“Autistic Community: Is It Possible?”

Diablogue #21

Adam, Christina & Ken at Adam's stand-up comedy show titled "Tale Of A Social Misfit" at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.
Adam, Christina & Ken at Adam’s stand-up comedy show titled “Tale Of A Social Misfit” at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.

Helpful Hint: Autism is neither a gift nor a curse. It’s just a difference. No more, no less. We need to get to that realization as a society.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: It was a rush when Adam came up to us in the pews before his show and said, “You’re the people who write the relationship diablogue.”

Ken: It was one of those little surprise treasure moments: “Who would have thought that we would meet one of our followers in Edmonton?!”

Christina: Right. I never put two and two together after we read and enjoyed Adam’s comments on our blog and then I saw the notice about his show, Asperger’s: A Tale of A Social Misfit, on the Autism Edmonton web site.

Ken: It was nice to see an autism advocate at work. I found his material to be very familiar and poignant and simultaneously sad and hilarious.

Christina: Yes, a lot of mixed feelings for you. But for me, it was mostly just delightful because he was so clever and funny—he had both of us laughing hard throughout. Everyone laughed a lot, but I think we had the inside track on some of his jokes.

Ken: I found myself laughing at him and with him as he was able to make me laugh at myself. It was cathartic.

Christina: Yeah, I think it affected me a little in that way too, since you and I struggle sometimes with the hard realities of autism. But his performance also made me like you more. Or EVEN more, I should say!

Ken: Specify?

Christina: Adam was up there being himself for 40 minutes nonstop, and everyone loved him. This rarely happens in quite the same way when you and I are out and about in the world. I mean, sometimes you are killingly funny or insightful about human foibles—especially your own. But it’s often hard work for you, and for me when I’m with you, to sustain lengthy social interaction with others—never mind being funny. Soon into almost any social interaction, we usually run into some kind of social discomfort—even if others don’t notice. So, being with an Aspie who was talking for 40 minutes straight with nothing going socially awry was just…. lovely.

Ken: Tell me more.

Christina: Of course the two situations are not the same: Adam’s crafted show poking fun at social awkwardness and you and I in a unscripted social situation with friends.

Ken: Correct.

Christina: But my point is just the relief and pure fun of that experience. His jokes were funny, but my smile the whole time was a reaction to the glee of being able to totally relax about autism, while talking about it openly.

Ken: Would I be correct by stating that for once, you were able to experience autism from the outside in rather than the inside out?

Christina: Yes! Good observation. For that 40 minutes, autism wasn’t something that I had to work at, or understand, or explain, or adjust to, but just appreciate—just enjoy Adam’s keen insights and his skill and success with his stand-up act.  Do you remember that one of the first things I said to you after the show was, “Could YOU do that?!… Please do that!”

Ken: I find that an awkward question. I could not do it the same way as him.

Christina: That will sound cold to some readers! But I know it isn’t to you–it’s neutral, unemotional data.

Ken: I realize how hard it is for you in social situations—and I am grateful that you are there, and not just bolting. You continue to persevere. Of course with Adam, we went to just listen, not dialogue. And that made it easy. Also, listening to another person on the spectrum gave me a message from a different point of view.

Christina: A message?

Ken: Each and every voice from a person impacted by autism is a new and different perspective and adds more to my understanding of autism.

Christina: So Adam’s show helped you understand yourself?

Ken: All information about autism, in its many different incarnation, helps me better understand myself and my place on the autism spectrum.

Christina: What was your biggest response by the end of his show? What feeling or what realization?

Ken: A very positive feeling because there was another person out there advocating and educating.

Christina: Me too. I felt that we were on the same team—him and us.

Ken: Agreed. However, one observation that I have made is that all of us—Adam, Temple Grandin, and the various autism groups we have connected with, are individual voices instead of a community of voices. Separately we’re out there advocating. We’re a bunch of individuals with the same goal—informing and educating others about the autistm spectrum. But we seem to be multiple voices operating individually rather than as a community.

Christina: I see. But “One Voice” isn’t what you’re getting at, I’m sure, right? Everyone does have unique experiences and perspectives…

Ken: Affirmative. There are many communities out there. For example the deaf have a community and a culture of their own. We, as people with autism, don’t seem to have that.

Christina: Right. And what could a community of people who are connected to autism—in any way— achieve that individuals or groups working alone cannot?

Ken: A community could find the middle ground between what seems to be polarized perspectives. We need to find the middle ground between various extreme views and opinions. It is a very complicated and stormy subject, so how do we calm the waters and move forward toward acceptance and understanding? We need to seek the messages that benefit the most people with the most accurate information and the widest possible collection of options. To do that, we need to find the middle ground.

Christina: Yes. We really don’t know much about autism yet. And I have a problem with the idea of polarities: positive and negative takes on autism. For me, for example, I carry both around every day all the time.

