Sunday, June 28, 2009

Can Aspies Make Good Parents? - Part 2.5 Meltdowns

I've titled this post 2.5 because I forgot to talk about meltdowns and their effect on children in my last post and because I really wanted to move onto the positive things - which I'll do in post 3.

There are lots of reasons why meltdowns are not healthy in the family environment but the worst are;

Anger Issues and Danger
The worst thing about meltdowns is that the aspie is not 100% in control. They will sometimes lash out at antagonists and throw or kick things. If an aspie has a violent meltdown around their children, there is always a chance, however slight, that someone could get hurt (or at the very least, the kids could learn some choice new phrases).

In my case, since having kids, I've had to adapt significantly. I've had to work harder to identify and avoid meltdown triggers before they happen. Since I'm the world's worst handyman and since the only thing that really causes me issues nowadays is a failure to meet my own perfectionist expectations, this means I don't try to fix things which are beyond my means (almost everything). - and I stay completely away from fixing anything mechanical. There are experts for that kind of thing. If I feel a meltdown coming, I'll try to vacate the room or house.

Luckily for me, my kids generally aren't triggers and no amount of bad behaviour on their part triggers them.

That said, I figure that I've had one too many meltdowns in their vicinity when I see my behaviour and/or language reflected in their own meltdowns over toppled lego towers. It doesn't matter if meltdowns are rare - they still make a massive impact on watching children.

Respect
it doesn't help with the building of respect or proper role models, for children to see their parents "lose control" in either meltdown or shutdown (sensory overload) scenarios. Not only do they lose respect but they also detect it as a great way to wind their parents up.

They will take advantage of the situation and see how far you can push mom or dad. I remember doing that to my own parents. Now, of course, I can see how awful my behaviour must have been but when I was little, it was just a way of getting a good fun reaction out of mom or dad.

Meltdowns in Public
One more thing to be wary of if you are an aspie parent who is prone to meltdowns or shutdowns is public perception. You and your children might know what is normal and what is not but others around you don't.

In this day and age, it might only take one public incident with a few onlookers to have child protective services debating your right to be a parent.

As I mentioned before, the best thing to do is to avoid the triggers. Sometimes its easier said than done though, particularly in places like crowded shopping centres. In these cases, you can;

  • Retire to the car
    Don't drive in an agitated state. Just sit there until you feel better.

  • Go to a cafe or food court
    Find a seat but keep apart from your children (if there's a play area around, consider letting them play while you regain your composure - distanced but still with the kids in sight. In this case, you're probably not removing them because of the risk of harm - or even the issues with them seeing you. You're simply doing it to minimise the distractions in your immediate area and allow you to concentrate on "self-healing".

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind
    If your kids are old enough (and sensible enough) to stay in a play area with you out of sight, you might consider retiring to a restroom or some other such private location until the episode is over.
Wrap-up
Of course, the good news is that most aspie parents have their meltdowns and shutdowns under pretty good control. After all, most aspie parents have had 20+ years to get to know their triggers and their calmatives.

Unless an aspie has a recent history of violence, meltdowns are not a cause for concern. Shutdowns too aren't usually dangerous except that they reduce the amount of supervision and thus need to be avoided in dangerous areas (near busy roads with small children etc).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Can Aspies Make Good Parents? - Part 2

Note: I've changed the post titles in this series from a statement to a question because I think it will promote more discussion.

Continuing from the last post debunking some of the myths of bad parenting due to Aspergers.

The Anti-Social Parent
Since the majority of diagnosed aspies tend to be male, this is generally less of an issue because men in general are usually less social than women and because men are less often expected to attend social functions for schools etc.

Furthermore, I personally feel less than qualified to address this question because although I'm often quiet and reserved (and very uncomfortable at social gatherings), my social issues tend to affect me less than many of my fellow aspies.

As such, my comments here relate to "strained" attendance at functions, rather than the non-attendance which often applies.

Children's schools, sports and other activities have a way of gathering parents together in various social ways. When children reach older age groups, the issues are minimal because they don't need their parents present but in the younger years, it creates some difficult situations.

For example; I sent my son to soccer for a season. It was difficult for him and just as difficult for me. I didn't fit in with the soccer mums and dads crowd, I couldn't relax and I hated the social aspect.

