndrome.

Yet despite all of the work that they do, one simple fact still remains and that is the fact that they cannot, no matter how hard they try, ever fully experience what Autism feels like from the inside.

Parents  can and do,  comprehend what many of the triggers for someone with Autism are  and they can become very adept at helping their children adopt coping skills and mechanisms to help them during a ‘meltdown’, but what they can never do is actually feel that awful sensation of building pressure, of every raw nerve being heightened to the point where you feel as if you are boiling within your own skin.

And that’s just one of  the key issues that Ne’eman explores alongside the issue of ‘othering’.

Silberman, although also non-autistic, does a much better job of describing the impacts that being viewed as “different” or “other’ has on an individuals self-esteem and their broader life.

Though he may not know what it feels like to constantly experience sensory overload, he does know all too well, what it feels like to have himself and those whom he considers ‘kindred spirits’ , talked about in the media and discussed by  policy makers and the general public, as if they themselves, have no right to either speak or be heard, or even be trusted enough by their own families, to  make ‘the right’ decisions for themselves.

In a very similar way, when it comes to speaking for ourselves and having the right to be heard, many Autistic Adults working within the realms of advocacy, frequently express the feeling that parental advocates, by focusing exclusively on their needs and their understandings of Autism,  were quite literally writing the perspectives of children and young adults with Autism “out of  [their] own stories”.

Thus robbing Autistic Adults and children not only of the right to speak for themselves, but also of the right to be heard and taken seriously when they do.

The right to be taken seriously, to have our views and needs respected and to have our understandings of ourselves honored and validated, instead of constantly having our truths questioned and instead of  being heard, being told things like:

“You can’t possibly have any understanding of yourself and be Autistic at the same time. That just doesn’t happen’.

‘Why do you always look so sad? You should smile more”.

‘Get out of the house and you’ll feel better’

Being constantly told that we’re wrong or mistaken whenever we try to speak our truths or having our facial expressions always read as if they were some kind of social barometer that might give the reader insight as to what we’re feeling, then being blamed when it fails to do so, is insulting.

Please stop doing this.

Try asking us what we’re thinking about instead.

Try believing us when we tell you that we’re not sad we’re just so completely and utterly lost in thought that our faces automatically relax.

This process of relaxation includes our mouths and lips.

And just in case your’ not up to speed with anatomy, it actually takes muscle contractions to create a smile.

So if a person’s face is completely  and I do mean completely relaxed, there will be no muscle contraction, hence no smile.

Also, for those of us who are feeling overwhelmed due to sensory overload, the last thing we need to be told is to “get out of the house’, or ‘be around people’, when what  we really need is peace and quiet and the ability to withdraw into our own safe space.

So please, please, please try and understanding these few simple truths of Autism.

We’re not being stubborn or willful or malignantly anti-social when we insist on the need to have our own space and to take things at our own pace.

What we are doing is being is respectful of ourselves and we wish that others could be too.

In the meantime I urge you to click on this link and read Ari Ne’eman’s  brilliant article here http://www.vox.com/2016/1/21/10801846/autism-in-a-different-key

Life Without Facebook – Why I Chose to Jump off the Merry-Go-Round

merry

About 6 months ago, after years of participating in various Autism/Asperger’s groups and pages on Facebook, I decided to delete my own Facebook account and the fledgling Women’s Asperger’s Awareness page that I’d been running.

I’m not sure whether others will agree with me on this, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s been a gradual deterioration regarding the overall quality of the topics posted within Autism/Asperger’s groups and an unsettling lack of authenticity appearing within many of the comments and responses that have filled group discussions, over the last few years.

Many of the groups that I enjoyed participating in the most were those that started out as small, authentic, safe and friendly spaces to interact with others with Autism online.

Many of those same groups have now become victims of their own success.

Some have become so large and fuelled by so many conflicting opinions, that it’s almost impossible to have a decent conversation about anything without having to combat those who either disagree with everything and anything or those who wish to simply hijack threads for their own amusement.

Many groups have also become inundated by members who do not themselves experience Autism/Asperger’s but who are there instead because they are seeking information about those of us with Autism for some reason or another.

Now generally, I don’t mind if non-autistic people want to join Autism based groups, but I do mind if they join such groups without declaring their real purpose for being there.

Especially those who are using such groups to tout for clients and build up their own professional profile or who are attempting to make money out of those with Autism in any way, shape or form.

This issue aside, there are also multiple clashes of perspectives going on within these groups as well, due entirely to the fact that non-autistic people do not declare themselves to be so.

For example, I’ve witnessed many nasty exchanges within Autism/Asperger’s groups that have occurred purely because some members are parents of a child with Autism and have taken offense at topics covered within the group simply because they have completely misunderstood, or to put it perhaps more honestly, held no internal comprehension of the lived experiences, that other autistic people within the group were trying to discuss.

