When and how to disclose you’re on the spectrum

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This really depends on several factors. It depends on who you are telling and how well you interact with people. This is different for everybody. For some, it is better to disclose sooner. For others, it’s later. For me, this is what I do:

Someone I am dating: I usually wait until about 3 or 4 dates. Before talking about the Autism spectrum, I let her know about my characteristics that are obvious. One thing is my sensitivity to sudden loud noises. This is something that some neurotypicals have to deal with as well, so it isn’t automatically related to ASD. I let her know that I sometimes have trouble remembering faces, even if it has been a few minutes. This can be common with others too.

Some people consider Autism to be a negative thing. I do not. I think of it as a positive that happens to have some negative characteristics. I basically frame it in a positive way. I never say it in a way that sounds shameful or like I am in need of pity and sympathy. Autism makes me who I am and is part of my character. I let her know about some of my hyper or hypo sensitivities, my style mental processing, memory search engine, little quirks, and so on. I never say it on the first date because I want her to get to know the real me without any type of preconceptions. I say it like it’s no big deal, like talking about where you went to college or landing your first big job.

The spectrum is so wide, that everyone on it is as diverse as neurotypicals. Add to that, there are only a few characters with ASD represented on film, so I want to wait until I show her one of my favorite movies. If she is willing to watch, I show the movie Temple Grandin since it is the most accurate depiction I’ve seen in a movie about being on the Autism spectrum.

If she asks about activities I do that are related to Autism before I have that discussion, I politely ask to save that conversation for another time. As people become friends, they start to know more about each other. One thing I used to do, was to give too much personal history too soon. There are levels of information that are appropriate for acquaintances, friends, and loved ones. I reserve this information for the friendship level. I respect myself to have boundaries and give and take to get to this level with someone.

For a new job or a new department, I let them know during the first month. I only tell the HR representative and direct manager or managers. I let them know about any characteristics that may affect my job duties. I also let them know about my solutions so they get accustomed to them. One example is that I have a perfect long term memory but horrible short term memory. I keep an external memory drive, otherwise known as a notepad with me at all times at work. If someone gives me a task that involves more than one step, I write it down in front of them. I also use the notepad for interactions with people because I have trouble remembering faces. Certain departments I work for can be noisy, so I keep earmuffs and earplugs nearby. It might seem strange to some that I have little things like this to help me, but I’ve realized that people get accustomed to them quickly as long as they don’t interfere with the job.

Letting your managers know in advance also helps with social interactions that may go wrong. In a previous job I had a misunderstanding with a female coworker. This was before my diagnosis, so I didn’t know what incorrect things I was doing. Luckily another coworker witnessed the event and straightened it out before it got worse. Telling managers about ASD will help with social misunderstandings.

I do not, in general, tell coworkers. This is for the same reasons listed above. Exceptions are if we become friends and the subject comes up. A former coworker has children on the spectrum, so I volunteered information because I wanted to help with some of the frustrations she was having.

I do not recommend not telling a romantic partner or boss. A partner (especially a female) will pick up on subtle differences. It may lead to misunderstandings. Not mentioning the truth will only complicate things. It shows lack of trust, which is the opposite of what a relationship is based on. Not telling a boss may also lead to misunderstandings since work is highly social. The first round of people to be laid off are not the ones who are the least productive or newest. They are the ones who are the least liked. I’ve witness this first hand.

Telling family members sooner can helpful because they can contribute to your learning. Having additional points of view when you are having difficulties is not a bad thing.

Telling strangers is not something I do at all, unless I make a social mistake and offend someone. I once asked paraplegic about his wheelchair because I thought it was cool. I customize bicycle frames as a hobby and have always wanted to build a racing wheelchair. He got offended, so I let him know that I was on the spectrum and sometimes had trouble with social interactions.

This may sound like using ASD as an excuse, but I think of it as giving it as a reason. I remember an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is trying to talk to a woman to ask her out. Her back is turned and she is doesn’t respond. He gets offended and sarcastically asks if she is deaf. She is, and he was no longer offended. If someone does something to intentionally offend someone, then say it was because of ASD, then that would be an excuse.

