“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” 

 

 

“Ken’s 12 Autism Spectrum Diagnostic Criteria: Part 2”: “Addendum and Reset”

Diablogue #13

 

Christina and Ken discovering a fun namesake licence plate on somebody else’s vehicle in Drumheller, Alberta.

Helpful Hint: Always endeavor to keep things equal. Work together and continue adopting and adapting 50-50.

 

So, Let’s Diablogue:

 Ken: I’d like to make an addendum to the previous blog about being compelled to say the truth and always self-checking to avoid social mishaps. Most of my workarounds involve self-talk in the form of axioms continuously repeated as self-mantras. My over-arching social workaround in many situations—at least the one that works for me—is this: “There is the truth, and then there is the ‘right’ answer for the situation.” The trick is to know which is which and when to apply each.

Christina: Yes. And that’s hard to know—even I struggle sometimes.

Ken: Before we go on with this post, I wish to explain how we will continue with the blog. My sense in this diablogue so far is that I am falling victim to my Aspie nature of information dissemination and data regurgitation.

Christina: Well, if there was any falling, I fell too! My Aspie trait? (laughs). What do you mean, exactly?

Ken: In the past two posts we have offered a fun test for Aspergers, which I am glad we included. But that led me a little off course in just talking about the diagnostic criteria, which for many people is redundant information.

Christina: And which they can find on the net.

Ken: Correct. We need to return more particularly to demonstrating our very real yet rewarding struggle of adapting to each other and creating new workarounds, constantly reinventing our relationship.

Christina: It’s true. I feel we’ve drifted a little. A part of me likes data too. But I think the strength of this blog is the messy, personal, relational work we do. 

Ken: Absolutely. It is a never-ending process. We also need to address a recent salient comment. We asked several specialists for feedback on the blog, and one replied. He applauded us for our “good intentions by trying to help others.” However, he urged us to avoid a tendency to define the relationship in terms of “one person as having a disability or problem and the other not.” He observed that in some of our blogs, we focus on an Aspie difference, “presenting it as a failure in social interaction and emotional understanding, and the other person trying to understand that deficit and provide corrective strategies.”

Christina: Right. That raised red flags for him about us as a couple, signaling a power imbalance. What happens, he said, is that “one person has the power or authority of knowing the right social behavior and understanding emotions, and the other does not.” That’s a smart observation. It’s an easy mindset to slip into, especially since society at large considers autism to be all–or mostly — negative.  The medical model of needing to ‘fix’ it, and until it’s fixed, the job of us ‘normal’ folk isn’t done. It’s kind of like what  I experienced with my middle son and his deafness. I worked hard to avoid him feeling handicapped. It took a lot of non-debilitating attitudes, words, and actions. It’s sort of the same thing here.

Ken: I wholeheartedly agree. We need to show how each of us has workarounds, not just me. That we are both creating them.

Christina: That’s the truth.

Ken: Therefore, we need to have more of a balanced conversation that is equally relevant and relatable to readers who are both autistic and non-autistic partners. We need to have equal voice because it is truly a 50-50 relationship.

Christina: And that balance is what keeps it alive. And thriving. In my opinion.

Ken: We need to demonstrate the process of encountering a problem and creating and utilizing a workaround that works. Also, to constantly keep tweaking the ones that do not work until they do. We are equally adopting, adapting, and contributing corrective strategies, and we are equally committed to doing so.

Christina: I think this change will mean that we’ll say a lot more about fewer things. Go deeper instead of skipping along from one thing to the next.

Ken: Agreed. We will continue to address the topics from the previous post—autism traits— but in a more personal and equal way. We will focus on how each of us is affected and how each of us has adapted by working together. This will bring us back to our original vision for the blog, for it to be, in part, cathartic. We wanted to use this as a voyage of discovery. To learn and to share.

Christina: I do think we’ve being doing some of that. But it’ll be good to refocus and do it more and better.

 

Diablogue #14: ~ “Both of our workarounds in managing the autism trait of difficulty with empathy and theory of mind.”

“How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 1”

Diablogue #12

 

Ken and Christina overlooking a point near Ken’s birthplace of Wayne near Drumheller, Alberta.

 

Helpful Hint: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” ~ Dr. Stephan Shore. There are multiple criteria, each with multiple degrees, that can lead to an infinite number of unique and individual diagnoses.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: The following list is a excerpt of a much larger list of criteria on which I was surveyed. To mention and address all of the criteria would be exhaustive and prohibitive and would require a blog of its own. From this list I recall from my diagnosis, we will choose 12 to discuss.

  1. Motor skills—lurching gait, morning awkwardness
  2. Speaking cadence—robotic, monotone, repetitive
  3. Difficulty with conversational audio clues— tone of voice
  4. Above average to high IQ
  5. Difficulty with executive functioning—multi-tasking
  6. Lack of reciprocity in communication—doing all the talking
  7. Intense focus—ability to stay on task
  8. Difficulty making transitions
  9. A need for rigid schedules and routines
  10. Hyper sensitive to sensory stimuli—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell
  11. Eidetic memory—photographic recall
  12. Eye contact—difficulty with social applications
  13. Difficulty differentiating facial expressions and body language
  14. High pattern recognition—visual and auditory
  15. Social connections—challenges with making and maintaining
  16. Strong sense of justice —rigid, hard-wired moral compass
  17. Strong sense of loyalty
  18. Difficulty with empathy or theory of mind—understanding and sharing others’ feelings
  19. Difficulty with emotions—understanding and expressing
  20. Extreme difficulty with ambiguity—black and white thinking
  21. Extremely high vocabulary and extremely poor spelling
  22. Literal thinking—understanding words literally
  23. Inability to infer or guess
  24. Compulsive word play and puns—humour, wit, playfulness
  25. Socially inappropriate bluntness and truth saying                                                     There are more….

Christina: Wow. Big list.

Ken: True. Yet not definitive.

Christina: Do all autistics show all those traits?

Ken: No. They can have more or less—but according to my specialists, at least 12. Some say all people have at least one or two autistic traits. My diagnosticians told me that it’s not clearly defined, but if I met at least 12 of the multiple criteria I would be considered to be on the autism spectrum.

Christina: Only 12? (laughs) I think you’ve got all of the ones on your list!

Ken: Correct. And more that I cannot immediately recall.

Christina: Ok. So let’s talk about your “magic 12.”

Ken: Those would be the ones that most significantly impact our relationship.

Christina: Ladies’ pick first: Your tendency—which you almost always stuff back now, to be blunt. To say what you really think when it could hurt people’s feelings.

Ken: Correct. In social interactions, the first thing that I think and the first thing I actually say are different…

Christina: (interjecting) But, that’s the same for me… for a lot of people. We don’t blurt out what we are actually thinking either.

Ken: However, I have observed that it is a much more natural and automatic process for non-autistic people. It appears as if you do not think about it, you just do it—you say the appropriate thing. The difference with me is that, good, bad, or ugly, the truth is the truth, and I have a strong urge to state it. For me, I have an uncomfortable physiological response from having to withhold the truth…

Christina (interrupting) What does it feel like?

Ken: I feel a phantom pain of impact, like running into a brick wall. My breath catches, my body heats up, and my heartbeat increases.

Christina: Sounds like an anxiety attack.

Ken: Precisely. It takes everything I have to not act upon my first impulse.

Christina: Every time?

Ken: Every time. To varying degrees.

Christina: Which explains why socializing—even casual chitchat— drains you.

Ken: Absolutely. It is because of that physical reaction. My first impulse is always to speak the truth…

Christina: like, umm… ‘Why do you want to know that?’ or “You have a lot of body piercings,” or “that is not relevant.” …

Ken: (interjecting) Or, “that is not logical; it doesn’t make sense.” And yes, unfortunately you are correct. I used to actually blurt things like that. And I never understood why people reacted the way that they did because it was simply the truth, whether people wanted to acknowledge it or not.

Christina: Now you know that being blunt turns out badly.

Ken: Definitely. I have developed workarounds such as re-wording, softening, or suppressing my thoughts.

Christina: Right. In fact, you are outwardly extremely social! You can talk at length on any topic with anyone. That was, and still is, one of your best qualities! And since I’ve met you and we’ve been working on reciprocity, you are getting to be an even more interesting and enjoyable conversationalist. 

Ken: True. However, that is a learned behaviour which I can manage well only under low stress conditions. I must maintain a diligent awareness and rigid control in order to not trip up or expose myself.

