Thursday, June 24, 2010

Words of Wisdom

Don't hide your scars. They make you who you are.
- Frank Sinatra

Words of Wisdom

This may perhaps be the most important thing I've ever heard:

Always remember to surround yourself with good people. If you have a family full of horrible people, create your own family. Your close friends will become your new family.
- My mother

She's just one example of someone who's had a hard life but has come out on top. I attribute this to her caring nature and the wonderful, nurturing way she treats others.

If I end up inheriting the tiniest bit of my mother's compassion, then I'll be the most fortunate girl alive.

An Open Letter

Dear Freshman Year Roommate,
Hi, it's been a while. I know you're about to transition into a new chapter of your life that you're far too young for, but I just wanted to tell you that I came to a conclusion about the time we lived together.

Yes - two years ago. That dreaded year. We were both new to college, neither of us knew anyone. I was friendly, you told me outright that you were a loner. I'm a loner too, so that was fine with me. Little did I know that "I'm a loner" translated to "I'm a loner because I dwell on my problems and create new ones for others."

That didn't stop me from trying to be your friend. Though I was a horrible roommate, I made countless efforts to be considerate, ask you how your day went- I even make you a sweet birthday present. I was determined to be a good friend, despite your efforts at being a bad one. I never you would perceive that behavior as a nuisance.

Well, guess what? You're THE ONLY one who saw my friendliness as a nuisance. Now, I know my constant doting affection may have seemed inappropriate at times, especially when you were rude to me. I can't tell if this was my Asperger's or sheer determination taking control here, nor do I care. I don't know if your misfortune or constant negativity are to blame for your rudeness, but moping and whining won't get you anywhere. Who cares if all you see in life is pain? YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THAT. Grab life by the balls. What goes around comes around, my dear.

I just wanted to thank you. After two years of constantly worrying about something that was long past, about someone I'll never have to see again, I've finally realized, that: despite the fact that living with you was an absolute nightmare, I now know that I should never settle for having shitty people in my life. I better understand that if something sucks, GET OUT OF IT. Being helplessly dragged around doesn't pay off in the long run. Furthermore, because I trudged through the dreaded misfortune of living with you, I know now how to NOT treat people, and I know how to be a wonderful roommate. This is why I hadn't had a negative rooming situation in the two years after I lived with you.

Because I lived with you, I better understand how to make the most out of the relationships I have in my life. Because of the respect I treat others with, I have wonderful friends, and my life isn't nearly as painful as it could have turned out. I also have a better understanding of who is a true friend and who isn't, and who to treat with the respect and good fortune I love to spread around.

I'm pleased to report that in all of my 21 years, I've never been happier, and things are just looking up. I don't know if I'd be in such a great state if I hadn't lived with you. Sure, it sucked, but I'm a better person than I've ever been. And even though, based on the way you treat people, you're probably subject to a life of misery and pain; I hope you've learned something beneficiary from living with me, even if it does equate to "avoid bubbly liberal-minded girls who want to be your friend." If you perceive that as an important life lesson for yourself, then good for you. To each her own, my friend.

In summary, we learn from our mistakes. I now know who to embrace and who to avoid from having spent time with you. Isn't life great?

Wishing you happiness, even if your pain is your happiness-


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Aspie Theatre Camp

When I reflect on my childhood into my adolescence, and think about the experiences I gained the most from, the performing arts are at the top of the list. Starting from the 5th grade, I was heavily into theatre. I think what drew me to it was seeing my sister, a natural, be the star onstage. It was fascinating seeing her transfer between completely different roles, all with ease.

I didn't get very many leads during my time doing theatre. With the small roles that I did get, however, I was able to step outside of myself and embody someone else. I really had to think about the motives of each character, their personality, behavior, and how they reacted to the other characters. Though shy in real life, onstage I can be outgoing, sensual, the life of the party, and many other things - all at once, even.

I learned how to socially progress and travel from one point to another. Theatre also taught me how to further empathize with others and understand other peoples' motives and not just my own.

Theatre, along with being an art form, can also be used as a testing ground for social interaction. I think this is why so many programs are being created that use theatre in a roleplay technique, to teach children with Autism Spectrum disorders how to socialize. It's a safe place to learn the right and wrong ways to interact, and it allows the actor to break out of his or her shell.