Ken: As do I. And within myself, because of that, I have found my middle ground. But my voice alone cannot speak for a community. It is a spectrum. I don’t have the answers, and I don’t think any of us will as long as we keep working alone.

Christina: Right. So, how can this “community” be accomplished, exactly?

Ken: A very good question. I’d like to hear from others out there about how. We need to figure it out together.  How do we dialogue and share rather than individually educate and inform?

Christina: Some kind of Autism Wiki? A massive chat room?

Ken: Two great ideas. We need as many as we can collect.

Christina: And then act.

Ken: Agreed. What appears to exist at the moment is many diverse parties who are self-advocating or using the term ‘self-advocate.’ In my view, the difficulty with the self-advocate stance is that we ourselves only have part of the information on autism and ourselves as individuals with autism. If we could form a community of advocates, I believe that we could not only effectively and expeditiously inform and educate more of the public, we could also do the same for ourselves.

Christina: Yes. And can you clarify to what end, in your view?

Ken: To further advance understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of people with differences.

Christina: Right. And I would add, celebrate and value what they have to offer. That’s far too rare.

Ken: I entirely concur with you on that.

Ken and Christina’s concluding message: If anyone sees value in the idea of forming a multi-voiced community of people who are autistic and who are close to autism, please let us know. Share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

 

Next Post #22 ~ About the movie “Carrie Pilby” –the best autism film we’ve seen that never mentions autism.

“A Monoblogue after Binge Sleeping by the One Who is Now Awake and Back”

Diablogue #20

"Christina and Ken overlooking the Bow river near the ancient Medicine Wheel Indigenous sacred site near Majorville in central Alberta."
Christina and Ken overlooking the Bow river near the ancient Medicine Wheel Indigenous sacred site near Majorville in central Alberta.

Helpful Hint: Pay heed to what your mind, body, soul and spirit are telling you. They know best what you need to keep you healthy and therefore happy. If they are telling you to binge sleep, for example, give in you will see and reap the benefits. Too often we ignore what our four aspects are telling us, thereby becoming exhausted, sick or both.

 

So, allow me (too) monoblogue:

First of all I would like to thank all of our blog viewers, visitors, and followers during my and Christina’s slips and misses in our blogging. Christina and I view this as our responsibility to possibly assist others. When we miss our commitment to this diablogue, it deeply disappoints both of us.

I would also like to thank Christina for understanding picking up the slack while I was down. I am fortunate to have a wife, friend, and partner like her. I believe that she is one in a trillion.

She is unconditionally supportive, curious, and smart. She should not underestimate herself or how essential she is to this diablogue. Christina arguably has and is performing at least half if not more of the research into autism. Christina is also responsible for at least half again, if not more, of the ideas, insights, information and work-arounds we discuss and implement. I do not believe that I could successfully or happily do life or the diablogue without her.

It was Christina who had the idea to seek out a diagnosis, and thank God that she did. Also she is the editor of the blog, taking my disjointed and disorganized thoughts and words and cobbling them into something that is understandable to autistics and non-autistics alike. Trust me when I say that this is no easy task. If you do not believe me, just ask her.

Last post Christina said, “And so tonight, Sunday, as Ken binge sleeps on, I’ll post this and he’ll read it when he awakes sometime Monday. I hope he approves of my ramblings!” Ramblings? Hardly. I believe Christina is incapable of rambling. She always has something of value to add. I too learned from her monoblogue.

For example, from her previous post, I learned about the natural pruning process in the non-autistic brain as opposed to the lack of pruning processes in the autistic brain. Please refer back to the images and descriptions in the previous post.

Also, I learned about how the autistic brain had received the same social stimulation as the non-autistic brain, but unlike the orderly firing of the latter, it “lit up like a Christmas tree.” Also, I read her comment about how some researchers dub autistic brains as “chatterbox brains” and “noisy brains.” As a refresher, please refer back to the images and descriptions in the previous post.

It has been stated that multi-tasking is extremely challenging, if not impossible, for autistics to perform. I think I now better understand why and how based on the information presented in Christina’s monoblogue.

I now theorize that quite the opposite is true—in fact we hyper-multi-task, leading to overload. The chatterbox brains and/or noisy brain description is quite apt. I now think because of the more abundant synapses at each spine and the extra wiring— not all of which is connected like the non-autistic brain—in fact contribute to what I call a hyper-multi-tasking brain. However, because of the lack of synapse pruning we have shortfalls in the filtering and executive functioning processes of the non-autistic brain.

I think our brains literally try to process everything simultaneously, leading to what I call hyper multi-tasking runaway. That now explains the pain, confusion, debilitation, and exhaustion that I feel. After prolong exposure of pain, confusion, debilitation, and exhaustion I will become overwhelmed and overloaded thus eventually and inevitably this will induce the inescapable unavoidable binge sleeps that Christina mentioned.

