The Way I See it: “Happy Birthday (autistic) Juanita!” said the Wizard of Oz

Subtitle: Autism and heredity, a snapshot of my story…

Today is August 28, 2016, and if my mother Juanita was still living, she would be 104 years old today!

Therefore, “Happy Birthday Mom wherever you are!”

However, Juanita did live to the ripe old age of 90 and did surpass many of the reported statistics about autistics tending to die young.

Juanita was never diagnosed as being autistic, but I have spent many hours analyzing my family, and concluded that she was on the Autistic Spectrum and would have probably been given the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome which is still in vogue outside of the United States.

In fact, Juanita was not the only autistic sibling of five, her younger brother Tommy and her younger sister Carol were far worse or more autistic like I am.

What is interesting to me is that each and everyone in my family who is or was (deceased) on the autistic spectrum, managed to have a reasonably normal life in spite of their neurodiversity and any accompanying physical or mental disabilities that often results as a comorbid condition.

However, there were two exceptions. My mother’s brother Tommy, the youngest of the five, made it to adulthood, married young, had two children, but quickly regressed into a more severe autistic state in his twenties, resulting in living off and on in either a mental institution or a half-way house for the rest of his life.

His story was pretty sad because when this happened, his wife divorced him and never permitted his children to know him, and when his children became adults, they made no effort to contact him nor check on his well being. He died at the age of 57.

The other exception is my female cousin Nancy who is three weeks younger than me and is also an autistic savant.

In fact, growing up we always considered ourselves twins and often wondered if either her mother or my mother gave one of us up to the other. 🙂 [I’ll save our savant stories for another post if anyone is remotely interested]

Her mother Carol was an easy one to figure out as being on the autistic spectrum, because I’m just like her, a little on the crazy side 🙂 with the dreaded habit of thinking out loud, i.e. having conversations with one’s self :), and potentially appearing as a flaming schizophrenic who thinks there is actually someone there listening to their opinions or rants. 🙂

[for the record, I am not schizophrenic and neither was Aunt Carol, we’re just quite vocal with our thoughts 🙂 ]

However, this segues back to Nancy, the second exception in my family of autistics that had less of a normal life than most of us.

There is a comorbid condition with autism called Scoliosis and many are unaware of that. In essence, that is a curvature of the spine, shared by Nancy, her brother Michael (also on the autistic spectrum), and myself.

Fortunately, scoliosis is a minor problem for Michael and me, but Nancy’s was far worse requiring several spine surgeries and body casts all the way into adulthood, but that’s not the worst comorbid condition that Nancy developed. Like many on the spectrum, she developed a subtype of schizophrenia which often interferes with her life.

To be fair and accurate, Nancy did become a Special Education Teacher and from what I know, was very good at it. She was unable to have children of her own due to the several back surgeries and frequent spine X-rays, but this career gave her the opportunity to be a pseudo-mom while the real mothers were at work trying to support their families.

Above I stated there were two exceptions in my family that had less than a normal life as an autistic, and maybe one could assert that there were actually three, my mother Juanita.

Like a lot of autistics, my mother had difficulty with relationships, both in marriage and just having friends in general. Her first marriage was the longest, around eight years, but her subsequent relationships lasted less than two years, including that with my father Mel, who was also on the autistic spectrum; look up “assortative mating” if you’re interested.

Prior to my birth, I only know things about my mother Juanita that were either shared by her, by my grandmother, or by my aunts. But what I do remember as observations was that my mother had maybe two friendships of short durations during my entire life. To me, that is very sad and another example of how many of us autistics are clueless in making and keeping friends.

On the flip-side, my mother dedicated the first eighteen (18) years of my life to me, taking care of an autistic child, and trying all sorts of things to help me improve and survive.

And it worked because I did survive a tumultuous childhood of illnesses and bullying, and learned how to be a strong individual based on her example.

Therefore, we autistics may have a variety of deficiencies based on a non-autistic’s point of view, but we make up for it by being resilient, innovative, creative, and honing in on a basic trait shared by most mammals, the innate instinct of survival no matter what!

