Throughout the years since my diagnosis, I get a certain thought in my mind at times. The thought of who/what am I? I ask myself this because of how I am. Unless I concentrate hard, I can not tell much about what other people think or feel. This is very discerning for someone who only has wanted to be like everyone else. But what is everyone else like?
Do they spend countless nights figuring out their morals and values?
Do they talk to other people and have no clue what that person might go be going through?
Do they envision living a day in someone else's life, no matter their condition?
Do they think about doing something till no more outcomes exist, even though they would never go through with doing that thing?
Do they question their path in this life and if it is the correct one?
Do they think of all the traits they would pass onto their offspring and if having kids progresses the human species as a whole?
Do they question how they are still alive and if everything they have experienced is real?
These are just some questions I ponder sometimes trying to understand myself better in relation to the human species. I know this might sound dark, but this just comes from a place of curiosity of who/what am I.
As someone who has always been classified as different than others, means finding out who/what I am takes a higher priority for me to try to understand my place in society.
Just thought I get this off my chest and give a sneak peek into my mind tonight.
When I first started blogging, I only just had immersed myself into the the Autism Subculture and one topic that I kept seeing was that we, population of individuals on the Spectrum, no longer needed to increase awareness instead needed to push for acceptance for individuals on the Spectrum.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets go over the definitions real quick.
Awareness or Aware is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge" or more simpler termed by "knowing something (such as a situation, problem, or condition exists; feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion); and knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you."
Acceptance is defined simply by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "the act of accepting someone or something". Since the word we are defining is in the definition, lets see what the definition of the root word of accept is by the same dictionary. Accept is defined in simple terms of as " to receive or take (something offered), to take (something) as payment, to be able or designed to take or hold (something)." This is vague, so I'll give you the whole definition which is, "to receive willingly <accept a gift>, to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added) <a surface that will not accept ink>, to give admittance or approval to <accept her as one of the group>, to endure without protest or reaction <accept poor living conditions>, to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable <the idea is widely accepted>, to recognize as true : believe <refused to accept the explanation>, to make a favorable response to <accept an offer>, to agree to undertake (a responsibility) <accept a job>, to assume an obligation to pay; also : to take in payment <we don't accept personal checks>, to receive (a legislative report) officially." I have underlined and bolded the definitions of accept that are prevalent to this writing.
So from these definitions, I have wondered what these individuals that are pushing for acceptance mean. What are they truly pushing to be accepted? Do they just want to be included? Does this crowd want acceptance in terms of being recognized by the world? Do they want acceptance for who they are as is?
Almost every instance these questions are not answered because I think there are a vast of individuals that truly just want is to be accepted for who they are as is. Not trying to improve their circumstance in this world that they were not asked to born in and not understanding that everyone everywhere has to make changes to themselves as a person to improve the circumstances that they were born into. But I will leave that for another post.
I personally believe awareness is the key, with a few critical times where acceptance is needed. I say this because as an individual in this world, I may not agree with everyone or their beliefs/truths or why they are the way they are because I am not them and will only see the world through my experiences and not theirs. However I can learn as much as I can in order to understand where they are coming from. In time I might be more of accepting of them and who/why they are, but that comes with time and commitment. Which can not be forced or it will just be fake.
What I think should be accepted when it comes to the Autism population is: that this population is growing with every generation with little resources to help them succeed; that behavior is communication, not just verbal speech; that environment is everything for the growth for a kid apart of this population, which includes a loving family atmosphere that is not afraid to push them to their limits, and that being different is not wrong or bad.
Do ya'll think it's more important for Awareness of Autism or Acceptance of Autism or both? Like to hear your thoughts.
Death. A hard topic of discussion. An harder topic to write about.
Recently, my last and closest grandfather passed away. He was old and his body just did not have anything left after caring for my grandmother,who has dementia, for the last decade or so by himself. Even so, it was a shock to our family, as he was suppose to last at least ten more years, since his side of the family lived quite long and the whole family presumed he would keep going just as they did.
Now that I have experienced a few people I have known die in my life time, I can say that each death affected me vastly differently. This one was was different than all the rest. It was not like my first grandfather that passed when I was still living in my own world and could barely comprehend death, thus giving off this feeling as if I was being strong for my sister. Nor was it like the kid I knew when I was in high school, who himself was just in middle school, who tragically passed after accidentally overdosing on pain medicine. Which took a big toll on me emotionally. Nor was it like the time when one of my Fraternity brothers tragically died on the way to a Alabama football game, where me and other brothers were waiting on him to join as we hosted a tailgate. Another huge emotional toll. Nor was it like my step-grandfathers passing, which like my other grandfather just was not very emotional to me. Maybe for the first two grandfathers that passed, it was just more logical scenarios. Compared to all the others though, this death just plain shocked me. The only time I cried was when I saw him in the casket. Each time and situation was different, because each individual death was different in my perspective. It was not like I was not sad that some of these people passed but for whatever reason, my thoughts and actions did not synch up to the point where there was a synonymous reaction to each one.
A common myth many believe is that people on the Autism Spectrum do not have empathy or
lack empathy. Each passing I believe I was empathetic in my own way. We tend to try to justify just because someone is different that all their actions will be predicated on that difference instead of seeing that emotion is varied depending on the circumstances and the individual.
Those that know me, know that I have a tattoo on my arm dedicated for those people I know that have passed from this world. It coincides with my Fraternity's chapter that has been made for brothers that have passed. The image below is it, and it is an omega. I also made a phrase to remind myself of it. It goes "Honor those who have crossed into death before us, full knowing we will see them again."-Truth(My alter ego)
I wrote and put this up on my personal page on Facebook a while ago, and thought I would share it here even though it is not specifically about Autism.
