Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ten Positive Traits People with Autism Have

Everyone talks about the problems people with autism have--social awkwardness, literalism, various sensitivities, etc.--but few talk about the various strengths people with autism have. Fortunately, there is now a list of the Top 10 positive traits.

We need to talk more about these positive aspects.  Yes, we have a terrible short term memory, but we have exceptional long term memories. We tend to think in sounds and images and patterns, have enhanced motion sense, and are highly imaginative. We are detail-oriented, we are extremely creative, reliable, loyal, and comfortable with repetitive tasks. We tend to be less deceptive (likely due to our literalism and strong moral sense) and non-judgmental.

Note that many of these things are traits businesses say they are seeking in a good employee.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Troy and Daniel's Trip to See BALLOONACY at DCT

 The Dallas Children's Theater did this animation based on this post. They will be doing Balloonacy again this year, and I encourage everyone to do see it. Whether your children (or you) have autism or not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Suppose You Thought Like Me

I want you to imagine that you are a person for which the following traits are always true.

Suppose that you are brutally honest and truthful at all times. And that you think being truthful and honest at all times is helpful.

You call things as you see them. This likely stems from your strong tendency to take things literally, at face value. This means you tend to be nonjudgmental and unbiased. (Note: being nonjudgmental is not the same thing as either amorality or giving allowance to immorality, though we may certainly disagree about what is or is not immoral.) That and your honesty ensures you present things exactly as they are, as you understand them, and do not ignore inconvenient facts.

Suppose too that you are conscientious, committed to your work, punctual, reliable, and loyal. Always.

Suppose that when you express an opinion it's because you've done a great deal of research and you have thought through the patterns and complexities and the varies alternatives and, only after a long period of contemplation, come up with an understanding, a solution, or an insight.

Suppose you're persistent and focused. Suppose, too, that you're a highly creative thinker and are not at all prone to groupthink or following behaviors. Suppose you can rapidly recognize patterns and can engage in imagistic thinking.

Now suppose you think everyone thinks like you, perceives the world like you, behaves like you.

Or should.

What would you think of everyone else? What would everyone else think of your behaviors and the way you treat them?

If you can do that, if you can imagine these things--and imagine what it's like to experience someone like you (if you are neurotypical) when the world is experienced this way--you can understand why we with autism act as we do. And why you mistakenly think we lack things like empathy or theory of mind. 

We don't.

We just think you think (or ought to think) like us.

And you think we think (or ought to think) like you.

But we can't.

And you can't.

We're literally of different minds.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Day at Work with Asperger's

I think it is important that neurotypical people understand how we on the spectrum experience the world. Today is a good example of exactly that.

I'm a substitute teacher and today I went to a high school I often sub at. When I arrived, they did not give me the class for which I signed up, but had me help in the counselor's office.

For most people, I suppose, being reassigned when you show up isn't a big deal. But it is for me. When I saw the fact that I was assigned something other than that which I had chosen, I felt a wave of dread and anxiety. I cannot stand for my expectations not to be met and I do not like things being changed at the last minute. If you want to put me in a bad mood and make me uncommunicative, that's a great way to do it.

What was worse was that I had to deliver documents to students. That meant going to different classes and having to interact with different teachers. The first thing I did was put the documents in order of room number because the randomness of the order drove me crazy. Then I went from the third floor down to each floor. There were three sets of documents, so I had to visit several class rooms more than once.

I don't like doing this sort of thing because for one I don't like interrupting people teaching. And if the door is open, I don't really know the proper way to announce myself, so I just stand there until someone notices me.

In once classroom a teacher got mad at me because, like I had done in ever other classroom, I announced the student's name for him to get his document. She informed me that I was to hand the document to her and she was to call the student's name. I told her I was sorry, but nobody had told me I was supposed to do that.

What I really, really, really wanted to say was, "I have a Ph.D. and I have a higher I.Q. than anyone working here and I have to do this ridiculous job because of people like you, so get off my back!"

But I'm pretty sure that would have come across as uncooperative and arrogant.

Instead, I just did as she told me from thereon out. Even though she was the only one to object. Because a confrontation like that--especially one where, because of the social situation I'm in, I cannot actually respond--freaks me out, causes me anxiety, and causes me to go over and over and over the situation that just happened.

The last class period I was put in the In-School Suspension room. There were only four students. When the school day ended, maybe a minute before the bell rang, the students came up and asked me if they could leave. The clock said it was 4:15. I told them they could go. When I left, a vice principal came up to me and asked if the students had left with my permission. I told him yes. He told me I had to keep students from bell to bell. Then he looked at me and said, "Excuse me, do you have a problem with what I just told you?"

I don't know what look I gave him, but I decided not to try to figure it out. So I told him, "I'm sorry. I have Asperger's. Whatever look I gave you..."

He shook my hand and sent me on my way. In my head, I thought that apparently my face doesn't always reflect the content of my mind and heart. He was the first to point it out. I have to wonder how many just went with their interpretation and didn't confront me and just went away thinking I have a bad attitude. I have to wonder how often a mistaken look has cost me something.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Language of Theory of Mind

Today while watching one of his favorite cartoons, Daniel says to me, "He's afraid he's going to get in trouble, but he knows it wasn't him who did it."

I'm not sure one could possibly have a better statement of theory of mind: "he knows it wasn't him."

For those who think people with autism do not have Theory of Mind, I present that as Exhibit A. After all, it requires ToM to understand that a person/character both knows that someone else thinks he did something, and that he knows he didn't do what the other thinks he did.

The cartoon in question is slapstick with no language use at all. And yet, Daniel managed to figure out who knew what about whom, including the necessary recursiveness of knowing what he himself had or had not done.