My mother Juanita gave me all of those and taught me to be a strong individual with character and honesty, and those gifts are priceless.

“Happy Birthday Mom, I miss you…”

Juanita

The Way I See It: “Wizard, am I just an ordinary autistic?”

Subtitle: “Dorothy, there are no ordinary autistics, each and every one are very special in their own way.” – replied the Wizard of Oz

If you’re autistic like me, most of us look for others like ourselves to connect to and relate to, hoping to find that mystical “normalcy” of life as humans.

Each day we’re bombarded with new scientific discoveries, most of the time related to some specific new gene combo that tries to explain why we exist, just like religion does.

My theme for this post really has nothing to do with the latest revelations in science nor the latest news byte by a celebrity mom of an autistic young adult like Toni Braxton who made quite an impact a few weeks ago about her son miraculously being cured of autism and becoming a “social butterfly.”

I actually intended to write a post about her 15 minutes of sensational news because one of the articles by a reputable news source mentioned that she had Lupus, an autoimmune disease that is known to spawn autistic children.

Toni Braxton’s contention was that her teenage son is now cured of autism. He might have overcome some of the more severe aspects of autism, but an autistic is always an autistic and we simply learn how to adjust in order to either fit in or “overcome” some of the more severe aspects such as a language disorder like Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia which I did at the age of 13.

When I read that she had Lupus, an autoimmune disease, I was ready to pounce on that one to continue my posts about the relationship of autoimmune diseases as the “smoking gun” of causes to add to the flurry of ’causes du jour’ of autism.

But tonight that’s not important. What is important to me as an autistic is the magic of ‘music’ as an antidote to a crazy world where I usually feel like ‘an alien from an oval planet’.

As a somewhat ancient autistic, I’ve spent the last sixty plus years trying to navigate a foreign world.

And the one constant in my life that has helped me traverse this foreign maze is the magic of music, both the melodies and often the lyrics as well.

Many of us use other tools to cope with life such as connecting with others on Facebook to either share our stories or ask questions from others on how they handle being an alien, and I’m often one of them. And at other times we look for the stories of other autistics in order to identify and formulate a justification for our existence.

In essence, we’re looking for a reason to love ourselves as we are, a human being with what is referred to as neurodiverse brain that appears different to “normal” earthlings.

I have finally past that stage and I’ve accepted myself as anything but “ordinary”. I have learned to love myself as I am, and to be grateful to nature, genetics, my parents, and to God, if he or she exists, that I was created this way, and I do as much as possible to take advantage of my autistic gifts which are bountiful.

If you happen to read this post and you are autistic like me, I pray that you will reach that stage in life where you no longer question why you exist nor wish that your were “normal”, and relish in the thought that you were born different, anything but ordinary, and make the most of your autistic talents which often become more apparent as you grow older.

I have a gut feeling that there is more to autism than just a different brain wiring!

Subtitle: “Dorothy, go with your gut instincts!” – said the Wizard of Oz

The other day one of my very close Facebook friends who I love and respect dearly asked for my thoughts on an article that she posted on her Facebook Page from PsychCentral about co-occurring disorders with ADHD. My friend had a provocative thought related to the topic which I find very intriguing, that co-occurring disorders might be a form of societal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from systemic bullying and abuse.

My first mental reaction was to mention that I pay very little attention to psychiatric labels primarily due to the ambiguity of descriptions, and the overlapping of symptoms with a variety of those labels.

The label ADHD is one of the most controversial labels introduced into the psychiatric lexicon, and most psychologists and psychiatrists cannot agree on a definitive and concrete set of characteristics, and it may be masking a biological or neurological difference such as autism.

In fact, often an autistic child that is verbal is first diagnosed with ADHD, and if he/she is lucky, a knowledgeable professional will eventually realize that the child is on the Autism Spectrum and change course regarding therapy.

