Saturday, June 30, 2012

Open question for Aspies, and employers

As an Aspie, is it a good idea to mention that you have Asperger's during a job interview?  

The cons, of course, are obvious, especially in this job market.  The pros, though, are that if you don't, and you end up in a situation that pushes your Aspie buttons, how can you get out of it?  

What, WHAT is the best thing to do?  Anyone who employs people, what is your advice?

I admit here and I now that I just don't know.  I don't have a clue.  And as it is a rather pertinent issue, well, please discuss and comment and elucidate!  If commenting here gives you fits (I HATE captchas), please comment on FB or Google+.

And maybe we will, working together, find the answer.  



Monday, June 25, 2012

Autism and bogus science

OK, one of the things that most annoys me in this world is crappy science that is then used to scare people or deliberately mislead them. Intelligent design is bogus.  You do not have thyroid problems because of a lack of iodine in your diet unless you live in a third world country.  Anthropogenic global warming is not  happening.

And MMR does NOT cause autism.

I have been seeing 'don't give your child vaccines because it can cause autism' crap on FB again, and frankly, this is the sort of things that pushes my very personal and unique Aspie buttons and leaves me just enraged.  I despise, hate, abhor bad science.  Thank you, Jenny McCarthy.  And to my friends who posted this and may believe it, well, I do the research and call it as I see it.

Let's all take a step back from panic land for a second and look at the root causes of Autism.  I wrote this post about the genetic cause of Autism last year.  A quick search on the same topic showed this fascinating news from April of this year about the discovery of a gene mutation that seems to cause autism.  I'll reiterate and reemphasize:  You are BORN with this.  It CAN'T be cured.  It is NOT a chemical imbalance.  Moms and dads, you are NOT RESPONSIBLE for your kid having autism.

It is true that there seem to be some environmental factors to autism, but none of them are the ones we hear about.  This article, while being honest enough to say that environmental triggers weren't specifically studied, nonetheless mentions some of the ones that have long been understood.  The age of the parent--older parents do have a higher tendency to have autistic children.  Multiple births, low birth weight, any medications the mother takes while pregnant.  In other words, all environmental factors that happen while the child is in embryo.  Not vaccines.

Yes, some kids have bad reactions to some vaccines (though the vast, vast majority don't).  We've heard the horror stories.  It's awful, it is sad, but it isn't why your child is autistic.  And for those who say that their child was fine until after his vaccines when he was two or three?  Well, please note this list of child development benchmarks for age 2.  You'll notice that the areas that are affected by Autism don't even become apparent until the child is at least that age.  Before then, you would never notice.

Don't believe me yet?  Try this 2011 article.  Or this.

But more importantly, think about it logically.  We see that autism is a genetic disorder.  Ergo, it isn't chemical in nature.  Ergo again, nothing you do can change that.  And in fact MMR DID cause autism, wouldn't pretty much every child in the civilized world have it?

To conclude this vehement, link filled, and perhaps a bit disjointed post, I just want to warn parents to actually look at the good science underneath the shock science.  To know that the studies you see sprawled over the newspapers and the main stream media are almost never accurate, and are cherry picked to scare (and, shock, bring in viewers, readers, thus money).  More importantly, this sort of things feeds on the basic nature of a caring, nurturing mother plagued with guilt because they think they might have done something to cause their child to be autistic.  And to take advantage of the emotional state of truly wonderful mothers--I have an aunt with an autistic child who is a perfect example of this--really, truly bugs me.  It isn't fair to make these parents feel worse because you might sell one more book or get one more big advertiser for the 5:00 news slot.

Again, parents, you are NOT to blame.  And God bless all parents of Autistic kids and special needs kids in general for the great and good work that you do.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Upcoming topics

I am writing a quick coming attractions post not only to let you marvelous people know what is coming in the next week or so, but also so you can all hold me accountable for actually doing the research and writing.  :)

  • MMR does NOT cause autism.  Period.  Full stop.  The end.
  • Shoddy science and political/financial gain when it comes to autism
  • How to talk about Asperger's to others. Without being, well, too much an Aspie.
This is all I can think of for now, but as always, put topic suggestions in the comments below.  Or, since the captcha thing is a pain in the butt, comment on my FB wall.  If you aren't FB friends with me, why not?  Add me now. 


Success! And that emergency room trip...

Well, my days with old college friends I was looking forward to with excitement and trepidation?

