Category Archives: writing on the Spectrum

Viewing Asperger’s through a Different Window.

John Elder Robison, who has Asperger’s, writes prolifically on Autism. He volunteered to undergo an experimental treatment which involved being subjected to magnetic stimulation of targeted areas of his brain.

There have been extensive studies on Asperger’s by neurophysiologists during the past 30 – 40 years. During the past 15 – 20 years, the emphasis has been upon the difference in utilization of the Cerebral cortex and the Amygdala aspect of the Cerebellum between neurotypicals and those on the Autism Spectrum.

These studies reveal how information with an emotional content, especially when personally conveyed, is largely processed in the Cerebral cortex by those with Asperger’s rather than in the Amygdala where it is processed by neurotypicals.

The result is those of us on the autism spectrum process information with emotional content logically, rather than emotionally.

However, the richer the contextual content associated with the information, the greater the ability of Aspies to ‘understand’, even if they cannot ‘directly experience’ the emotion being expressed.

In the experimental treatment in which Robison participated, he didn’t immediately notice any difference.

But the next day, when he interacted with others, he was unexpectedly overwhelmed by an almost ‘psychic’ awareness of their emotions. 

He was assailed by emotions of “jealousy, fear, anger and every bad thing I could imagine” (Neale). It was an unexpected torrent of emotions which he experienced as shocking and distressing.

This situation, one of being admitted to an emotional landscape which is usually unavailable, puts me in mind of Virginia Woolf’s comment in A Room of One’s Own about patriarchal rules in Oxbridge. At the library, she was refused entrance because of being a woman.

In social situations, as a person with autism syndrome, I feel as Woolf did “…how unpleasant it is to be locked out;” (18).  

But when I am composing a poem like Exonerating Eve which expresses such a divergent but powerful viewpoint, then, like Woolf, I cannot help but ponder the alternative, as she did when she added, “… and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in;” (18).

Aspies, such as myself, come to realize early in our lives that we are somehow ‘locked out’. We learn to accept this and to make social inroads where we may.

But Robison’s experience indicates that our lack of social/emotional understanding is a ‘locking out’ that is at least in some respects beneficial, allowing us to experience the world in a way that, while ingenuous, is also unique and  insightful.

And thus I present my poem:

EXONERATING EVE

I know why Eve ate the apple

Picked and tasted forbidden fruit.

Locked in her Eden she hungered for more,

wanted proof that her life would not

always be just wandering the garden

A helpmate to Adam, a servant to God.

In her heart she yearned for more than the beauty,

More than the silence. More than obedience.

Something within called her to challenge

The ‘perfection’ of a life established by God.

Accepted by Man.

Did The Creator witness her anguish?

Did He inspire her desire for more?

Gifting free will to all of humanity

Did He await our wakening thrill?

Did He seek a braver companion

Than one who obeyed without question or zeal?

Was He astounded when it was the woman

The feminine one who plucked and then peeled

The Fruit that triggered a flood

of passion and reason,

Wherein she shrugged off obedience

and now saw her truth?

Newly aware, she sees in her nudity

All that is vulnerable and desirable to men.

Looking out at the garden she sees the reality,

thorns and thistles suddenly visible.

And within her, an awareness of a strong inner spirit,

God-given, to prepare her for the journey

that she now begins.

Eve ate the fruit to be free from the fallacy

That her life was perfect. 

She dared to be more than that helpmate.

More than that servant.

To live in a garden that was an Eden no more.

A garden that now she perceives as a jungle.

A garden that asks her spirit to grow

A garden with pathways to be forged and then trodden

A life posing questions, needing answers,

Revealing wonders, unveiling horrors.

A life to be probed. A will to be tested.

Searching for truth, for reason and passion,

She reaches up, plucks The Fruit from the tree

And in that critical, wonderful moment,

Plunges mankind into uncertainty,

Drawing us all out of complacency.

Here in the midst of this pandemic

I understand a woman like Eve.

As I sit and reflect on the life I’ve created,

I challenge myself to find more of me.

To ask the hard questions, to reach for the truth.

To find in myself the courage to ask

The questions that, unanswered

leave me unproved.

To reach for the core,  the richness of life

Face my own fears, grapple with and tame them.

While I have time. While I am here, locked in this life

Some would call Paradise.