The negatives of telling a girlfriend or boyfriend is that they may stop dating you. This has happened to me. There is nothing you can do about this and in most cases, there is not a lot you can say will change their minds. Believe me. it is better to know the real person before you invest too much.

Telling a boss may lead to lack of opportunities if they have prejudices. This can be overcome by keeping a journal of all the things you contribute to work, comments the bosses make about you (positive and negative), diversifying your skills and abilities, and diversifying the people you know (other departments, branches, or locations if any). Managers usually come and go, so if there is a manager that doesn’t like you, they might be gone before you know it.

If they are good people, managers and dating partners can be helpful. They can be your ally and show you things you’ve never thought of.

One thing I’ve noticed is that differences bring out the best or worst in people. Some people reveal that they are caring and thoughtful, while others reveal that they are of low quality. People who are outside the Autism community may know very little about it. They may have misconceptions and think everyone is like Rainman, or have tantrums all day long. If they are willing to listen, we can add our experiences to their knowledge. They can’t learn about us if we don’t tell them. If they are not willing to listen, it is best to move on.

Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Any tips written in this blog are available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea. Any experiences written in this blog are my own, and may or may not be similar to anyone else who also happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.

 

 

 

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Why can’t people on the Autism spectrum multitask?

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With the wide spectrum of behaviors and characteristics someone on the Autism spectrum has, one thing that seems to be common is the inability to multitask. Why is this? I believe it is because people on the spectrum are already multitasking. I’ll give an example to explain this.

Imagine this. You are driving your car and you pay attention to road while controlling the gas pedal, brake pedal, and steering wheel. You probably are thinking about the route you are taking, the other people on the road (cars, bikes, pedestrians), road conditions, street signs, etc. After a while you get used to this and can do most of these tasks automatically and still do it safely.

Now imagine you have to drive a car invented in 1862. In addition to the things you must pay attention to in the modern car, you must also use a double clutch. You must control air to gas ratio to prevent stalling, brake fluid supply so the clamp brake will work, and control the electrical output to keep from shocking yourself. You must think ahead before any action you take because moving and braking has a time delay before happening. You must use hand signals because the car has none. Add to that, you must do this during downtown rush hour with all the bicycles, horse drawn carriages, and pedestrians. Since it’s a new invention, everyone is looking at you. It might be overwhelming at first. You might get really frustrated, yell, scream, and quit. You might have a meltdown.

For me, in addition to the items a neurotypical must think about when dealing with social situations, I must think about regulating my actions. I am thinking about controlling my eyes (eye contact and when to break away or look at someone), eye brow movement (when to move them up or down), facial expression (smile, frown), arm movement, hand movement, body language, voice tone and volume, and word usage. This is happening while I am trying to process the body language and word language of the person I’m taking to. If the person is an attractive female, it gets more difficult to concentrate.

I’m processing this information, so piling an additional task on my mental plate can be too much. Imagine your computer has 10 or more windows open. What happens? It freezes or crashes. A crash is melt down. This is why I like doing my hobbies. I build things. I spend hours on something that is simple (to me – others see them as extremely complicated). No talking, no interpretation, no grey area. No 10 mental windows processing.

What can be done for a younger person on the spectrum? Training and awareness is a start. Think of driving that 1862 car. If someone trains you how to drive it, it will eventually get easier. Adding things gradually also helps instead of all at once. While driving the car, one can add the fuel system control one week. Brake system the next. Electrical system the next.

It gets easier with people I already know. I build a mental file of each person filled with characteristic notes. This person is scarcastic but uses regular voice tone. That person always jokes. This person crosses her arms because she is always cold, not because she has a bad attitude. It does get easier with age, experience, and training.

Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Any tips written in this blog are available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea. Any experiences written in this blog are my own, and may or may not be similar to anyone else who also happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.

 

 

 

Dating: 3 Things to Think of to Handle Rejection

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I read about a really great way to handle getting rejected and I wanted to share it. It basically says to rethink what rejection actually is. Here is the gist of it.

Imagine you offer someone a free lobster dinner right now. What are the reasons why someone would say no to that? They could be vegetarian. They could be allergic. Maybe they just ate dinner. Maybe they ate lobster yesterday. Maybe they are watching their diet. Maybe they are going to the gym or going swimming. Maybe they want to eat something lighter. Maybe they want steak. Maybe they simply don’t like lobster.

