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Showing posts from May, 2012

Work and Connections

One of the strangest things I have been told is, "You're liked by coworkers."

Several supervisors have said this. Each was trying too hard to make a claim that didn't reflect my reality — and it was/is a claim that didn't concern me as much as it did them. It seemed important to the supervisor, oddly enough.

In all but one or two instances the statement was not true. Even if it were, I wouldn't care about being liked at work. Work is not a social space for me, or it becomes too overwhelming. Work needs to be apart from other things. I'd rather be respected and treated with some deference as an expert in my field. For some reason, though, my supervisors have considered it important to tell me I was/am liked.

No, I'm not liked. Tolerated, maybe. Accepted, to an extent. But I am not "liked" by my coworkers in any special way. "Liked" means something more to me than people getting along in a workplace or at school. Being collegia…

Final Thoughts on Finding Kansas

I finished reading Finding Kansas this weekend.

If you want to learn a bit more about the author, Aaron Likens, you should visit his websites:
http://lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com/http://www.findingkansas.com/ Aaron's father warns readers that the essays within Finding Kansas might seem depressing and hopeless. The essays don't promise a better future for Aaron. As Aaron reminds us, real life isn't neatly packaged with closure at the end — and this book is merely a beginning of sorts, anyway.

I'm left feeling miserable about autism spectrum disorders and about my own autistic traits. It is probably because I'm already exhausted and frustrated and reading Finding Kansas while sorting out my own path in life was a bit much to tackle.

Finding Kansas is not a self-help book. It's not a traditional memoir. There's no story arch, and I'm not certain there is forward progress. Being tired, I start to see my own "treadmill" and feel tr…

Finding Myself in Finding Kansas

When I was asked to read and comment on Finding Kansas: Living and Decoding Asperger's Syndrome I didn't expect the book to affect me much, if at all. I've read many autism memoirs and some seem more familiar than others. I can relate to the writings of Stephen Shore, for example, more than the works of John Elder Robison. Temple Grandin touches on experiences I understand, but her life was far more challenging than anything I've experienced.

The readers of Finding Kansas might understand what its like to live with an autism spectrum disorder. I'm not sure, because I keep trying to tell myself that I'm not like Aaron — even when I know much of what he writes is familiar.

The writings of Aaron Likens reflect emotions and social issues so familiar they hurt. His memories trigger my own negative memories, causing a fair amount of misery. At the same time, I cannot relate directly to some of his experiences and impulses. I recognize Aaron struggles with his emot…

Memoirs and Community

A parent asked me if the memoirs of autistic individuals are useful for parents and educators. She also asked if memoirs might help her teen son understand himself better.

I've read many of the memoirs, studying how they are written and what they convey about the autistic thought process. But, I caution against searching for too many "universals" about autism within memoirs. There might be some, but searching for them can lead us to seeing patterns that don't mean anything. At the same time, because autism is a description based on observed traits, there are shared experiences in the memoirs.

My answer to this parent: yes, memoirs help. It is a way to know your child or student isn't alone. It is also a way for autistics to remind themselves that there are many, many of us on this planet. Working together, maybe we can help others appreciate what we offer society.

Literature exists in a community. Readers of particular genres have a way of finding each othe…

Depression and Autism: More on Finding Kansas

Depression scares me. I can imagine nothing worse than a lack of hope. Page after page, Finding Kansas: Living and Decoding Asperger's Syndrome reminds the reader that many autistic teens and adults struggle with depression.

As I read Aaron Likens' essays, I'm keep returning to something mentioned early in the text by his father: depression. Aaron mentions his mother briefly in an essay, stating that she's had something of an emotional breakdown. At the same time, it is clear that Aaron recognizes his own depression and its illogical nature.

I tell families and individuals with autism spectrum disorders that they should work with the best clinicians they can locate (and, sadly, afford). When an ASD is accompanied by depression, anxiety disorders, or other conditions, a relationship with a medical professional with neuropsych knowledge is essential. Be careful, though — psychologists and other clinicians tend to develop biases and blinders based on their areas of exp…

Breaking Cycles

Skimming this blog, as well as my handwritten journals, I'm reminded that I seem to be stuck in a loop that I keep vowing to escape. For nearly a quarter century, the cycle has repeated. The number of blog and journal entries like this one is maddening.

