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on the autistic spectrum
submitted posts from the Brain forum
Bill in SF: The Neuro-Shotgun
Someone with Asperger's and other neurological issues enunciates his belief and experiences about neurological problems.
Marla Comm: Coping (?) with change
A person with a severe case of Asperger's Syndrome talks about her need for sameness and her inability to cope with any changes.
Jane Meyerding: Thoughts on Finding
Myself Differently Brained
In a very eloquent essay, Jane explores AS from a political, philosophical, personal, and practical point of view. (In a separate page because of size.)
by Martijn Dekker
Topic: Brain functions and dysfunctions. Some food for thought:
Autistic spectrum disorders, ADD, and Tourette's are profound neurological conditions; they seriously affect the brain in some way or another. Neurologists have shown that the mind is directly related to (defined by) the actions and workings of the brain: in other words, "the mind is what the brain does", and does not exist as a separate, immaterial entity. This may be conflicting with the dualistic view on mind/brain issues that many still take for granted, but medicines that work on the brain to alter the personality, such as antidepressants based on inhibiting the reuptake of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, often have amazing effects and that certainly supports this point.
So, one would expect that ACs (autistics and cousins), their brains being different, have minds that work differently from the minds of NT (neurologically typical) people. This indeed appears to be true: persons with autism or Asperger's, who have usually done an enormous amount of introspection in a desperate attempt to understand why they keep failing in society and being the odd one out, invariably report that their feelings, perceptions, sensory system, and way of reasoning are different, and that NT people try to apply psychological explanations on them that just don't fit. These differences are very hard to communicate to and understand by NTs. "Come on, everybody thinks/feels/does it that way!" But not those whose brains are wired differently. Here, we have touched the core of being "different", which is what these forums are all about.
How does your mind work? Do you have trouble with abstract reasoning, or are you perhaps exceptionally good at it? Some ACs can manipulate symbols (such as numbers) very fast, without really understanding their meaning. How is your sense of logic different from that of NTs?
A problem that seems to be universal in people with autistic spectrum disorders, AD(H)D, and Tourette's is that they have trouble reading social cues and subtle body language -- or that they read it differently. Personally I am very perceptive to an unpleasant atmosphere, but I can't take subtle verbal hints; people have to tell me explicitly what they mean. How does this work for you?
Bill, age 49, in San Francisco, has central auditory processing disorder (distorted hearing) and prosopagnosia (difficulty recognizing faces), plus a smattering of other minor neurological quirks that don't really affect his life much....
If you have feedback, write it to the listowner (email@example.com) and he'll forward it to Bill for you.
Copyright © 1996 by Bill Choisser. Unauthorised distribution or reproduction forbidden.
It is my belief that getting neurological problems is like getting a shotgun fired at your head. Who knows where the pellets will end up?
Just like you use your feet for walking and your eyes for seeing, there are parts of the brain that are used for different things. If one part gets damaged or is missing, the brain can use another part sometimes, just like I could probably type with my toes if I had no hands. But I wouldn't be very good at it and I wouldn't be very fast.
I see neurological conditions as being in two broad types. The first type is particular problems in particular areas, such as these: awkward gait, facial recognition, hearing, seeing, tactile defensiveness, reading/dyslexia, rocking, inability to multitask, low IQ, grasping of spatial concepts, poor memory, slow reaction time, etc.
Some of these occur more frequently in the population than do others. Reading and IQ take a lot of different brain skills, and they are thus big targets. Lots of people get hit there. Facial recognition must be a smaller target. It is less common.
For some reason, these types of neurological impairments tend to run in clusters. Certain ones frequently come together. Perhaps they are close to each other in the brain, or a particular part of the brain is used for them. Or maybe the parts of the brain used for them are next to each other during fetal development and then spread apart later after the gun has been fired.
In any event, to make sense out of the chaos, people give names to these clusters. Names like learning disabled, Asperger's, and autism are such names. I don't see them as a particular ailment like a broken leg would be, because all of us that I've met have a different mix of these the types of problems I listed earlier. But we all have a significant bundle of them, or we wouldn't be here.
