Monday, November 22, 2010

Article: Low Muscle Tone and Motor Clumsiness in Aspergers Children

I just want to draw your attention to what is quite simply the best article I've ever read on Low Muscle Tone in Aspergers Children;

It's called;

Low Muscle Tone and Motor Clumsiness in Aspergers Children

The article covers detection of low muscle tone (or hypotonia to give its "proper" name), how it presents, exercises that you can do with babies and age-specific exercises you can do with older children.

It covers a wide range of topics from motor clumsiness to handwriting, grasp and balance problems. It even looks at the social implications.

It's well worth a read.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Aspie Myths - "He Won't Miss Me"

I apologise for the excessive "male-orientated" viewpoint in this post. I tried to keep it neutral but somehow, it just works better when explained from a male viewpoint.


Here's a phrase that I've seen repeated throughout the comments on this blog on several occasions;

"I know that he won't miss me when I'm gone because he's aspie"

Today, we're going to (try to) bust that myth;


Individuals
I'll start off with a reminder that everyone is an individual. If all aspies were completely alike and predictible, they'd be a stereotype but they're not. Each is shaped by their background, their upbringing, their beliefs and their local customs.

An aspie who grew up with loud abusive parents has a reasonable chance of becoming loud and abusive themselves because in some cases, that's all they know. That's how they think adults are supposed to behave. In other cases, aspies who grew up in those circumstances do a complete about-face and say "I'm not going to be like my parents"

A lot of aspie behaviour comes down to personality and individual choice.

Some aspies choose to be good mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, boyfriends or girlfriends while others choose to be angry, abusive, controlling or simply aloof and untouchable.

It's not the aspie condition that drives the choice.


Different Types of Expression
It's commonly stated that dogs have owners while cats have staff.

It's believed that dogs are caring creatures because they whine when you leave them and jump around excitedly when you get home. Dogs seem to want to be with you while cats often seem to have specific objectives, like food or a brush, in mind.

Sure, there are some dogs and cats which break the mould. Some dogs obviously prefer their own company while some cats are amazingly sociable. These are exceptions - and the rest are the "stereotypes".

I'm ready for the deluge of complaints from cat owners.

It's not really like that though is it? Cat owners will tell you that their feline friends are just as happy to see them as dogs are. It's just that cats express in a different way.

Do you see where I'm going with this?


NTs are Actors, Aspies are thinkers
Aspies express in different ways too.

Your typical lovestruck neurotypical boyfriend will behave like a dog. He'll call you constantly, he'll buy you flowers, gifts and chocolate. He will come around to your house late at night and yowl like a cat and he'll constantly shower you with words and gestures of affection.

Wow, awesome... you must really be loved...

Except, that these guys are putting on a well rehearsed show. When they get sick of you, they simply move on to the next target and put on the same type of show. It's not unique or individual. It's just the way they show their love. Some are sincere and some are not - but the "show" is always the same.

In contrast, the aspie boyfriend is very much a thinker. To him, everything has its place and he'll try not to monopolise your time. He may be so cautious about hurting your feelings that it feels like the relationship is going nowhere because he doesn't say the words you expect to hear. Sometimes, particularly when you're hammering him with questions, he answers truthfully and discovers that you hate him for it.

Just as there is no correct answer to "do I look fat in this dress?", there is no correct answer to, "do you want to stay just friends or are we more than that?"

Aspie men will often ponder the depth of their love and friendship for hours yet when they come to talk about it, it comes out all garbled and offensive.

I know some aspies who frequently say the most inappropriate and offensive things about - and to - their girlfriends. They don't realise that the truth really can hurt. In one case, I have a friend who is no longer with his girlfriend and yet while I'm sure she's mostly forgotten about him not a day goes by when I can't tell that he's still "burning up". She's been on his mind constantly for years even though she's out of the picture.

If that isn't love, then I don't know what is.