Yes. I have come to know why Eve ate that apple.

M J Adam

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

4:53 AM


Tagged ,

Exonerating Eve: An Aspie Reads Poetry, Prose and Memoir.

"Eve" artwork by Charity Gosling @tapping the Muse.com
“EVE” BY CHARITY GOSLING @TAPPING THE MUSE.COM

Just how different is an Aspie point of view? You can tune in to a Zoom reading to find out.

This Monday, November 8th at 8 pm PST, I will be reading a selection of my poetry and prose.

When you hear the first line of Lazlo, A Love Story, you will think it is anything but a love story.

The chapter from my memoir, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, talks about the isolation a child with Asperger’s can experience, their resulting vulnerability from lack of familial support, and the disconnection that can result in familial relations.

The poem the Darkness speaks of turning toward the lighter side of life at last, and Exonerating Eve is a whole new consideration of why Eve ate the apple.

To join me for this reading adventure, click on the link below!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/exonerating-eve-a-reading-of-short-stories-memoir-and-poetry-tickets-186937915337?keep_Ttld=1

To attend on Monday night, you will need to click on the ‘join’ button at the bottom of the View Event page about five minutes before the reading begins.

The event is free. Just register to get your free ticket and I will see you there!

Any problems with joining the reading, please email me at m_florczak@hotmail.com

Margaret Jean October 11, 2021

Tagged ,

On Being a Writer with Autism

It’s a problem.  Not just having Asperger’s or, as the more politically and diagnostically correct phrasing goes, being on the spectrum.  But also not being diagnosed.

I know I am autistic.  My oldest daughter and two of my grandsons have been diagnosed as being on the Spectrum and we process information in a similar fashion — although often arriving at very different conclusions. The way we observe and process information is generally considered to be ‘unusual’.

Being different can bring a sense of isolation.  For me, as a child, it began at home. 

None of my family questioned the things I questioned, or perceived certain aspects of home and the society in which we lived, in the way I viewed and interpreted them.  It made both myself, and my family think of me as ‘other’.  I lived there, but I was different.  Wrong.  I didn’t fit in. And I found myself in a very similar situation in school. 

I honestly would not be able to tell you how I was different from the other kids.  That was a secret only they knew. 

Not knowing how I was different made it impossible to adjust my behaviour to conform.

I loved my mother, but in my opinion she lived a very dull, uninteresting life and I was determined to not grow up to live a similar one.  On reflection, my mother faced a great many challenges.  Raising a family and working outside of the home in the 1950’s and 1960’s when women were bombarded with media messages that their place was at home, could not have been easy for her. But I was too young and too involved with my own dilemmas to truly understand hers.

Then, when I was eleven, a neighbour began to notice me.  An adult, he was a close family friend.  My dad, my grandmother and my aunts all liked him.  As he was frequently in our house, he found me an easy target for his perversion.  Familiar with our household routines, he could easily determine when I would be home alone and thus vulnerable.

My autism contributed to my sense of helplessness in dealing with this neighbour’s twisted mind. 

The isolation I felt from my parents, the sense of being ‘wrong’ and not knowing how I was wrong.  The strict rule in our house that adults were always to be obeyed … I couldn’t sort out how I was supposed to alert others to this situation.

When I made tentative inroads into conversations about this problem, as with every other serious conversation I tried to have with adults, I was shut out. 

It was the 1950’s.  No one wanted to hear ‘that kind of thing’.

And, no-one knew about Autism, other than Hans Asperger in Germany and a few of his cohorts. We didn’t know about stimming, the social skills deficit or the neurology that would have unveiled my condition.  So I stood alone.

 I have been criticized for writing about this period in my life as I experienced it, rather than focusing more narrowly upon my autism. 

The social deficits were, and to some extent still are, real and pervasive. The sense of isolation, the astounding lack of connection to others.  Pleasure in solitude.  The foreign-ness of other people’s thought processes.

I cannot make up autistic traits.  I was different.  Socially awkward, and a loner.   That’s my truth.

And as an author who is autistic, the truth is the most powerful narrative I can offer you in a memoir. 

The sometimes horrifying, sometimes touching and sometimes humourous truths about what it was like to be socially challenged in the late fifties, early sixties, attempting to ward off a sexual predator while trying my best to figure out how to be normal in a world that seemed so completely foreign to me, is my story of growing up on the spectrum.