It was a rousing, complete, really really fun success.  Not only was it great to talk to them, but I managed to restrain myself when my Aspie brain was screaming at me.  A couple of times it was tricky, but I managed to keep what was in my brain, in my brain, and though each time it took me a bit to calm down, I was able to do so with time by myself before I entered a new situation.  I can say that if you can avoid driving through the Caldecott tunnel during Rush hour when you are very upset, I'd suggest it.

I had really lovely time being around the Berkeley Campus again, joining my friend's running group in a good solid workout, eating at La Burrita, seeing the Campanile, getting hot chocolate at Cafe Strada.  It reminded me just how much I love UC Berkeley.  The campus still speaks to me and reaches out and touches my soul.

I also enjoyed having wonderful discussions about interesting topics that engaged me, interested me, and taught me.  It was so wonderfully intellectually stimulating!  I didn't realize how much I'd thirsted for just that sort of exchange of thoughts and ideas--it brought back those heady college days with the same college friends.  We just slipped back into the same pattern (and we all look exactly the same way we did 14 years ago, which amuses me).  I have to admit that at dinner one night I just got caught up, my biggest fear was that in getting so excited and happy and exuberant I might have come across too strong, as I was so involved I forgot to do my normal self-monitoring during the conversation.  All I can do is hope it went well.

It was also lovely seeing my cousins and their truly amazing two and a half year old son.  One of the highlights of the weekend was playing with the (smart, creative, imaginative, wonderful) toddler for over an hour and trying to interpret his toddlerese while mom cooked dinner.  It was good to be an auntie.

I also learned that with direction, guidance, and someone who knows how to lead, I can actually fake my way through dancing pretty well!  I danced two nights and truly had a blast.  It makes me want to find places to dance in my hometown now.  This is a big turning point for me, even five years ago going to a dancing lesson then dancing, especially with strangers, wouldn't have been possible because I was too self conscious.  I think a lot of my self-consciousness in my 20s came from my lack of social skills from being an Aspie, and now that I have worked hard to gain those skills by rote, I am much less  scared to put myself out there.  I've learned that it's OK if I am not good at dancing or don't know the steps, that people honestly are nice and are willing to teach and forgive mistakes, and that a smile and a laugh makes it fun even if I tread on a toe or so.  I'm so glad I got past the anti-dancing block in my head because it gives me one more thing to enjoy in life.  And my friend was indeed an excellent teacher.

I also only finished half of my race before being rushed to the emergency room because I couldn't breathe, but I am not thinking about that part.  It's the only mark on the weekend, and though it frustrates and upsets me, I am determined to simply move on, try again, and think of the good instead of the bad.

I'm tired, my lungs are still weak, and my legs are sore, but I have days of good memories stored up. Did I have to fight the Aspie monster?  Well, yeah, I always do.  But this time, I won.

Life.  For all the bad moments, you get the days like this, and it makes it all worth while.

God is good,


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

EA taking a break, and yes, her Aspie brain is a biiiiit worried

Well, everyone, now that I have gotten better at writing blog posts, and I am SURE you all hang on my every word...I am here to tell you that I am going to be gone for a few days.  I am, in fact, going to spend a few days on the East Bay visiting with friends that I haven't seen since I graduated from Berkeley.  In 1998.  14 years later, it is time for a reunion.

Of course, these are people I knew and were friends with back in 1998.  When I was pretty much at my worst Aspie self.  We three lived in Westminster house at UC Berkeley, and I wince, just WINCE, at my memories of how I acted during that time.    Sure, I could blame it on being an Aspie and not knowing it, but see my previous post for reasons I can't give myself such an easy out.

So I hope and pray and thank God that grudges won't have been held over 14 years.  And I thank God that these are people who KNOW I am an Aspie and will be forgiving.  And I am sweating, hoping and praying, that I don't make a mistake.  Please, oh please, let me remember everything I have learned about how to function in society and know what to say and have practiced and rehearsed so I can have fun and NOT be an idiot, upset or annoy people, act stupid, say the wrong thing, etc.  Please.

And this SHOULD be a great, great time.  Unfortunately, for the Aspie great times that include people are fraught.  So I will pray, and I will be honest, and I will enjoy myself.  And if it tires me out, it is part of the price I must always pay to be a normal, socializing person.  You know what?  It's worth it.  It really is.

See you next week, mes amis!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Erudite Aspie on the Hunt...

...for a job that is.

Being unemployed is distressful for anyone, but at least most of us could take a job that an Aspie would have a very hard time enduring.

Yes, I said enduring.

We all have a bad day at work now and then, maybe a bad week. And we all have coworkers that we might not get along with very well, or even dislike intensely.  But difference between we neurotypicals and our Aspie colleagues, is that we can recognize that the occasional bad day (okay, okay, or month) at work is just that--a bad day that is probably entirely out of our control.  And when someone is out to get us, we usually recognize it.