From the time we are born til the time we die, we are constantly introduced to "things" that are new to us. These things are insurmountable in what they could be. Naturally as humans, we are curious about anything that is considered new to us. From this point, we have two options. The first option is being that we gain as much knowledge as we need to make a informed decision about this new "thing". Once this knowledge is gained, we know whether we like or not like this "thing". I say not like, because if the search for what this "thing" is as in depth as it should, a form of respect is gained. Saying that, it is impossible to truly hate something that you respect. So the next option that is available, is to ignore our curiosity and not learn about this new "thing". This leaving of our natural curiosity, opens us up to speculations and assumptions about this "thing". These speculations and assumptions are given to us by people that have gained our trust. These speculations and assumptions are reinforced when personally seen or heard repetitively heard from others that have gained our trust. This turns the speculations and assumptions to "truths" for us. If these newly formed "truths" about this "thing" is negative in our minds in any way, these truths turn to hate. This hate grows with every speculation and assumption that turns to truths about a certain "thing". This hate grows into prejudice, which can eventually turns to a -ism. However this can be counteracted at any level if true knowledge of this "thing" is introduced. This knowledge is the knowledge that we denied ourselves from the beginning. With all that being said, do not allow your lack of seeking knowledge affect the ones you care about in your lives, especially if it is a child.
With it being Autism Awareness month, I thought I would put this here along with my social media sites. This is why I got this tattoo.
I got this in hopes of helping spread awareness of the Autism Spectrum disorders and to get myself out of my comfort zone since if asked I have no choice but to talk about it. This was by far the riskiest thing at the time for me because I had just started to accept the fact that I was different and would always be and my social skills were far away from being able to talk to strangers about such a sensitive subject for me at that time. However I knew if I wanted to become better in that aspect of my life that something drastic needed to be done in order for progression into what I wanted to become in life. I may never get to be great at communicating verbally but I know that now, and know that I have to continually progress in life to not let the kid, who was willing to get ink permanently put on his body to better his life, down.
What are some extreme things have y'all done to get outside of your comfort zone? Remember I also have a fan page on Facebook with the same title as this site.
Many people on the Autism Spectrum live with anxiety on a daily basis. More so than normal anxiety and to the point where some even take medication for an anxiety disorder.
So what is Anxiety? Anxiety is defined by a fear or worry feeling about something that interrupts with daily activities.
With that said, I can assume most people deal with anxiety at some point in their lives, including me. Even though I do not have what you would classify as an anxiety disorder, it has been bad quite a few times in my life.
My anxiety started at a young age, when it was not as easy as it is now to communicate what I was feeling. This led me to unknowingly starting to self-medicate with tobacco before I was eighteen and then when I got to college led to alcohol abuse. I luckily had great family members and friends to help me realize the problem with alcohol before it got really bad. Until then I knew what was making me anxious but really did not think it mattered. The two biggest triggers for my anxiety are change, so like things I can not change or things that change very suddenly and drastic, and large gatherings of people where I know little to no one there. An example of a change that is sudden and drastic would be like me walking for graduation last Spring and then getting an email three weeks later saying I did not graduate when I had set things in motion for my life that I thought were dependent on that. As I write this I can feel my anxiety increase so slightly, since I am still dealing with this issue that has cost me time and money. So what does my anxiety feel like?
It is very hard to describe what one of my anxiety attacks feel like, but I am going to give it a shot. To me it feels like an re occurrence of a childhood night terror that I use to have. My mouth stays shut as I am trying to weave through this feeling, so I tend to try to be alone whenever this is happening just so someone will not ask me a question. I am also always looking for my tobacco and a second self stimulatory thing. Doing what ever I can to get re-centered/back to earth. Since tobacco and alcohol are negative ways to deal with anxiety, I would recommend some of the other things I try to do before it gets to an attack like level.
The thing that things to help the most for me is exercise. I try to do it as frequent as possible but as everyone knows life can take over, especially when the gym is not always the most anxiety free place for me. I also try to keep some free time to play some video games or watch tv shows or movies, all that can keep me out of reality for a bit and able to just relax. There is another way I think some people, on the Spectrum or not, can help reduce anxiety.
This way is trying to lessen how stressed one can get from a certain activity or situation. This is known as the General Adaptation Syndrome. Described by Hans Seyles in 1939. He explains that whenever the body or mind encounters a stressor, there is a initial response which is usually a fight or flight type response. After a short period the body/mind adapts to that stressor. Then after a longer period of time the initial stressor causes less stress when encountered. I will give tow examples, one bad and one good, of how this works. So say a person goes running for a minute straight with no exercise background or anything. The stressor is the act of running for a long time compared to what the body is use to. The body then after running for a few weeks starts to adapt to this stress, to where running a minute starts to become easier. Then after a few months, the body will barely register the fact that it has run for a minute. Thus the first example. The second one, I will use a person who is anorexic. This person will initially stop eating much, if anything at all. This stress of less food for the body to get nutrients from will cause that person to be tired and upset. After a day or two the body then will start hording whatever is brought in for every sing;e resource it has, to try to combat the loss of nutrients. Depending on how much this person consumes daily, the long term reaction would be shutting down areas of the body to preserve the most vital ones. So see this theory can work both ways and can help to reduce stress. If this can be done properly to reduce the amount and types of triggers of anxiety. Then anxiety attacks can be reduced as well.
Have to state this again, but I am not a licensed psychologist or physician, so please talk to them before trying to reduce stress in your life.