Unforgiving. The Memoir of an Asperger Teen is available on Kindle and in paperback through Amazon Books.  Read for yourself.  I told my truth.

Tagged , , ,

Writing on the Spectrum

Have you ever been bullied at school?  Teased in an unkind way?

Perhaps you tried to join in a conversation and the little knob of people you were addressing just kind of broke up and walked away. What does a person do with that?

For me, it became a memoir, a Kindle book called Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen

I wrote about the incongruous juxtaposition of events in my teenaged life: the unpleasantness of being targeted by a child molester, dealing with an Asperger’s personality when no-one knew what that was, and getting the lead role in a National Film Board film.  Circumstances which in combination, isolated me from my family and my peers.  

My intention in writing this book was to illustrate how a series of events in a young teen’s life can create an overwhelming and pervasive sense of isolation from family and community.

Another Aspie, Tom Angleberger, has written an article on how Asperger’s powers his writing.  Angleberger is the author of a series of young adult books who uses unpleasant incidents from his school days as fodder for his plots.  Angleberger has published many books in which his knowledge of Star Wars along with embarrassing moments in his childhood create humorous adventures for his characters, always with positive conclusions.

Some of his titles include Darth Paper Strikes Back and Emperor Pickeltine Rides the Bus.  He combined his fascination with origami along with his love of writing to produce R2-D2’s Guide to Folding.  He currently has 52 books in print and nearly two hundred thousand reviews on Goodreads!

As for being autistic, Angleberger says the constant flow of words from his brain to his pen have helped him have a career he loves.

You can read more about this author at: https://origamiyoda.com/ or find his books on Amazon, or in bookstores.

That other autists like Kelly Brenner[i], a Seattle based naturalist who writes about urban nature, can become successful authors is not just a recent occurrence. A behavioral analysis site declares that historically, authors such as Emily Dickinson, Hans Christian Anderson and Lewis Carroll are thought to have been on the spectrum[ii].

 Interestingly, an American university research project published in July of 2020 indicated that autistic students out-performed their classmates in essay and project writing[iii]. The main issue for students with autism, the study findings suggest, is overcoming perfectionism.

Shauna Marie Henry[iv] writes to expose ‘the elephant in the room’.  She says having an Asperger’s viewpoint gives her stories a unique look at social conventions. 

For many of us, being an Aspie doesn’t smooth the pathway to a seamlessly successful social life.  At least not in our early lives.  But certain aspects of our condition, including our unique perceptions, our different ways of processing information, and our ability to find humour in the most socially disastrous circumstances, or even just to survive them, can be seen as positive attributes.  

For some, even fodder for a career we love. 


[i] https://www.theopennotebook.com/2018/10/09/writing-when-on-the-autism-spectrum/

[ii] https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/

[iii] Comparing the writing skills of autistic and nonautistic university students: A collaboration with autistic university students  Kristen Gillespie-LynchEmily HotezMatthew Zajic

[iv] https://writingcooperative.com/learning-to-write-with-aspergers-b1e0fe61b619

Tagged , , ,

Young Adult & Adult Aspies: Who Is In Charge of Your Life?

Margaret Jean

Who will navigate us successfully through life to success?  To achieve the goals we set for ourselves?

Dr. Phil as he is commonly known, says it has to be us.  Nobody else. And he has developed a set of what he calls “Life Laws” which he has used to help many of his clients find their way out of seemingly hopeless situations.

In his book, Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, Dr. Phillip McGraw stresses that what is vital is “…understanding and controlling the cause-and-effect relationships of life; in other words, using your knowledge to make things happen the way you want them to.”

That we are responsible for learning the social strategies that will get us where we want to go, is probably, as Aspies, the last thing we want to hear.

But whether or not you are familiar with Dr. Phil’s non-nonsense TV Show style of therapy, I…

View original post 115 more words

Flat Affect: The Flip Side

What if our Flat Affect has a ‘flip side’?

What if Flat Affect could even be a selective, evolutionary advantage?

Are Aspies perhaps actually more appropriately aligned to deal with the great variety of societal conflicts currently confronting the world?