Luckily, in my teen years, I'd played a role playing game (by myself on the computer - for two years). The game was called Ultima V and essentially you had to "talk" to everyone in the game (about 500 characters) in order to complete it.


Conversations in the game were done as mostly one word questions; name, job etc. As you'd "talk", a word would highlight eg; "I am the court Jester.", to which you'd reply "jester" and the conversation would continue.

With the soccer parents, I felt like I was playing the game. I'd ask the few main questions and then I'd listen to their answer to find the highlighted word and repeat it back to them. This, I discovered was the bare essence of smalltalk - and I hated it.

Smalltalk in this manner works well in the short term but it isn't sustainable from one week to the next. People grow tired of the same questions each week and eventually the highlighted words run out.

More and more, I'd notice that the parents would huddle together and talk without me. Sometimes I'd hover nearby but never with any real chance of participation.

I'd find myself being the only parent who was actually watching the soccer training but this wasn't by choice (I hated soccer), it was because I was excluded from all other activities. Eventually it became easier to assist in the training than to simply watch.

The sad thing though was that the cliquey group was making plans for parties and get-togethers while I was otherwise occupied. This meant that their kids all got to play together off the field but that mine missed out.

My child was disadvantaged because of my poor social skills.

Eventually we quit soccer for scouts and once again, I've become quite involved (a leader) rather than risk major exposure to the parents.

Scouts is very different to soccer however because the parents don't usually stay for the activities. In fact, often parents don't even attend the group activities such as camps. As a scout leader, I'm involved in organising such outings and I can make sure that my son is included. There seems to be no discrimination.

I guess the point I'm making here is that it's quite likely that the children of parents with aspergers may indeed suffer for their parent's social inabilities but that the degree of impact changes depending upon the types of activities and the age of the children.


The Emotional Child
People with aspergers are often criticized for "not having emotions". I think that is has been pretty well established here on this blog - and in recent research, that this is not the case. People with aspergers most certainly do experience emotions but may display them differently. Aspie empathy doesn't necessarily feel like empathy to a neurotypical.

I guess that the question we're really asking here is whether or not parents with aspergers are harming their child's emotional development, or perhaps introducing depression because they're not proving an empathetic environment.

These are difficult questions and since both of my children have aspergers, I can't answer with any honesty on the subject of neruotypicial children.

I can however say that my children express emotion, support and sympathy, if not necessarily empathy, in the normal way with their peers. I go to a lot of trouble to ask them how they would feel if they were in a given situation (usually while watching a movie). In many ways, I believe that I've exposed them to a wider range of emotive reactions than many children from more sheltered/censored backgrounds would otherwise see.

I don't believe that their emotional development has been hindered in any way - if anything, their ability to understand different points of view should be above the norm.

The question of whether or not my children suffer because I'm less sensitive to their needs is a more difficult one for me. I know that sometimes when they get hurt, I'm not always as good a father as I should be. Sometimes, the cut seems small and I'm concentrating more on making them silent than on giving them any emotional support they might need.

My clinical descriptions of why we're cleaning the wound, to prevent it from becoming infected, often receives panicked looks from them. I'll usually realize at this time that I'm probably giving more information than necessary.

I'm not the sort of parent that chases my children around for hugs but I do respond when they hug me and I feel that genuine hugs are much better than routine ones. I don't feel that my children are suffering but I'm always watching for clues.

In my next post, I'll leave the negatives and look at some of the positives that children can draw from parents with aspergers.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Can Aspies Make Good Parents? - Part 1

Introduction
With all the negative things being said about aspergers on the internet, you could be forgiven for thinking that they make terrible parents. It's not true.

In general, aspies make no better or no worse parents than neurotypicals. Everyone is different and everyone selects their own parenting style. A lot of things affect your parenting style, including your own parents, the environment, the nature of your partner and your childen themselves. Parenting is not some genetic switch than simply turns itself on when your child is born, it takes years of hard work, guidance, plenty of mistakes and a lot of patience, experience and love.

It's sad to think that we only become the best parents possible for a given age group when our children are leaving it for the next set of age-related behaviours.