Christina, see what you have done for me here? You have provided information that I previously was unaware of. Christina, you are an indispensible partner. I know I do not tell you nearly enough. You are the essential other half of my whole. Thank you.

Christina you can speak for me anytime. I only hope that I am equal to the task when you are unable to diablogue with me.

That being said, back to what we both want and like and what I believe we do the best, and that is our diablogue. Next time we will both write, as usual.

~Ken (Binge slept like a baby, thank you and love you Christina)

Next post #21 ~ To be determined!

 

 

A Monoblogue on Binge Sleeping by the One Who is Awake…”

Diablogue #19

Ken and Christina at the spectacular Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta in midst of a Cree Elder guided U of A trek to indigenous sacred sites.
Ken and Christina at the spectacular Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta in midst of a Cree Elder guided U of A trek to indigenous sacred sites.

Helpful hint: Be careful what you assume about autism. Science and psychology know very little, really, and surprises are likely in store in the coming months and years.

 

So, allow me to monoblogue:

Yes, this is a departure from our usual diablogue. Early Sunday, Ken asked me to write this blog post myself as he binge sleeps. He can do nothing else at this moment. He has been sleeping on and off, in between required hours of work, eating, and essential family business, since returning from our profoundly affecting university organized and Elder-led indigenous sacred sites excursion. We’ve also recently experienced a rapid-fire series of life events, mostly positive but a few hard ones as well. He urged me, as he tucked himself into bed at 3 pm (likely for the night and for most of Monday as well) to explain his occassional absolute need to sleep however I saw fit. He asked this of me both to help others better understand the toll that busy “ordinary” life cognition takes on Aspies and to avoid missing another post—we missed last week due to the aforementioned trek.

So, today the page is mine. I will try to do well with it. However, rest assured that such monoblogues will appear only occasionally. We work best, in this blog, as a team. I think we have something unique to offer as we genuinely ponder, question, and laugh together about living as a mixed brain couple.

So, why does Ken have an urgent and recurring (about once every 2-3 months) need to binge sleep? One big reason is that he has a far, far noisier or busier brain than most of us, and when it over-fires during intense social experiences or for extended periods during rapid change and happenstance—either or good or bad—he MUST, that is MUST shut his brain off to recuperate, cope, and survive. He has done this all his life, but after his late diagnosis a few years ago, he finally understood more about why.

Let me paraphrase some of the latest autism science to explain this—though I will undoubtedly oversimplify things. Autism has been called one of the most complex conditions studied today; most agree that there is no single factor, such as a gene or environmental event, that determines it. Also, about 60 percent of autistics have significant cognitive disabilities, leaving 40 percent with average or above abilities. Nobody knows why some brains move in one direction and some in the other. Still, across all variants, there seem to be similarities in the kinds and locations of brain differences. This is why Ken can relate to, and often explain, infant and child autism responses and reactions; it’s because he experiences many of the same things—to different degrees.

Research shows that autistic brains are structurally, electrically, and chemically different from non-autistic brains. For example, the individual hemispheres are larger, thicker, and contain more folds, yet the corpus callosum, the tissue that connects the hemispheres, is smaller (or even absent in severe autism), thus reducing cross-hemisphere communication. Temple Grandin has described “grand trunk rail lines” of thinking activity travelling longitudinally back and forth along these “grand trunk rail lines” of the individual hemispheres of her brain rather than across to each hemisphere via the corpus callous using each of the two hemispheres simutaneously. This helps account for her, Ken’s, and other autistics’ astoundingly intense focus. When on task and “in the zone” they are undistracted by social phenomena such as wondering what’s for dinner, considering the appropriate response to a colleague’s email, or attending to what’s happening nearby. Ken calls it tunnel vision, but it seems to affect all his senses. This focus and clarity of mind is one of the key gifts that the high-functioning autistic brain offers the world—hence all those people posthumously diagnosed: Einstein, Shakespeare, and innumerable art, math, and technology geniuses who drove, and still drive, the world forward.

Science also suggests that autistic brains grow faster in early childhood but that the normal pruning (removal) of unused cells in areas that control cognitive and emotional processing does not occur. This means that there are literally more physical connections, more synapses, in an autistic brain. Way more. Look at this image from Columbia University Medical Center:

 

The image above on the right shows a brain cell from a non-autistic brain that has undergone normal pruning during childhood and adolescence. The image on the left is from an autistic brain; it has more abundant synapses at each spine, the result of less natural pruning.

And look at this image:

 

The “neurotypical” brain on the left has lit up in response to a complex but ordinary social situation such as interpreting multiple, rapid-fire verbal and body language interactions at a meeting or encountering a highly emotional and seemingly irrational adult. Specialised wiring in the (left) non-autistic brain efficiently sorts things out, leaving plenty of brain capacity to deal with the situation. In contrast, the autistic brain on the right has received the same social stimulation, but it lights up like a Christmas tree—there is much more wiring and not all of it is connected like the non-autistic brain. With all circuits firing in intense or unexpected social situations, it’s no wonder that Ken describes the feelings as painful, confusing, debilitating, and exhausting.