I enjoy writing, so I declare to myself (in writing) that I am going to be a writer (1987, 90, 92, 96, 98, 2004, 06, 10, 11…). To subsidize writing, I turn to teaching — which many writers do. I convinced myself, and my wife certainly hoped, that teaching in a tech-based program at the university level would end the cycle. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. It's too early to know for certain. I was hired to launch a scientific and technical communication program. Unfortunately, science and technology are a small, tiny, minuscule, microscopic, aspect of what I am teaching.

NOTE: I don't mind teaching writing, and I study the history of philosophy (mainly the philosophers) as something of a hobby. But, what I want to teac…

Perseveration, Obsession: Notes on Finding Kansas

Aaron Likens dreams of being a top-tier professional race driver. Auto racing is the most important thing in his life, often at the cost of social connections. His focus also seems to impair his overall judgment in ways best understood by reading his memoir, Finding Kansas.

Many, maybe most, of the people I've met with autism spectrum diagnoses, have a tendency to perseverate. From simple repeating of sounds or movements for a few minutes to years focused on a topic, the nature of perseveration varies by individual. In some cases the focus drifts into obsession.

I found myself wanting to tell him, "Stop talking about racing. Young women don't care." Aaron's idea of a good day together is watching races. If someone else loves racing as much, then that might make sense, but it is painfully clear that "Emily" does not share Aaron's passion for racing.

The line between interest and obsession is important. A special interest can help you connect to so…

Work: Thoughts Inspired by Finding Kansas

I'm reading Aaron Likens' Finding Kansas while I am revising my eBook A Spectrum of Relationships. I mention my project because I was updating the section on relationships at work when I reread Aaron's essay "Work" and found myself reflecting on how difficult workplaces can be for people with autism spectrum disorders. I certainly find workplaces confusing.

Aaron's struggles in the workplace feel all-too-familiar. The gray areas are annoying. The interactions with others are exhausting. Honesty often backfires, and kind people are too often punished for doing what seems right.

Because we seek to understand people, asking questions about coworkers is how we sometimes try to navigate and anticipate how people might interact with us. The problem with seeking information is that it can seem like gossip. Maybe it is "gossip" to others, but autistics are simply trying to learn the rules others seem to know intuitively. I end up wanting to avoid people…

Finding Kansas - Reading Currently

This weekend I will try to finish reading Finding Kansas by Aaron Likens. I haven't posted many book reviews to The Autistic Me because I don't find that many autism-related books "fun reading" (and some autism books support ideas I don't wish to promote). I will post my thoughts as soon as I finish with the text. So far, it is interesting, without many of the elements I find annoying in other autism-related works.

Queen Mimi 1993-2012

Queen Mimi, the longest-lived of our "kids" passed away in my arms at 8:25 on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

As we were moving into our new house in Pennsylvania, it was obvious Mimi was getting tired. We moved her in a carrier with Misty Kitty, and the pair stayed next to each other over the first night in the house. Wednesday and Thursday, she remained in a little kitty bed in the corner of the "kids' room" of the new house. On Friday, we took her to the vet to see what might be wrong.

She had lost some weight. Lab works showed her kidneys and heart were fine, but she had something wrong with her liver. The vet hoped it was nothing more serious than stress, and he seemed hopeful that if she ate enough, the symptoms might go away. If it was only a result of stress, food and water would return her to normal. The vet kept her over the weekend, to feed and hydrate her.

The lab work improved significantly, but Mimi seemed tired when Susan brought her home on Monday af…

New House

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This is the new house, where we will be living as of tonight.

Moving Day

Today, my wife and I will be moving in to our new house. This means we will be without an Internet connection for two or three days, so I won't be online until the weekend or early next week. Also, moving doesn't leave much time to be online for the next week or so.

To make matters more complicated, I have a medical procedure in the middle of the day. I started this morning packing boxes, trying to get what I can done before the out-patient procedure. You never know how long it will take to recover from the anesthesia and general discomfort when you have any medial procedure.

The notion of being off-line, disconnected from readers and friends, is a little frustrating. What does that say about our culture and our strange need to be connected at all times? It's as if we don't exist without a network connection.

Last year, I tried to have at least one "tech free" day a week. This didn't mean no phone, but it meant no sitting at a computer and working. …