Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taylor Morris Part One

For this week, I am going to talk about videos created by Taylor Morris, a “real autistic success story.” Over the last few years, she has created a series of videos discussing her autism.  Taylor has tremendous insight and is good at helping people understand the world that she, and I, experience.  Over my next three posts, I am going to start by talking about what Taylor has become and then backtrack to who she used to be.

Tayloy is an impressive autistic advocate. She has also become a model, something that is truly extraordinary.  This video shows what she has become by sharing her visions with the world.  I hope this will help parents, as well as individuals with autism, to know that these barriers created by autism can really be broken.  Not only that, it also shows that people with autism can reach amazing heights of success that many people without complications of autism never experience.

Here is a link to one of Taylor’s videos talking of her success as an autistic advocate and a model.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Note about my Medications: Part Two

In my last post, I discussed the medications I have been taking for the past eleven years and how they have changed my life.  After many long years of stability and success, I am now looking at changing many current combination of medicines: Mirtazapine, Risperidone, and Concerta.  For one thing, I will be twenty five in less than two years.  After that time, I will no longer be covered by my parents insurance.  I don't know how I will be able to afford monthly refills of all those medications after that time.

Another reason for removing the Mirtazapine and the Risperidone lies in a side effect of the Risperidone: significant increase in appetite.  I have been struggling with my weight for almost half my life now.  I never had a problem with my weight before the Fox Center, and before I was prescribed with these medications.  My appetite is strongest in the evening, right around the time I take the Mirtazapine and the Risperidone.

I have an appointment with the psychiatrist who prescribed me with these medications in two weeks time.  I have discussed changing around the medications before.  It is not something that I can just stop abruptly, particularly the Mirtazapine.  As with any antidepressant, suddenly stopping the medication can cause withdrawal symptoms to return.  That is the last thing I need this close to finishing college.  I will update my readers on this change so that they can follow my experience living with autism.

A Note about my Medications: Part One

October 2000 can be considered a significant changing point in my life for many reasons.  This was the time I was taken out of school for a few weeks.  From nine to two, five days a week, I went to the Fox Center in Pontiac Michigan for different therapies and a safe environment to determine what medicines that I needed.  It was during this time that I was diagnosed with PDD (NOS), and not before extensive testing.  I was also dealing with depression at this time.

Prior to that time, I was on Ritalin, which was the one-size fit all medication for ADD and ADHD symptoms during the 90's.  It turned out that I needed a different combination of medications to deal with my behavioral issues and chemical imbalance.  This combination of Concerta, Mirtazapine, and Risperidone, has helped me in many ways.

Right now, I take one Concerta every morning.  This helps control my ADHD symptoms so that I can focus during the day and accomplish the tasks I set out to accomplish.  There is a noticeable on the days that I forget to take my Concerta  in the morning.  I have tried to study for my school with that frame of mind and it doesn't work.  I was copying down terms for my Internet Marketing and Strategies class without my Concerta.  I was trying so hard with a scrambled state of mind.  And yet, I failed to recognize that while I had written the definition of the term, I did no write down the term itself preceding the definition.  Concerta is a medication that I will probably take for the rest of my life.

I take Risperidone and Mirtazapine every evening before bed.  The Risperidone helped improve my behavior that results from the autism.  The Mirtazapine is an antidepressant which has suppressed  my depression symptoms from the time following the Fox Center.  I have been on this combination of medications for almost half my life.  It will be eleven years in about a month's time.  For a while I have been wondering if I even need the Risperidone and the Mirtazapine any more.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Journey to be Accepted

In this post, I want to talk about a story I read in the New York Times written by Amy Harmon who writes about Justin Canha, a young man with autism from Montclair New Jersey and his journey to find a place in the world.  Harmon writes that Justin has a special gift for drawing and a love of cartoons.  Justin wants to become a famous cartoonist and live independently from his parents in his own apartment.

This article goes on to talk how the transition of autistic teenagers from high school and adulthood is changing rapidly.  Harmon writes: “…Justin is among the first generation of autistic youths who have benefited from more effective therapies and hard won educational opportunities.”  I have never thought about it that way myself, but I suppose that it is the result of long years of autism research and movements toward better understanding the spectrum.