It's funny to look back on my original thoughts about parenting and some of the naieve things I said that "my children would never do". I've been wrong in most areas.
  • My children didn't turn out like the kids on the sound of music.
  • They don't tidy their own rooms without a lot of prompting/threats.
  • I use bribes as a parent to get my kids to behave
  • We do take the kids to McDonalds - and we do buy happy meals, not just burgers.
  • I don't spend enough quality time with my kids.
  • They do have a game console (playstation 2)
  • I do use smacking (albeit rarely) and shouting (a little more often) as forms of discipline.
All things I said I'd never do.

It's funny to watch young first-time parents trying to stick to their guns - or to listen to naieve teenagers talking about how they'd never do things that their parents did... only to see that despite the struggle, everyone backflips on at least some of their rules in the development of parenting skills.

The "Bad Things" about Aspie Parents
I guess it's time to focus on the bad things about aspie parents and perhaps put some of those myths to rest;

Carefree around Danger
It's often said that aspie parents, particularly "new" aspie parents are carefree around danger when it comes to children. To a certain extent, this is true of all new parents but aspie parents do seem to take longer to pick up some of the necessary danger-elimination skills.

I remember when my first son was born. I didn't know how to do anything. I remember watching my wife and other people (some of whom had never had children). They seemed to know exactly where and how to hold the baby, how to bathe it, how to change nappies etc. I needed to be carefully (and procedurally) shown each of these things - and it took me quite a while to master them.

After a few years, I was quite good at doing the baby things and when our second son was born, I was a natural father. As I heard stories from my wife's mother's group, I began to realise that although my fathering skills were increasing constantly, there were plenty of fathers in the group who never changed nappies, fed their children or read stories to them. They didn't have the same amount of hands-on experience and as a result, my knowledge and abilities in this regard had surpassed them.

I'd started off with a "delayed fatherhood instinct" but practice makes perfect.

The same applies to safety. I've either had to have individual safety items pointed out to me - or I've had to have bad experiences happen. Either way, I've learn't from them.

I was told by my wife that One of the children in her mother's group had pulled a hot cup of coffee onto herself. Once I'd taken that information in and processed it - I became over-cautious of hot drinks (I'd been mostly oblivious before). In fact, when my kids were younger, I only ever drank cold/lukewarm coffee.

Now, whenever we have guests over, particularly if they have babies, I'm forever (and probably quite annoyingly) moving their cups towards the center of the table and out of reach of their own baby's flailing arms.

Of course, there were accidents. My own son ran away (down the street) at age two, wearing only a singlet because I left him in the backyard while I went to fetch a clean nappy. It took me about 30 minutes to locate him - and even then, I had to explain it to the police before I was allowed to take him home. After that, I learned to check all the gates.

These days, whenever I go to a new place, I scan for "known issues". I'm not always intuitive enough to scan for new problems (poisonous plants, allowing my kids to pet cockatoos etc..) but I'm improving as a safe parent and that's the main thing.


Multi-Tasking Issues
It's no secret that men in general (and male aspies in particular) really have no ability to multi-task. If I'm talking to my wife while undoing a knot for instance, there will be frequent pauses in the conversation while I give mental attention to the knot. In a way, it's kind of like having a computer with a runaway task that is affecting the others.

Parents need to multi-task to some extent. It's a critical skill when you have more than one child. For instance, when getting the kids ready for school, you have to get them changed (with their clothes on the right way around), get their breakfast, sort through their lunches, bags, books etc, deal with any other distractions that occur during that space of time - phone calls for instance.

My wife can do it. She is amazing.

I, on the other hand, can't do any of it without some form of checklist. It doesn't have to be much and it can be a mental one provided that it is not too long. Above all, it needs to be sequential. This means that I have to do breakfast and then get the boys into their school uniform. I can't vary it, I can't do it in the wrong order and I can't cope well with sudden changes to the plan. Then there's the distractions. I have to ignore them. I won't pick up the phone during an activity like this because I'm too busy - and because it could interfere with.. the plan.

That said, I'm perfectly capable of getting the boys ready and off to school on my own terms - just don't expect me to do it the same way (or necessarily the same timeframe) as my wife.

Aspies can't multi-task but they can follow procedures. It may take longer but they will get the job done.


