Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Message of Inspiration

I saw this image on Facebook earlier today.  This really does a great job at highlighting everything I have been trying to say the past few months about autism.  There is always hope involved with autism so don't ever give up!

This has been viral throughout Facebook, but just to be safe, there is no copyright infringement intended by displaying this photo.

Autism is Normal...For those on the Spectrum

Some view autism as an abnormality, as though the difference in condition is something to be ashamed of.  Others view autism as a hassle.  Something that represents two parents abandoning the lives they had planned in service of their child who is on the spectrum.  I don't agree with either of those viewpoints.  While there are costs associated with autism it is important to keep in mind that there are costs associated with everything.

Autism itself is not preventable.  There are many costs to having autism but there are also measures that can be taken to prevent meltdowns.  The measures will be different for every child.  Every autism child is unique so an unconventional parenting approach is something to consider if it meets the needs of a child on the spectrum.

At the end of this blog post, I have included a link to another blog that I recently discovered.  This provides one man's unconventional parenting approach for his severely autistic son.  You might not agree with all of these approaches, but remember that those with autism are foreigners to the human race. Those on the spectrum are as different from those off the spectrum, and each other, as those from South East Asia are different from those who are from the United States.

To read this blog, click the following link:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Some Shared Inspiration

When I was twelve, I was dealing with a lot of issues.  I had recently been diagnosed with autism and my medications had been changed, but the trouble was far from over.  Worst of all was the depression I was dealing with.  One day, my mom took me upstairs and played a song by Celine Dion, and told me how that song had reminded her strongly of my situation.  The gist of the song was to never lose hope.  I could not find any strong inspiration at that time through the haze of pain, but that song provided a grain of hope that things would not always be like this.  It told me that after a lot of time and effort, I would beat all my problems.  Today, I am proud to say that I have.

I referenced Youtube to see if I could find the music video.  Listening to this song again after so much time brought back mixed emotions.  The pain from that time is a distant memory that almost seems like a dream at this point.  I hope by sharing this experience that this song will bring you the same inspiration that it brought me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Carly's Story

Over the past few weeks, I have seen this video around Facebook, but not until an old friend recommended it to me did I finally take the time to watch it.  This video is around ten minutes long and features the remarkable development of a moderately autistic girl named Carly.  I was completely astounded by what this teenage girl could accomplish through her words.  It is far more significant than anything I have ever done.  She had been locked inside her head for her entire life, unable to control her body, responsive to the painful sensations that dictated her life.  So called "professionals" dismissed her as "mentally retarded" based on what they could see.  To take a quote from the film "Polar Express:"

"Sometimes the things that are most real are the things we can't see..."

As a member of the spectrum, I absolutely HATE it when people take me at face value.  I may not be the most attractive person, I may not always show that I am listening, I may make faces when people look at me (there are some people who mock the expressions I make when I avoid sudden eye contact), but this is who I am.  Even so, this is nothing compared to what Carly has gone through.  I see the world through the eyes of one with autism, but I can also function at times without anyone suspecting that I am different.

It is all dictated by sensations.  I am not the best speaker.  At times, I am hard pressed to convince myself how articulate I really am with words when faced with an embarrassing situation.  On the other hand, Carly has lived her life unable to communicate whereas I experience difficulties at times.  We both want to help people to understand us.  All she wants is to be normal and all I want is for others to understand people like us.  We didn't ask for this.  This is the hand that we were dealt, and we have to work with what we were given.  We who have autism are gifted people who, at times, are trapped in our own bodies. Not a day has gone by when I didn't wish a sensory overload upon someone who doesn't understand. I would rather be viewed by what I have to offer rather than what I appear to be on the surface.  Every individual on the spectrum, whether we have severe autism, mild autism, or Aspergers Syndrome feels the same way.  I am convinced of that.

To view Carly's story, click the following link:

More about the Diagnosis Change

I have performed some research over the past day and examined arguments both in favor and against this proposed change in the autism diagnosis.

One argument I have seen used against those with Aspergers Syndrome (who are spearheading strongly against the proposed changes) is that those with Aspergers are against change and their reaction is nothing more than the expression of their discomfort.  One doctor was quoted as saying she was "sorry" that she offended those with Aspergers who are against the changes.  This same article stated that those who are against these changes feel that their identity is threatened but the changes did "make scientific sense."

It is true that those with Aspergers Syndrome, and autism in general, are uncomfortable with change, more so than those off the spectrum. This is a well know trait that we have, my self included.  After my post last night, I wanted to take a step back and look at this differently.

I want to make clear that the only objection I have against this change in diagnosis is the denial of necessary services to those who may not meet the new criteria but still need some help.  If those who are on the milder end of the spectrum still receive the services they would have other wise received under the previous diagnosis requirements, then I have no objection to these changes.  If these changes make things easier/better for those whose lives are impacted by the spectrum, then by all means, implement the changes.