All these and other structural, electrical, and chemical brain differences prompt researchers to dub autistic brains as “chatterbox brains” and “noisy brains,” brains that takes in all available stimuli and have trouble filtering, sorting, and responding in socially appropriate ways. This helps us understand autistic peoples’ challenges with overstimulation from social situations, lights, sounds, voices, smells, and touch. In autistic kids, overstimulation episodes are often called “meltdowns”; they can manifest as screaming sessions, physical outbursts, or even self-harm. Ken also has meltdowns, but because of his particular autistic makeup and what he calls his age, stage, and experience in coping, they look a lot different.

For example, when over-stimulated suddenly or for too long, Ken can go quiet; make a quick exit to a less stimulating place; get a migraine; become unusually intense, verbose, or incoherent in his speech and hold eye contact for too long; forget people’s names; become unable to process simple input or instructions; slow down at green lights and go through red lights; or physically stumble. And finally, if the overstimulation is serious enough, Ken will seek out a bed and fall into a deep “shut down” sleep that can last for days with only the briefest of wakeful moments to drink and use the faculties. If I attempt to rouse him from such a sleep he will act as if in a stupor, and I can understand why. His brain must cool down. He needs shut down time to process all the stimulation and for some of it to bleed off in various ways.

Often, fascinatingly, he will eventually wake from a binge sleep episode having “dreamt solutions” to complex problems. And he’ll be refreshed and invigorated, ready to go at life again. But if the demands of work or personal life interrupt a critically needed binge sleep, his compulsion to rest will be prolonged and he will simply nap or nod off at every opportunity for days, weeks, or longer, getting his binge in pieces, but getting it nonetheless. Ken needs to binge sleep about every couple of months, depending on what’s going on in our lives.

When Ken and I encountered the foregoing and other brain images and explanations, we theorized that the extra synapses and “grand trunk processing railways” also contribute to some very positive attributes of high functioning (and savant) autism. Ken makes lightening fast and often unconventional connections when solving problems. He is a master problem solver and an innovative and divergent thinker—sometimes stunningly so. He’s also amazingly witty and funny, almost always having something smart, delightful, or insightful to say in response to, well, anything! We figure that his billions of extra synapses—those little arms reaching out and connecting diverse parts of his brain in net-like ways—are at least partly behind these gifts that solve real problems and make people laugh. If you’re curious to read more about this positive take on autism, I suggest you scan this thought-provoking article on how autism indeed remains in the pool of human diversity because it serves an evolutionary purpose, aiding mankind’s advancement: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mom-am-i-disabled/201703/why-does-autism-still-exist

However, the rest of us are stuck with our ordinary, neatly pruned, but not nearly as creative or Google-like-quick thinking abilities! But we don’t melt down as often or in the same ways; we can handle all sorts of tricky social situations with little trouble—including, when necessary, ‘letting things go’; and if we binge sleep, it’s probably for other reasons.

And so tonight, Sunday, as Ken binge sleeps on, I’ll post this and he’ll read it when he awakes sometime Monday. I hope he approves of my ramblings! Maybe we’ll get him to respond to—and in some way extend or spring from—this post in his own monoblogue in the next post. Perhaps he’ll add some useful data or correct something I might have assumed about him or conjectured about autism. Then it’ll be back to diabloguing the way we usually do.

~ Christina (Sleepless but not in Seattle)

Next post #20 ~ To be determined!

 

Synapses image from: https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/brain-study-finds-evidence-autism-involves-too-many-synapses?utm_medium=text-link&utm_content=Brain%20Study%20Finds%20Evidence%20that%20Autism%20Involves%20Too%20Many%20Synapses%20&utm_campaign=mostpopular

Busy brain image from: https://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/this-is-my-child-autism-and-stress-research

“Unintentional Bias Against, and Torment of, Aspies”

Diablogue #18

Christina and Ken outside the indigenous tipi during Canada Day July 1 at the Alberta Legislature grounds. Canada=150 years. Indigenous peoples = 15,000 years. New chapter ahead.
Christina and Ken outside the Indigenous tipi during Canada Day July 1 at the Alberta Legislature grounds. Canada=150 years. Indigenous peoples = 15,000 years. New chapter ahead.

Helpful hint: Be generous of heart to those who unknowingly torment you. They know not what they do. Keep working to forgive and educate. Education and connection are the death of ignorance and torment.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: This is a touchy topic.

Ken: That is correct. And perhaps somewhat controversial.

Christina: Controversial?

Ken: Controversial in that the majority of the torment of Aspies is unconscious and thereby unintentional.

Christina: You mean that people don’t like to hear that they are doing it… or they won’t really believe it?