"Silent Running" is a book based on a family's journey in life, written from a mothers/wife's perspective, while dealing with many obstacles, most notably raising twin boys born with severe Autism. I cannot write to how well it was written or put together, since I do not have any expertise doing so. I can, however, speak about the usefulness of the story as it relates to: others on the Autism Spectrum; parents with kids on the Autism Spectrum; and how it can help nuerotypical people more aware of the daily life of a family that has a member/members on the Autism Spectrum.
The writer of this book made it apparent to me that people living on the Autism Spectrum, that have the ability and understanding, should read this book. I say this because, I believe not too many people living on the Spectrum are aware of the daily difficulties it took from their own family to get them to where they are in life. Not to say they do not care or anything like that, but most times people on the Spectrum live in their own heads and become oblivious to those closest to them. This book paints a great picture of what some parents go through in their daily lives to help their unique kids succeed in life. Knowing those challenges and obstacles that parents go through made me appreciate all that my parents did for me growing up even more than I already had for them. This is a definite must for those on the Autism Spectrum to read.
I would recommend this book to parents as well. It gives great insight into how a person on the Autism Spectrum can become a happy adult with a purpose in life. This is shown through the numerous pictures of Alex and Jamie in the center of the book, always looking happy after a race or determined during one, as the author also mentions numerous times. This happiness and purpose can seem far away for young parents of kids on the Autism Spectrum. But when you read about this family and how much they loved their kids and how determined they were to just improve their kids quality of life, it is not hard to see that with a lot of hard work and determination that even the most severe cases that an outcome of having a purpose in life and enjoying it can happen. The only downside I would inform to parents reading this, is that all families are different and that doing just what the Schneider’s did may not work with every family and may not be plausible. The reason it may not be plausible is that not every family is going to be as fortunate to receive the support that the Schneider’s received, since some families can tend to shun others in their family if it is even brought up something neurological is different in a kid in the family. Besides that point, which Mrs. Schneider cannot fix or change, this is a must read for parents with kids on the Autism Spectrum, especially those young parents who might know nothing about what is ahead of them.
Lastly, is this a book neurotypical individuals should read as it pertains to becoming more aware of Autism Spectrum Disorders? I would say a resounding “Yes!”. This book not only shows some of the good that can come with Autism but also some of the bad. Since working with kids on the Spectrum, I relived some of the thoughts I had when one of the boys in the book lashed out at someone and the author described the feeling perfectly. The many little milestones definitely outweigh the lashing out and make the work worthwhile, just as it came across in the book. Another reason why I think this would be a good book for neurotypical folk is that unlike many newsfeed or news channel feel good stories, this book so you how far an individual has to go from diagnosis to their incredible feat. That alone should be highlighted, because I think many people see those stories and do not really understand why they are such a big deal even if they know a little of the diagnosis. Like I said earlier, this is a must read for neurotypical folk to gain more awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though it was my first reading for fun book in a couple of years. I want to end by thanking all the Schneider’s (Robyn, Allan, Alex, and Jaime) for sharing their story to the world and especially to me. I hope the best for all of yall in any future endeavors.
Insomnia is a common disorder in the Autism community and is characterized as not being able to fall asleep or waking up intermittently during the night. I like many others on the Spectrum suffer from chronic insomnia, which is when insomnia lasts for multiple nights that can last months or years at a time. The causes vary but I am just going to focus on two of them in this post, and those would be insomnia caused by stress and sensory issues.
Stress can be caused by many things in the life of an individual on the Spectrum. The main one I believe would be thinking about whether or not one communicated effectively during the day. I say this because of all the nights I have been up trying to recap the day and determine how effective my communication was during that day. Whether it was: stating my phrases correctly, so to not offend others by missaying something; reading verbal cues correctly, to see if a person was actually interested in what I had to say or if I was going on and on about a certain topic to the point I ended up annoying someone, and hearing fluctuations correctly, to be able to know if someone was being sarcastic about something and whether my response was appropriate or not. As your probably thinking, this can get very long if I had quite the sociable day. It gets even longer if I wonder off thinking about random topics and what if scenarios, which both add on to the stress of living on the Spectrum.
However I do want to give a theory of stressed related insomnia since a lot of kids on the Spectrum have insomnia and I know I really did not think about social interactions till I was well into my teens. The theory is that with these kids that have insomnia, is that they have no idea what is going to happen to them if they fall asleep and thus are stressed out about that to the point sleep is no longer a option. This theory of course is a better fit for those that have sensory issues.
Imagine this, throughout the day you are bombarded by lights, noises, things that come into physical contact with you, tastes, and smells. Then its night time and you essentially turn off three of those senses. Those being sight, taste, and physical contact of things. That leaves you with hyper sensitive listening and smelling, if you believe senses heighten due to loss of other senses and I do. How can anyone expect to sleep if every little noise sounds ten times louder and ever smell is ten times stronger? It is near impossible because I personally have very sensitive ears at night and every little noise that is not repetitive long enough will just keep me up. This comes from someone with very little sensory issues, just imagine what it might be like for someone who has major sensory issues, aka sensory processing disorder (not deemed a disorder by doctors, by the way).
With all this being said, one would think the next paragraph would be on solutions to this problem. Well, unfortunately I am still looking for one myself and am not a licensed physician to do so. All I can say is that exercise and a proper diet(like no caffeine at night) can help influence your system to relax naturally at night time to help deal with the stress of living on the Spectrum. But I am not one to say no to suggestions, so what have you found to help you/your child/ someone you know to end their cycles of insomnia?
When dealing with anyone with a disability of any kind this topic is always brought up of should and how do you accommodate a person with a disability to give them a shot at being successful.
Definition of accommodation(I like to use definitions a lot)-the process of adapting or adjusting to someone or something
First thing I noticed in the definition brought up using a simple web search, is that the definition does not specify easier. It just says adapting or adjusting to someone or something. So lets know use this definition with the Autism population.