And of course, this same scenario goes the other way as well where autistic people have attacked parents’ due to similar misunderstandings.

Such exchanges often lead to person’s with Autism feeling as if they need to leave the group for their own emotional well-being.

Which, as far as I’m concerned, is completely unfair.

Yet this is what Ioften witnessed happening as a result of such online conflicts.

Along with this issue, there was also a tendency for group after group to all post the same topic within minutes of each other.

Often I would find myself commenting on a topic in one group, only to find that the exact same topic was also the lead post in 5, 6 and even 7 other groups.

It made me wonder what the point of being a member of more than one Autism/Asperger’s group actually was if they were all going to run with the same topics.

This issue only became more pronounced once I’d decided to start running my own page.

Now I’m a big believer in original content and to that end, I’d spend endless hours searching for original blog posts and information written by other women with Autism/Asperger’s to share on my page..

Yet time and time again, within minutes of my posting a newly discovered piece of information or blogger, half a dozen other pages or groups would take the same piece of information and post it to their wall.

So in the end it felt as if all I was actually doing was spending my time finding interesting and informative pieces of work, only to have other pages and groups claim them as their own.

It was about this time that I realize that ‘I’m possibly not supposed to feel this way about the eternal loop of “sharing” that goes on in regards to Facebook groups and pages.’

Yet the feeling remained and I simply could not shake it off.

So I started spending less and less time working on my page and participating in group discussions.

Instead I just sat back and observed how this thing called Facebook worked.

This may seem strange but the more I observed the way in which Facebook groups and pages both endlessly and simultaneously feed off and devoured each other, the more I realized that Facebook, just like every other business model, is designed to perpetuate its own success above and beyond anything else.

The more Autism and Asperger’s groups, or any other groups, pages or causes it hosts, the more users Facebook gains.

The boffins behind Facebook don’t care about duplication or authentication.

Heck, they actively encourage their users to “share” everyone and anyone’s pictures and posts, regardless of whether they’re witty one liner’s or withering examples of stupidity.

We think we are using Facebook, but the truth is, Facebook is using us.

Making billions of dollars by selling advertising space on our pages whilst at the same time gathering up all of the information we are silly enough to give away about ourselves for free and selling it on to interested third parties.

Whoever ‘they’ may be.

Once I realized this, I also realized that each and every Facebook user, regardless of type:  group,  page,  organization or  individual, they have all been groomed via the “share” button, to cannibalize each-others ideas, fashions, hairstyles, food fads and on and on it goes.

I ended up eventually having a …‘Wait….stop the world… I want to get off…’ moment.

So I decided to jump off the Facebook merry-go-round.

I realized that I felt wrong about other pages and groups “sharing” my finds for a very good reason.

And that reason is, that in the real world, if someone walked into my home, without my permission and took one of my family photos, or one of my books, and then walked away with it, it would quite rightly be called “stealing”.

After all, isn’t that exactly the kind of example they use to try and tell us that downloading movies or “movie piracy” is a wrong?

It’s a crime.

So, if someone else is losing money from online “sharing” it’s a crime.

Yet, if Facebook is making shiploads of money out of allowing everyone to “share” whatever they want online, regardless of whether or not the thing they’re sharing is their own , it’s called social networking.

Personally, I can do without the sense of confusion that being told one action is wrong in one place, while the exact same action is not only considered right but actively promoted in another place.

Thanks but no thanks.

I much prefer the way Autism Facebook groups were when they first started up.

Back when the awe of simply finding another person in the world who thought like you, was enough.

We, The Spectrum People

Absolutely loved every word of truth. Brilliant post. Thank you.

Everyday Aspie

We, The Spectrum People

We, The Spectrum People, face contention with others who don’t comprehend our social and cognitive disabilities, and instead draw negative conclusions about us. Rejection, separation, exclusion and ostracism are often a part of our lifelong struggles.

It is not uncommon for those with Autism and/or Asperger’s to be labeled by others as intense, odd or a chatterbox. Judgments like selfish, socially inept, performing below potential, deficient in emotional insight, and narcissistic abound. We are accused of having an attitude and not being a team player. We are shamed into the position of the black sheep or scapegoat and saturated in misinterpretation that serves to push us further into isolation.

As a form of self-protection we may feel emotionally numb or become emotionally distant when we have taken in too much, too fast from the world. When emotionally triggered, we may become confused and exhibit an opposite…

View original post 3,623 more words

Just Thinking Out Loud – From slaughterhouses to serial killers in two easy steps

[298044-2300x1702]-karkat-vantas-karkat-vantas-3359A few days ago I watched a documentary called “Earthlings” (which you can find of a review of here earthlings-a-documentary-not-for-the-faint-hearted/ ) which detailed the disturbingly inhumane ways in which animals in slaughterhouses are being killed for their meat.