One of the main co-occurring disorders mentioned in the PsychCentral articles was Anxiety Disorder. There are various sub-classifications pertaining to that label, and the principal generic one is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That particular label was added to my Autistic Label when I was eleven years old, note after the autism diagnosis.

The main problem that I have with psychological or psychiatric labels is that most of the time the professionals that dish those out are focussing on the behavior of the individual and ignoring any environmental or biological components that might be involved in manifesting that behavior.

Consequently, I prefer to dissect the problem down to the cellular level which I did in my comments on my friend’s Facebook post but I attempted to do that at a high level assuming the reader may not be either interested nor knowledgeable in the nitty gritty. 🙂

The gamut of psychological labels pertaining to disorders and my thoughts:

There are three primary core stimuli that result in these perceived labels or disorders, 1) cellular makeup that affects both the brain and the gut, 2) brain synapses that are either not connected, misconnected or over-connected, and 3) conditioned mental responses that are programmed in the brain based on the experiences of a person over the course of their lifetime.

One could posit that PTSD is a result of the latter of the three stimuli, a learned response that is triggered based on a previous shock to the mental system.

Most neuroscientists refer to the brain as being plasticized meaning that it changes constantly as a result of a variety of causes. However, as with PTSD, a traumatic event can cause a permanent mini-software program that is difficult or impossible to reprogram.

When we talk about ADHD, what is really going on is an abnormal amount of electrical impulses being fired by neuronal cells, and often short-circuiting synapses. Think of sticking your finger into an electrical socket and that’s sort of what is going on in the brain.

Regarding mood disorders, the majority of those are a result of a predisposition caused by the core DNA genetic profile of a person. In fact, they have identified certain genes that result in some of those conditions, and the ones identified to date that are shared by those with autism are Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.

The actual cellular makeup is at the root of most psychiatric and neurological disorders, and there are two primary occurrences that affect that.

The first being the de novo mutations of cells just prior to birth, and the physical state of the mother during the gestation period.

The autoimmune system of a woman during pregnancy can go haywire, and as a result an abnormal amount of inflammation can affect a fetus.

That inflammation in turn affects the cells of the fetus, often causing abnormal responses resulting in a myriad of potential illnesses including autism.

It’s a big complicated systemic mess, and science to date has only scratched the surface in trying to figure it out. If they ever do, then epigenesis will be a viable and scary option.

When we consider “systemic bullying and abuse” upon autistics, the results of that often leads to the label of PTSD which characterizes my description of the brain being reprogrammed to adjust to that stimuli. I was a victim of that in childhood and adolescence, and I still suffer occasional PTSD episodes as a result even in my old age. As I postulated, that type of programming is very difficult if not impossible to reprogram.

To elaborate a little more, many in the psychiatric community consider ADHD a bogus diagnosis and label. I’m on the fence regarding that one because technically I fit the profile.

The real issue from both parts of the article is attempting to tie in ADHD with other psychiatric labels.

Statistically the author is correct, the majority of the time anyone diagnosed with ADHD will probably have one or more comorbid psychological disorders, and General Anxiety Disorder is somewhat universal with anyone given the ADHD label including Autism.

My impression is that the author was trying to tie those disorders together in some fashion, when in reality they may be totally discrete with varying causes.

Often the psychology professional focuses on the mental state of a patient and rarely investigates a biological or an environmental component as a root cause for a condition or disorder.

As an example in respect to autism there are many reported cases of positive changes in an autistic child once their diet has been modified via trial and error to identify certain food groups that may be affecting their digestive system.

With this example, what has really occurred is a change in the gut flora and the gut neuronal cells of that child.

The human body is probably the most sophisticated system on the planet and the most complicated simultaneously. With that said, all stimuli needs to be taken into account when attempting to either diagnose, diffuse, or alter a person’s makeup, both physically and mentally.

To wrap up this verbose post, my friend triggered a lot of thoughts on a convoluted and intertwined set of possibly related disorders, hypothesizing that ADHD may in fact be a form of PTSD induced by bullying and psychological abuse caused by society in general. I find that theory quite plausible and interesting to think about.