Because of theatre, I am no longer afraid of having the spotlight on me. I'm less inhibited and am not afraid to act silly and crazy in front of a lot of people. Acting has also taught me to take initiative, thereby helping to break the ice for others involved. I can attribute almost everything I know about human interaction from socializing at rehearsals and being onstage, in someone else's shoes. Theatre has helped me better understand the rules of social interaction.

This is why I think more theatre programs should be created, not even just for special needs children, but a safe place where children of all abilities can practice socializing and step outside of their comfort zone by using theatre as an outlet. A theatre program would also give a child common ground to socialize with other children about: it would give them another thing they have in common. I've always found I do my best in structured environments, and a theatre or improv program would be the perfect place for that. I find it a wonderful way to learn, and it goes hand-in-hand with Occupational Therapy in a child's enrichment.

I think a theatre program would be a great place for a parent to bring their autistic child. I learned so much from it, and I want others to experience the same. Just my two cents. What are your thoughts on theatre as a social skills teaching tool?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Autism: The Musical part 2

For those of you who have seen the movie, I think you'll really appreciate this: Jack Black teams up with Wyatt to sing about sensory issues.

AWESOME. I love it!

If you've found any similar songs about autism send them my way!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Autism in the media: Daniel Tammet

Dear 20/20: on behalf of the Autistic community I'd just like to thank you for featuring Daniel Tammet on your show. He is just one positive example of what someone on the Autism Spectrum can accomplish.

A select quote:

Daniel Tammet was born in London, in 1979, with congenital childhood epilepsy. A series of seizures as a young child changed forever the way Daniel saw the world around him. For one thing, Daniel was able to literally ‘see’ numbers in his head as if they were images. Not surprisingly, he quickly became proficient in number patterns, able to figure various roots, powers; even the decimal expansions for prime number fractions—often quicker than a friend with a calculator.

A high-functioning autistic savant, Daniel outgrew his disability. His astonishing mental skills however remained. As an example, following an invitation from organizers, he attended the largest ever ‘Memory Olympics’ in London in 2000. He won a gold medal and was subsequently invited to London’s Institute of Neurology to undergo tests for a landmark study of prodigious mental ability. The summarized data, co-written by some of Britain’s leading brain scientists, appeared in the New Year 2003 edition of the highly prestigious
Natureneuro-scientific magazine.
- Wisconsin Medical Society

In the documentary, "The Boy with the Incredible Brain", Daniel discusses the way in which he solves mathematical equations: Because he has synesthesia, he sees every number as a shape with a particular color; every number in an equation will fit together, with the answer wedged in the middle. It is truly phenomenal what the brain can accomplish, even if we don't have brains such as Daniel's.

Here is a video of Daniel explaining his synesthesia:

On a dare, Daniel was also able to become fluent in Icelandic, one of the world's most difficult languages, in a week.

Not only am I proud to have people like Daniel to represent us on the Autism spectrum, I am pleased that news reporters have chosen to focus on his positive traits and the amazing things he's done, rather than his shortcomings. I'm proud of Daniel for stepping up and giving the world a wonderful view of what he can do, allowing us to step into the marvelous thing that is his mind. Hopefully this is a new age in the representation of Autism in the media. Autism Speaks, your days are numbered!

I'm also astonished that our brains can accomplish such incredible things. As humans, we are equipped with the capacity to do amazing things, far more than we are able to realize. Even if we can't memorize thousands of digits of Pi, we are able to create images and new dimensions that we ourselves can't even dream of. I'm often astonished by what I can create, including realizations and artwork. Never stop being amazed at your capacities!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Experiences and Cultural Perspective

I just had the most intense class discussion in my life. We were overviewing a case study involving some very uncomfortable, taboo subject matter and its involvement with the legal system. Perhaps I'll go into further detail at a later date, but it was nonetheless a very difficult subject to discuss, and I remember being at my feet the whole time wishing the situation in question could have been different.