The documentary is filled with graphic footage of cattle being shot in the head with bolts, (which don’t actually kill them) and hung upside down on great metal machines by one hoof so that their necks can be more easily sliced open by the slaughter-men, who, if the cattle don’t die quickly enough for their liking, stab them in the heart and then reach in and pull the animals entire trachea out of their bodies, whilst the animals are still alive.

Gasping for air they kick so hard with their legs, even with their trachea’s dangling down, that they actually managed to free themselves of the giant metal machines holding them upside down, only to land on a hard, blood soaked concrete floor and suffer the further harm of being kicked in the head and stabbed multiple times until they finally die.

As I watched this I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of person would choose to work in a place where they torture and kill not just one animal but hundreds of animals, day in day out, week in week out, as if it were nothing?

I also couldn’t help but notice, that without fail, all of the people shown working in jobs that involved active killing were male.

It didn’t even really seem to matter whether the killing was occurring in India, Japan, America, Mexico, Cuba, Australia, Indonesia, Canada, England or even what species of animal was being slaughtered or why.

The workers were all male.

(That’s not to say that there aren’t any females actively working in slaughterhouses, but if there are, they aren’t in the documentary).

This gender anomaly led me to wonder whether or not the lack of women in that kind of work place is a reflection of social and cultural norms towards killing  being seen as “men’s work “ or if males for some reason do genuinely hold a greater propensity toward being attracted to jobs that involve inflicting pain and killing.

I know that I wouldn’t be attracted to doing a job like that even if there were a million dollars waiting for me at the end of every week and I doubt that any of my female friends would even be tempted either.

But here’s the weird thing about it all:

The men working in the slaughterhouses, most of the time, weren’t even getting paid a decent wage, let alone an extravagant one..

So they weren’t doing it for the money.

And most of them were also regularly getting sick due to bacterial contamination from blood and fecal matter.

So, if men are not doing jobs like this because they offer greater money, and are instead actually getting physically ill from doing them, then why are they doing them?

Could it possibly be that some of them actually like it?

With the vision of that documentary clearly still fresh in mind, today I began reading a book called “Predators – killers without a conscience” by Howard and Wilson, which sets out to examine why serial killers kill and  to explore what parts social and/or psychological issues may play in it all

Within reading the first few pages of this book I was instantly struck by two very clear similarities that seem to somehow flow, eerily neatly, between the documentary and the book, even though they are both about very different subject matters.

Firstly there’s a striking similarity between the ways in which the serial killers in the book choose to kill their victims and the ways in which animals in slaughterhouses are killed.

The book quite literally contains page after page of men rendering their victims immobile while stabbing, raping, strangling, mutilating and cutting the throats of not just women but also children and all , so the authors believe, for their own “male sexual gratification”.

Here are just a few examples that almost mirror in places, the acts of violence that were perpetrated against the cattle in the slaughterhouse.

Trigger warning, if you have a sensitivity towards violence please do not read the following quotes.

“She was hog-tied on the ground. I walked around to her left side and I cut her throat two or three times…but she just started thrashing around on the ground. She was trying to scream but nothing was coming out. I kicked her and put my foot on her to keep her still. It didn’t work so I stabbed her in the throat again. I aimed and stabbed at the hard thing (her windpipe) in her neck. I pushed the knife all the way in but she still wouldn’t keep still so I worked out where the heart would be and I stabbed her on the left side of the chest. She still didn’t stop moving so I stabbed her in the chest again. I needed two hands to get through her chest. She kept moving so I kicked her in the head a couple of times. She still kept moving but she was slowing down. I waited.” (Confession of a man who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

“He dragged the girl’s dying body…blood still dripping from the wound in her throat…then cut the crotch out of her swimmers and raped her dying body”.(murder and rape of a 15-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”)

“The killer drove her to a secluded area where he sexually abused her, using a knife to inflict horrific injuries on the girl’s body, before disembowelling her while she was still alive.” (murder and rape of a 12-year-old girl quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

““The killer tortured and mutilated his body. As his killer sliced away … he died a slow suffocating death. The killer cut the boys throat.” (3-year-old boy, abducted and murdered quoted directly from “Predators – killers without a conscience”).

Time and time again the authors report that all pleas for mercy were met with the same callous and cold refusal by the killers to even recognize their victims as human beings.

The second similarity between the documentary and the book is the fact that 99% of all the serial killers, not just mentioned in the book, but also statistically, are indeed male.

In the entire book there are only two women listed and of the two, one was an accomplice to her partners crimes and didn’t kill anyone and the other was an horrendously abused woman herself with clear psychological issues who, unfortunately for her and perhaps because she was already psychologically vulnerable, became romantically entangled with a man who was already a serial killer.

So, as of now, I’ll be staying well and truly clear of anyone who works in a slaughterhouse.

Not that I’m claiming to have found any definitive link between people who kill animals and people who kill people.

It’s simply just one of those instances in which two very different mediums, concerning two very different issues have gelled within my mind to form a web of connections that I feel may, at the very least, be worthy of some consideration.