I have been researching prosody[i] or the inflections, physical[ii] and vocal, that make up our conversations.  Numerous studies[iii] indicate that not all peoples interpret conversational inflections in the same way.

For instance, as a young man working in South America, my friend, Richard, realized that in some Chilean, Peruvian and Bolivian subcultures, it was not wise to show his teeth when smiling.  He found the baring of teeth could sometimes be mistaken for an aggressive attitude.

Research by psychologist Carlos Crivelli and anthropologist Sergio Jarillo (see references below) indicates that primitive societies often do not read facial expressions in the same way as European/North American cultures.  In fact, they found some of our ‘obvious’ expressions baffling.

Is the increased ‘mingling’ of previously geographically separate cultures, each of which has established its own distinctive non-verbal communication, less of a problem for us Aspies with our Flat Affect?

Does inscrutability lead to less misunderstanding of the distinctive facial ‘cues’ which neural typicals are confidently projecting?

Here’s a radical thought! What if our Flat Affect has advantages which outweigh its well–known disadvantages?

What if our lack of facial expression is not necessarily a negative quality?  Could it instead be a genetic variation which facilitates our participation in a global society?

We live in an increasingly internationally diverse culture.  Different facial expressions can send conflicting and sometimes even threatening messages, depending on the culture in which we find ourselves. Under those circumstances, wouldn’t Flat Affect be a good thing?

And consider this: so much of our current communication takes place on the internet where little or no facial expression is involved—emails, chat rooms, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Are Aspies then the children of a world society where conversation is solely based on the verbal rather than on time-honored inflected conversation?

In a shrinking world where uniquely defined cultures more often ‘bump up’ against each other perhaps we are the best prepared to diffuse possible misunderstandings, rather than further igniting them!

[i] https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/social-communication-autism-explained

[ii] Facial Action Coding studies by Jennifer Fugate as reported in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Talking to Strangers pages 147 to 152.

[iii] Sergio Jarillo & Carlos Crivelli  as commented upon in Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers pg.154 to 159 and abstract from:

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-19236-001

Tagged ,

Challenges: Help For Aspie Anxiety

When your teacher or professor assigns homework, when your parents or your roommate ask you to clean up your room, or to look after some household chores—what’s up with that?

Perhaps your roomates want you to take responsibility for two meals a week.  Or maybe you’ve made a commitment to yourself to exercise three times a week or walk six blocks a day.

How can challenges that seem worrying actually help reduce anxiety?

Anxiety is a huge issue for many of us with Asperger’s.  There is no point in asking why we often see six thousand compounding facets in every single little incident in our lives, or why simple chores like washing the car or cleaning our rooms can morph into multi-day events.

 The question is, why would we challenge ourselves with any of these responsibilities at all?

The answer is simple.  By making demands of ourselves, and by disciplining ourselves to attempt to meet those demands, we give ourselves room and encouragement to grow.

By repeatedly doing simple manageable tasks we develop routines and a self-confidence which can serve us well when we encounter more complex issues.

When we attempt to accommodate another’s reasonable demands, we acquire and continually enhance the skill of determining exactly what is required of us.

And we practice discerning how best to initiate the task in the most efficient way so as to successfully complete it with the least stress … and perhaps even a certain degree of pleasure!

This translates into the essential life-skills of listening, comprehending, asking questions about the process when necessary, and successfully completing the task.

We are rewarded with the personal satisfaction which comes with the completion of any worthwhile accomplishment!

And the more that is asked of you, either by others or by yourself, the greater you will feel challenged.

But, the greater the challenge successfully met, the greater the personal satisfaction.

Challenges are not only necessary for our personal and professional growth, they are a fast-track to ensuring our lives remain interesting and fulfilling.

 

 

Tagged

Aspies: Flat Aspect–is this the Botox Experience?

When I read Carla Ciccone’s article in the September 7th edition of the Vancouver Sun, my first thought was welcome to an Aspie’s world, Carla!

When she had a Botox treatment to alleviate some of the wrinkles in her forehead, she lost the ability to express her feelings facially; something I immediately saw as the equivalent of an Aspie’s ‘flat aspect’.

Ciccone writes that she was proud of her ‘bitch’ face. The one with frown lines between dark brows and eyes that narrowed aggressively to a “hawk-like gaze”, a look which she used to express feelings ranging from confusion to rage.