Honour vs Wants
I've told this story before though I'm not sure in how much detail. It's a story which I think gives an understanding of how an aspie can miss and can love someone while still giving the wrong impression. It's my story;

Before I was married, When I was going out with my wife, I started to panic about my priorities. I found that I simply couldn't juggle my work and university committments with a social life.

I tried to go out once per week and I had an all male group of friends who competed for that once per week spot.

My girlfriend was keen for a more frequent relationship. She hassled me for more time and would often ask me where we would be in a certain number of years. I tried to answer honestly, taking into consideration that she would say "in two years" when I was only part-way through a six year degree.

My answers did not impress her and she continued asking them hoping for better answers.

In the end, we broke up.

I couldn't afford the time and I really couldn't concentrate on so many things at once. I could tell that she wanted more and I knew that I wasn't in a position to give it.

I didn't want her to go but I thought I was doing a noble thing by letting her go. I didn't chase her because I thought it wouldn't allow her to leave in a dignified manner. I made a huge personal sacrifice by letting the most important part of my life leave.

I thought I was doing the right thing.

She didn't think so. She didn't appreciate it for the sacrifice that it was. I didn't communicate my pain because I thought that would make it more difficult for her.

Isn't that what the hero always does in movies?

For the next year, I burned inside. I thought of her often but didn't call. I wasn't going to pass my pain on.

When she finally did get in touch with me and told me that she'd found someone else - it hurt. I sat there listening to her telling me how great this person was and how he saw her almost every night - compared to my paltry once-per-week.

I acted happy for her but really I felt sick inside.

Still, I went on being a "hero" for her. I suffered in silence for her.

It was only when she came to me and told me about being mistreated by her boyfriend that I changed. I'd learned that the relationship was a bad one and I no longer had any qualms about breaking it up.

I asked her to go out with me instead.

...and she hesitated...

It really, really tore me up. All that time when I was suffering, I thought that I was doing the best thing for her but as it turned out, I wasn't considered much more highly than the abusive boyfriend.

In fact, I ended up having to compete with that abusive boyfriend for her attention (and fortuantely I won).

In the process, I learned from what she'd told me of his behaviour. I learned how to be the sort of person she wanted.

It was horrid experience but I think it was something I needed to learn.

The way forward for me was to change my life to fit her in and surprisingly - my university grades actually improved. I think that my lonely year of self-pity and suffering had actually done my work more harm than good.

The funny thing is; even today, she's still completely unaware of just how much I missed her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Aspergers Syndrome and Acting

Acting is a gift which seems to come naturally to many people with Asperger's syndrome yet only a select few follow it as a career. Dan Ackroyd and Daryl Hannah are some of the most obvious and vocal examples but there are plenty of others.

Why are Aspies good at acting?
I think that aspies tend to be good at acting because they spend so much of their daily lives acting - and from a very early age.

For example, it's true that aspies often don't get jokes (although you rarely hear us complaining when neurotypicals don't get ours). Young aspies quickly learn that it's easier to "act like you got the joke" than it is to take the brunt and embarrassment of being the only one who didn't. We are quite often called upon to "act amused".

Then there are those sad and solemn occasions where sometimes we feel intense waves of emotion - and sometimes we don't. Again, honesty in these situations leads to ostracisation. Sometimes it's simply better to "act sad" or "act shocked".

There's also all of those early intervention lessons such as speech therapy and social role-play. These lessons teach us how to enunciate, how to add tone to our otherwise "monotone" voices and how to display the various facial expressions that our peers want to see. It's all about helping us to overcome our social obstacles and "fit in" but at the same time, they're great acting lessons.

Finally, there's our perchant for quotations and vocal stimming, We don't all do it but a surprising number of aspies do. We quote from our special interests but we don't tend to copy just the words, we copy the tone - and the background ambiance. We'll quote a phrase from a film, with word-perfect inflection and often with any accompanying beeps, whirs or musical notes.