In fact, it just may be that humans have an innate need to bully and abuse others as a defense mechanism for their own perceived inadequacies. Some humans overtly and deliberately do it, and others may subconsciously do it without realizing it.

And maybe they all do it because they have a tummy ache, and the tummy brain is sending nasty “do this” messages to its cousin, that three pound glob between one’s ears.

If you’re still with me on this one, the next time someone tries to explain to me that 1) autism is just a different brain wiring or 2) a PsychCentral author attempts to postulate mental disorders without exploring the biological or neurological causes, you may get a really long mouthful from an old autistic. 🙂

To be continued…

Article: Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being

Article: New neurons reveal clues about an individual’s autism

Article: Co-occurring Disorders and ADHD Part One

Article: Co-occurring Disorders with ADHD Part Two

 

OMG! Paracetamol aka acetaminophen aka Tylenol in the US causes Autism!

Subtitle: Let’s all yawn together for another silly autism cause du jour…

In case you missed it over the past few days, there were about a zillion website articles citing a recent study done in Spain that Paracetamol taken by pregnant mothers can increase the likelihood of autism, mainly in boys. I found one article that basically disagrees and debunks that premise, and personally I disagree with it too; that article is attached.

Paracetamol has been around since 1877, and it is a combination of chemicals derived primarily from aniline which is a toxic compound. The word ‘toxic’ is a red flag and actually there are some people with certain conditions that should avoid taking it. However, other than those individuals, it is a reasonably safe over-the-counter medication.

What it does not do is reduce inflammation, i.e. act as anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen, a Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory medication which is also an over-the-counter available medication.

Since humans are averse to pain, we’re always looking for a “quick fix” such as a cheap tablet that is easily accessible, preferably without seeing a doctor and available at our local pharmacy, drug store, or supermarket.

Both Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are reasonably inexpensive and easy to acquire. However, I would recommend to a pregnant woman in pain to consider using Ibuprofen opposed to Paracetamol.

And the reason for that if you’ve read any of my earlier posts is that there is strong scientific evidence related to inflammation and the autoimmune system that may very well be the “smoking gun” as part of the real cause for autism.

If one accepts that premise as potentially valid, then controlling inflammation and quieting the autoimmune system might be a good strategy if one is concerned about having an autistic baby.

Personally, I’m glad my mother had an autistic baby, me, and I’m even more grateful that I do not have that infamous comorbid Intellectual Disabilty that often accompanies autism; however, I do have a serious Autoimmune Disorder related to autism.

If scientists want a real challenge to undertake, let’s stop trying to figure out the latest cause du jour of autism, and focus on the comorbid conditions that are often far worse, i.e. Intellectual Disablility and Autoimmune Disorders.

To me that makes sense but unfortunately I think logically and it appears that most scientists don’t. 🙂

To be continued…

Article: Link Between Autism and Paracetamol Dismissed by Scientists

Autism, split personalities, and feeling blessed. Is that possible?

Subtitle: “Why of course Dorothy. Anything is possible” – said the Wizard of Oz

A lot of us autistics feel like aliens from different planets, and at times I’m damn sure that I came from an ‘alien oval planet’. 🙂 In fact, when I think about all of my immediate relatives that are either autistic or slightly autitstic, that definitely makes sense to me.

I do have to confess though that I do have a split personality. I have two Facebook accounts, one for being autistic, and one for being a local resident and businessman in Mexico where I live full-time.

I do not make it a secret that I’m autistic nor am I ashamed of it. It is part of my being and essence, and I’m truly grateful that I was blessed with this neurodiversity. But I do not where a T-shirt advertising it because that’s a bit over-the-top just like Mr. Donald Trump. 🙂

If I listed all of the reasons why I feel this way, a proud autistic, this post would be a book versus a few hundred words. But I am equally proud that over the decades I have learned how to communicate and relate to others whether they are autistic or non-autistic.

