Friday, September 25, 2009

Defining Ourselves via our Emotional Baggage - Part Two

Last time, I looked at a couple of small examples of how the future actions of aspies are often dictated by their emotional baggage and suggested that the long term memory and inability to let go could be root causes.

This time, I want to look at how that emotional baggage transforms itself into rules and begins to take over our lives.

The Leap from Memory to Rule
If a piece of baggage affects you enough to be constantly in your memory, it soon begins to transform itself into aspie rules. Sometimes these rules are good but sometimes they're too restrictive.

About 16 years ago, when I was only starting my second IT job, I made the mistake of forgetting to back up some address book data when wiping an employee's laptop computer. I did back up everything else but the address book data was in an unexpected location.

Although the employee in question wasn't particularly senior, he complained to management and I was reprimanded. What he didn't realise was that I would stress over that particular set of actions for the remainder of my six years in that company.

I stressed so much that it quickly became a rule to back this data up first. Then the rule expanded to an active "hunt" for data on laptops and finally to network backup options which border on paranoia. I've never since lost data when wiping a laptop - even when the laptop is otherwise inoperable.

My backup before wipe procedures have resulted in increased time being spent on the task and increased storage space being used. I back everything up. Favourites, Icons, Wallpapers... the lot. I'm often told that I don't need to backup internet bookmarks but I do it all the same. It's data and my rule says that it can't be lost.

I once had to leave the room when a junior employee repeated my original mistake. I simply couldn't handle the stress of seeing the mistake repeated even though on that occasion, no complaints were made. Sure, my data safety rule is good but it has its downside too.

Every Waking Moment
Over time, stronger rules and baggage start to pervade your every thought.

My father used to have a saying "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well". He wasn't a man who accepted imperfection in work. He would tell me that if I wasn't prepared to do something perfectly or correctly, then I shouldn't do it at all.

If I did things wrong, he would take over and redo them.

As a direct result of my father's mantra I've had a drive in my life to do things perfectly - or not at all.

Failure and even minor imperfections trip massive and sometimes near suicidal guilt trips.

I was nearly suicidal when I had my first car crash as a teenager because my nearest rival, my elder sister had - and still has, a near perfect record. Nowadays, I don't drive much ostensibly because I prefer being a passenger but really because I don't feel that I do it well enough (ie:perfectly), so it's not worth doing at all if I can avoid it.

I was even closer to suicide when my marriage looked like breaking up. Thankfully my wife and I managed to find a solution as I have no idea how much worse things might have become if I'd failed in that situation.

Every error I make, from programming glitches at work down to typos on the blog eats away at my self worth. Even worse, some of my rules prevent my errors from being corrected. I have to get it right the first time and many of my errors are doomed to remain as corporate records to haunt me.

Then there's cowardice; I rather doubt that I'd have much fear in a "self-sacrifice for the greater good" situation but show me a tough gardening job and you'll see the real coward emerge. I'm terrified of failure you see. If I can't do a perfect job, then I'm too terrified of failure to do anything.

I'm not, for a minute blaming my father for this aspect of my condition. I've internalised things from both my parents, my friends, my teachers and my experiences. After all, it's natural that we all internalise things that are said and done in our environment. I like trying to be perfect despite the downside that comes with it - it's tough but it's a good thing.

As a parent though, I now have to be painfully aware that any messages that I repeat constantly are likely to be internalised by my own children to become the emotional baggage that defines them in their adulthood. It's one of the main reasons why I've mostly abandoned any forms of discipline which involve aggressive tendencies such as shouting or spanking.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Defining Ourselves via our Emotional Baggage

I don't know if it's just me, just aspies or everyone but it seems that most of the deep one-on-one social and philosophical conversations I have these days are about living with excess emotional baggage.

It's perhaps an "age" thing because I really don't remember my friends talking about these issues when we were younger. Strangely enough though, even my conversations with today's youth are picking up these angsty traits.

There are two good reasons why I'm beginning to suspect that its a trait that is stronger in aspies than in NTs.

The first is that my "meaningful" conversations are increasingly being held with other aspies and the concept of emotional baggage seems to be increasing proportionately.

My other reason is that when I examine my life and my present day actions, I'm relying on some aspie traits which I know aren't as strong in the average NT. Chief amongst these is the vivid long term memory,

The Influence of the Past
There's no doubt in my mind that we're all influenced by our past, NTs and aspies alike. We see that behaviour in animals.

