Category Archives: behaviours

Aspies and Small Talk: Think Communication Bytes.

What is the main characteristic of small talk?

It’s SMALL.  Bytes of conversation as opposed to megabytes or gigabytes.

Keeping it short and impersonal can be challenging when you’re longing to express thoughts and ideas you have harboured inside yourself for so long that they are bursting to come out.  But you must manage your conversations, especially when you are first meeting someone.

Remember:  Bytes.  Little.  Little bits of conversation.

When you are first introduced to someone?  This is not the time to tell them about your fascination with engineering systems, national infrastructure or energetic reactions.  Save those conversations for networking meetings or gatherings of people with similar interests.

Socially?  Small talk is for when you first meet someone.  It’s a time to establish a safe conversational zone for both you and the person who is the object of your conversation.

Topics?  The weather.  Recent outings or vacations.  Current events.  Popular movies.

If the other person takes you deeper into their personal life, political or religious persuasion, fine, let them go on.

But rein yourself in.  Keep your conversation pleasant, interested and attentive.  Excuse yourself politely if you feel you must escape them.

Please remember, Aspies–it’s called SMALL talk.

Yours Truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Two Generations Can Have an Explosive Impact.

In a Psychology Today April 2013 article titled Father and Son, Aspies Alike author John Elder Robison describes the pitfalls of two generations under one roof having Aspergers.

His son, Jack, was fascinated by ‘energetic reactions’ in chemistry.  This meant that he liked building experimental things that depended on explosive reactions. Things like rockets. Other chemical formulations that he set to explode in the field behind their house.

John Robison knew that his son Jack was uploading instructional videos of his experiments to You Tube.  But it never occurred to him, as it might to some non-Aspie parents, that this might attract some undue attention.

In Jack’s case, it was the FBI FTA branch.

Jack was not charged with any offence and his brush with the law proved innocent enough.

But maybe it’s better when you’re seeking an outside opinion?  To ask someone who isn’t an Aspie.

John Robison’s books include Raising Cubby,  Be Different and Look Me In the Eye.  His son, Jack, along with Jack’s friends Alex Plank, founder of You Tube’s Wrong Planet, have created a series of videos about Autism issues.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Two Big Reasons Aspies Need To Learn Small Talk

Why perfect the art of small talk?  The ability to to communicate socially on what may seem to Aspies to be the art of meaningless chit chat?

Two reasons:

First, for your physical health.  That’s right!  Dr. Dean Ornish cardiologist and author of Reversing Heart Disease says this:

“being able to initiate and maintain relationships is integral to heart health.”

He goes on to explain:  “being able to interact meaningfully in a reciprocal relationship with another human being relieves stress and the feelings of loneliness and isolation.”

Isolated?  In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I show how I felt that way a lot, and how damaging it was to me socially to be unable to connect with my peer group as well as my parents and elders.  As Aspies, I’m sure we all know what those feelings are like.

And the second reason to learn small talk?  Because it’s the key that opens the door to successful social relationships.  It seems meaningless, but on the contrary: it’s important!

Small talk is the way people conversationally explore their comfort zone with the other person.

It’s where you and the other person communicate briefly about the world you both live in before deciding if it’s desirable or even safe to go into further fields of conversation.

Initially?  Keep it small, keep it light, and get connected.  Ultimately, small talk is good for the heart and good for your mental and emotional health.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Autism Spectrum Children Over-Protected: Temple Grandin

The main thrust of personalities on the autism spectrum is social awkwardness, Temple Grandin, an autistic scientist, best-selling author and public speaker maintains.  Her most recent book, “The Autistic Brain” is the topic of her speech available at  www.chicagohumanities.org.

“It’s like our brains have been programmed with all the social circuitry left out.” Grandin says.  “Who do you think invented the spear?”  She asks.  Certainly not those social types sitting chatting around the fire!

 

But Grandin is concerned that children today are allowed to become recluses in their bedrooms or the basement.  They are over-protected, she asserts, and as a result, they become adults on welfare sitting home playing video games.

 

Because kids on the autism spectrum are socially awkward, Parents may tend to protect them from social situations, allowing the children to avoid all participation. The problem as Grandin sees it is that as parents, we are not pushing our autistic children hard enough.  Listening, I can hear that Grandin is looking back at tasks she was made to do as a child which she dreaded at the time.  Now, however, she sees the value in her mother’s determination.

 

For instance Grandin’s mother forced Temple to play hostess at her cocktail parties, to take on family tasks and to visit relatives independently each year.  Nowadays, these daily routines are missing.  Grandin mourns the loss of paper routes which taught children how to work, and chores which taught children basic skills like cooking and sewing.  Grandin also regrets the loss in some schools woodwork and metalwork classes.  These lessons taught not only basic skills, but also practical problem solving and resourcefulness.

 

The solution?  Autistic children need their boundaries pushed.  Her message is that children need mentors and to have that, they must socialize.  Common interests are the threads that bind autistic people with others socially.  Her suggestion?  Retired people who work with the skill-sets that interest your autistic child are the kind of people who could be good mentors for your child.

 

Her talk is interesting and thought-provoking. For anyone with autism spectrum issues in the family, it is well worth the hour spent listening.  Her video is available at: http://chicagohumanities.org/events/2013/animal/temple-grandin?gclid=CjwKEAjw68ufBRDt0Zmrn4W_8AwSJADcjp1c8n1Utyy3mnJeYdd940H2AEKV1F2Imhly0MZsHZr5SxoChdfw_wcB

A shorter version can be found on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWePrOuSeSY.

 

 

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Asperger Traits: The Real Life Effects.

The traits I want to illustrate today are twofold: the way we give what people say a more literal interpretation than what others do, and two?  The fact that we do not naturally learn correct social behaviour from observing others.

