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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