This evening I received a Facebook comment on a post in my non-autistic Facebook identity from one of my neighbors.

Recently I posted my current home for sale in my neighborhood on my business Facebook Page because it is too big for one old fart and a slightly old female chihuahua. I decided to downsize to a house in my same neighborhood that is half the size.

My neighbor who saw the post was concerned that I was leaving the area, and that generated all sorts of emotions in me of a good kind.

That neighbor doesn’t know that I’m autistic. All he knows is that he has a very friendly neighbor that engages with him from time to time in chats, sometimes in English and sometimes in Spanish, and his concern demonstrated to me that I have made a small impact in his life in a good way, by trying to be a nice person and assimilate in a culture that is not my native.

At the moment I’m on ‘Cloud 9’ if you know that expression, and as an autistic it took me awhile to figure that one out since we autistics take words literally.

Lots of people think that being autistic is either a death sentence or an incredible disability that precludes an autistic from being a contributing member of society.

That is true for some, especially if they have a comorbid condition of Intellectual Disablity, formerly referred to as Mental Retardation, or being called “a retard” which I was called over and over as a child and an adolescent.

Technically one could say that our brains are malformed in various ways, and I suppose that technically it could be considered a form of brain retardation, but definitely not mental retardation; the latter implies the inability to think and process information.

However, I disagree with that premise and I strongly feel that we autistics are blessed with brains that can transcend many of the silly nuances, rituals, and protocols that non-autistics feel compelled to abide by.

The reason for that is that most autistics tend to be themselves without the knowledge, the innate ability, nor the training to “fit in” with what is artificially called “being normal”.

Over the last fifty plus years I have accomplished a lot. I managed to overcome an horrendous speech disorder called Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia, and most importantly I have learned how to get along with other humans.

Sometimes getting along with other humans requires a conscious decision not to engage in their bullshit nor fuel their need to put down other human beings; the latter appears to be a non-autistic trait that we autistics were blessed not to have. 🙂

And we autistics tend to see the good in people versus looking for faults. And if there was one autistic trait that I would put at the top of the ‘Blessed List’ that would be it.

That is my philosophy for getting along with people, assuming that they are good people until proven otherwise, and that is the reason that I am blessed with neighbors and acquaintances that could care less if I’m autistic or not.

They only know the nice old guy that engages with them in conversations, waves at them when they drive by, and projects an image of a happy person.

In summary, I’m a happy person, I’m a person that feels blessed, and that indescribable energy seems to resonate with others.

Keep that in mind.

To be continued…

Is Facebook a dangerous place to engage if you’re autistic?

Subtitle: It could be…

I really had no inspiration to write anything today because I was working on my non-virtual work related activity locally.

However, I decided to tune-in to Facebook, catch up on my FB News Feed, and the topics, posts, and stories just set me off emotionally!

First it was the pending lawsuit over the election fraud in the US pertaining to the Democratic Primary votes, and then it was various posts regarding the tragedy that occurred in Orlando, Florida. If you don’t know about that one, 50 plus individuals were gunned downed the other night in a Gay nightclub by an alleged Islamic whatever.

The latter was the most disturbing for me because it had to do with guns, secondly because it targeted a minority, and thirdly because the news media is trying to use that ‘Islamic’ card again to place the blame.

My first thought was the Sandy Hook Massacre of children by a young man, Adam Lanza, who allegedly had Asperger’s Syndrome.

If you remember that news cycle, all of us autistics were shivering in fear thinking that our neighbors, friends, and acquaintances might think that any one of us could replicate that same mayhem. And many of us autistic writers immediately got busy trying to debunk the connection of having Asperger’s or autism with violence.

Here we go again! This time it’s another news cycle using Islam or being Muslim as a reason for unfathomable violence, when in fact it probably has nothing to do with it.

When one individual decides to do such horrific carnage, there’s a lot more to the story than their religious affiliation or political viewpoints. Those aspects may play a part, but the root of their decisions to do such anti-social behavior is primarily based on their psychological instability.