No Censorship/Appropriateness
This one is difficult for me. I'm not a great fan of censorship and I really don't have much of an idea of how to judge appropriate versus inappropriate content. My jokes and language aren't always as kid-appropriate as they should be and sometimes I only realise after the fact. I'm improving on this but it's a process of change.

I have always valued honesty highly. Other than for important things like Christmas etc, I prefer the truth that hurts to a lie that keeps us snug in our beds. For that reason, I'm always brutally honest with my family - even when it hurts. Obviously these are traits that my kids will pick up on.

Then there's the whole subject of media exposure. Every child loves to be scared while snug in their parents laps. I remember that feeling from watching horror films (and Doctor Who) in my childhood. I like my kids to have exposure to all kinds of stories.

Usually I'll read them a bedtime story from Enid Blyton or some other children's author but occasionally, I'll go for harder stuff. A few weeks ago, I read them an abbreviated version of Edgar Allen Poe's Masque of the Red Death. They were thrilled. I was prepared for nightmares, but there were none. My kids (aged 8 and 5) have a better developed sense of what's real and what's imaginary, than many kids twice their years. Even better, my eldest interrupted my story to tell me that he recognised the red death - he proceeded to talk about the black plague - and quoted "ring around the rosie". I know that technically, the "plague theory" has holes but I was still impressed with my son's connection. It shows that he is learning and that he's able to connect fables with history.

As far as films are concerned, my theory goes that a film is ok for my kids (not necessarily for others) provided that;
  1. Foul Language is used appropriately (South Park is ok, Pulp Fiction is not)
  2. Sex is a minute or so of low-visual stuff (Total Recall is ok, Basic Instinct is not)
  3. Monsters are obviously not real (Terminator is ok, Jaws/Halloween is not)
  4. The Settings aren't familiar (Resident Evil: Apocolypse is ok, Poltergeist is not because of the clown under the bed and the tree outside).
  5. Reality concepts are used carefully (Neverending Story is ok, Elm Street is not)
  6. "True" Stories can't happen to them (Braveheart and The Passion are ok, The Exorcist and United 93 are not).
Obviously I never let my kids watch these sorts of films alone. I'm always on hand (and talking throughout) to reassure them that it's all popcorn entertainment and to point out which things are real and which aren't - eg: In Terminator 2, we don't have those robots but we do have those bombs.

I guess it would be easy for strict parents to see my openness as bad parenting but my kids seem happy, they'll openly discuss issues which their peers hide from their parents and they're not showing signs at all of any issues related to their media exposure. More importantly, they're learning important emotive, historical and conceptual lessons from these films which they'd miss if they stuck only to the Walt Disney library.

Wrap up
This is obviously a long way from the end but I've just realised how long this post was getting and have decided to cut it short (into parts). Next time I'll continue with debunking the negatives and deal with; Social Issues (non-attendance of parents), Parent Group Issues,
difficulty handling emotional children. Then I'll try to cover the"good things" about Aspie Parents.

It may take a few posts - and if anyone has any other aspie parenting questions/statements, I'll be happy to hear from you.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Introduction - Part Four (Family)

This is the last part of my story, thus far. Next week I'll get back onto normal aspie topics.

Marital Delays
It was more or less assumed that I'd get married within a year of engagement but instead, it was exactly three years (to the day). A lot happened in those three years. Initially, I'd assumed that I'd stay with my parents more or less until the day I was married but Joanne had been renting with various groups of housemates for years and the proposed demolition of her building meant that she had to move out.

Eventually, on advice from my parents (and threats from my fiancee) I moved in with her. After a few months, we got tired of paying someone else's mortgage and bought a place of our own. After three years, we'd learned to solve our problems together and everything was going well. The wedding went off without a hitch too, though that was mainly due to my wife's carefuly planning.

Joanne and I on our Wedding Day.

My wife was always quite ambitious but I'd always been a "homey" person. I stayed in jobs for years and would take quite a "beating" at work from managers. It would take a lot to make me change jobs and since my library work, I've only had three jobs - all in computing. I've been in my current role for 10 years. I guess that it's not surprising that I'm quite structured in other ways too. I'm not ambitious but I did have a plan - and kids were next.