She wanted people to know when she was angry.  And she conveyed that emotion through facial expression.  

But after her Botox treatment, “I was feeling a frown on the inside but my face reflected…serenity.” 

Could our Aspies’ ‘flat aspect’, or lack of facial mobility, be the equivalent of having frequent Botox treatments?

As an Aspie, I often have strong emotions that I do not express, either verbally or facially.  

I let the moment pass and try to sort out how I’m feeling and why.  Is it normal to have this feeling?  How can I express my emotional reaction without being offensive?  Sometimes it may take days for me to figure this out.  

In the meantime, those around me have no idea that I’m upset.  The only emotional barometer they have is linked to my speech patterns. 

I become more quiet than usual; contribute less to the conversation.  I have a less animated reaction to conversations–which is hard to detect as speaking in flat tones can often be my normal.

It occurs to me that if I follow Ciccone’s example and learn facial expressions to convey what I’m feeling, it will be easier for people to understand what’s going on with me in the moment, instead of hours or days later. 

This could be integral to successful socializing and a crucial component of being in a meaningful relationship.

Ciccone also writes:  Since nothing that I was going through in my inner world was visible externally, I began to feel a little bit dead inside.

How about it, Aspies?  Is this true for us, too?  Is ‘flat aspect’ or the lack of facial expression of emotion, a reason we sometimes find ourselves on the periphery of social life?  And do we need to change that?

However, having said that, there are obvious benefits to being an aspie with ‘flat aspect’.  As well as being inscrutable, look how much we can save on Botox treatments!!

 

Tagged , ,

The One That Got Away: An Aspie’s Sales Nightmare

When a topic fascinates us, we Aspies can talk for hours.

Unfortunately, speaking in itself, does not constitute a conversation.

It is listening to someone else and then responding to their information that allows for an exchange of ideas.

This can be a hard lesson for us Aspies to learn.

I once had a book published on tax; on money that people receive when they are downsized and what happens to them tax-wise when they do.  I called it Jack and Stanley’s Buyout Adventure.

A human resource manager called.  He had read the book and wondered if I would come and talk to him about doing seminars for his employees.  He worked for a mining company and the mine was shutting down.

I drove all the way up to Logan Lake from the coast and met a very pleasant man.  One who told me he had read the book all the way through just to find out what happened to Jack and Stanley in the end.

That book, as well as being about income tax, was also my first published attempt at characterization and I was flattered to hear it so well received.

In response, I spoke for what seems in retrospect, an hour without once asking him what he and the employees needed.

I’ve been over it a thousand times in my mind.  What would a better approach have been?

Maybe something like this: Hello, my name is Margaret and I am thrilled you like my book, Now, what is it you have in mind?  How do you see me working with your employees during this closure?

That would have shown a real interest in his dilemma as a human resource person, and also illustrated the fact that I wasn’t just there to tout my book, but rather to be a real help to these men who were being laid off.

Instead, with his encouraging first remarks, I launched into a long history of the book and how it came to be and what it meant to me.  I doubt I let him get in a single word.

Needless to say, I did not get the opportunity to give any seminars. Instead, I got to drive all the way back home again, berating myself for a personality flaw that I knew only too well; one that I vowed to work hard to conquer.

In a way, that day was a gift.  One from which I have benefitted over and over.  It taught me a lesson:  It is never just about me.  A fruitful conversation always includes others, and that requires not so much talking, as truly listening.

I do hope this helps you.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

Tagged ,

Advocating For Your Loved One: Eight Practical Suggestions.

Caregiver Me

How often have you noticed something that needs to be addressed in order for your loved one to have the best care? Probably almost as often you have felt mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.   

The key to dealing with these situations is to be prepared, to be as informed as possible. Armed with the relevant information you will feel empowered and confident. 

These eight practical suggestions will ensure quick access to the records you need to be effective in your dealings with medical professionals and bureaucrats when issues arise.

1.  At every appointment, take notes and always date them.   

  • Be sure to include a list of all participants. At meetings with medical practitioners ensure that you record key terminology and associated terms, and any recommendations that are made. This applies not only to specific medical concerns but also to diagnosis and treatment options.  I kept these notes in one…

View original post 482 more words

%d bloggers like this: