John Elder Robison (author of "Look me in the Eye") has
I've already covered part one and the first half of part two of this article but my OCD dictates that I need to finish the rest.
If you haven't read it, the article is on John Elder Robison's excellent blog;
Part II of the Female’s View of Asperger’s guest post
Since this post, like the previous two, is a reaction to the article, you probably should have read the originals first.
I love the term "hunted animal expression". I've often had people come up to me and ask "are you alright" when I've been perfectly alright and just thinking. I guess that when I'm deep-thinking, my facial muscles relax into whatever is my normal aspie expression - it must be scary.
Deborah, the writer, talks about a difference between the male and female expression suggesting that one is stone-faced while the other is animated. On this, I beg to differ. Sometimes I'm stone-faced and sometimes I'm very animated. There's usually no "in-between", it's one extreme or the other.
- Trying on Personalities
Like many aspies, I do use a lot of voices and sound effects. My kids love it when I read books to them because every character is given a different accent (though by the end of long books, I'll often get mixed up and/or merge the characters). I'll also do hydraulics noises, animal growls and various other effects while reading.
It's not just about speech though - and it's not even about mannerisms. Sometimes I "become" different people. This was particularly obvious at school when we changed teachers between periods. For one teacher, I'd be a loud boisterious kid while for another I'd be a shy innocent. I also had clinical/statistical personalities and darker "tortured soul" type personalities.
It all confused my teachers considerably and I'd hear stories from the staff room from other teachers who knew of my chameleon qualities.
- Temper Tantrums
This is one of the places where I have to be a bit pedantic. It's a particular bugbear of mine to bring out the distinction between a temper tantrum and a meltdown. To the casual onlooker, they seem the same but there's a very important distinction.
Temper Tantrums are controlled while meltdowns are not.
It may seem to you that a screaming, hitting, kicking and spitting five year old girl in a shopping centre is "uncontrolled" but it's not always the case. If the said girl was "pitching a fit" because her mother wouldn't buy her a lollipop, you might notice that as soon as the mother complies and provides the lolly, the fit disappears. The girl had total control over her own behaviour and she was only using it to obtain something she wanted.
Meltdowns are different. They have a much less tangible causes and are linked not with wants but with feelings.
Take for example, the meltdown my son had at scouts last night;
My son had been excessively fidgety all night. Touching other cubs, talking while the leader was talking and doing his best to disrupt the proceedings. As a general rule, I try not to discipline my own children at cubs but I was required to make an exception in this case - the other leaders were busy. I had him sit against a wall for five minutes.
When he rejoined his pack, my son was quite excited by the new activity which involved drawing (a favourite pastime of his) but was so eager to begin that he started pushing and shoving his fellow cubs. This time the sixer, his pack leader (a boy of a similar age), took charge and refused to let him draw. My son then commenced a meltdown which, had I not recognised the problem immediately, would have escalated into something major.
The problem wasn't with his sixer's instructions. They were only the trigger.
I'm a big enough part of my son's life to know that he's developing a bit of an issue with exclusion. Unlike a temper tantrum, the solution to calming him down did not revolve around fixing the trigger. Had I taken him back to the paper and given him a pencil, he probably would have ripped it to shreds.
The solution in this case was to calm him down first - away from the other children. I did this by talking in a calm voice and taking his attention away from the topic. Sometimes mentioning his special interest can help snap him out of it too. Once I had his attention, I took him back to the group. I sat down with the sixer and told him to divide the portions of the paper up into bits and allocate them to indivuduals. I suggested that giving an end bit to my son would be a good idea as it would reduce the number of other children he was in direct shoulder-rubbing contact with.
The sixer gave him the pencil and showed him where to draw and my son got the acceptance he needed to move on.
- The Stare
I do stare at people. It's not me being rude, it's just that it takes me a lot longer to absorb all the information. Sometimes, the clothing that someone wears triggers memories and sometimes it has a stimulating pattern. Sometimes I just like to bask in the glow of a smiling face.
Whatever the reason, I stare - and it sometimes unnerves people.
- Personal Disclosure
I have pretty much no understanding of the need for privacy (other than for security reasons). Since lying doesn't come naturally to me and since I tend to tell things how they are, I don't have any secrets lying around to be discovered. I'm in total agreement with Deborah on these things.
In this section, Deborah talks about how crowds send her into hysteria. Strangely enough, it's only recently that I can relate to this. I didn't really used to get bothered by crowds but now that I'm older, I get scared.
I don't have too much of a problem addressing a crowd. The problem is mingling. Walking through a mass of seething, chirruping bodies. I go for walks at lunchtime, in the city. My walk is weird, very weird. Sometimes I walk, often I speed-walk and sometimes I hop, skip and run through the crowds, jumping up stairs and dancing around like a madman.
Crowds do that to me.
I look for gaps in the crowd but when people around me start encroaching on my personal space, I'll make a break for it and dash to the next big space. If no space can be found, I'll feel the panic rising. Yes, crowds overwhelm me these days.
- Inability to get over it.
I blame the long term aspie memory for this. Many of my present actions are shaped by my past experiences. I find the past very difficult to let go of and it permeates into everything I do.
I'm terrified to let people near my stuff because of something that happened when I was in year 5 at school.
I'm difficult and resentful in certain situations at work because of a problem that happened four years ago (that everyone else has forgotten).
It's even becoming something of a catchphrase of my wife's; "Get over it!". Of course, that's just the point... I can't.
Deborah winds up her discussion with a look at how aspergers makes you feel like an alien, coupled with some weird stuff that I'm not even going to discuss.
The last part of her discussion states that she believes that Aspergers is a neurological difference, not a disorder. This is firmly in line with my own beliefs. Do I think that we're the next step in evolution?
... erm... no. Sorry.
Aspergers, in my opinion is an evolutionary difference, just like any other. It's not a new difference and it's been around (if undetected) for hundreds of years. I'm convinced that it's a difference that we'll eventually find in other members of the animal kingdom too.
Why is it on the rise? Arguably for the same reason that there are more galaxies now than there were when I was little. We're getting better at detecting it.
Of course, being evolutionary, there's also the possibility that our lifestyle is suitable for it and that as a result there's an increased chance that aspergers genes will be carried on in future generations. After all, it's probable that a great many aspies in the past were either institutionalised or were amongst the first to die on battlefields - this would certainly have reduced their chances of adding to the gene pool.
The article was certainly controversial and it has generated a lot of interest and quite a few detractors as well. My thanks go out to John and Deborah for having the guts to post an article which stimulates such debate.
I think I learned quite a bit about the female aspie from the article but mainly I learned that they're not as different from the male aspie as I thought. We have many of the same strengths and weaknesses and it's mainly our society which makes them less detectable.