By: Douglas Biklen (Ed.)
Autism has been defined by experts as a complex developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life, affecting the brain’s normal development…
Those of us with Aspergers/Autism find it difficult to navigate in an environment that is both foreign and un-inviting to us.
On one hand, you will find we like things in our environment, the same each day. We may wear the same clothes, watch the same tv program’s, eat the same food. We like things ordered, and to a degree, predictable. We want to find the keys and remote in exactly the same place each day.
We almost ritualise certain events. I myself have a tendency to eat virtually the same things everyday. Breakfast is usually hot oatmeal cooked on a stove (NOT microwaved!) It’s not that we don’t know how, it is that innately we desire a sense of control and order over our environment. This is shown in the things we say and do. For variety though, I do have polenta occasionally, Cheerios, and on Wednesdays and Sundays – an omelette which I make for myself. It’s not laziness or lack of initiative, or even lack of knowledge (I am an accomplished cook.) We have a daily schedule, to which invariably, we internally adhere.
We sit in the same place in restaurants. Why? Because we know where everything is. God help us, if the floor is wet, and we have to sit someplace strange. (The booth next door.) I am fortunate in having a friend here, that understands that I need to scope out the inside of a restaurant to make sure it is not too crowded. Autistics NEVER like to have their escape path to the outside, blocked. Perhaps unconsciously, we position ourselves so that we can always see the exit. When things get too intense for us from a sensory overload (just several people talking at the same time in a room, makes a cacophony of sound, that overwhelm many of us.) I have left meetings simply because my escape route was suddenly cut off. Sometimes we need to exit a situation, that becomes over stimulating for us.
I was in the Emergency Room of a hospital here last week. Many of us, can’t filter out the distractions: lights, sounds, colors, noises, or odors that envelop us. And so we may ask to dim the lights, close the curtain or close the door. Anything to block the over stimulation. When I informed the staff that I had Aspergers, I might as well have said I am from another planet. Most Medical Professionals I have discovered, are 129% clueless when it comes to Autism.
My Primary Care Doctor, let me explain to him, what having Aspergers is like for me. He took the time, to accommodate Autism. His welcome and inviting tone and manner greeted me when I was finally transferred to a room. I didn’t have to explain. He already knew. More people would be wise to follow in my physician’s footsteps, and take a few minutes to educate themselves, on how Autism affects our daily lives.
A good place to start:
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann
As much as we like things to stay the same, we also want to form bonds and friendships. That is an area, where we Aspies (as we call ourselves) don’t function well. We are unable to read the social cues and body language of the people around us. It is very hard for us to form relationships, simply because we don’t have the skills necessary to do so.
We isolate ourselves from a harsh and cruel world, because we are tired of the rejection and snide comments made by NT’s. (Neuro-Typicals. Our name for people that are NOT on the Autistic Spectrum.) We sit in the corner, and pretend to be a wall flower. We don’t belong. We don’t fit in. We feel like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. We go into survival mode. Magical thinking.
If we sit in a corner, we can be invisible and won’t have to talk. Gosh what do we talk about? I don’t watch sports, and the weather: Yup it’s hot out there, all right! Aspies are not interested in weather, or sports per se. But I speak for myself only. We’d rather discuss: books, movies, politics, religion, sex or music. Anything other then the dull. Mundane. Ordinary. We might discuss things which are resolutely insignificant to the world, but which makes our inner world, revolve.
Yeah we’re the kid in the corner who sits by himself, because he is so beaten up emotionally, that removing himself mentally into an imaginary world, might be the only method of coping. I am the adult, who sits in the same booth almost everyday, orders the same thing off the menu everytime, and sits alone. I talk to imaginary friends as well, because there is no one else.
Pets for many of us, are the only creatures we know on the planet, that won’t automatically judge us. They love unconditionally: just as I am. We don’t have to hide who we are. We are free to be ourselves. They give back to us, the love that the world so harshly with holds.
Many of us, are penurious. We give our time, instead of money. All we want is to be recognised for our contribution, however small it may be. We depend on others to remind us of God’s love and God’s forgiveness, by returning a simple please or thank you. Basic Human kindness. The little things.
We all need affirmation. What’s that? It’s simply saying the right thing, at the right time. Looking beyond the quirks and eccentricities, to see someone and something of value. Few people are willing to take the time to get to know us, let us stumble through friendship, and make a deep and enduring impression on our lives. Those few that do venture into the world of Aspergers, may find a deep, abiding friendship and loyalty that is unparalleled in their own world. But until that happens, everyday is like the day that came before. Nothing varies. Nothing changes.
Accommodating Autism and Autistic people and their families. Church, Barbershop, Restaurant, Movie Theatre. From ABC’S World News Tonight, December 18, 2009 (from Charlie Gibson’s last broadcast —
Jon Donvon’s (ABC NEWS) report on Autism and Employment:
I recently attended a seminar on the topic of the personality disorders. One such personality disorder is called schizotypal personality disorder. Read the description and you will see that there is a tremendous amount of cross-over with the symptoms and traits of the autism spectrum disorders.
There is a good deal of controversy at this time as to whether or not the two diagnoses are actually separate entities or the same syndrome. One possible distinguishing characteristic may be the age of onset of symptoms. Schozotypal PD can only be diagnosed in adulthood whereas Asperger’s disorder, or autism spectrum disorders, can be diagnosed in early childhood and even as early as infancy.
There may be prodromal signs of schizotypal personality disorder in childhood but it cannot be diagnosed until after the age of 18, by definition. If a person did not have symptoms of the autism spectrum of disorders or schizotypal PD before adolescence, it is most likely that he does not have autism and has Schizotypal PD instead. Also, people with schizotypal PD have magical thinking such as grandiosity, paranoia, and delusions much like schizophrenia.
They may also have family members with diagnosed schizophrenia. Can someone have both schiotypal and autism. Possibly but not enough data are there to support it. The jury is out on this mysterious syndrome and its relationship to autism.
—- Barbara J Nichols, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist.