Monday, August 22, 2011

Socialization, preschool, and my Aspie brain

Happy Monday morning, everyone!

I was inspired to write this post based on my observations of the four year old son of my best friend.  Her son, let's call him David, is one of those kids who is truly amazing.  He's smart, sneaky, adventurous, generally well behaved, kind, and most of all, really, REALLY social.  I had the pleasure of camping for several days last week with David and his mom, my best friend whom we shall call Lynn, and I observed things about David and to some extent Lynn that truly baffled my poor Aspie brain.

The clearest example is when we went to a particular beach, and David felt no problem at all walking up to a girl his age, asking to play, sitting down, and playing.  Lynn had no problem talking to the girl's parents, and they sat there on the beach, total strangers, talking for over an hour (time I spent swimming in the lake, not wanting to deal with all of that pesky, difficult, social contact with strangers, despite how wonderfully nice they were).  I later asked Lynn about this--can you really just randomly talk to people? Play with strangers?  Doesn't this seem odd to you?  Does David do it?

Oh yes, Lynn said, I love talking to people.  And so does David.  He's very social, and loves being with people. And I love meeting new friends that way.  It's fun!

I simply goggled.  Even though I have to believe what I saw with my own eyes, my Aspie brain simply could not compute.  To me, the idea of randomly talking to strangers is, well, scary.  I sometimes do find myself getting into conversations with strangers in odd places, especially when waiting in line, and each time it happens I am left confused.  Many years ago, I even had someone in the next stall in the bathroom at a grocery store ask me for advice about whether she should keep her long distance boyfriend, or dump him. I sort of listened, but couldn't understand why she was talking to a total stranger about personal things (in  the bathroom no less, this was an overall strange situation).  I like to think I am warm and friendly, and I will answer questions if asked to some extent (do you like this beer?  Yes, it is great, and so is this one), but to sit down and have an hour long conversation with strangers?  Way, way out of my realm.  But not out of their realm, which made me realize that for all that I love them. and they love me, we are really different from each other.

The next thing that hit me is when we went to the Parent's night for the preschool David was about to start attending.  I  heard about sharing, about circles, about learning friendship, about playing, etc.  I saw the kids all immediately go out to the playground and start playing together (with supervision, of course!).  I saw David gabbing away with his best friend, and talking to the kids he'd never met.  I read the overview of the preschool and saw that talking to each other and socialization was a huge part of their curriculum.

And I saw that David LOVED it, that he was looking forward to it, and that he thrived in this environment.  I saw that he didn't need preschool for educational purposes, as his parents do an amazing job with that at home, but that he needed preschool because he needed, and wanted, the socialization.

Until this point, I had always sort of looked down on preschool, thinking that if it was feasible in terms of having a stay at home parent, it was better to teach the kid those things at home.  What I had failed to realize is that I was imposing my innate, ingrained fear of socialization onto everyone.  Why?  Because until I was diagnosed with having Autism Spectrum Disorder last year, I didn't really understand or believed that people actually liked to socialize and make friends with strangers and be with people all the time.  In fact, I still don't get it, and it still baffles me, but I have learned to accept that I have the unusual brain, and not everyone is like me.

At the same time, I am everlastingly grateful I was not in preschool, and in fact didn't go to public school at all until 3d grade.  I wish now, and read the Erudite Mom's post on the subject for more details, that I had been home schooled further.

The moral of the story is--preschool can be a very good thing for kids like David.  And it is a very, very bad thing for kids like me.  If I ever have kids, I will be sure to remember this lesson.

God bless you all,

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Erudite Aspie will return shortly...

Hello everyone...

I've been on a nice relaxing vacation, camping and spending time with family and friends, for the last little while. Accordingly, this time I have an excuse for not posting anything recently instead of forgetfulness which is usually the case.

Next up when I get back to real life...a discussion about pre school, socialization as a kid, why I am proud of my Godson, and why I drove my mom crazy When I was a kid. If you have any comments, experiences, or opinions on this matter please post them below and I will work them in!

Dios te bendiga,


Friday, August 5, 2011

Getting diagnosed with ASD as an adult, part 2

I was inspired to write this post because more than one person has read this blog and has asked me questions about whether they, or someone they know, could possible have Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I always tell them, and I will state it here, that I have no official education or training this in whatsoever at all and I am NOT an expert and can't give a diagnosis.  That said, being on the Spectrum myself and knowing the research and the process I had to go through to get diagnosed does give me some insight.  What I normally do is ask a few questions, and depending on how they answer, I can usually say "I'd bet you do, but don't take my word for it, do research and try to find someone qualified in adult ASD to get you a diagnosis, and make sure you ask these questions and beware if they try to label you with this."  Accordingly, for all my friends seeking to find answers, here is a bit of information that might help.

First, if you are an adult and weren't diagnosed as a child, you will find it VERY difficult.  As a child you have resources in schools, in public health, etc--if you are anywhere on the autism spectrum, they will catch you.  But if you are an adult, especially if you are a smart adult who functions very well in life, you easily slip through the cracks.

This article pinpoints the problems with getting diagnosed as an adult pretty well:

 "Adults with ASDs are more likely to be recognized and supported if they also have severe intellectual disability; those with higher levels of functioning tend to be overlooked in the community."
Well, exactly.

You also find interesting bits of information like this.  The curious part is that men have a higher occurrence of ASD then women.  This strikes me as interesting, and in another post I will research it more thoroughly and confirm or disprove this article.

The best advice I have seen for an adult who thinks they might be on the Spectrum is here, and frankly, I'd rather find a more authoritative source, but I haven't found it yet.

Most importantly, it is good to have knowledge and information on your side, to look at blogs and other sites that have discussions with people on the Spectrum (Rethinking Autism is a good place to start), and to really have your ducks in a row before you approach a professional.  I was diagnosed incorrectly with Bipolar disorder several times before they got it right.  The clue?  If they have to work really hard to make you 'fit' with the DSM standards for having Bipolar disorder, you probably aren't Bipolar.  First I was Bipolar II, then I was Cyclothymic, then I had Bipoloar Spectrum disorder, and on and on it went.  I finally sat down with my Psychiatrist and told him as odd as it is for me to tell you my diagnosis is wrong as you are the professional and I am not, I have done my research and I am very self aware, and I am NOT Bipolar.  I have Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I then used the DSM other materials to lay out all the reasons I wasn't bipolar, and all the reasons I did have ASD.

He looked at me for a minute without speaking, then said, you are absolutely right.  You have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It was a proud moment.

Good luck to all who are still seeking to find the truth!

God Bless,