For example; When our dog, a shi-tzu cross maltese, was a pup, it took an unexpected leap from an adult's arms. The dog landed quite painfully on hard concrete. The dog was ok but it must have hurt.

We rarely pick up the dog up nowadays except to show her things (eg: the rabbits who live over our fence). Even though nearly ten years have passed since the incident, the dog is still very unhappy about being picked up (she loves sitting on our lap though).

It's clear that we're all defined to some extent by our childhood (or in this case, puppyhood) but I think that the accessibility of the memory is a key factor.

Accessible Memories
There's no doubt that vivid memories (trauma) are remembered both by animals and people. There's also little doubt that these memories, both negative and positive affect our future actions. Where I think the aspie differs is that key memories don't necessarily need to be large or traumatic in order to be "vivid".

"Can't move on" is a phrase that is often associated with Aspergers. In fact, I'm sure it appears somewhere in the official criteria.

The inability to move on is due to a number of factors including; change resistance, routine, insecurity and memory. Children with aspergers seem to take things in like sponges and retain them forever. They revisit those memories over and over again and after a time, even the smallest and least traumatic of them can become a major influence on their lives.

So, we're clearing away cobwebs when you suddenly discover that your colleague is arachnaphobic. So you ask them "why are you so afraid of spiders?";

A typical NT answer: "Uh, I don't know, I just don't like them".
If you're lucky, you'll get a comment about their hairy legs.

An Aspie answer (my answer): "When I was four..." cue rather long story about watching my first Doctor Who (a special interest) story ever in which the hero is killed by a giant spider.

The spiders don't look quite so frightening
now but it was very scary aged four.

I know it's fiction but I don't just have the memories of the show to contend with. I also have years of bad experiences (all the other times I was scared of spiders) plus years of imaginings and bad dreams - yes, I remember them well - to contend with.

I'm an aspie and I remember everything, except sometimes names and faces and anything told to me in the last few minutes. My long-term experiential memory is great, the short term memory is abysmal.

Tune in next time...
As usual, I've waffled on and just realised that it's already a long post and I haven't gotten very close to the topic. Sorry, I'll cover the rest in my next post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Article: Life as an Aspergian female (Part 2b)

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.

Continuing on from Part 1 and Part 2a.

  • Expression
    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

    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.

  • Overwhelm
    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.

The Article's Conclusion
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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Article: Life as an Aspergian female (Part 2a)

I've already covered part one of this article but it was so intriguing that I felt I should cover part two as well. I read it when it was first posted but have been so busy lately that it's taken a while to get to it.

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

  • Apologies and Disclaimers
    The article starts out with apologies and disclaimers. They're a bit belated and I really think they should have been at the start of part one, but we "live and learn".

    I used to start my posts with disclaimers until my wife told me that they didn't make for good reading. I've since dropped them from my posts but they're always only a click away from the front page.

    Nearly everyone in blogging generalises in one form or another and although these generalisations can be harmful in promoting sterotypes, there's not a lot you can do about them without resorting to overly "fluffy" language.

    I find myself constantly correcting my own phrases, adding words like mostly, usually, often, nearly, "seem to" and generally. The aim is to break causuality and remove absolutes but sometimes I forget.

    Sometimes I re-read my posts and realise that I've accidentally made a generalisation but I don't correct it. I'll edit my posts immediately after posting to correct typing mistakes but I don't agree with editing content. If I've made a mistake, it sits there, a proud testament to my own humanity.

    My point here is not that Deborah McCarthy (she introduces herself in a later post), makes generalisations but that we, the readers, should probably concentrate on her wider message rather than on any mistakes in her posts.

    If nothing else, her posts serve to tell us how one particular aspie feels.

  • Suicidal
    I'm not sure that I agree with Deborah's claim that more people on the spectrum commit suicide than any other group but I do agree that depression is a major trait. Her figures came from a reputable source but seem only mildly supportable regardless. The rest of this section seems to be quite belief-centric and I've seen aspie beliefs at various extremes and everywhere between. I don't see that religious beliefs are particularly "driven" by aspergers though there does seem to be some effects.