The Autism population needs several accommodations to have the ability to succeed. But what are they? This would be like a special education classroom that has less students to teacher ratio to provide more direct instruction. This would be like going to certain therapies daily to help with the many behavior, fine/gross motor skills, and language issues that may or may not come with a child's diagnosis. This would be like having head phones, sunglasses, or chew toys that help with the many sensory issues that may or may not come with the diagnosis. But let me be clear unless there is a clear issue(diagnosed by a medical doctor) that completely disrupts handwriting or speech, electronics need to be minimized as much as possible. Its easy to give someone on the Spectrum a electronic device and put them in the corner and be done with whatever issue they maybe experiencing, rather then put work and effort into trying to teach them basic skills.
Electronics do not teach someone how to communicate but rather just simple cause and effect. Like if I press this button this will happen, well what if the desired effect stops from happening what will happen? Probably just repetitive touching of the button till desired effect happens. They also may help with writing deficiencies, but hinder fine motor skill. Writing can increase fine motor skills and can help with future tasks such as driving and shaving, plus many more. However I see and hear time and time again to just give a kid on the Spectrum some electronic device. Thus why I am writing this post is because of a discussion I was a part of involving some kid with handwriting skills.
What do you think this tells that kid? Do you think they will want to face adversity and become a better person for it? What would you do if someone saw a deficit of yours and not only pointed it out for the world to see, but told you it was okay for you since your not going anywhere in life?
Due to some of the many things I see on social media site groups, I decided to write a letter to the parents of the kids that are on the Spectrum.
From the day your kid was born, you were made to put on a cape that came with no instructions or how to list when it came to your incredible child. However as it seems to me a good amount of parents get lost in what their child has and what they can not do in the midst of parenthood. So I made a list of things based on what I have either read or encountered when it comes to parents of this population.
If you happen to come across this by other means than Facebook and like what you have read, just head on over to the Facebook page for this blog(facebook.com/throughtheseautisticeyes) and like it.
SAB stands for self-abusive behaviors. This can be anything from cutting one self to banging ones head on a hard surface to even biting one self to the point of bleeding. These kind of behaviors are found in a good portion of people on the Spectrum. Like all behaviors, there is a reason for the specific behavior.
The two causes for SAB, in my opinion, are to:
a.) replace complex emotions and feelings of ones environment by producing a feeling and emotion that one can relate to, and that is pain.
This is the one I consider to be the more prevalent of the causes of SAB. I say that because, during a few years in middle school and high school when hormones were raging and I was having some difficulty navigating the social worlds of school life and family life, I punched things. I punched walls( interior and exterior), lockers, and even metal poles. All just to get to a simpler understanding that I knew if I punched something hard, it would hurt and could even make me bleed. I also knew that when I punched something that I did not need to try to figure out what someone else was trying to convey to me through communication and end up guessing wrong and being told so. My SAB fails in comparison, when it comes to destructive capabilities, to many others who use SAB in this fashion. However I was blessed to be able to be dealing with a lot of nuero-typical problems during the time and knew how it would be looked on if I did anything worse.
The other cause of SAB is:
b.) To get attention any way possible regarding how one physically feels.
This cause is a lot less common considering I have only encountered it once and very recently. One of the kids I work with has numerous SAB's caused by this. Whether it be, that this kids skin is itchy or if the kids sinuses are acting up. The kid has learned early on that if I cause pain one place it will at least cease in another place for the time being. I have been successful in being able to advocate for this kids needs thus far and the kid has been making tremendous strides in this area.
I know this example is vague, but due to certain rules and guidelines that I must adhere to for my job, this is all I am willing to share to keep the kids information as safe as can it can be.
SAB is not something a lot of people can see or talk about, but it is a prevalent topic when talking about people on the Spectrum. We just need to remember that all behavior is communicating something, no matter how gross or hurtful it may be.
One of the first things that gets listed when mentioning how to know if someone could be on the Autism Spectrum is "Do they make eye contact during conversation?" Then the lost usually says how someone on the Spectrum just flat out can not make eye contact but never goes on to explain why. Well I will try to explain what I think the reason it was/is difficult at times to first male eye contact then maintain it during a whole conversation.
Making eye contact has always been difficult for me and is something I have to remind myself to do every now and then. The reason why it was hard for me in my early years is way different than it is now. Growing up, turning my head to look someone in the eyes, even the slightest bit, gave me this weird troublesome feeling that even today, when I am able to express myself to a degree, can only be referred to as a dizzy/vertigo feeling in the front part of my head(known to be the frontal lobe area). After many years of facing this feeling over and over again that I got used to it even though it has been felt in other situations in my life. I personally believe this to be some sort of a circuit faulting in the brain and needing to reboot. Try to think of all the things you need to process in your brain while in a conversation.
Now imagine not being able to concentrate on one face when things are going into and out of sight and not being able to shut out all the noises around you. Then it makes sense to not worry about what the speaker or other person is doing if your putting all your focus on listening to them speak to try to catch everything they say even if it means you come off as disinterested or occupied with other things. Because at least your not having a sensory overload and contributing to the conversation.
Last thought of the blog. Thinking about this topic the past few weeks and seeing the kids I work with that are on the Spectrum and have A.D.D( now jointly classified with/as A.D.H.D), I have come to a interesting thought. What if this A.D.H.D diagnosis is just a sensory regulation issue that is being misclassified as not being able to retain attention? Because since being around a few people under this diagnosis, I have witnessed times of intense attention given by an individuals attention is one of their stims. Just a thought to ponder.