Let me know whether or not you think there may be a valid connection between the two.

A Day in the Life – Doing things differently.

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Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly aware that the way I go about my daily life has a tendency to either annoy or confuse other people.

No matter what I’m doing, I always appear to be doing it wrong.

Take shopping and bill paying for example.

I’ll choose one day out of the week to go off into town and do absolutely everything that needs doing in one big hit.

This often includes paying bills ahead of time simply because I have no idea whether or not I’ll actually feel like going out on the day that the bills are actually due.

Standing in line and waiting my turn to be served by real life people inside a bank, rather than using ATM’s as I really don’t like the idea of withdrawing money out of a machine on the side of a street.

I also insist on paying for all of my purchases in cash and in person rather than using internet banking or being tempted to buy something over the phone with a credit card.

By the way, I actually don’t even have a credit card as I see no point in going into debt just to buy something that I obviously cannot genuinely afford.

No, if I can’t pay for it in cash, then I’ll either wait and save up for it or I simply won’t buy it and no amount of gimmicky popularity tripe will make me change my mind on that

According to my sister, I’ve also developed the bad habit of grossly over shopping.

Only, I don’t see it as a bad habit at all.

I see it as common sense to buy all regularly used items or any items of use that happen to be on special, in bulk, whilst grocery shopping.

Yes this means that my trips to the supermarket often take much longer than your average person’s do, but I’d rather struggle with an overly laden trolley than face the horrors of having to return to the store later in the day, or even later in the week, simply because I’ve run out of something.

Once all the bills are paid and the banking and the shopping are done, I like to decompress for an hour or so inside of the only building in town that I actually like being in.

My local library.

For me, no trip into town could ever be complete without raiding the local library for as many books and DVD’s as they’ll let me leave with.

The thrill of returning home and bolting up my lane way is only dampened by the reminder that I’ve yet to face the thankless task of unloading the car of all of the bags of groceries I’ve brought and then in turn unpack their contents away in to cupboards.

So that when my children come home, it looks to them as if I’ve been nowhere and done nothing all day, as the car is back safely in its garage and all of the shopping bags have been removed from sight.

Yes, the irony of it all bites.

Despite the fact that everything that needs to get done does actually get done, my family and friends keep questioning why it is that I continue to insist on venturing into town only one day per week.

Especially when it means that doing so equates to me becoming completely exhausted and overwhelmed by the world.

They continually tell me that trying to do everything that needs to be done all in one day is completely nonsensical and they insist on questioning me as to why I keep doing it.

Yet the answer to me is really quite a simple one and I cannot understand why they can’t see it.

You see, for me, the very idea, let alone the reality of having to go into town, is, in and of itself, so overwhelming that I can only face it if I know that I’ll only have to do it once.

I wish that I could tell them that once a week is quite enough, thank them for their concern and tell them to just go away and leave me to it.

Without offending them !

Even though they seem to have no concerns about offending me by telling me how silly I am for doing the things I do.

Once again the irony bites.

I wonder why it is, that just because I do things differently, I’m often automatically seen as doing things wrong, or in the wrong way.

This idea that if someone’s doing things differently to them, then the different person is automatically wrong, seems to be a default position for some people

Have you noticed this and if so, how do you deal with it.

Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are not Sociopaths. Sociopaths are Sociopaths.

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How many of us shudder each and every time there’s “breaking news” of some lone teenager somewhere, (almost always a male), reported to have gone on a shooting rampage, just knowing that sooner or later the initial shock of the rampage will turn to the tried, but oh so rarely true speculation, that the lone teenage gunman in question, has Asperger’s Syndrome?

I know that I sit and cringe, firstly for the harm inflicted, and secondly for the offensive accusations that cause the fear and mistrust of all individuals with Asperger’s which inevitably accompany each and every report of this kind.

And frankly, I’m baffled by the media’s constantly misaligned assertions as there seems to be  no genuine link between Asperger’s Syndrome, in either men or women, and a propensity towards violence.

There is however a genuine link to be made between those individuals who experience sociopathy and a propensity towards acts of violence.

Clinically, individuals who experience Asperger’s Syndrome are purported to share some of the same challenges as those who experience sociopathy, however, sharing the same challenge is in no way the equivalent of sharing the same underlying traits.

So what are the challenges that both individuals with Asperger’s and sociopaths are said to share?

Well, according to a jaw droppingly chilling autobiography titled “Confessions or a Sociopath” written by female author M.E. Thomas, who is herself a clinically diagnosed sociopath, they are, an inability to read people’s facial expressions and body language, difficulty with understanding social rules and most importantly an overwhelming lack of empathy for others.

Um…..well…. yes, to the first shared challenge, yes to the second shared challenge and an enormous NO to the last one.

I’ll admit that there were some parts of Thomas’s book that I could relate to, and dare I say it, even empathize with.