There are a ton of catchy labels to attach to those types of psychological profiles including sociopath and psychopath, but labels are totally irrelevant.

What is important is how easy it is for someone that is psychologically unstable to acquire the means to perpetrate such horror.

In the US we have a cultural problem and an archaic aspect of the US Constitution called the Second Amendment. Compared to other World Cultures, the US is an infant. We basically became an official “country” in the late 1700’s, and if one studies the history of other large countries, most are much older and have had the time to mature to a logical way of operating.

Guns and ammunition are still relatively easy to acquire in the US. We have Gun Shows, Gun Stores, and even Walmart sells guns.

Part of the cultural problem is that a lot of US citizens still fear that either the US Government might become a ‘Police State’ and infringe on their rights, or they fear that some criminal might try to invade their home, steal their belongings, and even kill them. The latter I can understand and agree with, and I see no issue with a sane individual owning a handgun to protect themselves or their family.

This latest US mass killing which is marketed as one of the worst yet involved assault weapons which are capable of killing lots of people very quickly, and that’s what happened.

Today is Monday, and I guarantee you by Friday this will blow over in the news media, just like what happened with the mass killing of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

However, before this totally blows over, I wouldn’t be surprised that they claim the gunman was autistic or had Asperger’s Syndrome. That seems to be another easy excuse to use besides somebody’s religion, and there’s another murder trial going on right now where the defense is using ‘autism’ as a defense mechanism.

Will I stop getting on Facebook and avoid social media altogether to avoid being emotionally set off? No, I won’t.

But I will chime in with my thoughts on these issues even if they are not related to autism, because I am scared to death that we autistics will be used again as scapegoats for the actions of maniacs.

To be continued…

How does an autistic describe what it feels like to be autistic?

Subtitle: “A scratchy shirt collar label can cause me a meltdown.” – one of my responses

I’m always impressed when I see a major news magazine or a similar conduit to the masses speak about autism in a candid and less than ignorant fashion.

The attached article has links to videos which provide the reader/viewer with some interesting perspectives on what it’s like to be autistic.

For most of us autistics, it’s a day to day fluctuating experience. Some days almost anything can cause us anxiety or a meltdown, and on other days nothing seems to bother us.

The above is one of the reasons that putting qualifiers on autism is a bogus metric.

For the majority of us there is no “high functioning” or “low functioning” or anything in the middle. It fluctuates daily depending on lots of external stimuli, whether or not we were able to get a good night’s sleep, and whether or not there is some stressful situation in our lives that we are trying to navigate.

Normally when I read stories from other autistics or see videos like those included in the Forbes’ article attached, I can easily relate to all of them.

We now use the word “spectrum” when referring to autism, but most people use it incorrectly. That word actually refers to a cafeteria style of symptoms, and has nothing to do with a qualifying metric.

Some of us have severe Sensory Processing Disorder, and when we’re out in public, in a restaurant, or in a large store with lots of people, all of those sounds become overwhelming because our brains can’t filter the important noise from the ancillary noise. It’s probably one of the most painful experiences that we have to endure on a regular basis.

That particular aspect is quite profound with me, however sometimes I can blend in with non-autistic people and go about my business in a large store with lots of people.

But when I’m in a restaurant and that occurs, the clatter of dishes, the conversations at other tables increasing and decreasing in volume, the conversations switching between people that I’m seated with, I just can’t cope.

In fact, I normally use my addiction of cigarettes (STIM) to say, “I’m going out for a smoke…” only to get away from all of that chaos that my brain cannot process nor filter out.

One thing that I have overcome is the incessant barking of dogs in the night in my neighborhood. I live in Mexico and almost everyone has a dog as an adjunct security device.

Often in the late evening when I’m going to bed, all of the dogs in the neighborhood one by one start their evening conversation with each other, probably sharing their own personal experiences with their masters or their frustrations being kept behind gates.