Disclaimer: I do not have a medical or psychiatric background and thus all this could be completely and utterly wrong. Please do not use me as a source.
Kind of how I would view me describing to a person what stems are:
-What are Stims?
-Stims or Stimming is short for self-stimulating behavior. Often seen as hand flapping, body-rocking,spinning, and even repetitive sequence of sounds in the Autism Community.
-But what is the purpose of self-stimulating behaviors?
-The purpose of these behaviors is to relax the mind from all the sensory input the body is receiving at that current time and place, to kind of focus on one particular thing to escape the reality of ones world.
-Whoa, wait. I thought this was an Autistic thing, however it sounds more like a human thing.
-It is. What people do not grasp is that everybody stems in a given day. What NT(nuerotypical) people see as relaxing time is them stimming to get away from what ever happened during the day. This can be anything from reading a good book, exercising, watching tv/movies, playing video games, playing sports, drinking a couple alcohol beverages, cruising the world wide web, shopping, and the list goes on and on.
-So why is it just connected to the Autistic Community?
-For one, it is the oddity of how a person on the Spectrum stims, the mere fact that a person would be seen as flapping their hands to try to calm their minds perplexes people. Secondly, the place that this population stems. For a person on the spectrum, speaking from how I deal/dealt when I need/needed to stim, is that it does not matter when or where you stim when you feel this unending feeling you can not control all the chaos going around, unlike NT people, who wait till the setting is appropriate to do what they feel they need to do to relax.Thirdly, the time a person on the spectrum can spend stimming. From my observations and self-awareness, given a choice to stim all day most would choose to stim all day.
-OK, but NT people binge watch tv shows and play video games for long hours a day so you really did not answer why this is connected to the Autistic Community.
-See the thing is, is that NT people can stim out by binge watching a tv show and go back to reality with little or no problems doing so. However, with someone on the Spectrum, once a stim stops/taken away, problematic behavior starts. This is why I consider stims to be lil-addictions. I'll put it like this, say a kid is no longer allowed to spin a top over and over again due to needing to do schoolwork or something else asked of him. Then said kid will do whatever in his discretion to get back to spinning the top over and over again, like hitting, biting, and cursing until adult in charge gives in. The same scenario can be added to most if not all addicts.
Last few words. Stims can be changed. Proper duration of stims can be taught to lessen or eliminate problematic behavior. Proper venue to stim can be taught to lessen even more social anxiety brought on by how some people view certain stims. Different coping skills can be taught for when overwhelmed in certain situations. Stimming is not a bad thing, but stimming all day and everywhere can lead to problematic behavior.
As I stated in a previous blog post, depression is one of the many things a person on the Spectrum endures in their life. It can be onset by a lot of things, but the main cause for mine is the thought of being alone and never really able to do much about it because with every social situation can bring unnerving anxiety. For most of the years growing up and college I wanted to share what I was feeling but had always been to nervous to post or talk about what I was feeling due to what actions the people that heard/saw this would do knowing how I was feeling.
To combat some of these thoughts, late at night I would write down how I felt, only to erase/throw it away a day or two later. Well for some reason about two years ago I wrote something down on a piece of paper. However instead of throwing it away or erasing it, I typed it up.
I named this piece "Man in a Cage". It was how I was feeling towards my "disorder" at the time and thought it explains how some might feel that are dealing with this "disorder".
"Man in a Cage"
There is a man in a cage in the center of town. He has been there since he was born. He has no clue why he is there, just that he can’t seem to escape. He sees people walk past him, yet no one tries to help. They just see him as nothing more than a man in a cage and don’t seem to care why he is there. The years roll by and he meets some people who try to help him, but the cage is so complex that they cannot quite figure out how to completely set him free. To no fault of these people, they have to go and live their lives and the man understands. The man meets some people by pure curiosity, but since he’s been in this cage his whole life he tends to scare them away without ever really trying to. He comes to a point in his life that he really does not mind the cage. Instead of trying to get out he only hopes for a companion of sorts so that he can at least think he is free. But as the years roll by, it gets harder and harder to just sit in the cage watching the people pass by all the time.
I think it is plenty self-explanatory. However, in case it may not make sense. I am the man. The cage is this "disorder" that "traps" me from society, but keeping me in the middle of society. The people that try to help are my friends and family, who due to their own lives and obligations can not stay by me through my whole life trying to help me out constantly. The scaring people away is that being on the Spectrum, I do not always "fit" in and can seem awkward and creepy to a lot of people and thus keep people at a arms length not knowing how to deal with me. Lastly, the companion would be someone who I could have a long lasting devoted relationship with to share along in this life.
This is by far not my current view on my situation, but I just thought I share how it feels sometimes for me when I get down.
Lastly I want those who are on the Spectrum reading this and can relate, please speak to someone how you feel. It is not uncommon to feel this way with the way you are and just closing up and not talking to anyone just makes it worse. The more you share about yourself to others, the better they can help you in your journey we call life.
Vaccines cause Autism Spectrum Disorders. Absolutely false.
Before I even mention the research done in this area I would like to give two definitions.
Cause- condition that produces an effect: eliminating a cause eliminates the effect
Contributing Factor- condition that influences the effect by increasing its likelihood, either in time or severity; eliminating a contributing factor will not eliminate the effect
I stated these two definitions to inform that even if research backed vaccines, that vaccines could only attribute as a contributing factor since not all people who received vaccines are not Autistic and all people on the Spectrum did not receive vaccines.
To the research. There was a study done in 1998 that stated that the MMR vaccine caused a regression in developmental progress with the children in the study showed signs of Autism. Since then, the article has been retracted. When an article on a study is retracted, that means that the findings or study itself was flawed. This does not mean that MMR vaccine can not attribute to Autism.