Part of the case involves a woman making a decision about whether her son should plead guilty to challenge the immense charges placed against him, and she encouraged him to plead guilty because it would mean a lighter sentence, regardless of whether he was innocent or guilty. Many of my fellow classmates couldn't understand this, and tried to challenge the decision made with arguments such as, "she knows he's innocent; why doesn't he try to fight for justice?"

Also, among the difficult footage shown was an anonymous testimony of a victim to these crimes - desipte his face being blacked out, he seemed very relaxed to the point where it was unsettling. A bunch of us in class laughed, because his gestures and the way in which his body was formed was almost sexual in nature. In contradiction with the information he was giving in the interview, his body language was inappropriate, and, as a result of the discomfort in all of us, instilled laughter among my classmates.

One of my classmates- and I'll never forget this - actually challenged our responses. She spoke up, saying something along the lines of: "I just have to say that I'm ashamed of all of you. I don't understand why you're laughing at all of this - this is very disturbing footage, and being a mother myself, I feel compelled to think hard about what would be best for my child if I were in that situation instead of sitting back and laughing, detatching myself from the harsh reality of what these people are going through."

I could see the pain in her eyes, the emotion she was trying to hold back - it was a difficult thing to say, and I don't know if I could have done the same. At the end of the class, she even broke out in tears, feeling so hurt by how our culture has trained us to handle pain. At this moment, after years of feeling blank in life experience and emotional span, I've felt more compassion for somebody than I ever thought I'd be capable of. Compassion for the woman and her son, for my classmate who dared to speak up, for my fellow classmates and everyone around me, anyone who's ever hurt me or instilled emotion into me directly. It's there, and I've never been so certain of this until now.

This has brought many interesting thoughts in my mind. I've never thought much about how American society has taught us to respond to difficult things. Many of us lead such a comfortable life that we don't know what it would be like if something devastating happened to us. A lot of us are unable to place ourselves in others shoes, and so because we don't know how to respond, we laugh. Though it may be inappropriate, it's the only thing we can think of doing.

I think that, as a society, we need to be mindful of the fact that others may not have had the same experiences that we've had, and to think objectively about the social standards that are instilled in us at an early age. We need to question, "in my point of view, is this right?" rather than "is this what's acceptable at a societal standpoint?" These questions in themselves surround a lot of biases, but who's to say what's really right? It is not up to our peers and colleagues to make that call, it is up to us.

It is up to YOU to decide what you believe, whatever those beliefs are. So don't sell yourself short.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Autism: The Musical

I just watched the documentary Autism: The Musical, which I found heartwarming and sweet. It's about a woman who decides to start a theatre group for children with Autism and their parents, called The Miracle Project. Inspired by her own son, Neal, who is non-verbal, she wishes to help reach out to other kids experiencing similar issues.

The viewer gets to know many different children, including Henry, a boy with Asperger's who has an obsession with dinosaurs; Wyatt, a highly-verbal boy who has trouble with bullies; Adam, a charming little boy who plays the cello and has tantrums every now and then; Lexi, a 14-year-old girl with a beautiful singing voice who enjoys mimicking others, as well as many other kids.

In the movie, the parents discuss what having a child with Autism can be like, and their fears and concerns for their child. There is also a visible transformation (especially from Lexi's mother) in some of the parents regarding their understanding of Autism, which I think is one of the most powerful things that can be presented in a film. It reminds us that there are still prejudices out there, that no matter what we do, Autism won't be universally understood for a long time.

This film is not idealistic; it is not trying to tear Autism apart. What Autism: The Musical does is present the viewer with the diverse ways in which Autism can manifest in an individual, as well as the struggles that individual may deal with on a daily basis. It also shows us how beautiful the life of an Autistic individual can be - full of passion and dedication, to start, and how it creates a change in that child's parents, who are able to see the world in a whole new way.

I can't begin to tell you how I relate to these children: I threw tantrums like Adam's. I was bullied, similarly to Wyatt. My childhood obsession with Pokemon is comparable to Henry's obsession with dinosaurs, and, like Neal, I can see the world in an entirely different way. Furthermore, I can only wish to experience Lexi's joy when she makes that endearing grin at the camera.