Ken: Both.

Christina: Example?

Ken: People keep unwritten scorecards on each other. When I start a friendship, or a job, things are equal. Then I start to question things. Or ask for things I need. They start to judge me and see me as annoying, threatening to their position or authority, intense, overbearing, or just plain odd—but not in a good way. I will start to lose points on their scorecard and become lesser in their eyes.

Christina: They stop picking you for the team.

Ken: Fall out of favour. Consider me last when they have tickets to give away. Start subconsciously avoiding me and stop asking for my opinion or advice. Exclude me from the loop. Sabotage my efforts. Try to discredit me. Pass me over for promotions.

Christina: This happens lots then.

Ken: These kinds of reactions and behaviours have happened multiple times in multiple different scenarios for as long as I can recall.

Christina: Slow, steady, disconnection from people.

Ken: In these instances I redouble my efforts and try harder to regain points and return to their favour.

Christina: Does it work?

Ken: Often it has the reverse effect. In trying to even the scorecard, I overcompensate.

Christina: They think you are showing off or climbing the ladder or one-upping them— or something else that’s not true.

Ken: Correct. Thereby, instead of gaining back the points, I lose even more.

Christina: And over time…

Ken: I lose friends, colleagues will interact with me less, and I lose employment.

Christina: Serious.

Ken: In my view, because of who I am, I have to work twice as hard to get half as far ahead. And the end result is that I work twice as hard and fall twice as far behind.

Christina: I can’t even follow that! But it sounds destructive.

Ken: It becomes immoral and unethical.

Christina: You mean others’ behaviours towards you?

Ken: Correct.

Christina: But they don’t know they’re doing it, usually. I think it goes back to the natural tribal response of disassociating with others who are not like us in some way. In your case it’s very subtle. Social differences, multiple small social infractions—some even too small to notice. They pile up and cause a natural human aversion response. 

Ken: Eloquently put. I could not have said it any better. In most instances, it is never overt, mean-spirited, or hateful. Your word subtle captures it perfectly. I would only add two words to that, which are “unconscious and unintentional”—very few people directly target me. It just happens.

Christina: So my question to you is, is it really unethical and immoral if it’s unconscious?

Ken: Yes. Because the outcome is the same. The truth is that ethics and morals have been breached. I’m talking about fairness, equality, and inclusion of all.

Christina: No matter what the cognitive diversity—or any diversity.

Ken: Absolutely.

Christina: Do you ever just tell people what’s actually going on—as you see it?

Ken: Yes, when I become overwhelmed and it has become the straw that has broken the camel’s back.

Christina: How does it go over?

Ken: Often not well. Most believe themselves to be, and genuinely are, quite ethical and moral. So, when I inform them that they are behaving in a less than ethical or moral manner, it shocks them. First they don’t believe it, then they become hurt, then they deny it, and then they become defensive.

Christina: And finally…

Ken: This is when the truly unethical and immoral treatment surfaces. They ostracise me or strike out in some of the ways I previously mentioned.

Christina: That’s the torture in our headline.

Ken: Or rather, torment. Torture is a bit strong.

Christina: Although when I see the effects—your anxiety and depression and self-flagellation, I would say it’s not too strong.

Ken: Perhaps.

Christina: Low self-esteem is chronic in Aspies.

Ken: Correct. However, this phenomenon is just one of many causes.

Christina: Ok. I really think we need to lighten up for next blog!

Ken: Perhaps we should talk about my odd and broad sense of humour.

Christina: Bad jokes, puns, and incessant wordplay included? Sounds funny!

 

Next post #19 ~ “Aspies’ Odd and Broad Sense of Humour”

“An Aspie’s Confounding Contradictions” 

Diablogue #17

Christina and Ken enjoy an outdoor Sunday brunch at Artisan restaurant on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.
Christina and Ken enjoy an outdoor Sunday brunch at Artisan restaurant on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton.

Our intent is to publish once a week. However, sometimes too much is happening and Ken becomes overwhelmed. He needs to binge sleep instead of write. Our apologies. We will always try meet our commitment.

Helpful Hint: Contradictions are inevitable. However, with patience, perseverance, and help, there are ways to continually minimize their impact.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: I realize that contradictions are an inevitable part of my life. I continue to try to implement my own helpful hint. People cannot see the toll it takes on me to reconcile or explain the contradictions to people. It is exhausting, and sometimes it cannot be achieved. I do not know why most of them occur. But I am constantly looping them in my brain to try to find the reasons.

Christina: Like your extremely strong vocabulary, yet extremely weak spelling.

Ken: I first noticed that in school. One of the thrills of my childhood was closing my eyes, randomly opening the dictionary, and dropping my finger on a word. That was the word of the day for me. This was one way I attained my high vocabulary—through my fascination with words. However, in spelling tests or spelling bees, I usually could not spell the big words that I could speak, understand, and use in sentences.