Christina: I regret that it’s so hard on you. And I understand that’s part of the reason you need to rest, be alone, and sleep a lot. And we need to limit our social activities or sometimes separate—I go, you don’t—which is ok with me. So… we’d better get another diagnostic criteria in here or we’ll have a 24-part series! How about your eidetic memory—that’s such a cool word and an even cooler thing.

Ken: Alright. Everything I hear, see, and read, sticks. Like little videos in my brain. Non-spectrum people often have difficulty with this kind of memory. That always puzzled me because for me, it takes effort to forget.

Christina: Whereas I forget everything, immediately, all the time. It’s a pain in the neck. It’s exhausting, trying to remember things.

Ken: Your ease in social situations helps me avoid discomfort and exhaustion, and my eidetic memory does the same for you.

Christina: Beautiful! Let’s start with a third criterion next post, and try to get through more of them.

Ken: Agreed.

 

Next Post: Diablogue #13 ~ “How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 2”

“How has the Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis helped?”

Daiblogue #11

“To Diagnose or Not to Diagnose…that is the question!” (Acknowledgement to Shakespeare—who is also considered to have been on the spectrum)

 

Christina & Ken four-handing it on the family baby grand! piano.
Christina & Ken four-handing it on the family baby grand!

Helpful Hint: If you think you might be on the spectrum and it is in some way impacting your life or the people around you, talk to your GP for a referral to an autism specialist. Remember, it’s just information! Diagnosis or not—and what you do with a diagnosis— is a matter of personal choice. (Caveat: remember that serial misdiagnosis or incomplete diagnosis is common.)

Below is a link to a 5-minute multi-question informal (not diagnostic) survey that’s interesting and fun to do. Ken scored 9 out of 10 on the autism quotient (very autistic) while I scored 0! Whew! We can hang on to our blog title: “I am autistic, I’m not” (!)

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/how-autistic-are-you

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: Getting a diagnosis was equal parts painful and enlightening. It simultaneously opened and closed doors. How did my diagnosis impact you?

Christina: In the same ways. But I think today, six years after your diagnosis and after almost 10 years of marriage, the diagnosis is what’s keeping us together.

Ken: Hmmmm. Perhaps. That being said, I think there are an equal number of different ways this diagnosis has affected each of us.

Christina: For sure. Knowing that you are physiologically different—that your brain is actually configured to work differently from mine—helps. I can now interpret things for what they really are, not what they seem to be. The diagnosis cleared up a lot of my misunderstandings of you.

Ken: The diagnosis has also helped me avoid misunderstanding and misinterpreting others. It has made me aware of the effects that autism has on people. This allows me to adjust my behaviour and find scripts and workarounds that make interactions better for everyone.

Christina: And knowledge about autism lets us have intellectual and practical conversations about what’s going on without getting tripped up by miscommunications—or emotions.

Ken: Affirmative.

Christina: So all this suggests that we wouldn’t have made it this far together without the diagnosis. Is that what we’re saying?

Ken: Perhaps.

Christina: It’s good that we went ahead with it, then, right?

Ken: Yes. However, for me, the decision to get a diagnosis was deeply personal and complicated. I calculated that the positives would outweigh the negatives.

Christina: That’s interesting. But for me, once the possibility was raised, it would have been hard for me to not get more information—a diagnosis. I’m kind of driven that way—maybe that’s my Aspie trait!

Ken: (laughs) Ultimately we decided together to move forward with getting a diagnosis. I wished to get it so that I, or shall I say we, could base our future on accurate and appropriate data. I speculated that the diagnosis would give us insights into my needs and abilities instead of us continuously struggling, leading to more misunderstanding and frustration on both our parts.

Christina: Totally. Before the diagnosis, I would endlessly hope that if I gave you enough clues you would figure out how to be sensitive to my feelings, to “tell” when I needed you close, needed my space, needed to cry and not talk …

Ken: (interrupting/interjecting) To me the signals for needing closeness or space appear to be exactly the same. Therefore, I do not know which way to proceed.

Christina: I know that now because of the diagnosis. So, I can let those desires go…to a degree, anyway. I still have the needs, but the rational part of my brain helps me adjust my expectations and my actions. “He’s autistic,” my brain tells me now. “Tell him exactly what you need. Or go talk with one of your women friends.”

Ken: And the diagnosis has given me the chance to adjust my behaviours to sometimes to catch on and give you what you need.

