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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Lightbulb

I've talked on here about Logan before. We know he's on the autism spectrum somewhere, we just don't know where. The more we learned about that world, the more we came to realize that our oldest probably has mild Aspberger's as well. Not bad enough to really need to *do* anything about it. Just enough that it puts a reason behind some of his quirkiness. (Like the fact that he has no idea how to hold a proper conversation, and will talk at you about something for hours, until you force him to stop.)

In order to help understand my boys better, and also just out of curiosity, I read the book "Look Me in the Eye" by John Robison. (It's a great read, and I highly recommend it for everyone.) However reading it, and about some of his experiences, thoughts and feelings, I found myself going "huh."

I then watched a video of him speaking, because in the book he talks about people with Aspberger's tending to have a certain rhythm to their speech, and again I thought "huh."

THEN, I started doing a lot of reading about adults with Aspberger's. About how they prefer to interact with people online, they have trouble making friends, they prefer to work alone, and that they tend to miss social cues. Another "huh."

Eventually, after some more research, I found the test a lot of doctors use to diagnose Aspberger's and Autism in adults. For the test, anything above a score of 32 is generally considered Aspberger's. I scored a 38.

I know that I don't have it "bad". I'm able to mask things pretty well when I have to. Then again, I've had lots of practice. Knowing this about myself isn't about having an excuse, it's more about finally finding out that I'm not just defective. There is a reason behind the struggles I have socially.

I do prefer online to real life. I get very nervous before things where there will be lots of people, like a party. I have a hard time making friends. Amongst the friends I do have, it is well known that I am *not* a hugger. I really don't like to be touched. It was a game in my family growing up, my mom and sister would catch me and squish me on the couch to make me have physical contact with them. There is also a whole gamut of sensory issues I have, (like loud noises, food textures, etc.) which I won't get into here.

One thing I've known about myself for a long time, is that I don't like looking people in the eye. It feels very overwhelming to me. When I have a conversation with someone, I have to physically and consciously make myself look them in the eye periodically, because I know that's what is "normal". I also have to work really hard to have a normal conversation. If I don't watch it, I tend to talk and talk and not listen to what the other person is saying. Another thing I have to consciously *make* myself do during conversation. Stop my own thoughts and focus on what the other person is talking about. At the risk of looking like an @ss, I'll admit it's like my brain doesn't care what the other person has to say. I have to force myself to care. It's not that I don't care about that person though, it's not that at all. I just have to work harder at making my brain see the value of what the other person is saying.

I also remember growing up, and even in my adult life, I have been labeled as "rude" when I ignore people. It was something so prevalent in my life, that I started telling people I met that if they pass me on the street or whatever, and wave, and I don't respond, it's because I really don't see them. When I am busy doing something, or thinking about something, I really. Don't. See them. It's not that I don't value that person, or don't want to talk to them, it's just like that part of my brain that notices people is shut off. So I tell people, if it happens, to get in my face, or touch my arm or something, to snap me out of it. I can be scary focused when I want to. Example-I was taking bird photos earlier. I can sit there with a camera for hours to get a shot I want, and it doesn't bother me at all.

There's times when I say something, that to me seems logical or funny, it causes silence in the room. There is that dreaded awkward pause, and I *never* know why. I can tell I've said something weird or not right, but I never can figure out what it is.

None of this really changes anything. I'm still me. It just is a comfort to me to find out after all these years, that things I have had trouble with my whole life aren't my fault. It's validation that I wasn't being this way on purpose. It's not that I am defective. It's just Aspberger's. And that makes my life make a heck of a lot more sense.


Anonymous said...

Oh my. 42 here, and it had never even crossed my mind that there was anything in play other than what I have self-described as a defective personality. Now I will study some. Part of me wants to say thank you, and part of me isn't so sure. But who would better understand that than you?

Jim said...

I got 38, too. But I may get a different score on a different day, depending on how I feel, I think.

Taking away the fact that there's talk of removing Aspberger's as a distinct diagnosis in the next revision of the DSM and just putting it back into the autism spectrum, here's the thing that bugs me about all this and many related modern day syndromes - at the end of the day such a diagnosis better be used as a tool, not an excuse. What I mean is that if this were 100 years ago, we'd just be considered self-centered jerks, and would have had to learn to live around others (or not).

My fear is that many adults (I'm not saying you, or me) will look at such a thing as an excuse. Coupled with the joke that every online diagnosis tool ends up with us thinking we have the disease at hand. It's an interesting exercise, yes, but it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about myself, after years of introspection and various professional development tools and measures I've taken over the years.

So, I guess the real question is - "Is there anything you're going to DO about it?" If not, was it useful for any reason other than self-justification? If so, what?

Meghann said...

Dad-I think for me, personally, it's like a weight has just been lifted. It doesn't change how I'll have to continue to work on my social skills, but it does give me something tangible to tell people. Like in the paragraph where I talked about zoning out and not noticing people. I'll still warn friends that I do that, but if I have this label to go with it, I think maybe people will be more understanding? It seems in today's society, people are hard on someone who is "weird", but if you give them a diagnosis, then they show some compassion.

Example-a guy the hubby works with is talked about at parties a lot, how "weird" he is. The hubby is guilty of it as well. But after hearing about the guy, I brought up that he may be autistic or aspberger's. Then the hubby felt bad for making fun of the guy at all, and I think the others he works with would react the same way.

And then there's the whole thing where if I ever decided to get help overcoming anything by a professional, having a label makes it easier to get that help approved by our insurance. . .

Morgann said...

I think a lot of it has to do with how we were raised, as well. I mean, the hugging thing was done solely for the purpose of seeing you squirm, and if that doesn't scream "socially defunct" I don't know what does. XD;; I myself am just as uncomfortable with hugs--ask Dad about my "man hugs"--and about the eye contact thing. In fact, I had to be coached in therapy to actually look at someone when they talked--and discovered a great trick. You can mimic eye contact and attention by staring at a part of someone's face other than their eyes. For example, I stared at a chick's earring while I talked to her and she thought I was looking at her. So yay for tricks!

There can be a lot of factors, not neccessarily medical, I think. You have to admit, we didn't exactly socialize normally as little kids--at least I didn't. And I get panic attacks sometimes from social situations because I just cannot deal with them. And there was a lot of conditioning into that.

So...IDK. Maybe, maybe not. But I do know we have a lot of the same problems socially, so if you have it, I have it too. :P Doesn't give me an excuse, though, I personally wouldn't tell anyone cause it seems like a...cop out, maybe? It's just so abused nowadays, that I kind of dislike stating my mental problems for anything cause everyone just immediately assumes it's an excuse. Bah. I can handle it fine, so I feel I don't need to tell anyone about them--and if they can't handle me when they don't know, telling them won't make much difference, and I wouldn't want to be around someone who couldn't deal with it anyways.

--long ramble is long and makes no sense, disregard it--