Marla is middle-aged and has a severe case of Asperger's Syndrome, as well as
Tourette's Sydrome and ADHD.
She'd appreciate reactions at
Sadly, Marla passed away in 2008. Michelle Dawson wrote a touching
Copyright © 1996 Marla Comm. Unauthorised distribution or reproduction forbidden.
Because of Asperger's Syndrome, I have a disability that has nothing at all to do with social skills and which causes me even more distress than not getting along with people does. It is the need for sameness and routine and total inability to cope with any change.
I follow strict routines that revolve around meals (especially the evening meal), bed time and the other activities I find pleasurable. I first noticed this tendency when I was really young. When I noticed that what my mother made for supper followed a pattern, I developed a need to maintain this pattern and threw tantrums if she changed anything. For example, I grew to expect spaghetti for supper every Tuesday, and got upset if she made something else one Tuesday. When I was old enough to prepare my own snacks, I made my own routines, i.e. milkshakes before bed every night.
Now I consider my evening meal the most important routine of my day. As with all my routines, times are also important. I have a quirky habit of eating much later than average because I have to get the day's frustrations out of the way before I can really relax and enjoy my meal in peace (Luckily I eat very light stuff because it isn't good to eat heavy foods too late at night). Since food is my greatest pleasure, I get very anxious about the things that either disrupt this routine or even force me to eat at a different time.
I live in terror of power failures because I can't cook without electricity. I get panic attacks whenever the power goes off. In seconds I become a two-year-old running around like a maniac and repeatedly asking everyone questions like "when is the power coming back on?" even though I know darn well that even the electric company has no idea of when the problem will be resolved. I am also terrified of high winds and storms because they often knock the power out.
I also refuse to go to any family functions that take place in the evening. Ten years ago I had a huge fight with both parents because I didn't want to give up my routine to go to my sister's wedding. I still dread hearing family news because there are always cousins and other relatives on the verge of marriage. My 2 nephews will be having Bar Mitzvahs (celebrations held when Jewish boys turn 13), one in 5 and the other in 6 or 7 years. Would you believe I'm already dreading them. What makes these affairs especially difficult is that I not only have to give up my routine, but have to do something I'm terrible at, being with people.
Another important routine is my weekly therapy. I get very upset and anxious whenever my psychiatrist goes on holiday or even has to change the time or day of my appointment, as happens now and then. I dread times of year when Jewish holidays come up because he is religious and changes my appointments if holidays fall on days I see him.
Also important to me are routines surrounding exercise. With biking it's not that bad because, although I prefer mornings when traffic is lighter, I can bike when I want. Skating or any other activity that takes place indoors, however, is offered only at set times. In the winter, when all I have is skating, I get more antsy about changes at work or other unforeseen events like funerals (when my uncle died I got really upset because I had to miss the only quiet skating session of the week to go to the funeral) that conflict with times skating is held.
I also have trouble dealing with changes that interfere with my going to bed when I normally do. That's another reason I have fighting matches with my parents when family functions come up. These things usually last way into the wee hours of the morning, way past my bedtime.
My very emotional stability depends on my routines. If they proceed uninterrupted, I feel stable and function at my best. On the other hand, whenever there is a change in any of them, I get too anxious to function properly and have zero concentration. Except for the fact they are pleasurable, it's hard to define exactly what it is they do for me. All I know is that I need them.
What concerns me is that this symptom has been getting worse over the years. When I was younger I was still rigid but tolerated the occasional change, at least consciously. What I find interesting is that the tics I had during childhood always got much worse during changes, even family vacations that I liked. I didn't realize it but my parents noticed it. As an adult, I have less dramatic tics but more conscious feelings of discomfort when my routine is disrupted.
I wonder if any of you have trouble with change. I somehow feel I'm the only one who does because you all travel, which involves breaking routines. In fact, from what I read, nearly all high functioning autistics travel. I know I badly need to get away from Montreal, but I never go anywhere. I must have the world's worst case of Asperger's Syndrome. I don't even do even half of what you all do.