There has now been a study recently showing that the MMR vaccine has no part in contributing to Autism Spectrum Disorders. This was published this year. To put it in simple terms the researchers looked at a database of families with more than one child that took the MMR vaccine and had at least one child on the spectrum and compared the siblings. The sample size by the way was over 95000 kids, which is insanely huge even for this kind of study. The findings said that even kids that were at a greater risk of being on the Spectrum, that the vaccine had no part in contributing to the fact whether a kid would be on the Spectrum or not. The name of this article is Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With And Without Autism, for those wanting to read the whole article. I also plan to post the link on my Facebook page as well.
So if vaccines do not cause Autism Spectrum Disorders, what does?
I personally believe it is completely genetic. I believe like with most things, there is a standard deviation that is controlled by environmental factors. So like a person may be born with Autism and based on things like drugs, socioeconomic status, location of resources, and the other unidentified factors can make a person who already has Autism swing in either direction of more or less severe. I believe Autism can be a latent gene in some people, kinda like red hair can pop up in a kid three or four generations later when everyone forgot that a family member that had red hair way back when. I believe that Autism is a form of evolution, neither bad or good. I believe most parents try to put an environmental cause to Autism to try to shift the blame, because if it is genetic then they think it is their fault. When in reality no one is at fault because Autism is not a bad thing, it is just different from the societal norm.
With all that said, I am glad research will continue to try to understand this differentiation from the normalcy so that I can better understand who I am. Even if the ideas seem a little quirky sometimes.
When dealing with certain populations one word gets thrown around a lot, that word is advocacy or advocate.
What is this term?
Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, social systems and institutions.
That seems pretty simple enough. To make change in a society about a issue/idea, one must advocate for it.
An example would be like No Shave November or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. These simple activities brought the issues of prostate cancer and ALS to the forefront of societies mind in how we see and deal with these two issues by creating awareness of their respected presence in our society.
So the way I see it, advocacy has two steps. The first is to create awareness of the issue, while the other is to create acceptance/inclusion of the said issue into a society. These do not work with out each other and do not stop just because one is being fulfilled. Again, I will use NSN as an example. NSN created awareness for prostate cancer in our society by getting males to not shave during the month of November and hopefully getting a few to research it themselves on the facts of prostate cancer in order to tell other about why they are doing this activity. It then created inclusion/acceptance of those having to struggle with prostate cancer by showing them that people really are trying to understand this issue better, be accepting of those with the cancer, and help funding for the research needed to help stop this particular cancer.
So the question lies in the Autism Spectrum community of how to successfully advocate for it.
Some people think most people know about its prevalence, so they think creating awareness is not necessary. Some like me think, that since this so called "disorder" varies so vastly from person to person that there will never be creating enough awareness. However, the resources are still vastly lacking. If you asked me what the best way to advocate for ASD is, I could not give you an easy or great answer. The best way for me was to write about it.
This is why I created this blog, to try to create awareness for this issue. Not just for my friends and family to read, but for everybody so that there can be a better understanding of what having an Autism Spectrum Disorder is like and to hopefully help others realize that this is a major issue that we should be addressing.
The issue is that it is not something that should be cured or treated but something that should be nourished so those who are on the Spectrum can blossom and succeed in our society. That not everyone thinks a certain way and should not be taught as such. That just because someone has difficulties that they should not be shunned or outcasted as an alien or robot. That being successful in life is not always about the number of zeros on a paycheck.
Lastly, the most important thing I believe about advocating is that once you start you can never shun or belittle another issue in society based on your personal views or opinions. I say this because the most successful times for advocacy was when multiple groups supported each others issues to advance each others goals for each groups advocating efforts.
There a lot of people that stand by that pet therapy can be crucial for a person on the spectrum. That a pet can help comfort psychological pain; can be there to turn to when it is hard to talk to a human being; and will not judge you based on how you act in social situations. Summing it up to that they will care about you unconditionally, just because. I have found this to be true growing up.
My family has had numerous pets throughout the years, but only two really stood out. My first dog, Holly, a beagle that I got for Christmas one year. She was my first big time responsibility. She was so tiny, that at the beginning she fit in a car cup holder and could only go one house down on our first walk. The first night of her staying in our house, she whined for a long, long time. So instead of just trying to ignore her, I went and slept next to her that first night. I realized then that we were meant for each other. Throughout the next months she got bigger and bigger. She also developed a nasty habit of digging under the fence to go exploring with her beagle friend, that lived in the house behind ours. This habit turned out to be fatal for her. One month before her first assumed birthday, I came home to hear that she had been struck by a vehicle while on one of her adventures past the fence with her beagle friend. The news devastated me. The only thing that helped me get past it, was that her friend stood by her side the whole time protecting her body from other passer byres. The family decided to take some time before getting another dog.
The other pet that stood out to me was one of our two long haired dachshunds that we got almost immediately when we moved. Her name was Maple. One of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. She always seemed to be there when I was having trouble adjusting to a new school; when I got diagnosed and was unsure of it all; and when it seemed no one was listening to me during some rough teenage years. I considered her my dog, even though she was the family pet. I eventually went off to college, but no matter how long of a time I had been gone or how old she got, she would always greet me like I had never left. I was always thankful for that. Unfortunately, time recently caught up with her at the old age of sixteens years old and died this past Friday morning.
So as a somewhat tribute, I am writing this to tell you, my readers, that pet therapy can work for many people on the spectrum, despite lack of research on the topic. So if you are on the spectrum, or know someone on it, please think about getting a pet for yourself or help someone you know to, it can go a long way for them to have a companion that is always going to be there for them.