Aspies, not so much.  High or low, Aspies have a very hard time when things are not under their control.  When a coworker acts in what I consider an irrational way, well, I can shrug my shoulders and go about my business. Erudite Aspie cannot, at least not easily.  She used to ask me "Why don't they see that they are doing it all wrong?  If they would just listen to me they would do it right!"  Even though she now knows better than to ask the question, she still can't help but feel that way.

And nobody likes some extremely bright know-it-all telling them what to do, even if they are right.

Add to that the difficulty Aspies have recognizing when someone is out to get them, and you can see how many job situations are untenable for even high functioning Aspies. EA's last job was within her ability to cope right up until they put her in situations that she could not handle (or understand once she finally recognized it for what it was): a vindictive supervisor who used physical and emotional intimidation tactics, too much time on a public desk where she was subject to abuse by the patrons, and absolutely no support from management in general.  The last two years of her employment there were brutal, and I was so glad to see her shake the dust from there.

But the reality is that she needs a job, she wants a job, but she's getting very frightened about ever having a good one again, not only because of the horrible job market, and not only because her skill set is fairly limited (she's a librarian.  'nuff said), and not only because her last job was so horrific that she's actually afraid of getting into that sort of situation again, and not only because she's and Aspie, but...

...oh, is all of those things.  Sorry, my mistake.

What she needs is a job that plays on her strengths de-emphasizes her weaknesses. Yeah, everyone needs that, but it's much harder for people on the Spectrum.  What does she need?  Little face or voice contact with unknown people is very important.  She's extremely intelligent, so even if she doesn't know much at the outset, she will before long because she learns quickly and delightedly. She reads fast and comprehends much.  She knows her way around the Internet, and she writes very well, so written communication--unlike spoken--is easy for her. She is extremely organized and can find the easiest, most efficient way to do a job with great glee.  She would like to be respected for what she can do, which actually is a lot, and would love to have a job where her intelligence was admired rather than envied.  And if she could do it at home, score.

Not a lot to ask, except in this job market, where it is.  I hate to see her like this because it 's so very frustrating for her and there's nothing I can do to help her.  To parents of Aspie kids, beware of this.  If she'd known 20 or 30 years ago that there are just some things she will have a hard time doing, she could have made career choices that were a better match.  But but we didn't know, and she didn't.

And here we are.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The reason, but NEVER the excuse

OK, time to tackle a hard topic.

I am friends on FB and in real life with a fair number of people who either are somewhere on the Autism Spectrum or are parenting someone on the Autism Spectrum, everything from classic Autism to people like me, who seem fine on the surface unless you know what is in the brain.  I see many such posts about how we have to understand and be more accepting of bad behavior from Autistic kids because they don't have control over it, and we need to understand the differences between a bratty kid temper tantrum and an Autistic meltdown. And to some extent, this is true.

But, and here is where people might disagree with me, HAVING AUTISM IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO BE A BRAT.

Whew.  I said it.

The thing is, if you are anywhere on the Autistic Spectrum you DO have meltdowns.  These are totally understandable to someone who knows the etiology of Autism.  And yes, as a society who cares about our children struggling with a true mental disability or at least a challenge, we need to be understanding.  And if you are a parent who has a child in the middle of the meltdown, it is absolutely essential to figure out then practice what buttons you can press to calm them down, or avoid triggering an attack all together if you can prevent it.  If you are a friend of someone on the Spectrum who is having a meltdown, you should certainly be calm and understanding and help them out.  Because we are not doing this on purpose.

BUT.  If your child is screaming in the middle of the grocery store because he is having a meltdown, it is NOT OK for him to be doing this  You need to take him away and calm down.  If your child gets everything they want because they have a meltdown when they don't get their way, this is NOT OK.  They will get spoiled.  And if they behave badly in every social situation this is NOT OK.  You need to either remove them from the situations, or train them to handle them, or both.  If you treat your friends badly and alienate them continually, even though they try to be understanding and helpful, you don't deserve to have those friends.

You see, being an Aspie is hard.  It is hard for me to hold conversations with people (though it is much better than it used to be).  It is hard for me to keep my mouth shut and be politic and not hurt people's feelings.  It is hard for me to pay attention to any given conversation to make sure I say enough to be interested, not so much I dominate the conversation, to try and know if people are interested though I can't read body language to save my immortal soul.  It is hard to not fidget so much.  It is hard for me to be on the phone.  It is hard for me to let go of upset or frustration or worry so I can move on with life.  It is hard for me to not dissect every conversation I have with people for hours after it happened worried that I made  a mistake somewhere along the line.