To read the MSNBC article referenced in this blog post, click the following link:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Change...for Better or Worse?

There has been much talk lately about the upcoming changes in the autism diagnosis.  Opinions range from acceptance to blatant hatred of the new measures.  It is a difficult topic for me to consider.  I can't help thinking how different I would be today if I had not received the help I did at age twelve that altered my life.

My specific autism diagnosis is pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified, which is one of the autism diagnosis specifications that will be eliminated once the new measures are introduced.  Concerning this legislation, I see two areas of implication: the medical implications, and the social implications.  Grouping the autism diagnosis into one category does add convenience and understanding to doctors and parents, but as an individual on the mild end of the autism spectrum, had I gone on with my life without the diagnosis and without the change in medications, I would still be struggling now as I was when I was twelve.  I would not be able to relate such insights through writing as I do now because I would still be in the same mindset I was at age eleven.

This would only be the case if my autism had continued to go unrecognized.  I have to say that those with PDD-NOS have more to be worried about than those with Aspergers Syndrome because the PDD-NOS diagnosis is such a subtle condition that no two doctors will give the same results.  I am a successful person now because of the intervention I received more than ten years ago.  It pains me to think that had I been born twenty years later, I would face the prospect of never receiving the intervention that I did and thereby never fully recognizing my potential, as I am today.

People tell me all the time that I do not seem like I have autism, and there are times when I would agree with them.  However, they do not know of all the effort that my parents and I went through to get where I am today.  It didn't just happen, it was hard work.  To think that children today who are like I was when I was younger face the prospect of never receiving intervention, to live their lives without fully recognizing their is frightening to me.  It really is.

There are many different viewpoints concerning this issue and I have just presented mine.  I am interested to know whether my readers agree with what I have to say.  Feel free to leave any feedback you might have as comments following this blog post or on my Facebook page.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dreaming on the Spectrum

Lately, I have found myself to be preoccupied with my subconscious.  Maybe that's because I have remembered so many of my dreams lately.  I find my dreams to be especially entertaining at times. A few weeks back, someone asked me if I would sing Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," while playing the piano.  I said sure.  Never mind that I can't sing, or that I have no experience playing the piano. I was disappointed that I woke up before I got a chance to play.

My dreams are very vivid to me and I have remembered dreams that I have had as a child.  One particular dream was of a bridge to some sort of a houseboat.  I remembered the feeling of urgency more than anything else.  There was something that I really needed to do, but I woke up before I could do it.  That dream is from the time when I was nonverbal.  It has been retained for all that time, but it is nothing more than a few brief images.  This is probably my oldest dream that I can still recall.

Some dreams have repeated themselves over and over again in my mind.  When I was thirteen, I watched the dark comedy film "Tremors."  It was one film that really scared me.  I have had nightmares about those monsters for years.  Even now, when I can watch the films without being frightened, I still have those dreams.  My latest one was last week.

Those on the autism spectrum have enormous creative potential.  If my dreams are any indication, that potential can be recognized through the sleeping exploration of the subconscious. Are you on the spectrum or off?  Are my dreams any different than yours?  Does the fact that my mind works differently because of my autism change the way that I dream?  Are those off the spectrum really any different than those who are on the spectrum?  My autism is very mild, do those with severe autism dream any differently?  Just something to think about.

I'll Bee Thinking

In this post, I am going to try to describe how someone with autism might think.

Ever since I was young, I have had a fear of bee stings.  This is understandable, since I am allergic to bee stings. I have been stung five times in my life.  Although I couldn't tell you the exact time when these painful incidents took place, I can tell you my age: I was stung twice when I was three, two more times when I was eight, and once when I was 21.  I have never had any reason to doubt that bee stings were harmful to me.

A conversation earlier at work left me wondering.  I heard two workers talking about bee stings, and how one coworker had heard that bee stings were actually beneficial.  This coworker went on to say how bee stings could be used to help arthritis.  Regardless of whether this is true, I found myself following two thought patterns after I had walked out of earshot.   One of those thought patters reflected how that might be true for some people, but it was definitely not true for me, as has been repeatedly shown through allergic reactions to bee stings. 

Another thought pattern coincided with the first one.  You could say that I was thinking about two different things simultaneously.  This second thought pattern reflected how I might have received this information differently if I was younger.  I imagined how I might have reacted if I had actually believed the information and what I might have said or done to reflect any arguments I would have faced.