Harmon goes on to speak of “neurodiversity,” a term which I have never heard of before.   “Some advocates of ‘neurodiversity,’” Harmon writes, “call this the next civil rights frontier: society, they say, stands to benefit from accepting people whose brains work differently.”   I have believed this for a long time.  People, such as Justin, can really benefit society if the proper considerations are made for their individual needs.   Justin could go on to revolutionize the way cartoons are created if he is given proper accommodations and is recognized for what he can do, rather than for what he can’t.

To read Amy Harmon’s article from the New York Times, visit this website:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Note to My Readers

Instead of talking about autism in this post, I am going to talk about a second blog that I will begin next week that is related to autism.  This blog will also be posted on the Oakland Press web page and will be titled OUCARES-Did you know…

In this blog, I will be discussing the many activities that occur for people with autism at Oakland University.  I wrote a post about the OUCARES Film Camp late in August, so this blog will be a continuation of similar events occurring this fall.  These events range from basketball camps, to martial arts, to photography.  All programs offered are excellent opportunities for children, teens, and young adults with autism to expand their boundaries and gain new experiences.

I encourage the readers of the Voice of the Spectrum to seek out this new blog when it appears on the Oakland Press website so that we may all continue the journey of understanding autism on all sides of the spectrum.

For more information about OUCARES and the programs they offer, please visit their website at

Autism and Change

All people are resistant to change.  It is a natural part of being human.  Change in the workplace: the fear of losing a job is enough to make most people uncomfortable.  Someone who loses their job does not know what is going to happen.  Many people do not know how they might provide for their families while out of work.  I have been a cashier at a retail job for a period of three years and have seen people who use food stamp cards.  I remember one person telling me that they never thought they would reach the point where they had to use a food stamp card after working for so many years.  Change affects people in many ways and is largely an uncomfortable process.

About a year ago while taking a class at Oakland University, my professor for a class on organizational behavior turned all the desks around to simulate to the class the affect that change can have on individuals in any sort of environment.  On a typical day, you would walk into the room with all the desks facing away from you, towards the whiteboard.  Those who walked into the room on this day suddenly found themselves in the unexpected situation of having everyone watch them as they entered the room.  It does not sound like that big of a deal, but it is something that is taken for granted then is suddenly and unexpectedly twisted around. 

When I walked in the room to find all the chairs facing me, the effect it had on me was incredible.  I stood stationary for a few moments, mouth gaping open, in denial of what I was seeing.  I felt my senses scrambled.  I had to take a moment; actually it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, trying to understand what I saw.   I crept towards sensory overload.  I was fully aware that I was being watched by everyone who faced me.  I did not muster the will to move until someone came in behind me.  Only then did I proceed to take my seat, still uncomfortable. 

In autism, change is more than just uncomfortable.  For an instant I was frozen in a sensory overload, unable to understand why this change had occurred.  For those with autism, black and white thinking combined with sensory overload makes change more than they can stand.  I do not know how long I stood there in a sensory overload; it may have been longer if that person did not come in behind me when they did.  What I do know is that a few minutes later I had recovered enough to notice that others stood in the doorway in disbelief to see all the chairs facing them.  Once the sensory overload had worn off, it was actually amusing to see the expressions of some people as they faced the unexpected change.

On a more serious note, I recovered quite quickly from such a change in routine.  I imagine the effect an identical situation of change would have on another individual with autism may be more unsettling, or, they may recover quicker than I did.  It depends on the person.  What matters is that all people have to face change.  Those with autism just need a little extra help and consideration when they have to face such change.  Understand, that the effect change can have on an autistic individual ranges from unsettling to stunning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Autism and Emotional Outbursts

This topic was recently brought to my attention, so I thought I should address it in this post.  

Are those with autism prone to anger outbursts? 

Not only is autism frustrating for the family of the autistic individual, but it can also be frustrating for the individual who has autism.  When I was younger, I would sometimes feel angry with the prospect of not being like everyone else and not understanding myself.  I never resorted to violence as a result of my feelings, but I have seen it happen to other individuals who have the condition.  

The only suggestion I can make is try to recognize when a child with autism is upset to see if there is any way that an act of violence could be prevented.  Something that contributes to that frustration is taunts from classmates in school.  I have noticed that grade school students, particularly those who attend middle school, throw out taunts without a second thought to how an individual with autism might feel.  Let me remind my readers that I am not a professional, I can only offer my own experience and this is one of the things I have encountered.