It's surprisingly common to overhear aspies quoting during unrelated everyday conversation but like our jokes, the quotes are frequently lost on NTs.

For example, I'll be talking to a friend about a project at work and he'll respond with a booming "im-pressive!". Other people around me will gloss over this strange tone, categorising it as a yet another bizarre speech inflection but I know better. I'll instantly recognise the tone and formation as Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker during their battle in Cloud City. Sometimes I'll even respond with; "...and I'm full of surprises too".

My friend and I have whole conversations which are made from quotations and speech patterns from a smattering of films - often to baffled stares from those around us.

We're also usually quite good at vocal sound effects too - not just animals but lightsabres, explosions and even vocalised music. It's all stuff that we use for stimming anyway. It feels good to make those noises.

I've heard people say that in many countries, the aspies speak with an American accent. In my case, since I prefer to watch British rather than American television, I've often been asked if I'm British - even while holidaying in the UK.


Making a life out of acting, not a Career
A lot of aspies are very good actors and some will make a career out of it. Some will act on stage and screen while others will find employment in careers which use their skills but it's not all about employment. Acting is a general skill which will help the aspie throughout their life.

We've already looked at some examples of how "acting normal" can protect the aspie from social issues. It's a skill which should be developed.

If your child's school offers a drama class, a debating team or some other public speaking option, please try to give your child a chance. You may find them willing to go but if not, at least try to encourage (bribe?) them to give it a try. Sometimes they need a gentle push to try something different but it's a skill that will serve them for life.


One last thing to remember
Acting can be very tiring work. You can't expect the aspie to "act normal" all of the time. Aspies who are doing a lot of acting will often find that they need more sensory breaks and alone time than when they're not acting.

Monday, November 8, 2010

FTF: Post 10: "Disabled x2" by Leslie O'Donnell

This month's First Things First post is "Disabled x2" by Leslie O'Donnell. As usual, it's available on the Hartley's Life with 3 Boys Blog;


Disabled x2 by Leslie O'Donnell

Leslie has a background in disability activism, psych education & special-ed teaching. She is also now a full-time special-needs parent. If you're interested in any of Leslie's other articles, you'll find them here.




Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Day of Silence

Today (Yesterday for people who live in my timezone) was supposed to be a day of silence on the web. It was supposed to mark (or model?) the concept of people on the spectrum having communication difficulties.

It's not working.

There's quite a lot of opposition to this idea - here are my thoughts...

People with autism are not silent. We do have communication challenges but we overcome them. In fact, computers are one of the best tools for overcoming these challenges and it's amazing how much has been said recently by so many people whom others believed couldn't communicate at all.

Why would we want to be silent?

Isn't silence a mark of respect for someone who has died?

We haven't died. In fact the new-found freedom of the technological age has given us new life.

The rapid shift from slow letter writing, to email and then to instant messaging has had the effect of making us louder and giving us a chance to be heard. Not that we couldn't always be heard. If you were willing to listen, you could always have heard us. It's just that now we're a little more difficult to ignore.

Now, instead of trying to analyse gaps in conversations to look for an "in", we can just "jump in" to a forum, post our comments online or even start our own blogs and discussion topics.

If we really wanted to model how people on the spectrum were treated in everyday conversations, we could all talk online but you'd simply ignore most of what the person on the spectrum says. Just talk over them, offer unsolicited and "rude" advice - and if you feel like it, simply move your conversations away from them.

That's a more accurate model of how our inter-personal communication goes but it's nothing to celebrate and a model like that wouldn't help anyone.

Instead, I think we should just keep going on, as if this is just another ordinary day. Be ourselves and be thankful that social and technological advanaces mean that our voices are getting louder.

It's not silence at all.

Increasingly, our voices are being heard.

-----------

Some other voices from Autistic "Speaking" Day.

Corabelle from Aspie-Girl-World

Rachel from Journeys with Autism

Hartley from Hartley's Boys

Matt from Dude, I'm an Aspie


Add yours to the comments...