That cackle of barks used to set me off, and once about five years ago I actually had a meltdown, went outside and started screaming obscenities at the dog on the other side of the concrete wall, hoping he would get the message and stop. It didn’t work, and I moved. 🙂

However, now in my current and permanent neighborhood I have a different perspective, and a method for handling that evening neighborhood conversation amongst my four legged neighbors.

Since I love dogs in general, and I have one myself, I now realize that they need to spend twenty or thirty minutes every night communicating with their friends on the other sides of walls.

I suspect that’s their method for releasing any anxiety they’ve experienced during the day, looking for a sounding board to vent to, and quite possibly their listeners and neighbors are sympathetic and attempting to console those that need consolation.

When I reached that point in my life a few years ago, being able to handle the nighttime chatter of my four legged neighbors, I felt such an exultation of success that it’s indescribable.

If I can figure out different methods for stores, restaurants, and other venues with large crowds, then maybe I could blend in a little easier and not need my escape of a smoke break. 🙂

If you’re autistic like me, I hope you find little tricks or psychological methods to help you cope just a little better and tricking your brain not to go haywire. 🙂

Forbes article: ‘Experience what it feels like to have autism

Can “make believe” help with autism?

Subtitle: It did for me…

Two of the core elements of autism, communication and social interaction, are considered deficient, missing, or outside the “norm” (whatever that means) with us autistics.

Furthermore it is often written about that we autistics live in our own “world” with our own reality. The truth is that everyone regardless of whether or not they are autistic experiences their own reality based on what they have perceived or learned over the years.

The challenge when we’re young is figuring out how to assimilate amongst our peers. It’s foreign to us even though we desperately want those connections and to fit in. But how do we learn the process to accomplish that when it’s not an innate skill that we’re born with?

That’s what this article is all about. Using drama lessons to help autistic children apply their skill of “make believe” but with a systematic script of words, actions, and feelings to learn and practice.

In 1958 when I was diagnosed autistic, that’s exactly what my mother did. She enrolled me in a local theatrical school in Los Angeles, California taking drama lessons, singing lessons, and tap dancing lessons.

The tap dancing lessons helped me to learn how to control my limbs that did not respond naturally to my brain signals. The singing lessons helped me to learn how to articulate and pronounce words more correctly along with slowing my rate of speech by systematically using the rhythm of music and the exact placement of a word within a song. And most importantly the drama lessons helped me to learn how society interprets and reacts to stimuli or messages from others, and to store those systemic patterns for further use.

By the time that I entered high school, those drama lessons gave me a set of scripts to apply in all sorts of situations with other people. It has always been a work in progress for me, and it still is today at my current age of 64.

My mother believed in “thinking out of the box” in 1958 by incorporating these methods to help her autistic child, and now the professionals are finally catching up.

Who would have thought? 🙂

To be continued…

Excerpt: “Improvisation exercises are also useful because so many autistic kids otherwise rely on “scripts” to navigate social situations.”

Article from The Atlantic: ‘Boosting Social Skills in Autistic Kids With Drama

If you’re autistic do you have a safe place?

Subtitle: I have my special place…

Recently I was catching up with Google Alert emails that send me automated links to articles about autism, and one in particular grabbed my attention.

I decided to click on the link and watch the video about a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome that described what had happened to him when his caregiver gave him a new challenge, getting from Point A to Point B by using a map.

When I read the description of the video before watching it what compelled me to watch it were the words “map reading” because that’s one of my escapes when I’m bored, consequently I was hooked.

I thought that maybe I’d learn some new way to engage in that activity and possibly some new trick to further my skill at remembering those tiny obscure places that represent locations of people, places, and things, but that didn’t happen.

What did happen was a view into his world as he sees the external world, a frightening loud mishmash of sights and sounds that causes his brain to nearly shutdown altogether.

His ability to explain his reactions resonated with me deeply and I suspect it would with lots of other autistics when we try and blend into society outside of our own homes.

We’re either told to “suck it up and deal with it” or someone attempts to teach us how to cope with these foreign realities, but most of the time that doesn’t work.