The most important part of the scenario is this: Just because that person doesn’t like lobster, does not mean that others don’t like lobster. There are many people who like lobster. Having one, 100 or 1000 people who don’t like lobster doesn’t change the fact that others do like it.

If I were to apply the lobster dinner to myself, I would say: That girl doesn’t like me, but it’s okay because it doesn’t mean others won’t like me. She just doesn’t like me. She may not be attracted to my type of face. Maybe she has a boyfriend. Maybe she just got out of a relationship. Maybe she likes blondes. Or older guys, or younger guys, or taller guys, or blue eyed guys. It doesn’t make a difference because you can’t change it. You can not, nor should you, change how someone feels.

When he was rejected, a friend once said, “Thank you for taking care of yourself.” This is now something I now try to remember. When someone doesn’t want to spend time with me and let’s me know, it is because they respect themself. I thank them for respecting themself, me, and my time. A rejection here does not waste my time in the future.

It is important to remember things like this because dating can get depressing very fast. It feels personal. In a way it is, but in other ways, it isn’t personal at all.

A way I came up with was to compare it to a batter during a baseball game. A home run hitter may have a tendency to strike out often. This is because they chase pitches. They take shots. They try often and strike out often. But they get the home run every once in a while which makes it all worth it. Had they not taken the chance, they wouldn’t have gotten the home run.

They don’t remember the strike outs. They don’t even think of strike outs as rejections. They may think of a strikeout as an at bat that didn’t work out. They learn from the at bat and use the knowledge for next time.

Intellectual empathy vs. emotional empathy on the Austim Spectrum

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Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Any tips written in this blog are available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea. Any experiences written in this blog are my own, and may or may not be similar to anyone else who also happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.

Sometimes it is said that people on the Autism Spectrum do not have empathy. This is, for the most part, inaccurate. I believe it comes from the observation of someone on the spectrum when that person does not react as emotional as a neurotypical.

Some have average empathy. Some have less, and some have more. Some have feelings but do not know how to translate them. Some do not wish to, or are unable to express their emotions.

For me, I have a smaller pallet of emotions than the average person. My lows are higher and my highs are lower. I seem to experience the basic emotions (happy, sad, etc) but don’t seem to feel the complicated ones. I’ve never hated anyone or have felt conflicting emotions for one person. Some people love and hate someone. I can’t relate. I’ve never screamed when seeing a celebrity or been angry enough to throw a brick at someone.

I do have empathy, but it is different from emotional empathy. Since my intellectual side takes over for my limited emotions, I seem to have intellectual empathy. Here is an example of the difference.

Let’s say a neurotypical witnesses a young woman walking down the street and is carrying a paper bag full of groceries. She trips and falls while dropping her bag. She skins her knee, rips her skirt, and breaks half the items in her bag. A neurotypical might feel emotional empathy for her, which might include feeling embarrassed for her. The NT might feel sorry for her and may remember a time when it has happened in their life.

For me, I think what she might be feeling. I think that she feels embarrassed that she fell. I think she is in pain from her skinned knee and she feels anger for getting hurt. I then process the logistics of the situation. She has to wrap the bag tighter to get it home. She then has to go through the bag to salvage what isn’t broken. She has to throw away what is broken and go back to the store later to rebuy what she needs. She has to tend to her skinned knee and repair or replace her skirt. She’ll then probably blog or Facebook about it.

After her fall, I would try to help her up and ask if she’s okay. This is because, logically, I know that it’s the right thing to do. I’ve noticed sometimes that not everyone does. I previously thought that emotional empathy means someone will care more and try to help more. This isn’t always the case. They may care, but not want to help. They may want to help, but be scared.

My friends think I have more empathy because I attempt to help out more whenever I can. It isn’t due to emotional empathy. Admittedly, I’ve been trained well. I do like the way I am because I have been able to help in situations in which emotional empathy may otherwise have delayed me. I once had to treat a head wound for a coworker. It was not serious, but there was a lot of blood (which can be common with head wounds). This freaked out others, but I was able to keep calm and get it done.

The point I’d like to get across is that if you (or someone you care about) are not emotionally empathetic, don’t worry. The intellectual side can take over. This area can be trained, and can be trained to be even more empathetic than others.