Christina: And that’s still there today. Just today you wrote an email to me with ‘to’ in place of ‘two’ several times. You spell the way things sound—despite multiple exposures, you know, when you read, see signs, all the language everywhere—and you remember everything you see. So the spelling quirk is amazing to me.

Ken: Indeed this contradiction is still alive and well.

Christina: And you can’t explain it?

Ken: That is correct. Thank God for Spellchecker and Grammar checker.

Christina: Another contradiction is how you keep your workspaces at work so tidy, organized, and dust free. Yet your home workspace is a mess.

Ken: That is  true. The only theory that I can come up with is that I need to be organized in order to be focussed and efficient. I am not subject to the distraction of looking for my tools if it is organized. I keep it dust free for obvious reasons. There are many customers’ devices there, and I am not alone in that work environment. Regarding the difference at home, when my work day is over, I have nothing left in me to organize and clean. I just want to rest and refresh.

Christina: For the past 10 years? No chance to clean your space?

Ken: Then there are other things to do. It falls off the radar. Not a priority.

Christina: Well, I hope we can finally completely clean up your home office this summer and that you will keep it that way—now that things are settling at work and home.

Ken: That is indeed my desire also.  Speaking of my workspace, another contradiction I know I am guilty of is that I am generous and yet also extremely territorial. I surmise that is because generosity is by choice—I am aware when I loan something to someone. However, when someone takes something without asking, or without my knowledge, and I discover it gone, the demon of territorialism rears its ugly head.

Christina: And you don’t like being like that.

Ken: That is absolutely correct.

Christina: Like the time I went into your office when you weren’t home and took a power bar for my daughter. No big deal, I thought.

Ken: Later I discovered it was missing and asked if you have seen it. You told me you what you had done with it and I immediately went into internal orbit.

Christina: Not on the outside.

Ken: As often happens, there is an internal rage, but my immediate counter action is to exert extreme control, I do not let it out. Because I realize that this is ok, normal behaviour for nonspectrum people.

Christina: I was shocked when you told me how you had felt about that incident. How upset you were over a $3 power bar from the dollar store. Like, who cares?!

Ken: I was shocked also. And extremely embarrassed. Because of that incident and how close I came to losing control, I developed a workaround.

Christina: What is it?

Ken: I inform people of my peculiarly about borrowing things. I say, “You are free to use anything that I have as long as you ask me first, and when you are finished with it, you put it back exactly where you got it from.” Therefore, each of us is aware, and neither one of us ends up shocked, or shocked by the other’s reaction.

Christina: Well, after you explained this reality, I changed my behaviour too. I always tell you now, and no problem! …I think I told you that when we were thinking of this topic I went online and searched Asperger contradictions. Yours seem to be pretty common. It looks like lots of Aspies feel like walking contradictions. They mentioned things like being so kind in the world yet inadvertently unkind to individuals, finding it hard to start jobs then not being able to stop working, and hating interruptions yet always interrupting.

Ken: I find it reassuring to realize that I am not the only one struggling with these issues. Reading some of the other sites will give me new information and tools.

Christina: Ok, what next week?

Ken: Next week it will be the unintentional and hidden bias and torture by non-spectrum people towards those on the spectrum.

 

Next post #18 ~ Unintentional and hidden bias and torture of Aspies

“Executive functioning or prioritized multitasking”

Diablogue #16

Christina and Ken writing Blog 16 at their neighbourhood Tim Hortons cafe!
Christina and Ken writing Blog 16 at their neighbourhood Tim Hortons cafe!

Helpful Hint: Always attempt to work to your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: So, what’s executive functioning? I know it happens in the frontal cortex, which fully develops in the brain around age 25. That’s why teenagers are such trouble—they have urges and ideas and power but no assimilation in their thinking—they can’t make good choices.

Ken: One of the definitions of multitasking is prioritization. For example, to me, each receives equal importance. None are higher than the others. The most important task is the one I am looking at that moment. If somebody introduces another task, it’s a like a Lazy Susan, the new task becomes the priority. If you do this again, it repeats. That for me, and for  other Aspies, is where we have trouble with prioritisation.

Christina: Yes. But that trait can be handy for me! If I want you to change tasks, all I have to do is dangle the preferred one in front of your eyes, and like a bird attracted by something shiny, you’ll go to it! So what about multitasking?

Ken: Challenges with multitasking are directly related to the ability or lack thereof to prioritize. We can, in fact, multitask in a linear fashion, unlike non-Aspies who tend to multitask in a lateral fashion.

Christina: You can fix a whole bunch of computers all at once at lightening speed—I’ve seen it—but if I break in and ask you an unrelated question it messes you right up. You have trouble getting going again.

Ken: Correct. I have to very quickly go through the steps from step one to determine where I left off in order to continue. Which is why it is physiologically uncomfortable and jarring. An interruption feels like a car travelling at 60 miles per hour punching into a brick wall.