Take for instance the high levels of confusions she describes feeling as her early awareness that she felt as if she were running on an entirely different operating system to other children her own age blossomed , and how these self-identified differences within her were ignored by the adults around her, purely because she had been born female.

Such feelings and challenges are common to many adults with Asperger’s, particularly those diagnosed later in life, and especially women.

So too are Thomas’s descriptions of both being initially unaware of and confused by her inability to automatically read social cues, body language and the facial expressions of others.

Yet this is where any and all similarities end for me as Thomas then goes on to describe how her inability to feel any form of empathy towards the suffering of others empowered her life for the better and made her feel like a superhero.

Thomas openly states that she felt as if her differences, far from lowering her self-esteem, and making her feel vulnerable, actually served to build up her self-esteem to the point where, from a young age, she believed herself to be far superior to those around her.

She felt that she was mentally and physically stronger than other girls because she was not weakened by emotions.

She also states that, despite her claimed lack of ability to read other people’s expressions and body language, she nevertheless became extremely good at “reading people”.

So good in fact, that whilst still in primary school, she was able to pit girls against each other simply by befriending those she viewed as being overly emotional, hence overly trusting, and learning their secrets, only in order to tear them apart by sharing those secrets with others when it either most suited her for personal reasons or at times in which the unleashing of those secrets would cause the most possible harm.

She describes in great detail her relish, both as a child and an adult, in applying her skill set to the ruination of other people’s relationships, careers and basically their lives, for little more than amusement.

As far as I can tell from her descriptions,  for Thomas, unlike those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome, she either learned the social rules extremely quickly with little or no trial and error needed or, she never really genuinely lacked an understanding of those unspoken, but oh so ardently adhered to social rules that so often throw us off-balance.

It seems to me as if she must have understood the rules, how else would she have been able to use them well enough against those she chose too, even as far back as primary school if she didn’t at least have some idea what they where.

Hence, the rational conclusion is that she knew them but just didn’t care enough to obey any social or moral rules, that did not in some way amuse her or benefit her own ends.

For me, this raises the question of whether or not individuals with sociopathy are actually lying about being unaware of body language and social cues in order to down play or “mask” the true level of deceit behind their manipulation of others and in this way garner sympathy rather than condemnation for engaging in their chosen sport of destruction.

As many individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome can attest, we don’t “ignore” social rules simply because we figure we’ll get more out of life if we blunder around annoying, using or offending everyone else.

Far from it.

Our social blunders are never calculated manoeuvres designed to get us what we want as quickly as possible, because if that’s what they’re meant to achieve for us then clearly, we’re doing it all wrong as they often have the opposite effect of seeing us shut out of conversations, friendship groups and even family units.

No, individuals with Asperger’s do not play at being unaware of social rules simply to garner attention or bring about another person’s destruction.

We are not willingly choosing to “ignore” them in order to get what we want; we genuinely do not understand them.

Yet for a sociopath, or so it would seem, “ignoring” social rules in order to gain an often unfair advantage over another is both a willful choice and a tactic, while for individuals with Asperger’s, it is neither a choice nor a tactic, it is for want of a better word a form of “social blindness.”

Due to this “social blindness” there is often a very clear trajectory of vulnerability that flows through our lives as a result of our difficulties/ inability to accurately discern the actions and intentions of other people.

Time and time again we’ find ourselves falling victim to those who are good at lying and deceiving us with their false sincerity and intentions.

In other words, individuals with Asperger’s are more likely to be the victims of the vicious mind games that sociopath’s like Thomas describe playing rather than being the perpetrators of such games.

After having read all that Thomas has to say in her book about living the life of a sociopath, all be it a high functioning one, I hold no doubt what so ever that I am not one.

I do not fit into any of the clinical markers of sociopathy.

In fact, I’m not even close to it.

I do however fit within the majority of the clinical markers for Asperger’s Syndrome or high functioning Autism if you prefer and have been diagnosed accordingly.

As an individual with Asperger’s I can tell you that I love and care about people, shed tears of sorrow simply watching the nightly news, and do not try to deceive, mislead or harm anyone.

But that’s just me and I accept that everyone on the spectrum is different.

However, I do believe that after reading Thomas’s book there is an argument to be made that perhaps too many sociopaths are being misdiagnosed at an early age as having Asperger’s Syndrome based purely on the erroneous assumption that because individuals with Asperger’ share the challenge of being unable to read body language and social nuances correctly, and do not respond as expected in social situation, they therefore share the same inability to feel empathy in the same way that sociopath do.

Most professionals worth their title now agree that individuals with Asperger’s do not lack empathy, far from it, if anything they are entirely overwhelmed by it.

Yet despite this the myth remains within the public’s mind that every lone gunman must have Asperger’s and here’s why….

There’s been an indelible link carved into the minds of the public regarding any and all persons who are perceived as having a lack of empathy.