The First Child
It was I who suggested that we have children. My wife although keen in the early parts of our marriage, had started to enjoy life without them and took a little convincing. Our first son, Kaelan was born in September 2000, again, a neat three years after our marriage.

Kaelan's birth was quite traumatic and it wasn't helped by the fact that my wife had a fall while in hospital. He was a foreceps delivery when he should have been a cesarian. The forceps took him on the forehead and under one cheek and his head was pulled out sideways. Eight years later, those marks are still clearly visible.

Kaelan was paralysed for the first few days and had to stay in intensive care. Since Joanne's fall had given her a back injury, she couldn't get up and didn't see him for several days after the birth. Joanne took a long time to heal and I took time off work to help. We also had a nurse visit us for a while.

As Kaelan grew older, it was apparent to Joanne that there were other factors impeding his development. I noticed some of the issues but since I didn't go to mothers group, I never had any idea of what toddlers were supposed to be like. Plus, many of his "strange" activities, like lining toy cars up and sorting them by colour were things I remembered doing as a child.

Crisis
At 18 months, Joanne and I had major relationship problems. I think that it was clear to us that something was wrong but we couldn't figure out what it was. We went to counselling but it did no good. It simply felt like "point scoring", who did what, who was right and who was wrong. It didn't address the underlying issues, just the symptoms - and it didn't explain why a brilliant relationship had suddenly gone dark.

Joanne's mother sent the two of us on a "Marriage Encounters Weekend". It was run by the Catholic Church and at first I was worried that they'd try to shove religion down our throats - after all, I don't think we'd been to church since we got married.

Instead it was very different, it was just three groups of leader couples who talked about their marital problems and taught us how to talk to eachother with love and respect. It was during that weekend that Joanne told me how she felt with our son and we recognised the problem for what it was - post natal depression.

I was very upset that weekend because I finally realised that she'd been in pain for a long time but I was interpreting her outward signs as anger. The weekend was probably the first time in years that we'd properly communicated. Today our communication and marriage is stronger than ever. I've recommended Marriage Encounters to several people but I think in retrospect that it's particularly applicable to aspies because it teaches you, right from basics, how to communicate and understand feelings.

The Second Child
After another neat three year gap, and once again, in our family's "special month" of September, we had another son. This time, we were ready for the PND and we insisted on cesarian. Tristan was born without any of the drama that accompanied his older brother - but his carriage had been difficult.

Diagnosis
Fast forward two years (time flies in families) and Kaelan was starting kindergarten. By this time, it was obvious that there was something very different about him. I'd started listening to my wife more and I could see some of the problems but I still felt that some things weren't as bad as she made out.

Things became very stressful when the school started pushing for a diagnosis and eventually we took him off to get an ADHD/ADD diagnosis. We made the difficult (and long-researched) decision to put him on ritalin and he started to improve. A little.

Things took a turn for the worse when we were called into a school meeting and told that ADHD wasn't the full condition. They wanted us to return to our pediatrician and investigate his behaviour further. They said that for legal reasons, they couldn't tell us what the condition was but they knew. They also slyly nodded towards me and said "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree". I guess I probably should have felt insulted but I didn't figure out what they were saying until we were out of the meeting.

The pediatrician did a heap of tests and identified the condition as aspergers. I still couldn't see anything wrong with the cited behaviours - they were all things I'd done at home. Nevertheless, we bought some books on the subject and started reading up on things. My wife and I were reading different books at more or less the same time when she said "look at this, it's all about you". It was something I'd been thinking myself.

My poor wife. It was bad enough being the only female in the family but now, two of the men were diagnosed with aspergers - and our youngest son was beginning to show signs.

Two years later, we took our youngest for evaluation, expecting Aspergers. We deliberately selected a different doctor so that we'd have alternative sources of information (and second opinions). We were quite surprised when the diagnosis came back as high functioning autism. To us, it seemed like he was even closer to the textbook aspie than our older son.

Tristan and Kaelan on a Scout Weekend.

I started researching the differences between aspergers and high functioning autism. It appeared to be only a language delay. I reasoned that had our eldest been evaluated at the same age as our youngest (and without having had speech therapy before), then he'd have gotten the same diagnosis.