  • Self-Absorbed
    Again, this is something I don't particularly believe in. It's perhaps because in my old age, I'm beginning to open up and see that everyone has a different perspective. It probably does describe me accurately about ten years ago.

    I guess that even today, I do come across as a self-absorbed person because although I think about others often, it's only relatively recently that I've begun to "experiment" with actually asking people about themselves. I still feel very weird when I do it. I wonder how many aspies are like this? In the NT world, actions and words speak considerably louder than thoughts.

  • Routines and Organizing
    I really can't argue with these points. They describe me perfectly.

  • Prefers Objects to People
    On first reading this heading I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction but then as I read it, I started to relate.

    All of my objects do have a story to tell. As you may realise, I'm something of a collector of films, and I have large collection of Doctor Who DVDs (which are slowly replacing all my old VHS tapes of the series).

    I bought "An Unearthly Child" when it first came out on DVD and although I have some recent memories of purchasing it, it seems that the memories of the DVD are linked to memories of the VHS tape it replaces.

    My Nanna, who died over 20 years ago, gave me that one. It's a particularly special one because it's the first Doctor Who story. At the time, she asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I mentioned that tape because it would always sit at the front of my collection. That was because she came "first" in my life at that time (long before I was married).

    Her VHS present has long since been replaced but her memory wasn't with the object, it was with the concept of that object. It will be there forever and I can't watch it, can't even look at the label on the spine, without her memories flooding back.

    All of my objects have stories. All treasured gifts I have been given carry the person with them. I can remember being about six and treasuring a particular (and very beat-up) matchbox car because it was given to me by a friend of my father who tragically died shortly afterwards. He wasn't a relative and my parents almost never spoke of him a year or so after his death but his name lives on in the memory of the car he gave me.

    Yes, maybe I do prefer objects to people but its because it's not simply because of the objects themselves. It's because of the people connections they provide.

  • Prefers Solitude
    This is a weird one. Sometimes Aspies like solitude but sometimes they don't. I personally love alone-time and I have a feeling that if I were locked away from people but still with access to my special interests, that I wouldn't feel lonely at all. Of course, I've never ever been truly alone. I lived with my family until I moved out with my girlfriend who became my wife. I've never known any different.

    I get a completely different story from many of the aspies I talk to. They talk to me about loneliness.

    It's certainly true that aspies need a lot of alone-time to "recharge our batteries". Recently I said to my wife that a relative had used up my "empathy quotient" for the month and that while I feel for her condition, I really need to have some alone-time to build it up again. That's probably an accurate description of the need for alone-time.

    I don't think that the majority of aspies prefer solitude all of the time.

I'm only about half-way through an analysis of the post and I'm already pumping out too many words. It's a problem I have. My parents used to say, "Don't ask Gavin the answer to anything. He won't just give you the answer, he'll give you the history of how the answer was worked out.

I'll leave it here and continue in my next post.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Article: Life as an Aspergian female

John Elder Robison (author of "Look me in the Eye") has posted part one of a story about a female with aspergers on his blog. I was quite interested to read it because the female aspie is something of a mystery. Under-diagnosed and under documented, there are undoubtedly fewer female aspies than males. I'm still not convinced that they're as rare as they seem though.

Anyway, I'd encourage you to read and respond to his article;

Life as an Aspergian female - a story I had to share

My Take
Personally, I felt somewhat miffed by the article. It's probably my OCD/Pedantism rebelling against the generalisations in it but I'll try to outline my reasons in more detail;

The Bad
  • Empathy
    It would take several blog posts to even begin to break the surface on the whole empathy thing. I have big problems with the whole definition of empathy and still haven't quite found a single definition which suits me. Empathy means different things to different people and I don't understand how someone could be empathetic to starving people but not to obsese people. Sympathy isn't the same as empathy.
  • Honesty
    The first line of this paragraph is a contradiction. In itself, the statement that "Aspies are incapable of telling lies" is a lie. Aspies are certainly very capable of lying. Social lies, such as insincere compliments, don't come naturally to us, but they do happen. Aspies can be trained to do it. Aspies are great actors. We act normal all our lives. This in itself is a form of lying and it follows that when we are required to lie in this manner, we can do so very well.