Basically as far as most people are concerned having a of lack of empathy, even if it’s only a perceived lack of empathy, thanks to sociopaths like Thomas, means that people will view you as the kind of individual who has the capacity to kill, harm or maim, any living thing, without remorse.

Hence individuals with Asperger’s, who are merely perceived as having a lack of empathy due to their lack of facial expression or lack of socially appropriate responses to highly emotionally charged situations, are viewed as being as dangerous as a real sociopath, a person who genuinely feels no empathy for others and because of this, is indeed prone to acts of violence regardless of whether they be cold and highly calculated or random opportunism.

Sociopaths like Thomas provide example after example of what a life truly devoid of all empathy looks like and it’s not pretty.

From childhood on-wards her life has been filled with manipulating people, lying to them, winning people’s trust purely for the purpose of betraying, wanting to physically kill people for the slightest of perceived infractions, mask wearing, deceit and corruption, and even the wanton killing of a small animal simply because it had the misfortune of falling into her pool on a day that was inconvenient for her.

Given these examples, it’s little wonder that people would rather not mix with Sociopaths, heck I wouldn’t either.

Which is exactly why I don’t  want either my son, my daughter, myself or anyone else to be even remotely thought of as being a potential sociopath simply because our differences for some prehistoric reason place us in line beside those for whom it’s a well proven fact that a lack of empathy is a marker of sociopathy.

The truth is that sociopaths do indeed lack empathy whereas individuals with Asperger’s are often merely perceived as not showing any outward signs of empathy, whilst feeling such emotions just as keenly as almost everybody else.

Perhaps there is also one last, but very salient reason as to why young sociopaths are predisposed to being diagnosed erroneously as having Asperger’s, and that is the rather inconvenient fact that, according to the strictures of the DSM-V Sociopathy, unless it is extreme, cannot be diagnosed in a child under the age of 16.

Herein lies the problem because according to Thomas, not only did her sociopathic tendencies first emerge during childhood, so too, did her blatant mastery of them to bully, cheat, lie, steal and manipulate those around her.

She even instigated and encouraged a group of girls to make a false sexual harassment claim against a male teacher for her own revenge against him for not receiving  an A in his class.

If you combine the existence of such sociopathic childhood behaviors with the inability of Psychologists to actually diagnose sociopathy in children, along with parents for whom it is much easier to be told that their child has high functioning Autism rather than that their child’s a sociopath, for whom there are no treatments, hence no pharmaceutical remedies, then you are in effect creating a breeding ground for misdiagnosis and confusion.

And people are genuinely confused by all of this and given the circumstances, who can blame them.

There needs to be a much clearer way to discuss and define the intrinsic differences between those who purportedly initially share similar social challenges, yet who have an entirely different etiology and outcome as a result of those challenges.

I’ll end this post with one of the questions that Thomas herself regularly challenges the readers of her book to ponder is over………

“Could you be a sociopath and not know it?”

Perhaps if you are an individual who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s but truly feel you have a complete inability to feel empathy, I challenge you to ask yourself the same question.

You may well wish to consider taking the Sociopath test instead of the Aspie Test.

If you do, be sure and let me know how you go as I’d love to know.

Girls with Autism / Asperger’s Syndrome and Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA)

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado
Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

There’s wonderful documentary called “Girls with Autism” that’s just been released and in it, for perhaps the first time ever, the  girls themselves, their parents, carers and teachers, all speak openly about the realities of having Autism and the behavioral issues that some of them face within their everyday lives, including the very real and significant impacts that Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) has on them.

Pathological Demand Avoidance ( PDA) is real.

And how do I know that it’s real?

Because I live with the consequences of PDA every single day of my life due to my daughter’s experiences with it.

So I am thrilled to see this often debated aspect of Asperger’s Syndrome / Autism finally being so openly accepted and discussed within a format that has the potential to encompass a worldwide audience.

Firstly, let me make it clear that not everyone with Asperger’s Syndrome / Autism, will also experience Pathological Demand Avoidance.

I’m an adult with Asperger’s and I don’t experience it.

My daughter, on the other hand, who also has Asperger’s, does.

For many years I struggled to understand why my daughter’s behavior was so different from my own, when we both have Asperger’s Syndrome.

I mean, surely the fact that we shared a similar way of looking at and experiencing the world, should have meant that we’d be more likely, not less likely, to be able to understand each other.

And yet, it did not.

I simply could not figure out how I could be so peace-loving and routine based, while she could be so explosively unsettled from day-to-day.

To me, our differences did not seem to indicate a similarity of diagnosis.

If anything, they seemed to argue that one of us required a completely different diagnosis altogether.

So great were our differences, that I began to feel that we couldn’t possibly both have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Something was going on with my daughter that could not be explained by the outlining of our understandings of Asperger’s Syndrome alone.