I put the matter in writing to Tony Attwood who confirmed it. These days, aspergers and high functioning autism are seen as clinically identical. We had a family of three aspie males and one nt female.

So that's where I am today, applying the memories of my past to both of my children's present to come up with a pretty clear picture of aspergers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

An Introduction - Part Three (Early Adulthood)

Continuing my story, If this is dull I apologize (there's only one more part after this and then I'll get back to more topical posts). The next set of hurdles were in tertiary education, the workplace and relationships. It's important to note that at the time, I was completely unaware of my aspergers. What makes this story interesting is the way in which aspie traits obviously shaped my decisions.

Civil Engineering
I guess the third part of my story picks up after I left school. I'd gotten quite good marks and gone to university to do Civil Engineering. I knew nothing about engineering, hadn't taken the right subjects for it at school and wasn't even sure exactly what engineers did. My father was adamant that it was a good career choice and my two of friends were starting on electrical engineering, so it must have been good.

My teachers at school were stunned. After all, they'd always figured that I'd pursue a career in journalism or computing. The work was difficult and uninteresting to me - except for the computing parts, which I loved. Another problem was the wealth of distractions at university and the fact that important things weren't repeated. This is one area where children from private schools were seriously disadvantaged compared to those from public schools. The private school kids were used to being mollycoddled and constantly reminded about assignment due dates while the public school kids were self starters. I never made any friends at university, somehow I just couldn't connect with people. I spent my lunch times wandering aimlessly around, reading books or playing on their computers.

Ending the Romance
I had mostly cut off communication with my "ex-"girlfriend because I was worried about how much study I needed to do. In my mind, she was still my girlfriend "on the shelf". I never gave any thought to how that might feel - (perhaps a lack of empathy?) and I never properly communicated my intentions towards her. A failing that she waved in my face for years afterward.

Things between her and I became further strained when, at the end of the semester, I received my marks. I was devastated. I'd never failed anything academic in my life but suddenly I'd failed all subjects except computing (for which I got a distinction). It was as good a career marker as I could ask for but at the same time, my self esteem was destroyed.


My father and I feeding Kangaroos on holiday. At the time I thought those clothes looked fairly trendy but of course now, I can see them for what they were, dag clothes.

Depression
My life started to go into a downward spiral at that point and although I renewed my relationship with my girlfriend because I was no longer at university, it was the only positive. She was the only light in my darkness. I'd had a few car accidents and was unforgiving of myself over these and my academic failures. I'd always had suicidal thoughts, even as a child but now it was constantly on my mind and depression set in.

Employment
My mother wasn't content to allow me to wallow in my thoughts and started applying for jobs on my behalf and sending me off to interviews. It was a depressing time because every job I failed to get further lowered my self confidence. Eventually she remembered that I'd been a library monitor at school and sent me off to an interview. Subconsciously, she'd hit upon one of the basic tenants of aspergers. Follow the special interest in all things.

I was later told by the head librarian that the reason I did well at the interview was because I started talking about things at home and my OCD (which I was unaware of at the time) took over. I started talking enthusiastically about how many books I had, how every single one was covered and catalogued. How as a child, I used to catalogue them using an old typewriter and A4 paper and how, when I was older, I wrote my own computer programs to catalogue my books for me. It was obvious that library work was in my blood. It was a special interest.

(Aside: Today my catalogues, particularly my dvd list, contains reviews, ratings, bloopers, pictures and about 20 different sorts, categorisations and views on the data). They automatically replicate across several domino servers, are available on the internet and have special interfaces for queries and updates via mobile phone. If I'm out shopping and find a DVD cheap, I can check my catalogue to make sure that I don't already have it - though to be honest, I nearly always remember everything I have).

Returning to University
After six months of work, I was ready to return to university part time for another attempt. I had changed my degree to Applied Science with Computing Majors and this was obviously much more suitable. I loved my job and at that point in my life, I wouldn't have agreed to leave it. Going part-time would take longer but it had the perks of;

  • More money
  • People at work who I could turn to for help
  • Reduced numbers of subjects
  • Reduced social requirements at university
  • More mature (older) classmates

Once again, I unceremoniously "dumped" my girlfriend. I didn't want to but after my previous failure at university, I figured that I neede to try even harder with my work. I wasn't going to take any chances. She had been asking me about our future (and hinting that she would only wait two years to get engaged). I knew university would take me from her for six years and so chivalriously, or so I thought, I released her.