A suggestion I can make to those who have autism is never be afraid to ask for help.  Even if you strongly doubt that anyone can understand what you are going through, believe me, there are.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Siblings of Those with Autism

Many people are affected from a diagnosis with autism.  Parents, teachers, classmates all have to adapt to meet the needs of a child with autism.  Perhaps the most affected by a diagnosis with autism are the siblings of that child with autism.  The siblings of those with autism are the ones who have to make the most sacrifices in order to meet the needs of their autistic brother or sister.

My own brother has been affected by my autism in many ways.  Since my autism is milder than many forms, this has not been as significant as it would be in the case of someone with severe autism or even Aspergers Syndrome.  My brother and I are different in many ways.  He is more outgoing and more social than I am.  He is more interested in the latest trends or gadgets, whereas, I am not the kind of person who has to buy a new cell phone just because the older version has been updated.  Also, I do not dress in the latest fashions.  Right now I am wearing a striped polo and a khaki pair of pants.  I am wearing ankle socks, but purchasing them was really the only step I took at updating my fashion in recent years.

We get along as well as can be expected, my brother and I.  Personally, I prefer the company of more mature individuals rather than the spontaneous communication expected from individuals my own age.  He likes spending time with his peers and feels uncomfortable with the type of people that I prefer spending time with. 

That is pretty much my experience in this matter.  I know that different families who have to deal with autism might have it worse than I have it, or they might have it better.  I don't know.  I hope that my experience gives my readers an idea of how another sibling relationship besides their own has been affected by autism.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Does Self-Knowledge of Autism Really Help?

Good communication is an essential skill for anyone to have.  Employers are looking for good communication skills in the men and women that they invest time and money in.  Schools spend hours teaching students the essential communication skills starting as young as kindergarten.  Furthermore, schools are placing more emphasis on learning foreign languages as the distance between the United States and other countries becomes smaller and smaller.  Internet has evolved into a means of communication in ways that were never anticipated.

Over the years, I have been forced to come to terms that I play by different rules than most people.  Through my Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified), I have encountered unusual challenges when faced with learning to effectively communicate. 

Probably the most crippling of those barriers was psychological in nature.  I knew that I had autism, I knew that I was different.  For a long time, I thought that meant that I was not able to communicate as well as other people.  The very knowledge that I had autism was causing me to restrict myself.  I remember telling a classmate in a community college Spanish class that learning languages was my weakness.  She said something to the effect of: "oh, you really think so?"

That phrase has stayed in my mind for a long time.  I knew by then that I had a language delay.  I thought that was the reason I was having difficulty learning Spanish. The psychological nature of the problem was that I was blaming my autism for difficulties that it really did not impact.

Anyone in my situation would have had trouble learning Spanish.  My problem was not my autism, but the fact that I kept on skipping semester.  I would take Spanish in the fall, wait a year, take another class the following fall, and so on.  The point I am trying to make is that I anticipated the trap that I fell into.  I knew that I would blame my autism for problems that had nothing to do with it, and I did so.  It is much too easy to place all my troubles as the result of a single cause than to look for the real answers to the problem.

These days, whenever the subject of Spanish comes up, I always jokingly say that "I know enough Spanish to be dangerous."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The World of the Imprecise

Before I get in to today's topic, I want to say a few words.  To my readers who have been following my Autistic Stories, I am sorry to say that I will have to postpone the next post involving Chris's story for a while.  I am back in college now and I just don't have the time necessary to put together a good piece of fiction about autism.  It is just too much to handle on top of everything else I am doing.  Again, I apologize to my readers.

My professor in my marketing research class mentioned today that social sciences, such as research for marketing, are very imprecise when compared to other sciences such as physics.  It is next to impossible to get an answer from a single individual that is not different in a separate situation.  You can ask a person the same question, but their answer may vary depending on their mood among a variety of other reasons.  I'm sure many of you have been faced with online surveys.  Your answers for a survey while you are happy probably won't be the same as your answers while you are sad or angry.  This point has nothing to do with autism, but this is important because it leads into my main topic of my post today.

The imprecision of social science brings to mind something that I think is significant. Autistic individuals are not very good with imprecision.  In a social environment, many aspects are imprecise.  A single spoken statement can be interpreted by different people in different ways.

While I can perceive this social imprecision I am uncomfortable with it.  It doesn't make complete sense to me that a person's statement can be seen in many ways by many people, especially in a dynamic environment where I have to communicate, such as my retail job.  It is one thing discussing the topic while sitting at my computer, it is another thing entirely to be in a work environment and deal with that imprecision of the social world. 