But society, manners, culture, the mores of good behavior dictate that I do these things.  And while understanding of others is nice, the plain fact of the matter is that the burden of learning to deal with society and maintain friendships and have good behavior lies on me.  Not society.  I can hope society may  forgive me my slip ups, and I certainly hope I can learn to forgive myself for making mistakes.  I can understand it is hard for me, and avoid situations I know I can't handle. I can work hard to gain the tools needed to function in society in such a way that people don't know I am an Aspie.  And through sheer determination, a stubborn mother, and the grace of God, I have managed to do these things.  Mostly.

But at the end of the day my Asperger's is a reason these things are hard for me.  It is the reason I end up exhausted after every social day,  even when I have had a good time.  It's the reason I am so often frustrated.  But if I treat someone badly, if I commit an egregious social faux pas, if I have a meltdown and cause a scene rather then leaving until I can calm down, that is on me.  Society doesn't have to conform to me.  I have to conform to them.

Because Asperger's may be the reason, but it is never, never the excuse.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My love/hate relationship with the family reunion

Let's start this post off by doing something I've never done before, and add a picture!  This is the Oates section of the family, being the daughters, grandchildren, adopted grandchildren, future husband, significant other, and best friend in the whole world.  We consider the term 'family' loose, broad, and having almost nothing to do with, you know, actual blood relations.

So.  Our family reunion happens every Memorial Day at King City, CA, and we just finished celebrating it for the 26th time.  I have never missed a reunion.  It was started by my Grammy and Grandaddy and started quite small, but grew until we now have an average of 100 people that come at least a day, if not the whole weekend.  It starts slow on Friday night, kicks into gear Saturday, and the full blown celebration happens Sunday.  Monday is cleaning, packing, and saying goodbye for another year.  Food and beverages of all kinds (especially alcoholic kinds!) are in abundance, you can always find a deck of cards, there is park to wander through and a river to play in, and a group of guys even plays golf on Sunday afternoon.  It is, in short, a fun family filled weekend.  Because of the reunion I know my cousins--and my second and third cousins and all of the removed cousins as well.  I've met my family from Germany, and all across the US.  A one point I believe we had 6 generations represented, until my uncle died in his 90s as the last of his generation.  We talk, we eat, we  play, we have fun.  It is a good time.  I happen to love the vast majority of my relatives so seeing them at least once a year is a treat.  My sister of the heart and my best friend comes, and I just love being with them for a few days that spread out before us with nothing to do but together.  And relax.  And eat waaaaaay too much.

The highlight is Sunday night when we have a huge and yummy BBQ dinner and have the Milestone cake.  Birthdays, pregnancies, marriages, graduations, and if you hit a home run for the first time ever or got a gold star for perfect attendance in your Kindergarten class, we celebrate them all with enthusiasm.  And we mourn and honor those in our family who shook off that mortal coil in the previous year. It's a good, fun, uniting time.  

That's the LOVE.  

But there are things I hate about the reunion too.  First, there are just TOO Many people, which is funny because it is also one of the best things.  I can sometimes handle it because I have been to the reunion enough that my brain knows exactly what is going to be said to me and what I have to say in return.  It's a if this person says A, then I say A, B, C type of thing.  I may appear comfortable and verbal and calm and outgoing, but in reality my brain has simply processed the rhythm of the reunion so I fake it pretty well. Also, as I said, I genuinely LIKE my family.  But with so many people I sometimes feel hemmed in overwhelmed, and needing to escape.  For example, this year I spent some time with just a couple of people at the tent because I had to get away.  I'm used to it, and I can fake it, but DANG it exhausts me.  Just wipes me out.

Second, one of the ways in which my Aspie manifests itself is that I  just have a hard time letting things go. If I make a mistake or if something wrong happens, I get eaten with worry--not so much guilt, but worry--about it all weekend.  If someone says something that hurts me, I have a hard time relaxing around them.  If I am upset by someone, I have a hard time just ignoring it and letting it go.  I won't go into particulars as to the why in order to preserve someone else's anonymity, but this year I had a mini breakdown Sunday morning because I was just so very worried and angry about a situation it took over my brain the whole time. Thus, the reunion becomes for me an emotional roller coaster at times that shakes me up and doesn't stop.  

So. to sum up, though I love it every year and look forward to Friday night, by the time Monday comes I am glad it is over.  

No matter what, though I LOVE my family, I love my reunion, and no matter what you will see me there year after year.  It's just what we do.