“Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome in particular, as a plot device: To use or not to use, that is the question! PART 1”

Diablogue #23

Note: This blog post was set to be published Oct. 22, but we got tangled up in its length and then, life intervened. We’re now publishing it as a two-part post, one today, one next week. Please comment—we value your thoughts, thank you for your understanding and support.

Christina and Ken diabloguing at the very nostalgic 99th Street Diner
Christina and Ken diabloguing at the very nostalgic 99th Street Diner

Helpful hint: We’re people, not plots.

Helpful aphorism: “Autism: Why plot against us?”

 

So, let’s diablogue

Ken: I surmise the pendulum of Autism awareness has swung from one end of the arc—obscurity—to the other end—to today’s buzz word.

Christina: Flavour of the month. Catch of the day. I agree; it seems to be all over the news and popular media.

Ken: This is human nature.

Christina: Yes. Something catches our attention, becomes “sexy,” then it’s everywhere.

Ken: I think some history is in order. Asperger’s Syndrome—now considered part of the autism spectrum—is named after Dr. Hans Asperger who diagnosed the difference between autism and Asperger’s in Austria in 1944. Asperger’s research remained virtually unknown or ignored until Dr. Lorna Wing’sAsperger Syndrome: A Clinical Account,” a 1981 academic paper that popularised the research of Hans Asperger and introduced the term “Asperger syndrome.” Since then, there has been a slow awareness, awakening, and acceptance of this very unusual physiological and cognitive difference. We’re almost normal, but quirky enough to be a curiosity….

Christina: …even attractive (laughs). Well, it’s attractive on the outside: loveably geeky, hilariously quirky, and endearingly different. Like the character Sheldon Cooper on The  Big Bang Theory television show. That is, until a non-autistic person lives up close and personal with an autistic and experiences all the realities of the different mixing brains—the frustrating communications, confounding contradictions, and the needs both ways that the other can never fully understand—and that won’t ever change. But yeah, autism seems to be ‘hot’ in popular media now. TV shows, talk shows, people ‘coming out,’ documentaries, blogs… and mainstream movies.

Ken: As well as posthumous diagnoses of famous eccentrics.

Christina: Yup. You know, in theatre and other arts, it’s the unusual, the unconventional characters or ways of thinking that draw our attention. That make us buy tickets and go to shows. We seem driven to wrestle with—or laugh at—-the people and ideas that push us to think differently. They make the best stories, the best characters. Asperger’s certainly fits with that.

Ken: And autism is my character. It’s who I am. You do not have to play the character if you are a character—

Christina: Explain that? You are playing a character?

Ken: Affirmative. Every day. I attempt to act ordinary, average, since that is the environment I live and work in. Performing “normal” is how I survive, socially, though it is tremendously draining.

Christina: For sure. We’ve talked a lot about that.

Ken: People appear to be fascinated and enthralled by the odd and quirky—which we call “eccentric” if the person is in some way famous or has a certain degree of celebrity.

Christina: That’s because from an evolutionary standpoint, it’s the divergent thinkers who move societies forward. Advance them. Push the others just enough outside of their comfort zones to help them discover things that make life easier or better—make us more likely to survive and thrive.

Ken: Agreed.

Christina: Remember, Shakespeare said all the world’s a stage and we are ALL merely players. Since he’s a posthumously diagnosed Aspie, that’s especially interesting. But I can see that for you, it’s certainly more obvious than for non-autistics. You know you are ‘playing’ a character in daily life. You work every day to play that “ordinary” character as well as you can—to not stick out, as you say. Non-autistics mostly deny they’re acting on the daily stage—though it’s true. We all perform “us” in hopes that others see and judge us how we want to be seen and judged. It’s ordinary social survival.

Ken: You know how we say that we judge a person by his or her character? That’s what I’m talking about. People use the word very generically, as in, “that’s in his character” or he or she “is a real character.”

Christina: And YOU are a version of the kind of characters that more and more producers are aiming to show in the plays and movies.