    Lying without cause doesn't come naturally to us but there are some aspies out there who are habitual liars.
  • IQs
    This section miffed me considerably because I'm constantly in contact with parents who expect their children to become "little professors" and have issues when these qualities fail to materialise. Aspies have normal IQs. Sometimes they're high, sometimes they're low and most of the time they're in between. The only thing that aspies don't have is very low IQs.

    I don't think that IQ scores matter much with aspergers. I did an IQ test ages ago, when I was distracted at work. I didn't do wonderfully because I had other tasks to perform at the same time (so I guess it wasn't a terribly fair test). I did get a slightly above average score. Recently, I decided that enough time had passed for me to do another IQ test. This time I got in the genius range.

    Does that mean I'm a genius? Sadly, no. I think that it just means that I'd gotten used to the way those tests work. Memory is a problem for me. Short term memory is abysmal but my long term memory is good. Very good. Even though there had been a period of three years between the tests, my memory started to kick in halfway through and I started to remember how I'd worked out the answers to the questions previously.

    It wasn't even the same test but the questions were similar. I think that my memory allowed me to unintentionally cheat.

    I've always said that it's a combination of focus, memory and special interest that makes us seem like little professors. I stand by that. We all look like geniuses when it comes to our special interest - but true genius doesn't have much to do with it.

    Parents of aspies need to curb their expectations. Your children don't need to be geniuses.

The Good
The article isn't all bad though, the paragraph on speaking style is brilliant and I love the phrase "Aspergians tend to download data onto you rather than have a 2 way conversation". In my experience, it captures an important aspect of aspie behaviour perfectly.

  • Age
    The idea that aspies aren't age-appropriate is right. Sometimes we're childlike and sometimes we're adult. Most of the time, we seem to be a mix of both. This seriously confuses people around us. I don't really believe that people around you treat you like dirt but then again, that could be my own naievity.

    I don't usually bother fighting the image that people have of me. They can think what they like. It doesn't change me. I generally find that people fall into two categories; Those that treat you in a similar manner to the way that you treat them and those who won't change their views. Being super-nice to people will bring a great response from the former and there's no sense in being upset about the latter. Some people just don't make good friends.
  • Clumsiness
    I can relate to this and yes, I constantly bump into things. It's not just low muscle tone (hypotonia) issues. I seem to have very little spacial awareness.
  • Eye Contact
    I can also relate to the eye contact issues, I think what has been said there is pretty close to the way I feel except that I don't like other people starring into my eyes either. It feels like my soul is being drained.
  • Sensitivities
    This is a weird one for me. I don't have major light sensitivities (except that I can't read books outside). I've never worn sunglasses, though my current pair of glasses automatically dim (and it's wonderful). Being deaf, I don't have any issues with sound though vibrations can irritate my sense of touch. I have issues with clothing too, particularly flannelette, but most of the time I can live with them.

    Smell... That one, I probably need to do an entire post about. Some smells (Vanilla) drive me wild, while others, particularly chilli breath and beer breath make me very ill - or, strangely enough... angry.

    The comments on insomnia are interesting too. My children cured mine. These days I'm really tired all the time and while my brain still doesn't ever shut off, my body closes down and I can sleep through anything.
It's quite an interesting article though the author is obviously a vegan who has issues with fat people. Funnily enough, I'm not fat, (ok... perhaps I'm getting a little porky in my old age) but I've always had issues with vegans and super-thin waif-people. Of course, I never let issues like that get in the way of friendships.

I'm looking forward to part two.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Getting Ready for School

Last week, I spent three days at home. I needed a break from work and September is a busy month for us at home, full of birthdays, anniversaries and father's day.

My wife was glad that I was home. This meant that she too could take a break while I looked after the morning mayhem.

Surprisingly, everything went off without a hitch and the kids were fed, packed and dressed for school not only on time but also with enough free time to play a few rounds of computer games. At first, I thought it was a fluke but the pattern repeated over the next few days.

Does this make me a better parent? No - of course not!

It does however suggest that aspie methods work best with aspie children.

The Need for Routine
When I was in primary school, my mother used to set my clothes out the night before. She would make a pretend person on the floor of my room with my pants, shirt and tie set out in the right places. The pretend person even included my socks separated and poking into my shoes.

In the morning, when I had woken up, I'd simply transfer the contents of the floor onto my person.

I didn't have to rush around the house looking for clothes and I didn't forget things, like underpants or like wearing shoes without socks because everything was in the one place. If there was anything left on the floor after I'd finished, then it meant that I'd forgotten something.