Christina: But in the computer example, the computers are doing different things. There are different problems… I don’t get it exactly….

Ken: It’s a like a team sport and I’m the coach. Everybody is playing the same game, but they have different moves, different actions, and require different input.

Christina: So how does the challenge with multitasking affect an Aspie’s life?

Ken: Our challenges with prioritization that can make it difficult to gain employment and maintain employment. And, if one is fortunate enough to be employed, then the challenge causes a great deal of angst. That is because the world wants everyone to multitask in everything all of the time.

Christina: That’s probably true. Although I never really notice it. So what is lateral multitasking? The regular kind—like what I do?

Ken: There is nothing regular about what you do! (Both laugh) You linearly and laterally multitask, interchangeably all at the same time, and I am jealous.

Christina: That gave me a headache to hear!

Ken: Lateral multitasking is like a foreman’s ability to meet with the owner, meet with the contractors, assign work to the employers, consult with the engineers, look after scheduling and payroll, and make sure parts and inventory are taken care of. All at the same time—switching them up back and forth all day. And they never have to retrace their steps.

Christina: Yeah. I do that. No problem. It’s the mark of an overachieving woman, methinks! (laughs).

Ken: On the other hand, for Aspies, not being able to multitask can be a strength. It allows extreme focus and attention to detail. It allows us to see detail and find solutions that may be overlooked by non-Aspies.

Christina: Right.

Ken: One detriment to that super focus, though, is lack of time awareness.

Christina: You mean….

Ken: ….when I am fixing a computer, I will become so focused on the task I lose all track of time.

Christina: Yeah.

Ken: Another contributor to my lack of time awareness is my absolute obsession to fix the computer right the first time. Dogged perseverance will not let me stop until I reach this goal, often pushing me over the expected timeline—whether my own or someone else’s. This leads to scheduling and organization challenges.

Christina: I’ve seen that a lot.

Ken: However, I never have to do the same repair twice. Multitaskers have the ability to manage several customers at the same time. On the other hand, they have a lot more returns—customers who come back with the same issues on their computer.

Christina: You’re famous for that: fixing it right. Staying with it until it’s fixed right. In our family, anyway!

Ken: Unfortunately yes (laughs). This leads to extremely high personal standards that even I cannot always attain.

Christina: It’s a shame because anything less than perfect…

Ken: ….hurts, I mean physiologically hurts.

Christina: Yeah. But what I was going to say is that to you, anything less than perfect is not good enough. When really it is. You can’t process “it’s good enough.”

Ken: Correct. I would say, it is just not good enough. This reminds me of a very poignant quote from an important late mentor of mine, Dr. Jack Kendal. He stated: “You can do a few things very well, or many things poorly.” And that has resonated with me ever since.

Christina: That explains Aspies.

Ken: Affirmative.

Christina: We know that one of the best workarounds for problems with prioritizing and multitasking is the pilot’s checklist that Temple Grandin talked about—and we reported on it in the 6th blog I think.

Ken: Yes. As you do the steps, 1., 2, 3, etcetera, you put a check in the box. Therefore, you don’t have to loop all the way back to the beginning when you get interrupted. You simply look at the checklist, see what numbered box you have not checked off, and proceed.

Christina: Ok. What should we talk about next week?

Ken: Contradictions, such as high vocabulary and poor spelling.

 

Next post #17 ~ “An Aspie’s Confounding Contradictions” 

 

 

Challenges with Aspies’ hardwired moral code and ethics

Diablogue #15: 

Christina and Ken teaming up to prepare the garden for planting.
Christina and Ken teaming up to prepare the garden for planting.

 

Helpful Hint:  Aspies should use discretion in taking things at face value.

 

So, let’s diablogue: 

Ken: I would like to talk about how I often fall victim to intentional or unintentional breaches of morals and ethics.

Christina: Ok.

Ken: I have gradually found out that my brain is hardwired with an inviolable moral code and set of ethics that others do not have to the same degree. That discovery was a sequence of real shocks and a harsh awakening. Because I am biologically predisposed to follow the code, I still have a hard time following my own helpful hint at the top of this post.

Christina: For example?

Ken: Intent. When a person tells me something, I take that at face value and believe that it is true.

Christina: But sometimes it’s not.

Ken: Correct. And it can be unintentional or intentional. For example, an incident occured during my employment as a journeyman electrician. My boss indicated that I would be moving to a foreman position. I took his word for it. After several months of not advancing, I approached him to enquire about the position. He denied that he ever made the offer and eventually they moved someone else into the position.

Christina: Rotten. But lots of people get jilted out of jobs like that.

Ken: Yes. However, they can pick up on some indicators about whether the person making the offer is genuine, or they will ask more questions immediately that will clarify the situation.