Quick Tips for Autism Spectrum/Aspergers: The DVD Movie Commentary

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Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Anything written in this blog is available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea.

Since I work a lot, I have to find efficient ways to learn about being social. To help me interact better with people, I watch movies on DVD. Romance comedies seem to work well. The one thing I stumbled across was the use of the DVD commentary. I would watch the movie as normal. Then rewatch it with the commentary. Depending on who’s commenting, one can find a lot of useful information that otherwise would have been missed. I rented Garden State from the library, which had commentaries from Zach Braff and Natalie Portman. Both actors were able to point out facial expressions and body actions that I never saw the first time and most likely would not have seen. They also comment on the scene and what the actors are doing in a way that others can not.

The only drawback, is that this would be a use of almost 4 hours of your time. In addition, streaming movies rarely have commentaries, so one would have to stick to DVDs. Borrowing DVDs from the library is a good option since it is free and most libraries have a good selection.

Quick Tips for Autism Spectrum/Aspergers: Proper Use of Eyebrows

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Disclaimer: Anything written here is not to be considered medical advice or to treat or diagnose any medical condition. I do not claim to be an expert on anything except myself and my own experiences. Anything written in this blog is available for anyone to try. It may or may not work since everyone on the spectrum is different. It may inspire someone to try something similar or spark a completely new idea.

One thing I noticed when watching blog videos of people on the Autism Spectrum is the use of eyebrows. Mainly, the lack of use. Some people on the spectrum tend not to (naturally) control this area. This does not mean it can’t be taught and learned.

Eyebrow use is important because it helps convey the message that the speaker is communicating. If someone doesn’t use the eyebrows very much, the other person may think that person is insincere. One example is to imagine that your friend’s dog died. You would say you’re sorry to hear that. If your eyebrows don’t move, it may seem like you don’t care. If you say it with the center of your eyebrows up, it would back up your words to convey sympathy.

Before my diagnosis, I watched an interview with a psychopath. He did not move his eyebrows, and seem to have cold eyes. I considered that I could have been a psychopath as well, but discounted that theory since I cared about people a great deal. I did not want to convey that I was a cold blooded killer, so I studied eyebrow usage and started using my eyebrows when speaking.

To study how people use the eyebrows, I watched interviews, gameshows, TV shows, and Movies. I paid attention to how the eyebrows move and when they move. Older shows seem to work better because the camera stays on the person longer. The actors seem to overact in older movies as well.

Another tip is to watch the program with the sound off. This will help the viewer concentrate on the eyes more.

I would also recommend watching programs from other countries to see the difference in eyebrow use. Interviews from Japanese programs show that people from this culture do not move their eyebrows as much as Americans.

Another way is to practice in front of the mirror. Ask friends and family to mimic certain emotions and photograph their faces when doing each one. Having a friend tell a story while making note of when eyebrow movement takes place is also helpful.

 

How To: Keep your room clean

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I’m 36 and I still have trouble keeping my room clean. I’ve figured out it is probably because cleaning isn’t part of my daily routine. Things that happen every day is easy. When it happens once a week or once a month or once a year, it is difficult to remember. To this day, I’ve never been able to renew my driver’s license on time since it is done every 5 years. Everyone on the spectrum is different. These methods work for me but will not work for everyone. They may, however, inspire other methods that you can try.

When my room gets really messy, it’s hard to know where to start. It can be very overwhelming. To help with this, I start with moving one item at a time. It’s a very small task and is very slow, but it helps. It makes you walk more, which is good exercise. After a while, things start happening and I am able to move more items at time. Before I know it, it’s all done.

This is how I move items. I use categories. I start with clothes. Dirty clothes go in the hampers, then clean clothes get hung up. Dishes get collected and washed in the sink. Trash gets collected. Papers go to the desk. Books go back on the bookshelf. Tools go back to the toolboxes. Hobby items like bike parts or car parts go back to the garage. Bedding and furniture related items get put where they belong. I tend to start high (like table tops) and work my way down to the floor.

Once the room is cleaned, I set a daily routine. Every day, at the same time, I will do one thing related to cleaning. On Monday, I’ll do laundry, on Tuesday I’ll vacuum (with ear muffs on), on Wednesday I’ll sort through papers, etc.