Ken: There is a quote I want to interject here: “To those who are willing, the gods will guide, to those who are unwilling, the gods will drag kicking and screaming.” Is it not interesting that the god of thespians is Janus, the two-faced god: happy and sad, comedy/tragedy— which is also a perfect exemplar of the binary nature of autism.

Christina: How so?

Ken: First, thespians are characters themselves as well as portraying characters who are often odd or at odds and/or eccentric, and their symbol is the comedy/tragedy faces—binary opposites. Like me. Like all autistic people. I would therefore propose that theatre is based upon autism.

Christina: Wow, that’s a cool claim. I wonder what theatre folks would think of that. I hope some comment.

Ken: This thought occurred me a long time ago.

Christina: Our point with all this is that autistics are popping up all over the place in media—writers and directors are using them as central characters, like x in y, or as plot devices. And that has two faces: the happy: autism gets talked about, normalized, even. And sad: autism gets misrepresented—not all autistics have superpowers!

Ken: Indeed. Next post I want to look at a trajectory of autism in the movies. One of the first covert examples was Star Trek, then later, we saw characters with obviously autistic traits but the word ‘austim’ was never used, and lately with autism clearly stated as a key—and both fortunate and unfortunate— attribute of a character. More realistic, I’d say, and a lot more helpful.

Christina: Ok.

 

Next post: ~ Autism— Asperger’s Syndrome in particular— as a plot device, Part 2. An exploration of Ken’s observation: “We were being used as a plot device even before Asperger’s Syndrome was even known.”

“Small Stuff to Big Stuff… and Back Again.”

Diablogue #22

Christina and Ken on our annual pilgrimage to visit the Chinese Amur Maple trees along 97th Street, Edmonton.
Christina and Ken on our annual pilgrimage to visit the Chinese Amur Maple trees along 97th Street, Edmonton.

Helpful hint: It won’t work without work.

 

So, let’s diablogue

Christina: This morning I woke up and thought we should talk about the very real thing that’s happening right now. Visceral. Personal. We’re working it out. So we should do it here. (Pause as Ken reads what I wrote.)

Wow, that’s taking a long time to read!

Ken: Right now, it’s taking all I have got to not think about the list of things on my mind that I just wrote out. I have to read your start to this blog entry three or four times to force it in.

Christina: OK. We’ll go slowly. Yesterday I made—with considerable effort—a big pot of homemade soup. Winter is coming, time to hunker down, time for soup. And I wanted healthy food around for the next few days. Then I had to go out for the evening—a girls’ night— and I asked: “Please could you find containers and put the soup away so we don’t get food poisoning!?” And you sighed. Looked annoyed. And that hurt.

Ken: On the drive to the girls’ night, you talked to me about it and explained what my reaction did to you, how it made you feel. As usual, due to my need for processing, there is a delay in setting things right. Especially at this time.

Christina: Yup. I got out of the car upset. But I know about these delays. I knew you’d need time to understand… and then we’d talk further about it.

Ken: I forced my mental cacophony to the side and wedged in some processing capacity to deal with this, as I sensed the immediacy. Shortly after dropping you off, I texted you and apologized.

Christina: I got the text and appreciated it. It’s normal for husbands to be a bit thick about noticing things, about appreciating small acts. But this incident has some different causes, Aspie roots. Once again, what things look like on the surface needed to be re-interpreted through the autism lens—to be fair.

Ken: What is happening is that I am reaching my capacity and becoming overloaded and overwhelmed. I am imminently facing a cascade failure. And it is starting to cause collateral damage and negative repercussions on my external surroundings and relationships. I believe that this is a result of a common Aspie trait: challenges with executive functioning. Prioritizing. I am often told, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” For me there is no small stuff or big stuff, just a lot of stuff.

Christina: Yes. 20 minutes ago, you pulled out a blank sheet of paper and scratched out a long list of things on your mind right now. It’s mammoth. Things with work scheduling, a dripping faucet, trip plans, family worries, money issues, and fixing home computers. And you scribbled notes on physical problems between the items; they’re all related and making everything worse. You’re not sleeping or eating properly and having stomach problems.