This film is a must-see for anyone on the Autism Spectrum, for parents of Autistic children, siblings, family members, educators, psychologists, therapists, social workers - even anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity or misunderstanding. If you're reading this blog right now, I urge you to see it, and encourage you to recommend it to someone who would learn a little something.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"The Onion" on Vaccinations and Autism

FINALLY. Satirist newspaper The Onion speaks out on the theory that Vaccinations cause Autism. I espescially love what the last guy said, hahaha. You can check it out here.

Thanks to valkyrieraven88 on Wrongplanet!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Aspie Spotlight: Not A Sugar

I just came across this darling blog: Not A Sugar, which is run by a woman who goes by the name of Aspie Sugar. Her interpretation of blogging is very unique, in that she makes these sweet little webcomics explaining her quirks.

On her website, Aspie Sugar describes herself as "an aspie, designer/ artist, daughter, and girlfriend. She likes to ...uh...make stuff. She doesn't talk a lot. She draws." My first thought: Wow, we already have a lot in common!

I love seeing others express themselves in their artwork, especially when it's something I can connect with. Aspie Sugar not only does that, she packages her observations in a whimsical, aesthetically pleasing comic strip, which is not an easy thing to do. That takes talent!

I'm glad the face of Asperger's is being represented by such talented individuals. I hope Aspie Sugar continues to add to her blog, and in the meantime, if any of you have any Asperger's or Autism-related artwork, post a link - I'd love to see it!

Take care everyone!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sensory Issues and Well-Being

Hi, I'm back... sorry I disappear every now and then. I just wanted to update you on how I'm doing.

Over my winter break from college, my mom took me to see her neurologist, since I've been having daily headaches for as long as I can remember. He prescribed to me an old anti-depressant that also helps with pain prevention. It's been about a month since I've been on it, and I've got to say, I feel a lot better. I didn't understand for a while that most people don't have to grapple with headaches on a daily basis.

Due to my recently being able to take on a lot more, I'm better able to recognize what things trigger the headaches that do occur - like not getting enough sleep. I've discovered that I need somewhere between 9-10 hours of sleep a night to feel decent. Being a full-time college student, those full nights of sleep get increasingly hard to come by. Even though I'll feel like a slug, I have to keep working - my grades and my self-respect depend on it. Even if it makes me feel like shit. I'd probably be able to get more work done if I were on a proper sleep schedule, haha. It's a tough balance to adjust to. Either way, I'll try my best.

I often wonder though, if my perception of headaches is merely my observing the presence of my head? Like feeling it's there. It still feels heavy and sluggish, as it sits there above my shoulders. It's not a sharp pain, it's very dull... possibly even a byproduct of my brain communicating with the rest of my body. Is the connection between my brain and my body somewhat defunct, in that the normal setting it's stuck on is "headache mode"??

I do, however, think the Aspies having low muscle tone generalization is true for me. Though physically fit, I often feel like a ragdoll, very limp and weak. I have poor posture as well, and a lot of the time just want to sleep. I guess I'm fortunate that my schoolwork requires making things, a lot of which involves standing up and moving around. It's important that I'm active in order to feel my best. Those moments, though, when I need to sit down... I think they send a signal for my brain that it's bedtime. This is why I have the hardest time in lectures, because despite my desire to learn, I'm not really doing anything interesting, just sitting there listening. I wish educators would create a more interactive version of the lecture, because I know for a fact that I'm not the only one who has this problem. I guess I'm fortunate that my professor lets us eat in class!

I'm trying to find foods and certain activities that help combat sluggishness associated with tiredness and being stuck in a zombie-like mode (which I often find myself trapped in). When I feel better I find that it is easier to socialize and get work done, and it is far more enjoyable - I feel almost normal, to the extent that one would like to feel "normal".

I've found, for myself, that peppermint tea, white tea and orange juice work wonders (citrusy things in general), as well as eating foods rich in protein. I think soy is a wonder food. I love sugar, but the crash that comes afterwards may not even be worth it. Doing yoga also seems like a great thing for me to do, as well as frequent exercise. I still need to work my way to a happy equilibrium, though, because I'm not quite there yet.

I want to bring this question to all of you: What have some things been that help YOU with sluggishness?
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