R.I.P my baby girls
I wanted to write on change since seeing some things online that disturbed me about the Autism population and how many view change when it comes to their diagnosis and how the tools out there to help one succeed are perceived.
Change in ones life is hard to deal with for everyone. However change to someone on the spectrum can feel like the world as they know it is coming to an end. Change can come in small forms, like a driving route to a movie theater (yes I did have a meltdown because we took a different route to the theater), or as big as moving away to college.
I have issues when it comes to change, the biggest one was after I was diagnosed and went through several therapies to help change me as a person living in the current society of today. Back then, I was against all of this saying "Why should I change these things about me?". From there I quit the tools that were in place for me to succeed and decided to go out and deal with society as the person I was at that time. While unconsciously craving to be a more sociable person. This lead to a lot of stress and anger that could have been avoided. I was constantly arguing with my parents and teachers. I started self medicating with tobacco at sixteen for the stress and ended up with what might be a live long addiction. I was completely clueless on how to act in social situations. I was doing things that I thought would make me cool, but in the end almost got me expelled my senior year of high school. I did not see it at the time, but I was starting to change without even knowing I was.
I somehow was able to get into college and a decent one at that. Roll tide, by the way. Ended up with a few friends by mere chance at the beginning. Started doing the college things like tailgating and partying. However what I did not know, is that while I was this somewhat social young adult, that I began abusing alcohol and using it as a crutch to be social. It was a one of the most constant things for me for a few years, even though it cost me grades, friends, trust with family, and some trouble with the police. I am not too sure of when the turning point was when I realized that I had become someone I did not want to be, even though I was a lot more social.
I have learned since, that change is inevitable in life, good or bad, and crucial for personal growth into the person I want to become. I know now that I wan to be more social, so therefore I need to actively work to change myself into that instead of saying "I am good the way I am" and relying on crutches to be what I desire.
Everyone changes. Everyone faces hurdles in life that need to be overcome in life to succeed. Everyone needs help with these hurdles.
I am getting better dealing with changes in everyday life, because I am constantly working on changing myself into the person I want to become. I may never get there, but no one will be able to say that I did not try throughout my life to do so.
Last words for this post are: Never just think you are unable to do something or be someone just because of a diagnosis. Because of hard work and determination I successfully joined a fraternity, got into grad school and about finished with my masters, and have a job that I currently enjoy going to everyday. All things that most people would not of thought of when I was younger.
When it comes to people(mainly kids) on the Autism Spectrum, many people wonder if it is even worth getting tested whether or not someone is on the spectrum. I say this because as a society we tend to be a part of one of two groups when it comes to testing. People either think that a self diagnosis/loved ones diagnosis is enough and that they/ the person can overcome or grow out of it in time or that having a loved one/themselves labeled that that person can no longer be a functional contributing individual in society. Both of these views are severely wrong. First off is that most disorders can not be completely overcome and are never just grown out of. The amount of work I have personally put myself through still could have got me no where if I was not diagnosed and received numerous amounts of help early on. The second is that a person with a disorder can not some how live a meaningful life that helps contribute to society. It is rumored that some of the best minds our world has seen, were a part of the spectrum. Even if they were not, there are numerous amount of people that are living productive lives in todays world that have made it known that they are on the spectrum. I personally believe I am living a meaningful and productive life while on the spectrum. I can confidently say this because I am personally helping kids that have been diagnosed on a daily basis with things I never got the opportunity to have growing up. It is by no means making me millions but the progress seen is what is worth it. Lets get back to the issue of getting a diagnosis.
Getting a diagnosis can open numerous amounts of opportunities and resources that most people do not know they are there. The biggest is that the diagnosis can help pay for many services that otherwise could devastate a bank account. Things like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavioral therapy, and just general psychological therapy. Some of these are needed(if not all) in many cases once a person has been diagnosed. I went through them all in my lifetime, and because of it I was able to enjoy playing three sports a year in high school and realize my passion for exercise science in college. I was also able to use these experiences in my current job so that the kids I work with are having a voice where some are not able to speak up for themselves or not able to do so properly. Another would being able to realize who you are and why you act certain ways, when society says you should be acting otherwise. I have been on a somewhat self realization journey the last few years trying to fully understand who I am and why I act certain ways in particular instances. I may not have all the answers, but I can tell you I would have little to none if I never got diagnosed.
So if you are wondering whether or not you think you or someone you love is on the spectrum, PLEASE get tested. It will help you/the person tremendously in the long run.
This week, I thought I would share the aspects of how Autism affects me, This is in no ways easy for me to write down all of these, since its like writing down every flaw I see within me.
I was first diagnosed at a young age with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified). I was diagnosed with this due to my lack of speech development, lack of gross motor skills, and lack of fine motor skills. To put it in better detail. My speech was very slow and so monotone( literally no inflection at all). This made it hard for people to think I had little or no emotion at all. The gross motor skills were lacking so much, that the only reason why I walked was because my mom told me that if I wanted to have ice cream I would have to walk. I was a pretty jolly fat kid back then. Even though I could walk, I was always falling down. I still have many of the scars to this day that prove this. My fine motor skills were so bad, and still can be problematic at times, that I could not turn a door knob with just my fingers. I somehow figured out how to turn the knob by using the friction of my wrist on the knob to help me turn it. Another problem was dribbling a basketball. It could be said that the reason why I can not remember much of when I was little was due to the fact that after every time I tried to dribble a ball, it would instead hit me square in the head. I should have gotten the message and stopped all together but I was persistent and practiced and ended up with probably my fair share of concussions for it. The last major fine motor problem for me was gripping a pencil. I, to this day, can not write with a pencil the "proper" way. My unique grip has even gotten a doctor(PhD) that has worked with autistic kids his entire career perplexed about it. These three areas were my biggest concern before I finally got diagnosed with Aspersgers, a milder form of Autism, at the age of 11 or 12. So not only did I have all of the coordination issues, but now I found out I had social issues.