I became so bothered by our differences that, back in 2012, I began writing a few articles which sought to explore and explain why I felt the differences between us were so significant and what such differences could potentially mean for many on the Autism Spectrum.

You can find those posts here https://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/pathological-demand-avoidance-pda-and-autism/ and here https://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/aspergers-syndrome-autism-and-pda-is-it-a-comfortable-fit/

Yet, when I first discovered PDA and began expressing my view that it might have been something that was affecting my daughter’s behavior, many adults on the spectrum became quite angry with me for doing so.

Many also suggested that PDA had always existed as a normal aspect of having Autism / Asperger’s and that I should leave it alone as all I was doing was simply adding another label to my daughter and in the process feeding the hungry bank accounts of psychologists.

Yet still I persisted and as I did so I began to understand that Pathological Demand Avoidance is both a very real and an extremely pervasive experience.

One that’s not only felt by those who are living with it first hand, but also felt by those who are trying to continuously deal with the fall out of it, second hand.

The level of additional understanding that PDA gave me, in terms of helping my daughter, was and still continues to be, utterly invaluable as it changed both of our lives for the better.

I went from constantly feeling lost and completely unable to understand my own daughter, (even though for all intents and purposes, given that we both have Asperger’s we should have been on the same page),  to feeling far more grounded, less to blame and completely able to figure out how to approach different aspects of her day-to-day life, without making her feel as if any requests I made of her were necessarily demands that she instinctively felt she had to avoid fulfilling at all costs.

Whilst some Autistic Adults still disagree and believe that PDA is a worthless label, I have found it to be quite literally,  a life saver.

To me it’s not just some sneaky little label that healthcare professionals have dreamed up in order to acquire more money, as some within the Autism community have argued, but rather a valid way of explaining why some individuals on the Autism Spectrum love and find comfort within a routine and why some either don’t or can’t find the same level of comfort in it.

Please, if you have the time, watch, “Girls With Autism” as it successfully debunks many of the myths surrounding Female Autism, PDA being just one of them.

 

 

We’re Women with Autism – Not Mystical Imps, Sprites or Fairies….. Get it right.

Artwork by Devushka
Artwork by Devushka
Sorry to disappoint all of those who wish to believe that Women with Autism are made out of some kind of unique fairy dust that endows all of us with “special talents” or “super powers”, because we are not magical beings.

We are Women Wired Differently…. not Women Wired Magically.

Please stop confusing our different skill sets, ie, our tendency to focus on the finer details of life that often make us more likely to pick up on the inconsistencies that are usually hidden within the bigger picture that people present to us, with being the equivalent of having a “super power”, “gift”, “unearned talent” or whatever else some would like to call it.

The truth is, that for us, our intense focus on fine details, whilst it may have started out as a fascination, has also become a survival mechanism.

Our intense focus is not magical. It’s practical. It’s what we do when we can’t “read” a person’s level of sincerity simply by looking into their eyes, listening for and recognizing the tonality in their voice or knowing automatically whether or not a smile is authentic at a glance.

Yes we may see the world in ways that others do not, but it’s still the same world and we’re still viewing it with eyes that are made up of all of the same biological matter as everyone else’s eyes are.

Yes at times it may seem as if we see more, but that’s not because we’re psychic beings floating about in fairy dust, it’s simply because we look harder and longer at the simplest of gestures, in order to decipher and makes sense of them for ourselves.

When we feel an emotion, we often feel it deeply but that’s not because we’re “super empaths” or somehow magically connected to the pain of another, it’s because we feel in fine detail too.

Yes we have a degree of empathy for others that may run deeper than most, but that’s not because we’re psychic, it’s because we’re focused.

Just as we focus visually and intellectually on the finer points that others may have missed, we can also focus our feelings on the finer points of emotions that others may have by passed.

We feel all of our emotions often simultaneously specifically because we live our lives without the benefit of having the filters that other people apply to their thoughts, their feelings, even their ways of seeing.

Which is why we can become so overwhelmed by our emotions that it makes it difficult for us to talk about or even explain them.

The depth of our feelings does not make us magical beings simply because we can feel that which we cannot explain.

It in no way means that we are magical beings. It simply means that we are unfiltered beings.

We’re not made up of different stuff or fairy dust at all. We just don’t have a way of filtering out the world around us the way that other people do.

I know that some would like to believe that this state of affairs somehow also makes us “purer beings”…. but does it?

Does it really?

And isn’t the idea of “purity” also linked to “innocence”, which is also linked to “children”…. as in the “innocence of a child”…….

Just think about it. We’re not magical, we’re not pure and we’re not children. We’re Women who take in and understand the world differently simply because we see it differently.

Do we really want the realities of our lives as Autistic Women being overlooked and marginalized simply because we’re being linked to the infantile ideals and imagery that being viewed as either ‘supernatural’ or ‘overtly innocent beings’, brings along with it?

 

Autism – What will I gain from being diagnosed later in life? It won’t change anything for me, so why should I bother?”

