Tag Archives: asperger traits

Bullied because we’re different: ‘Different’ includes ‘Exceptional”!

In Mexico, a child named Adhara Perez was bullied, called ‘weirdo’ and ‘oddball’.  In one incident, her ‘playmates’ locked her in a playhouse, while taunting her relentlessly for being ‘different’.

These attitudes are all too familiar to children with Asperger’s.

Even as adults, it can seem that the harder we try to fit in socially, the more we subject ourselves to painful disdain when our efforts only exacerbate our difference.

But what about those of us who find acceptance as we are?

The best possible scenario is when a parent or a spouse sees the positive aspects of our ‘syndrome’.  This is what happened with Adhara Perez.

Her mother, witnessing the playhouse incident, vowed that Adhara would never have to suffer such humiliating treatment again.

She consoled Adhara, encouraging her through therapy and subsequent tests which revealed that Adhara actually had an astounding IQ!  That was at the age of four.

Part of her mother’s determination that Adhara should never again be subjected to bullying was the decision to take her out of school, where  bored and depressed, Adhara often slept through her classes. 

After her amazing intellect was discovered, Adhara began studying in a non-traditional manner.  She graduated from high school at age 8, and is currently working on two degrees, Systems Engineering and Industrial Engineering in Mathematics. 

When we consider the lives of children with Asperger’s whose parents have stood by them, we see an illustration of the extraordinary benefits they can bring to the world.

Two women come immediately to mind:  First, Temple Grandin, who has championed the humane treatment of livestock en route to slaughter. As well, Grandin has written scientific treatises on animal behaviour and several books[1] including one about the autistic brain.

Secondly, Greta Thunberg, who has shaken up the world by forcing us towards a greater recognition of the disastrous effects that environmental pollution will have upon both present and future generations.

What does Adhara advise people who find themselves in hateful situations?

Never give up! And if you’re in an intolerable situation you despise? Then formulate concrete plans to move yourself forward into a better situation.

Let’s all do ourselves a great favour by remembering: ‘different’ need not be a negative attribute. It includes those who are gifted with insights which are unavailable to the vast majority of those with normal cognitive function, as the ‘normal’ brain is too often passively unquestioning, and thus unable to visualise, sustain and actualize alternate possibilities. 


[1] Grandin wrote several books, including Emergence: Labeled Autistic (1986; with Margaret M. Scariano), Thinking in Pictures, and Other Reports from My Life with Autism (1995), and The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (2013; with Richard Panek). Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor (2018) was for younger readers. She also edited and contributed to the volume Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals (1998).

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Aspies: How We Interact With Our World

I have always known that those of us with Asperger’s see the world differently. Perhaps more intensely than others see it.

Sometimes our Asperger’s can provide a unique viewpoint, enabling us to see events from a more focused and vital perspective, and from this distinctive intellectual position, create avenues for provoking change.

Take, for instance, Greta Thunberg, who views environmental issues with great clarity. Thunberg was able to focus on her local environmental situation and with great determination, work to effect change in her community.

Greta’s single-minded conviction that action needed to be taken if the youth of today were to inherit a world in which the reduction of pollution and restoration of natural resources was of prime importance, stirred people to action around the world.

Because of her insistence that something be done, beginning in her home, then in her community, then in the larger, global community, Thunberg has effected tremendous change in the social and legal responsibilities of some nations toward environmental issues.

There is a rather astounding blog by Mark Hutton, My Asperger’s Child, in which he details a fifty positive traits which he associates with his child. (myaspergerschild.com)

Among these traits are the following:

Being conscientious, reliable and persistent.

Having a lot of passion when pursuing activities with which they engage.

Bringing a new, highly original perspective to problem solving.

Not recognizing hierarchies; evaluating people upon their intentions & actions, not their ‘positions’.

Displaying honesty

Possessing high integrity.

Having exceptional memories.

These characteristics are not only positive but are essential qualities when dealing with the complexities of international relations.

Consider how they have aided Thunberg in her goal of changing how the citizens of the world view the possibility of changing national and international attitudes toward environmental issues.

Not recognizing hierarchies is a plus if you are a teenager meeting people in power without being intimidated by their status.

Having an exceptional memory is important when you are quoting statistics, and bringing vital issues to the attention of international forums.

These positives are only a few Hutton names; for a complete list go to his blog or to https://aspergersvic.org.au/page-18136

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An Adult Aspie Looks at Friendship

Having trouble making friends? For people on the spectrum, this is a common situation. A recent study indicated that of the participants, more than half the children with ASD did not have a single close friend. How does a person learn to live with that?