Christina: Absolutely. You meet way more of my needs now, and I hope I meet more of yours, like respecting your need for more sleep and time alone to recharge.  So… do you think all adults who feel that they might be on the spectrum should get a diagnosis?

Ken: Yes, in part. I believe that if more people with autism got diagnosed, it would increase awareness. It would be more difficult for the non-autistic world to overlook, ignore, and sometimes even shun us. We would be more visible.

Christina: Makes sense.

Ken: That being said, we have a few friends who may be on the spectrum or have family members who may be touched by autism. Some of them seem to function adequately without the need to know. As we stated previously, the decision to pursue a formal diagnosis is a complicated and deeply personal one. Each individual—in consultation with their families and significant others— need to weigh all of the factors before making the decision to pursue a diagnosis.

Christina: I agree. Both getting a diagnosis and living as autistic without a diagnosis are heavy, but different, loads.

 

Next Post: Diablogue #12 – “How do you know? ~ Ken’s 12 autism spectrum diagnostic criteria: Part 1”

“Humour and Aspies’ unique senses of it.”

Diablogue #10 

For 30 years, Ken was the Klondike Kid at Klondike Days in Edmonton. He and Christina made the 19th century Western era the playful theme of their wedding. Humour, in all its guises, remains key to their relationship.

 Helpful Hint: If applied appropriately, humour is a great resource. Humour is a bonding agent that helps make and strengthen connections.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: Before we get into humour, let’s answer the question Mr. Asperger wrote as a ‘comment’ April 23: “How does the actual writing of your blog work? Is it one person recording the conversations? After all, it flows like a conversation that is verbal, but, I can’t imagine you both sitting down at the same time and recording one after the other.”

Ken: Perhaps you could explain.

Christina: Right. Well, I should say that we started out not knowing quite how to do this.

Ken: Yes. We were trying to achieve the “flow”, as Mr. Asperger says, of two people sitting having a conversation and the readers listening in. However, our challenge was to adapt that audio-format effect to print.

Christina: So we played around with a few options. I thought it would work to have two laptops, sit in a coffee shop, create a Google doc, and write at the same time through the internet into the same collaborative document.

Ken: That was our first attempt.

Christina: Yes, and the photo with the first blog showed us doing that.

Ken: However, due to my slow keyboarding speed, I could not get down what I was saying or thinking fast enough. I became frustrated, and we quickly realized we would have to modify our method.

Christina: Right. So then we actually tried to audio record our conversation, which Mr. Asperger thought we might be doing. We passed the iPhone back and forth as we talked. The idea was for me type out the transcript later.

Ken: That did not work because of ambient noise and volume control problems. It was very unnatural and interrupted the flow.

Christina: Yeah. So finally we fell upon the method we’re using now. We talk, and I type. It’s no problem because I type really fast. I’ve spent my life typing—first as a journalist, then in university.

Ken: I am hoping that this will be a temporary situation because I am now in a job that requires a great deal of typing. Therefore, by practise, my speed should increase.

Christina: (skeptical) I’ll believe that when I see it!

Ken: (laughs)

Christina: I hope that answers Mr. Asperger and anyone else’s curiosity on how we are doing this. If we change it up again, we’ll let you all know. Okay. Let’s get to today’s topic: humour.

Ken: Early in my life I discovered humour as a social survival tool.

Christina: Survival?

Ken: Yes. I always had the sense that I was different. As a child I didn’t know what, why, or how. And sometimes others would react to what I said or did in negative ways. Occasionally others would laugh at me.

Christina: You had to find a way to stop it.

Ken: Yes. The way I found was with humour. At first, it was unintentional, incidental, or accidental. I would say something and people would laugh. I observed that they were laughing at what I said. This shifted their laughter off of me directly and onto what I saying. I could control what I was saying.

Christina: Humour became a tool that you still use today.

Ken: Correct. Humour is one of my positive traits. Most people value it. It connects me with others and helps some people develop a positive option of me. It works, even when I am not working at it.

Christina: Ummm… but you know, it doesn’t always work for me. That knee-jerk aspect of it. Sometimes what comes out isn’t very funny–to me, anyway!

Ken: You are not alone. That being said, would you rather a grouch?

Christina: Nope. But do you realize we’ve barely said anything funny in this whole post on humour? That’s seriously sad!

Ken: That is because I have found that humour is a serious business.

Christina: Is that supposed to be funny? I can’t tell.