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People often ask me: “What will I gain from being diagnosed later in life? It won’t change anything for me, so why should I bother?”

Well, my answer as to whether or not anyone should “bother” to get diagnosed is this.

Firstly, on a purely personal level, it depends entirely on what your personal circumstances are and what the biggest issues are that you’re facing at any given point in time.

If you’re a person who’s main problem is that you’re always feeling misunderstood or blamed by your family member for being the way that you are, then perhaps receiving a formal diagnosis may help your family members to comprehend and accept that some of the onus for understanding both who and how you are, falls upon them to make more of an effort to accept you as you are, rather than allowing them to continue to always view you as being the one who needs to change.

Secondly, if you find that you may be in need of some form of formal support or assistance, then receiving a diagnosis may help you to better be able to access whatever support systems are in place within your area.

A diagnosis should also, at the very least, help others around you to become aware that you are genuinely more in need of care, understanding and support than they had previously thought.

Thirdly, if you want to increase your own levels self-understanding and awareness or further seek to validate your own understandings of yourself as being both true and accurate, then receiving a diagnosis may also provide these assurances for you.

But, if you are a strong-willed person who is confident enough to be able to self-identify with having Asperger’s, without feeling any twinges of doubt about it what so ever, then you’ll most likely feel that either the seeking out, or the receiving a diagnosis, is not for you as it holds little potential to offer you any great benefits.

And that’s okay.

But for me, I have found that those who benefit the most from older women such as myself coming forward and being diagnosed, are the generations of girls who are yet to come and the generation of girls and women who are still today, young enough to incorporate this deeper understanding of themselves as females who are Autistic,  into their daily lives and move on.

At my age, receiving a formal diagnosis offers me purely the ability to understand myself better and enables me to finally ask for the things I’ve known for so long that I’ve needed all of my life, things such as solitude, peace and quiet, but have never been made to feel as if it were okay for me to ask for these things, because I am a woman and women are supposed to love company and to always want to be social creatures.

I had no way of explaining to anyone, let alone myself, why I’ve always felt that I needed so much time alone.

Yet for girls of my daughter’s age, receiving a diagnosis is offering them so much more.

It is offering them the opportunity of being able to grow up with the gift of truly knowing not only who they are, but also understanding how they are, and that they’re okay.

That it’s okay to be different.

And this to me, as both a woman and a mother, is the gift of understanding that I truly believe is worth fighting for.

I am so glad that there were women in the past who had the strength, courage and forethought, to lead the way forward and to lay the foundations that so many of us today are now standing on, by arguing, on our behalf’s, that High Functioning Female Autism is a very real phenomenon.
Believe me when I tell you that I am all too aware that if no woman had ever dared challenge the male based status quo of the understandings of Asperger’s Syndrome of the past, that neither my daughter nor I, would now be diagnosed.

So how exactly does receiving a diagnosis later in life help anyone and what does it solve anyway even if you do get one?

Well, for one thing, it is likely to allow many women to make sense of their pasts.

To knit all of the previously unresolved elements of their lives, their personalities, their characteristics and their traits, into some semblance of a perspective that will finally make sense to them.

So if that one singular perspective that makes sense of your life is the one thing that you’ve been missing, then getting a diagnosis, even at a much later stage in life, can still provide you with a huge feeling of relief.

In terms of gaining greater access to benefits and assistance, if you are already financially secure or successfully working, then no, receiving a diagnosis later in life, may not help you in any way in terms of on the job support training and alike.

But what it will do, is benefit your children, and your children’s children.

And if you’re not a mother yourself, then please understand that your actions and your choices, may end up benefiting your sister’s or your brother’s children.

The knowledge and validity that we as women gain from receiving a formal diagnosis, could well prevent future generations of girls from having to put up with the kinds of constant bullying that are caused by male bias ignorance.

This will enable them to grow up holding all of the answers to all of the questions that we once, as children held locked inside of our own heads, like fragile eggs, and were too afraid to ask why it was that we were so different from everybody else.

If being diagnosed later in life can help to take away from another child, that awful sense of confusion and self-loathing that comes from knowing that they don’t belong, without ever fully knowing or understanding why, then I’m all for it.

So whilst a formal diagnosis may not seem to be such an important deal individually, in the grand scheme of things, I can see how each and every woman and girl, diagnosed today, can help create a stronger, better defined and more brightly lit path, for our Autistic girls of the future to walk upon.

Unlike us, they won’t have to spend over half of their lifetimes stumbling around in the deep and uncertain dark, and that’s a good thing.

I’m not sure whether holding ideas like these makes me a dreamer, or simply yet another deluded fool.

Either way, the more women and girls who are diagnosed today, the harder it will be for the powers that be, to dismiss the needs of Autistic Women in the future.

I understand that this way of looking at things is not everybody’s cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. So comment and let me know whether or not you agree.