The issues that I came to find out on my own where that: I was extremely literal, as in I was asked to read a eye test letter board one time and I said I could not because the letters did not make a word so therefore it was impossible to read ( I was also probably concussed, since it was shortly after splitting my head open due to a bike crash); I was extremely blunt, as in it did not matter what the situation was I was (am) going to call it like I see it (no examples that could be appropriate come to mind); I had a hard time looking people in the eye, this I believe to be due to some weird sensation I still get at times in certain situations); Not being able to catch up on social cues, like my friends to this day tell me afterwords that I completely missed someone flirting with me; and lastly social anxiety, this has never gotten to a point where I would need a prescription for Xanax but lets just say it does increase that weird sensation I get and some of my repetitive behaviors.
Repetitive behaviors were really not a big deal for me, since until I was in high school I really only did this twirl thing that I thought was just a nervous/sleepy tick thing. However now I know they are more of stimulant behaviors. This means my obsession with sports was apart of it, since it relaxes me watching a full day of sports and constantly thinking of the implications each play and game might have. It also means the subtle things I do like when I am bored or anxious, like make strange noises, touching every finger with my thumb back and forth, and even tapping my feet when I am seated fall into this category. Fortunately, I realize when some of these behaviors become problematic so I tend to cycle through them. Next thing is my sensory issues, which until a few months ago never knew I had because they are so mild.
The issues I have with sensory include my sense of hearing, as in no sound ever fades to the background. This means my nerves in my ear are just always on and never turn off sounds. Most people might be like "Oh, thats me", but has the sound of crickets or the sound of a running fridge kept you up at night? The next sensory that I have very mild problems with is touch, as in if I absolutely do not have to wear a button up shirt, I will not. This can also be seen as one of those "well nobody likes to wear that stuff" thing, but for me its strangling, almost losing breath uncomfortable. The next issue would be sight. The only thing that gets to me is if there is tons of things going on visually, like say going to a football game in Alabama and being on the quad and a thousand of people are walking by and it is like my eyes have to catch a glimpse of it all even though a suppose to being having a conversation with someone and looking them in the eyes while doing so. My biggest sensory issue would be within my nose, as in I can not walk near a candle store or perfume store or even some heavily fragranced without having a teary eyed sneezing fit. That is pretty much all of my sensory issues, since I have not really had a any problems taste wise.
The last sort of things that I am affect with that could be contributed by my diagnosis are insomnia, gut issues and depression. Now I know almost everyone experiences every once and a while. But picture this. I go to bed every night examining every little social interaction during the day and think of what were people trying to tell me, since I am not very good at understanding subtle social cues. Then once I realize that I missed something I think of ways to rectify it. This can take a while some nights. The next thing is that my mind drifts off into thinking of random scenarios or my ideals about very specific topics. Once this happens I can not go to bed until I thought of every possible angle. Of course if the a inconsistent noise after all of this, I tend to start thinking all over again till I just pass out. Having digestive issues is one of those topics not a lot of people like to talk about. However this is an issue for the population on the spectrum and it does in fact affect me. I will not go into too much detail but going between constipation and the "runs" on the regular is not fun at all. The last issue is something most, if not all, people face once in their life time and it greatly impacts those on the spectrum.
Being told at a young age (really any age) that you are not very well in social situations can take quite a toll on a person. I personally went through some huge waves of depression growing up, not unlike a lot of people. However knowing why your depressed conjoined with the fact that knowing being social is one way to get out of it, really brings a person on the spectrum further and further down. It lasted for weeks and months at a time because every time I tried to get out of it, I sunk back as soon I realized my predicament in life. It was on and off like this for some years until I got almost done with college (which included a lot of questionable judgement calls during) and stopped focusing so much on how much of a burden my life was and looked at how far I had come from when I was young. I am in a happier place now knowing that I can put my experiences and knowledge, of what I have gone through and what I had to do to get where I am, to help other people just like me and their families reach a better future for all those on the spectrum.
Many people on the spectrum are affected differently and experience vast differences than these that I have experienced dealing with in my short life. I hope this opened your eyes a little bit more of what it may be life for some one on the spectrum. Till next week.
Autism Spectrum Disorders can be summed up pretty easy as a developmental disorder that alters the communicative abilities (and their progression) of a biological organism.
"What did you just say?"- You the reader. LOL
So let me break it down for you.
Development is the process in which a organism grows/matures.
Disorder is a disruption of the norm/order.
So we now have a disruption in how an organism grows/matures.
Communication is quite a few definitions, which Ill focus on just three:
a.) a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior
b.) a technique for expressing ideas effectively
c.) a connection between bodily parts
So if Autism is Developmental Disorder that affects communication, it can be said that Autism is the disruption of how an organism effectively exchanges information between itself and other organisms and the efficiency of expressing the ideas that organism has either between itself or with other organisms.
"That still doesn't make sense?"- You again
So what I am trying to get at is a lot of the common knowledge of what Autism is, is that Autism is just how a person interacts with people. However it is so much more than that!
Its how the brain reads temperature on the skin. How the brain perceives if something in the gut is dangerous to the body. How the brain perceives electrical impulses within itself as dangerous that causes a short circuit of sorts that is what we refer to as epilepsy.
To keep this short I will just leave those couple examples, since if I did a list again for this it would be way too long of a read. Its better to just ask a person how their Autism affects them individually anyway.
Let me know your thoughts...
Mark Fleming- Person on the Autism Spectrum