“Loss of control” coupled with “sensory overload” is a common result with many of us autistics, and in order to mitigate the heightened anxiety we use our “STIMs” and have our “safe places”.

And the reason for that is that our brains can’t be molded nor modified to filter out stimuli that is actually quite painful or scary. “We’re wired differently” as most of my tribespeople attest to and that’s a pretty good high level explanation for it.

Often in various autism related Facebook groups, someone will post a question about this asking other members how they navigate the chaos outside of our homes, probably looking for advice or comparing their methods for handling it.

I have several methods but no real advice, I only know what works for me.

I generally avoid large groups such as parties, even though I like to be invited. I have my two hands which often cover my ears when there is a loud noise. I have my anti-anxiety medication which I take as needed. I have my mostly bald head with a crew cut as a tool, and I’ve noticed that I use my left hand to rub that stubble over and over when I’m feeling anxious. I smoke unfortunately, the same as my autistic mother did, and I’m pretty sure that’s one of my STIMs as well. To help me sleep, I always have a comforter over me even in summer, and I sleep with a pillow over my head; I think the weight of those objects make me feel safe.

And finally for a safe place to hang out, I love small quiet spaces where I can feel isolated.

Fortunately I have a small patio at the rear of my house that is almost completely enclosed; I’m in that safe place right now as I’m typing my thoughts.

If you’re autistic like me, how do you cope and do you have a safe place?

The young man in the attached video does a much better job explaining it than I can.

To be continued…

From The Guardian UK: Autism: Getting Lost In London Video

Autism and diversity: what is one medium that unites all humans and some animals too?

Subtitle: It’s start with the letter ‘m’…

There’s a topic that I like to write about which starts with the letter ‘m’. This ‘m’ thing has been one of my closest friends, one of my best healers, and the number one place that I like to go when I need to either escape or find a connection.

We autistics often feel like the “third wheel” or “an alien from another planet”. I’m certain that I come from an “alien oval planet” but I suspect other autistics might feel that they come from triangular or even square planets. 🙂 In the end it doesn’t matter because we just feel different than most people who cross our paths.

However, sometimes ‘unlike beings’ can discover that either they share a certain trait or they share a common interest. And when that happens, there’s a connection between those two different entities.

Creating a connection with someone is how a friendship is started or even a romantic relationship. That bond will hopefully grow to unexplainable proportions that often lasts a lifetime.

The bond that I cultivated at a very early age was with that ‘m’ thing, and over the first decade and a half of my life the ‘m’ thing enabled me to successfully communicate verbally with humans. It was a long process that required lots of work and practice on my part, but it worked.

As an old autistic surveying the chaos in the world with humans that either don’t get along or feel that they need power over other humans, I often think that they need to meet my friend the ‘m’ thing, find some common ground or common interest, and realize that they might not be as diverse as they thought.

This last thought came to me as I was perusing the latest news-bytes in the US about the remaining Presidential candidates, Clinton, Sanders, and Trump.

On one hand it’s quite entertaining to watch either The Bernie and Hillary Show or watch the one-man show, The Donald Show.

Each is trying to differentiate themselves from the other and win favor with the American people in order to be the next US President; unfortunately only one will achieve that honor and the losers will have to find something else to do.

And probably the saddest part of this that I’ve noticed is how the voters get so fired up against one another depending on who they like that they forget they all share the same species and country.

Not all autistics get along either but normally we find some common ground or motive to rally around to unite us. Most of my autistic friends deplore Autism Speaks so that is our thread to unite us, i.e. Light It Up Gold and NOT Light It Up Blue. 🙂

My friend the ‘m’ thing has some unique powers in my view that could help with almost any chaos or disagreement by transcending language, country, or political party with sounds to evoke emotions, and most of the time the ‘m’ thing creates a unifying result amongst diverse humans that is indescribable with words.

If you have your doubts or you don’t believe me, watch the attached video and formulate your own thoughts.

This is my ‘m’ friend at his or her best.

To be continued…