My parents knew they had a problem child in me.  Their solutions for me were rote.  Whenever I’d set on a course they deemed foolish, like when I wanted to shave my legs or tint my hair, because the other girls were doing it, my parents had a standard response:

I suppose if all the other girls jumped off a cliff, you would, too?

Of course I wouldn’t, I’d reply, stung by the stupidity of the suggestion.

I took this saying quite literally to mean that I was not supposed to copy the behaviour of my peers.

I took it to mean that individuality was an  important factor in people’s assessment of each other.

Which made sense when you thought about because it also ensured the preservation of the species.   I mean, who knows what would happen to the population if herds of stupid teenage girls were always plunging off cliffs.

Not that I thought they were, but sadly I never paused to reflect that actually herds of teenagers, male or female, running lemming-like toward the ultimate plunge was an idiomatic warning meant to be directed at particularly dangerous behaviours.  I think partly what confused me was that what I wanted to do was more normal than dangerous.

I didn’t realize back then, as I do now, that the only real danger in tinting my hair or shaving my legs was the fact that it would cost the parents money which they couldn’t afford.

Not to mention the fear that no-one knew what colour Margaret Jean’s hair would end up.  In an era when strawberry blonde was a shocker, this was a real concern.

It wasn’t until I was very much older that I learned to watch how others responded to each other and the community at large.  And copy their behaviours.  Not their words, necessarily, but their timing and attentiveness.  And so far?  I haven’t found myself heading toward any cliffs.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

 

 

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What Do Aspies Need From Their Parents? Stephen Shore’s Success Story

 

 

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I often express the feeling of being disconnected from the rest of my family and my peers.

In the 1960’s, there was no diagnosis for Asperger’s.  My parents couldn’t figure out what was “wrong” with me.  In their eyes, much of my behaviour was inappropriate.  I resoponded differently to social situations and learning environments than my siblings.  This sense of being “wrong” while all too common for people with Asperger’s, does not have to be.

 In the introductory interview, Stephen Shore describes “the most important thing about my parents”, which is that they accepted him for who he was, and yet at the same time realized that he would face a number of challenges in his journey toward a normal life.

Many of us do not have parents who have this understanding.  Some of us have parents who are not educated enough or financially positioned to offer us the kind of interventions and therapies that Stephen Shore enjoyed.  Some parents are just too drained, emotionally and physically to offer us the support we need.

So we must learn to love and accept ourselves.  Understand this–we can make friends, be comfortable with some people, sincerely listen, pleasantly respond.

And parents please understand, whatever else you do, accepting your child for who they are is the first step on the road to your child’s integration into society.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Susan Boyle: Asperger’s Meets Opportunity

When Susan Boyle stepped onto that stage in England, she did not look at all like anyone’s idea of a singing star.

In fact, the audience looked askance at her.  Simon Cowell rolled his eyes as Susan rocked Aspegerishly on the stage.

But this did not deter her.  She had been refining her art for years and was confident in her ability.

When she started to sing, the audience gasped in amazement.  Before she finished the first verse, they were on their feet.

Simple Susan, mad, odd, bizarre.”  Susan recalls being rudely labelled.

“But you see,” she goes on to say, “I’m not mad or simple or any of the other names that I have been called over the years.

I have Asperger’s and it doesn’t define me, it gives a greater understanding of who I am.”

How prepared are you to meet an amazing opportunity?  Are you sitting home feeling sorry for yourself?  Or are you working at your gift?  Seeking out your interests, learning more, working harder at being the best you can be?  We all have our down times.  But we can rise up, we can find our feet again, and our faith in ourselves and in our talents.

To read more about Susan Boyle, go to: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/09/exclusive-read-susan-boyle-s-essay-on-her-secret-struggle-with-asperger-s.html

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Employers and Autism: Why Would I Hire a Person With Asperger’s??

Want the best person for the job?  Someone focused, methodical, honest and reliable?  You could be looking for someone on the autism spectrum.

According to a bulletin from the National Autistic Society Northern Ireland and the Department for Employment and Learning (N. Ireland), people on the autism spectrum have some stellar qualities to offer.

“People with autism can make effective and highly valued employees,” the article begins.

“As is the case with all employees, it’s important to match the person’s particular skills to the requirements of the post.”

“People with autism are often very focused and have considerable skills in specific areas.”

“Some of the transferable skills include: attention to detail, a methodical approach, strong research skills,  good long term memory and excellent record-keeping.”

For more information on this topic, see:  http://www.equalityni.org/archive/pdf/Employingpeoplewithautism.pdf

Why not hire a person with Asperger’s?

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Asperger’s and Autism: Disorder? Disability? Or Difference?

While some folks out there see autism and Asperger’s as disabilities or disorders, while they are busy searching for cures, others like Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University and Dr. Jim Tanaka of the University of Victoria, BC see these syndromes as conditions.  Conditions that do not necessarily call for cures.

While some disabilities are created by the syndrome, certain talents often also result.  One examples of this theory is Temple Grandin, a brilliant animal behaviourist with autism.

Baron-Cohen gives the further example of Einstein who said, “I do not socialize because it would distract me from my work.”

He also points out that people on the spectrum are far more interested in how systems work than in social cognition.

Jim Tanaka has done work on facial recognition, and developed new games as a result of his research that help ASD children with social interaction.

He encourages everyone to look at ASD not as a disability but as a difference integral to one’s personality.

I agree!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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What Is Normal? Non-verbal Autistic Child: Siblings in Autism

Click on the video!  This is a fascinating insight into family life when one child is autistic.

The non-autistic sibling gives her point of view of the family dynamic and her relationship with her brother, which gives the video a unique focus.

The father is Mike Lake, an MP from Edmonton.

Enjoy!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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