You might ask, oh this is interesting, but what is my point?  My point is that something I had believed to be true my entire life was challenged and I had the freedom to examine this information from simultaneous angles at the same time.  This mental process draws focus away from verbal communication.  Had I been forced to make conversation while in that mental process, I know I would have not been able to relate what I felt verbally.  It would have been forced through a strainer, all these thoughts and insights reduced to minimal, one word answers.  This leads into my point: the thoughts or feelings of those with autism are too complex to easily be translated into words.

Since I was thinking about several things at the same time and someone talked to me, asked me what was on my mind, how would I have answered?  Complex thoughts combined with substantial verbal communication skills (when compared to my writing skills) leads me to have extreme difficulty relating what I am thinking when I am in that state of mind.  It does not mean that I am unintelligent if I can't answer a "simple" question like, what is on your mind.  It means that there are other factors involved that people don't typically deal with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is Narrow Vision Better? Part Two

Somebody told me recently that she had heard that without individuals with Aspergers Syndrome, there would be no NASA.  I definitely believe it.  I grew up watching the film "Apollo 13."  In this film, the Saturn V spacecraft carrying Jim Lovell and his crew to the moon had an unprecedented problem that left the spacecraft crippled.  Not only did they have to abort the moon landing, but each day became a fight for survival.  Their safe landing would not have been possible without the help of the ground crew below.

This is April of 1970, where the laptop I am using to type this blog post is probably more sophisticated than the computers NASA had access to at the time.  They succeeded through problem solving and pushing the machinery available to the absolute limits.  I can picture those with Aspergers Syndrome that may have worked without an official diagnosis, contributing their narrow vision and high intelligence to the tasks at hand.

Through narrow vision, an individual on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum can examine a small range of products and ideas with utmost efficiency and understanding.  In a range of problems where this type of thinking is advantageous, these individuals can really shine.  This does not mean that we should not be encouraged to broaden our horizons, although we might resist.  In my next post, I will discuss how narrow vision might be problematic and what solutions I have used to overcome these challenges.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Is Narrow Vision Better? Part I

A most distinguishing trait to those on the autism spectrum, particularly those with high functioning autism and Aspergers Syndrome, to have intense narrow focus towards a topic of choice.  This allows those with high functioning autism, and Aspergers in particular, to see things differently.  Through this, people with Aspergers, and myself to an extent, can see a small number of topics, like fantasy, school subjects, or games very clearly and have difficulty stepping back to see the big picture.

While this can allow those on the autism spectrum to examine a small number of subjects in extraordinary depth, it can be limiting, as the working world requires employees to be able to multitask and have a wide range of talents.  In my next post, I will go further with this topic.

Follow up Interview Post

I wanted to take a moment in this blog post to follow up on a matter I mentioned during my previous blog post.  This is the post where I discussed whether having high functioning autism can be advantageous during a job interview.  I received a moderate response on Facebook.  One reader commented saying that she had heard that without individuals with Aspergers Syndrome, NASA would not exist.  This is understandable, given the high intelligence and intense focus that are characteristics to those who have Aspergers Syndrome.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I had an upcoming interview for a marketing internship.  Those readers I have connected to through Facebook will already know this, but I was selected as Assistant Director of Social Media Marketing for a small restaurant chain.  This is due, indirectly, to having high functioning autism.  I feel that I was selected more for the strong creativity I can contribute to the department than for my social media marketing skills.  It is my autism which grants me strong creativity in exchange for the social difficulty I have experienced in the past. 

I encourage those that might be struggling with the negative aspects of the autism spectrum to nourish their creativity.  If nothing else, I am confident that a creative outlet will lead to peace of mind.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Autism...An Employment Advantage?

In this difficult job market, employers are looking for skills that separate potential employees from all the others applicants.  A question that I am going to raise in this blog post is this: can high functioning autism, PDD-NOS, or Aspergers Syndrome be used as an advantage during a job interview?  It is true that there are many barriers that need to be overcome in order for those with autism to function in the working world, but perhaps that is exactly the point.  In order to break through the many barriers caused by autism, those on the high functioning end of the spectrum develop perseverance, determination, and stamina in levels not found in those off of the autism spectrum.  This popular quote rings true: "Whatever doesn't kill me only makes me stronger."  By facing challenges on a daily basis from a very young age, those on the autism spectrum truly do become stronger.

I have an interview for an internship tomorrow morning.  This interview is for The Director of Social Media Marketing for a food chain.  My skills as an intern reporter for The Oakland Press and the role that Facebook plays in marketing my blog posts makes me a strong candidate for this position.  If I do end up discussing my autism during this interview, I will say something to this effect: I have had to break through many barriers in my lifetime that many people never have to face.  By doing so, I have developed many strengths that I can use to benefit the company (I am interviewing for).  What was once a hindering weakness is now a something I use to help others, through my strong skills is a writer.

Do you think that high functioning autism can be used as a potential strength during a job interview?