Ken: Correct. An abundance of things.

Christina: No wonder you’ve been having serial headaches the last couple of weeks. And I know you’ve been stuffing all those worries out of concern for me. My life has been exceptionally busy and stressful with school start-up—teaching two new courses, family issues, a collaborative play revving back up, the film project starting, a final course presentation, worrying about finishing my PhD., helping friends, social engagements…it’s crazy. And you always want to protect me from further worries—from what you consider to be “your problems.”

Ken: Correct. However, I believe that “crazy” to describe your life right now is an extreme understatement. As a man and your husband, my core tells me that I am supposed to be your support system, not a system of burden or burdens… but I am so tight right now that I am in physical pain. This occurs intermittently in life when things accumulate and I have nowhere to offload. The following link—which we recently discovered— has helped me to better understand what is going on, what to do about this, how to explain it, and how to ask for assistance: The Constant Demand, and what they DON’T SEE!

Christina: That’s a great explanation from another adult Aspie website. I want to actually copy a piece of it here now:

“They don’t see the tears.  They don’t see the meltdowns.  They don’t see the panic attacks.  They don’t see the bolting up in bed at night soaked in sweat, head reeling with all the things that are not done, and they don’t see that this ONE thing that you are doing so awesomely is the ONLY thing that you do because it takes every single thing that you have within you to do it!  They don’t see the costs…”

Not seeing what’s really going on with you is a constant risk to our relationship. And it’s reciprocal, of course—you also often don’t really see what’s going on with me. How can we? We have different wiring on TOP of the ordinary male-female evolutionary differences.

Ken: A very accurate, astute, and true assessment.

Christina: I know that feelings and emotions cause physical repercussions in you. Headaches that can turn into migraines, stumbling and tripping, inability to think straight. I often feel badly that I don’t immediately connect some of these symptoms to their root causes. I should know better by now. I’m still working on it. But at least I can head off most of my initial reactions, take some deep breaths, and talk with you—quietly explain what’s going on from my vantage point. That’s been my journey, to get to that point where I don’t commit a knee-jerk unkindness by forgetting that you and I are different; what things look like on the surface is usually NOT what’s happening, for both of us….

Ken: A knee-jerk unkindness is too often my reaction, and I would do well to emulate your example.

Christina: ….and so we stopped this incident pretty quickly—once you divulged it to me; we brought it to a happy ending over breakfast at Uncle Albert’s.

Ken: Affirmative. I showed you the list.

Christina: And I took it and started circling and categorizing the items: High, medium, and low priority. And I wrote a few ideas under each one about how we could handle it or why it can wait.

Ken: You did what I cannot do. And everything changed.

Christina: So, it’s better.

Ken: Absolutely. It may seem like an easy task, to create lists, to create a map to navigate by. However, to reiterate— for me there is no small stuff or big stuff, just a lot of stuff. So, I do not know where to start. This is your great gift to me: you know where to start. I am so grateful to have you and your skill set in my life. Life would be extremely difficult without you and them. Thank you.

Christina: I’m glad. And that was really a pretty easy fix. The key was for me to NOT assume that unkind response of yours was intentionally rude, callous, or a covert comment that my soup-making wasn’t valued.

Ken: It was none of that. It is constant fear of failure as a man and a husband. After all it is a very short journey from husband hasben (has been).

Christina: No. You were simply cognitively and emotionally overloaded, near the shut-down stage, from a burgeoning internal ‘to do’ list of what you felt as equal-priority things that you didn’t talk about in order to protect me.

Ken: Correct, unfortunately.

Christina: I’m glad we worked it out. And thanks for putting the soup away, after all!

Ken: You are welcome and it was absolutely delicious as always by the way.

 

Next Post: ~ To use or not to use Autism as a plot device?

“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!

 

 

“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”