A photo from last year showing how I prepared my son's clothes for a morning outing.

These days, aged 40, I don't leave my clothes on the floor in a "body pattern" but I do still set out my clothes in the bathroom on the night before. I don't have to rush around trying to find things in the morning and I don't have to make decisions about the weather or colours while getting changed.

It works.

If I needed any further proof that I'm not able to operate like a normal person, it's this. Last week, we had a visitor during the week. As a result, I moved my bag to a more tidy location. I went to work without it the next day. Sure, I realised halfway to work that I didn't have it but my point is that I didn't notice its absence as I was going out the door because it wasn't in the "daily pattern".

During lunch that day, I found a very cheap playstation game that I thought my kids would love, so I bought it. Normally, I'd put it in my bag but since I didn't have one, I had to hold onto it. Needless to say, I fell asleep on the bus, woke up at my stop and rushed out without picking it up.

I need my routine.

Change Resistance
In the early days of our marriage, my wife went to great pains to point out how silly some of my habits were. She didn't like the idea of setting my clothes out. After all, if the weather changed, I'd be poorly dressed. Similarly, she had specific ideas about putting ones bag away.

My routines have been developed over time with the intention of keeping me on track. If I don't follow them, bad things happen (as with the lost playstation game). I rely on those routines and I'm very resistant to changing them.

My children are considerably less resistant to change because they don't yet understand how critical the routine is. As a result, they allow their clothes for the following day to hang wherever their mother puts them. They also allow their schoolbags to be moved out of sight (or the bag stays wherever they drop it). It was interesting to note that on two out of the three days, I needed to send one or both children back to the house to get their schoolbags. Picking them up when going outside isn't (yet) part of their routine.

Confusing Aspie Children
All things considered, my wife does a very good job of getting the children off to school each day. After all, it's a daunting task. The real problem is that aspie style organisation doesn't come easily to her because she's neurotypical.

Neurotypical children seem to automatically know that if you don't have underpants handy, you go and find some before you put your pants on. Many aspie children, mine included, don't.

Similarly, neurotypical children can often watch television while getting changed because they're able to multi-task and because they're aware of the passing of time. If my children are exposed to the television while getting changed, they become captivated and lose focus on everything else they are doing. Even turning the television off doesn't always bring them back. Once they've lost their focus, it's almost impossible to get them ready for school.

I've talked to my wife about setting our children's clothes out the night before and she tells me that it's done. In fact, this particular statement from me will often enrage her. She points angrily to a nearby rack where our two children's clothes hang side by side, often with other clothes in between.

She see two sets of clothes.

I just see a clothes rack with shirts and pants, no underpants, no socks, no shoes.

The difference in our perception is astonishing.

Sometimes the clothes hang all together side-by-side, One son's school uniform on the left, one on the right. This is better, much better but still too close. It's not necesarily clear whose is whose. After all, my boys don't check the sizes.

When I hang things out, it's on opposite sides of the room. More than that, I put their schoolbags with their names emblazoned in large letters next to the clothes so that there can be no mistake.

Like I said, my wife does a splendid job, it's just that she hasn't got that aspie perception - she doesn't see things the same way that we do. The parents of aspies need to act a bit aspie themselves in order to get their kids off to school without loss of sanity.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Article: Urgency Addiction - Getting things Done

I'd just like to draw your attention to an interesting article about aspies in the workplace.

Urgency Addiction - Getting things Done
by Malcolm Johnson

Malcolm has a unique website which looks at how Aspergers presents in the world of business. In this article he looks at the forces which cause aspies to procrastinate and to postpone work until the last minute. He also looks at techniques for getting around the problem.

If you're an aspie in the workforce or later years of school or if you're the parent of a teenage aspie, this is a very good read. You might find it very familiar.

My Take
Strangely, the urgency addiction that Malcolm describes has almost the opposite effect to what I experience although the driving force is the same. In my case, I don't procrastinate but rather tend to do work as early and as quickly as possible.

I could however relate very well to his comments about losing interest half-way through.

Regardless of how a particular person's urgency addiction presents, there's no denying that it's a major source of anxiety for the aspie and that it puts a tremendous social strain on any group work.

I also agree with Malcolm's suggestion that there is a link between this and perfectionism.