Christina: Got it. You believe the first things somebody says…

Ken: …because I cannot think in any duplicitous or hidden agenda or falsifying manners. I cannot imagine saying something to somebody and not meaning it, not following through. I cannot process that. Literally I do not understand. That is why it is extremely difficult in day-to-day interactions—in all interactions—to follow the helpful hint of using discretion in taking things at face value.

Christina: I see. Can you give another example?

Ken: Once while working at a computer and high tech shop, a customer came in with her child to have her personal laptop repaired. During the appointment, my observations indicated that it had likely been opened or repaired by an unauthorized person, so I asked her if that was the case. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “No, it has never been repaired by anyone else.” For the sake of brevity, her claim turned out to be untrue, yet to avoid being charged for repairs, she vehemently denied it—despite clear physical evidence to the contrary, and she escalated her claim three different times during the appointment to ever-increasing levels of management.

Christina: Wow. Brutal for you.

Ken: I was deeply shocked at how a young mother—who is supposed to be setting examples for her child—could make an initial false claim and then staunchly defend it. I could not process how she could state an untruth in the first place, and then found it even more impossible to process that she did it repeatedly in front of her child.

Christina: What happened to you—at that moment?

Ken: It made me nauseous and lightheaded. I got a headache.

Christina: And the thought of this incident still bothers you?

Ken: An accurate assessment. Because I cannot resolve it. I am still trying to figure it out. I am caught in a ‘do-while’ loop attempting—in vain— to process it because my brain does not allow me to think like that. I am completely unable to perform a moral or ethical violation similar to hers, especially in front of a child. On some occasions, if something like that happens and I have nothing else to distract me in the minutes or hours following, I cannot stop that do-while loop. My headaches will escalate into full blown, incapacitating migraines. At that point, the only exit, my only sanctuary, is to sleep.

Christina: Binge sleep. To process.

Ken: Affirmative. In some instances, the binge can persist for days.

Christina: Those can be strange social times for me, you know, suddenly alone and explaining to others that you are sleeping, yes, still sleeping! Most people don’t get it when I say you are in bed because of an upsetting incident at work or after a stressful but ordinary life event like…say… a major change in plans because stuff happens. But sudden shifts, especially in quick succession, rock your world; I know that now. And actually I have learned to relish most of those surprise alone times in the house. To enjoy them… sometimes I’ll watch a highly emotional film that I know you’d prefer not to watch, or I’ll go out and read at a cafe at suppertime. Adapting is critical. But back to most other people….Just like you can’t understand other peoples’ blasé reactions to life’s rocky moments, they can’t understand your extreme ones.

Ken: True.

Christina: I know it took years and a lot of reading and talking about autism for me to be OK with that aspect of your cognitive difference— your quickness to cognitive overload under certain stresses and your frequent need for extraordinary amounts of pass-out-dead-to-the-world sleep. And I think it’s taken years for you to fathom how I just go with the flow; water off a duck’s back when it comes to big or sudden shifts.

Ken: Affirmative. I am grateful that you understand. Many do not, I agree. I have gradually learned to accept your very different reactions and stresses, and I endeavour to adapt and adopt to your reasoning and methodologies.

Christina: We balance each other out, I think, on that score. Your two situation examples really illustrated the Theory of Mind issue we talked about last post. The challenges Aspies have with grasping—and accepting— that other people have very different thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.

Ken: That is correct. However, being with you has given me extremely valuable resources and insights to work around that which help me decrease the number of incidents and reduce their impact.

Christina: I think I urge you to be a little more aware of complexities. To ask more questions about things, right?

Ken: Indeed. And you and I develop scripts on how to do that and we practice them before certain situations, such as important meetings. The only way I can absorb these behaviours—to not take things at face value and to instead, question—is to repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat until they become part of my programming, part of my go-to self diagnostics and subroutines for my sanctuary and survival.

Christina: So sometimes, on your own, maybe using those scripts, you actually start asking questions instead of just accepting?

Ken: That is a correct assessment.

Christina: I’m curious… does that feel weird or unnatural for you? Doing it by script instead of, as I do, by impulse or intuition?

Ken: Just as with actual technology, I am always tweaking and making my programs more secure and safe.

Christina: Striking allusion! Secure and safe programs. It really fits how I believe you think.

Ken: That being said, much like in the actual tech world, I am always, as it were, one step behind the hackers.

Christina: So you mean that even with new automatic scripts….

Ken (interrupting) … people continue to find ways to hack morals and ethics, correct…

Christina (interrupting) …and you get hurt again. Taken advantage of.

Ken: Affirmative.

Christina: Seriously unfortunate. Ummm, we’ve run out of space. Gone over, really. Time to think about the next post.

Ken: How about we deal with multitasking?

Christina: A great topic. A particular area of strength—or vice?!— for me, I think! You, on the other hand, are free of its tyranny—though not from the problems of not being able to do it well.

Next post #16 ~ Executive functioning or prioritised multitasking