Releasing her made me terribly depressed but I was detemined not to let her know. I deliberately didn't call her and tried to let her get on with her life.

Once again, I didn't make any friends at university but I put my heart and soul into the work. I managed to reduce the six year stretch down to five and I became well known for the quality and quantity of my output. I had lots of problems on group assignments and was frequently disappointed by my colleagues efforts. I'd often redo their sections or relegate their work to appendicies in mine because I felt that their work wasn't up to standard. Looking back, I can understand how I must have upset them but at the time I really wasn't aware.

One particular example springs to mind. I was assigned to a team of three people to develop some software, manuals and development plans. I wrote the software entirely because the programming skills of my colleages were not up to scratch. I provided them with copies of the program for the to write their manual but they gave me about ten pages each, mostly full of diagrams and mostly drawn rather than screenshots. I ended up not using them and handed in a 300 page assignment. We all got A+ even though the others were never involved in the project.

Library Work
Four and a half years later and I was still working in the library full time. It was a lot of fun and I found that far from being resistant to change, I enjoyed the variety of tasks available to me. I learned a lot about people and was forced to participate in smalltalk with customers. It was the best form of smalltalk because you could only talk until the next customer came along and on busy days, you could mostly ignore the clientelle and frantically wand or shelve books.

One night, my ex-girlfriend, Joanne came in to visit me. She used the excuse that she had things to look up for her tertiary studies but it was far from her local library. She'd recently been to my 21st birthday party, and not long after I'd gone to hers. It was there that I discovered to my horror that she had a new boyfriend. For some bizarre reason, I'd always assumed she'd be waiting for me when I finished my studies. She spent a while talking to me in the library and I got into trouble for neglecting my duties. This sparked my one and only personality clash in the library - an issue which dogged me until I left about a year later.



Joanne and I at my University Graduation

Relationship
By this time, I'd become quite settled with my studies and was able to cope with the demand without too much stress although assignments almost invariably led to meltdowns. I saw Joanne more and more often and she started to visit me whenever she had problems with her boyfriend. Eventually, one night, when she was in tears over some rough treatment, I said, "break up with him and go out with me". The words were out of my mouth before I realised what I'd said. Sure, I'd been thinking it for years but somehow I'd been holding myself back. The slip was accidental but I knew in seconds that it was what I really wanted.

She was quite untrusting at first, having been dumped unceremoniously by me a couple of times in the past. I had to show her that I was serious. I took her out to dinner (all our other outings had been to movies). I started taking her to clubs and other places. I contacted my friends and told them all that they could not invite me anywhere unless she too was invited. I also bought her a ring to celebrate our friendship. She nearly freaked out when I gave it to her because I was a bit too formal and I said, "would you be my friend".

I'd always assumed that an overseas trip was expected once I finished university but I decided to wait until Joanne had finished her studies too. It was a long wait and in the meantime, I left the library and moved into the IT department at the same local council (Ku-ring-gai). Joanne's parents weren't too happy about their daughter going out with me, given my past behaviour but they were even less impressed with our trip plans. They started talking about why we had to be engaged first but I ignored them. I had my own plans.

We touched down in Paris on September 24, 1994 and about three days later I proposed to her on the top of the Eiffel Tower. Fortunately she accepted.



Joanne and I in Trocodero, Paris - September 27, 1994. The day of our Engagement.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Article: Reflection on Grief and Loss

I'd like to draw your attention to a post on Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg's excellent Aspergers Journeys Blog.

The post is titled;

Posted: May 31st 2009.

I think that one of the most important things in this post is the fact that Rachel displays a wide and varying range of emotion in her grief and that much of that emotion isn't necessarily visible on the outside.

One of the stereotypes that aspies find themselves fighting is the "emotionless robot". The research seems to have confused the showing of emotion with the "having" of emotion. In truth they're entirely different. Both can exist without the other.

If you know anyone who thinks that aspies are emotionless or if you've been told this by doctors, I urge you to read Rachel's post and learn the truth.