If I may be bold, I think that this is why many individuals with autism are uncomfortable in social situations.  My first inclination is to take something as a precise statement.  That is the same as taking something literally.  I feel much more comfortable with the idea that there is a right answer and a wrong answer.  I have been taught differently, and the experience is still relevant.  However, I don't know if I will ever get used to all the imprecision in the world today.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Rinsing Topic

This is a personal topic that I have not really explored in my writing before, but when I was nine years old I started getting dandruff in my hair.  I just could not get all the soap out of my hair when showering.  I know for a fact that many families with autism have to deal with this.  I had dandruff all through high school.  It is mostly gone by now, but I have resigned myself to the fact that I will have dry skin for most of my life. 

Kind of repulsive to think about, let alone discuss, but I think this is a real issue.  Even now, I catch myself thinking I am rinsed when it is really not the case.  I just have to realize that sometimes my first impression is not necessarily correct in terms of something as simple as washing my hair.  I hope that by sharing my experience on this manner, I might give families of those with autism an idea that this is not a problem that a single child on the spectrum might have.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Some thoughts to Consider

I am going to take a moment to deviate from the autistic story post for this week to talk about a topic that is presently on my mind.

There is much talk about the disadvantages of autism.  Many believe that individuals on the autism spectrum can never lead a "normal" life.  In many cases, that is true when severely autistic people are concerned.  Consider this question, what does normal mean anyway?  Of course, there are widely accepted behaviors know, incidentally, as norms.  Individuals with autism tend to break many norms because we do not have instinctive social knowledge that most people have.

Autistic people are different than the majority of society.  Not be any choice of lifestyle, but by genetics and personality.  As a member of the autism spectrum, I can see the disadvantages just as well as anyone else can, but as a writer with a degree of intuition, there are also advantages to being autistic.  They are unique and subtle advantages, but they should not be underestimated in any case.

I am going to consider two cases where these advantages might be present.  First I am going to look at severely autistic individuals. Secondly, I am going to look at high functioning autistic individuals, such as myself.

In the case of those with severe autism, they are completely dependent on those around them.  That is where the cure for autism is focused.  These individuals with severe autism are completely dependent on their families for support and the basic necessities of life, which they are incapable of providing themselves.  They with in a world dictated by their sensations.  People, politics, the feelings of their caregivers do not occur to them.  They are trapped in there own bodies, unable to communicate, or show what they really know.  It seems that the disadvantages in this case have stacked up really quickly.  However, I believe that there are still advantages.

For one thing, multiple service industries have emerged to help people with autism.  It is true that they are pricey, and sometimes out of reach to a number of working class families.  Despite that, jobs have still been created as the result of individuals with severe autism.  In addition, a lifetime of care for an individual with autism teaches the caregivers humility, as well as illustrating how lucky the caregivers themselves are to not have autism, to be able to experience the world through the eyes of someone without sensory issues.  I believe many of those life-long lessons can only be taught with extreme hardship.

Secondly, I am going to consider the individuals with high functioning autism.  These individuals needs special care and special teaching to find their place in the world.  Once this care is received, then they can find what their unique skills can be used for in this changing world.  Individuals with autism may not see the whole picture through their narrow vision.  If they can find a career where that narrow vision provides advantage, then they can notice things that other people overlook in the workplace.  I remember seeing on the news a few years ago, there was a company that hired only individuals with Aspergers Syndrome to work with computer technology.  The owner was aware that the workers with Aspergers would not waste time socializing during the workday.  Their focus would only be at the job at hand, and the progression of technology at this workplace was incredible.  Of course, the fair treatment of workers with autism would have to be ensured, however there did not seem to be a problem in this case.

To conclude, I believe that individuals with autism present unique advantages to the workforce.  I am a college student majoring in marketing.  To do so, I am receiving a background in many different business topics, not just marketing.  In every class, we are reminded that the world is now considered as a global economy, with the actions of one country affecting the well being of another.  It is not my intention to begin a political debate, rather to point out that the world is changing.  As the world changes, individuals with high functioning autism may find themselves at an advantage in the workforce due to their extreme focus and hard working traits.  This is just a prediction, I don't know what's going to happen in the future any more than you do.  All I can do, all anyone can do, is to keep living our lives and hope for the best.