The written lists rarely help since I’m 85% visual. Photographing clean areas of the room help me to visualized what I want to accomplish for next time. Posting photos by the door or in the bathroom works for me since I will see these areas every day. Automatic text messages (most phones have appointment reminders) and automatic email messages can help as well. You can set these reminders as often as you want to get this done. There are most likely other forms of technology that can help as well.

Keeping the room clean helps efficiency when finding and or storing items. Visualizing other reasons as to why you would want to keep the room clean can also help. For me, having friends and coworkers over motivate me to keep everything tidy. This also helps me be more social. Having a clean room also helps with moral and mood.

How to explain what it’s like: to not know body language

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What is it like for you to have trouble with body language? Is it really that important to read and speak body language? Why can’t you just take a class?
Sometimes it’s difficult for someone not on the Autism spectrum to know what it’s like to not know how to read body language. When I get questions like this, this is how I explain what it’s like.
Imagine, at the age of 15, that you move to a country in which there are no physical differences between you and the locals. They look and dress in a similar manner to the people in your home country. They speak your native tongue, but only use that language to communicate 40% of what they are saying. For the other 60%, they use a type of sign language.
In your new country, the sign language is pretty subtle. No one tells you about it. It’s not taught in schools or talked about on TV since natives learn it naturally. It might be years before you even realize it exists and how important it is for these people to communicate with it.
Before you are aware of the sign language, you rely on the spoken word of someone. But since that is only 40% of what they are saying, you miss 60% of what they are trying to communicate. You believe everything they say verbally. When you find out they meant something else, you wonder why. After realizing many of the natives don’t communicate their true intentions with their words, it’s easy for you start distrusting people.
When you do start to pay attention, you realize everyone uses sign language. While living among them through the years, you pick up basic sign language words, like “please”, “thank you”, “sorry”, “hello”, and “goodbye”. You probably pick up the curse words as well. You continue watching people speak with sign language but their hand movements are so fast that you can’t make anything out of it. No matter how long you watch, most of it doesn’t makes sense.
As you become an young adult, people expect you to make friends with your classmates and coworkers. After a while, you start to mimick the sign language based on what you’ve learned through observing people in person and on TV.  In simple situations, you start to blend in. You still miss a lot, but you deal with it. However, when your friends start to know you better, your sign language may seem strange; even manufactured. Sometimes your sign sends mixed signals to people. You’re known as a nice person, but sometimes you are rude, even arrogant. You may laugh at the wrong time or not seem sad at the right time. The inconguences makes you odd, but they overlook them since you have qualities your friends enjoy and respect.
When meeting members of the opposite sex, the incongruances of your sign language become more apparent.  Misunderstandings start happening. You mean one thing with your spoken words, but tell them something else with your sign. They say one thing, while their sign says something else. You miss their signs when they like you, or you miss their signs when they don’t like you. You unintentionally offend potential dates. You even scare people away because of your unpredictable language. Many do not say that you have offended them. They simply avoid you. You do not know what you have done, so you do nothing to correct your language for next time. You are misunderstood. Lack of dating experience leads to low self esteem, which leads to depression.
After a few years, you see more patterns emerge. As a young person, the inconsistancies of your language has it’s charm, but an an older person, it’s seen as annoying or rude. You realize mistakes more often and apologize for them, but don’t have all the tools to correct them.
In your 20s or 30s you look for sign language classes to take, but there are very few classes available. The few classes that are out there are only available to children. You find books and videos on the market which cater to the dating market. These help a little, but lack the basics. You realize the value of the language and take further steps to learn as much as you can. The only options left are to use the media. DVDs, movies, news, talk shows, from this country can be studied. Pausing the DVD and putting it on slow motion can help, but only to a certain point. Friends from this country (if you have any) can help, but only to a certain point as well. Specialists who teach sign language to foriegners are a great help as well. They are expensive, but worth it.
It’s a difficult process, filled with coworkers who think you are arrogant and dates who think you are a creep. With hard work, you start to learn the primary native language. You still miss things from time to time, but slowly, you find good friends who don’t mind your accent, and a partner who looks past everything else and accepts you for all that you are.