Ken: Viewer’s discretion.

Christina:  Arghh! One last thing. Humour is different I’m sure for every Aspie. Right?

Ken: True. If you have heard one funny Aspie, you have heard one funny Aspie.

Christina: We’ve only touched the surface of this topic. We’re going to have to come back to it another time.

Ken: We shall.

Christina: Lots of people have asked us if or how your formal autism diagnosis has helped us deal with its realities. I think that should be our next blog topic. Ok?

Ken: Yes.

Next Post: Diablogue #11 – “How has the Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis helped?”

“Awesome Aspects of an Autistic/Non-Autistic Alliance PART 2”

Diablogue #9

Christina and Ken at Pyramid Lake, Jasper
Christina and Ken at Pyramid Lake, Jasper

Helpful Hint: Celebrate the diversity of the alliance and focus on its strengths.

 

So, let’s diablogue:

Ken: One of the great benefits for me of having you, a non-aspie partner, is that you have the natural gifts of sociability. Most of us on the spectrum have challenges in this area. Where other people have given up, you just keep giving.

Christina: Giving?

Ken: You accept me for who I am and how I am, and you end up being my defacto advocate and interpreter.

Christina: I get it. Just like how you are always there for me in some of the ways I need—like calming me down when I get emotionally overloaded, or always being willing to come rescue me if I’m lost on the road somewhere. You appreciate me being there for you to rescue you in social situations—like tapping you on the arm when you’re talking for too long.

Ken: Absolutely. You are always there to help me with my socials skills, even when it becomes difficult and repetitive.

Christina: It’s a balance.

Ken: It is my opinion that each of us has strengths that shore up the other’s challenges.

Christina: Right. Like when we were in East Germany and we couldn’t find an English speaker at a train station. You kept working to solve the problem—finally translating word by word for the ticket person using the iphone translation app—while I collapsed in a puddle on the bench, overwhelmed and exhausted.

Ken: Thank you for noticing that trait in me. That I never stop trying and I never try stopping.

Christina: You are driven to solve problems—it is a massive gift in our lives and one of the best things about being in mixed brain marriage! Hey that’s cool—mixed brain. Shakespeare invented snow broth, I can invent mixed brain.

Ken: Mixed brain? (laughter) I do not know about that. Your brain may be mixed; mine is just mixed up.

Christina: (laughing) Ummm… isn’t that self-deprecation or the deficit model of autism creeping in here…?

Ken: No. As we stated in last blog’s helpful hint, a sense of humour is essential. If you are going to poke fun, then you must only poke fun at yourself. It is a vital survival trait for me to be able to laugh good-heartedly at myself.

Christina: Yes. Oh, another thing that makes it great being with you is your high standards for doing things. Like when we dug out the basement and you were down there on your knees for hours grading the gravel to a 4° angle all around the house with a garden trowel. Nobody on the planet would care so much—but we have a dry basement. Your personal standards make for slow progess sometimes. But I never have to worry about you slapping something together like my mom said my dad used to do—and then whatever he built fell apart.

Ken: I build things to stay together while I fall apart.

Christina: (laughs)

Ken: So many people have mistaken that drive for perfectionism, and perhaps it might be. That being said, my Aspie brain has two ways of doing things. Doing them correctly or incorrectly. I am wired to do them correctly; I cannot tolerate being incorrect.

Christina: Yeah. I know about the grey thing—how there’s no middle ground for you in anything. So, an “OK” job in any area is a failure to you. Unless it’s MY ok job! (laughter)

Ken: Definitely. These are my standards alone. It is my personal measuring stick. One of the things I admire about other people, however, is when they can stop when the truth is that good is good enough.

Christina: It’s great that you never push your standards on me or anyone. But I love being able to walk away at midnight, bushed, knowing whatever it is you’re working on will be perfect in the morning—though you might be dead!

Ken: To conclude—and to hopefully to return to this topic in the future—I would like to point out how your optimistic view of the world balances my pragmatism. It gives us many happy and light moments. Your optimism is contagious, and I prefer to go through life upbeat rather than beaten up.

Christina: Me too. Ok. What should we talk about next time?

Ken: How about the survival trait of humour and Aspies’ broad sense and use of it?

Christina: Sounds good.

 

Next Post: Diablogue #10 – “Humour and Aspies’ unique senses of it.”