I have been fortunate to have one or two friends who have remained constant. But mostly? Friends come and go.

My approach to friendship is different from that of people who seem to know all the rules of bonding and building peer relationships.

Occasionally, people come to have some meaningful connection with me, and then, for the most part, sooner or later drift away. And that’s okay because they always leave me emotionally richer, with lessons learned and experiences shared that I would not have otherwise had.

I have let go of my expectations of a life-long friendship when my life intersects with others. If we have no interests in common, or not enough to sustain a typical friendship, that’s ok.

Not forming a lifetime bond with others is not a failure.

I see my role as bringing light into their path just by virtue of being me.  I want to offer them a gift, introducing an upbeat, pleasant moment into their day. I may do this in many ways: with kindness, validation, humour or encouragement.

I see our meeting as a connection, not a life-long commitment.

I believe connecting with someone new occurs at a meaningful time for both of us, and that we are each somehow important in that moment for the other, assisting each other along whatever path we are individually, or jointly, travelling.

It is not for me to judge others, to work to improve the people who come into my life, or to see if we can converse comfortably for hours … although it is always a pleasant surprise when a lengthy, satisfying conversation occurs! 

Actually, shorter connections feel safer for me, I can avoid having to analyse whether what we have discussed or disclosed is really appropriate.

Just a connection that however fleeting, will be rewarding in the moment, and remembered with pleasure.

That’s not so hard to live with!

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As Aspies our Difference is our Strength

There is an Unrecognized Strength in the ways we are Different … one which may lead us toward Unique and Rewarding Opportunities!

“I wish I wasn’t different,” My grandson said recently at a family gathering, reflecting on a  mean comment in his school year book.

As Aspies, we often feel we are seen as different: not the norm, whatever ‘normal’ is.

This can make us feel isolated from many, if not most of our peers. 

But cheer up! Being different also means we have a unique perspective.  And seeing things from an uncommon viewpoint is not all bad.

For instance, say a number of people see a couple taking the legs off a table in order to fit it into their car. 

If you’re a car salesman, you might think “They need a bigger car.”

Or a practical person might think, “They could have bought a smaller table.”

Someone who hates a hassle, may well think, “Why didn’t they just have it delivered?”

Ingvar Kampar, a dyslexic seventeen-year-old Swedish teen  was certainly not ‘disadvantaged’ by being ‘different’ when he observed the above event. He recognized a unique marketing opportunity: one that would make him a billionaire.

His thought?  If the table was sold in pieces packaged in a flat box it would easily fit into most cars.  Customers could then assemble it at their leisure, saving them the hassle of first breaking it down, or alternately, the cost of delivery.

He further realized that supplying numerous large goods in this manner would reduce the costs of production by reducing expenses associated with assembly, at the same time greatly reducing the volume and therefore the cost of warehouse space.  In addition, the need for delivery and the extra cost to the consumer for this service would be eliminated.

In effect, Kampar’s vision was of a production/retail experience that would be cost efficient for both the producer and the customer.

Thus, IKEA was born.

So, as Aspies we must not be dismayed if our thinking is ‘outside the box’.  Our differences can lead us to a unique vision that may result in desirable innovative advances and a successful career.

To learn more about Ingvar Kampar and his unique marketing system, see Youngme Moon’s book, Different.

For us Aspies, that title says it all.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

P.S. Other books on having a unique perspective: 

The Power of Different, The Link Between Disorder and Genius by Gail Saltz

Be Different, Adventures of A Free-range Aspergian : With Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers by John Elder Robison.

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An Aspie Read: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

“Fortunately I am accustomed to inadvertently creating humour,” Professor Don Tillman states when his phone conversation causes his genetics class to burst into laughter.

The story is hilarious, yet wonderfully moving.  The main character/narrator is totally engaging.  This is because he recognizes his differences, but is undefeated by them.

Author Graeme Simsion, an Aussie IT consultant successfully reveals Tillman’s social awkwardness without making fun of him, making The Rosie Project a compassionate mirror to Aspies the world over.

A good friend gave me this book saying she wanted me to have it because she thought I could relate very well to the main character.  And I did.  Apparently many other people do as well, as the book to date has been published in 74 countries and many languages.

 

This book is great for anyone 16 years of age and older, for Aspies, parents and relatives of Aspies, and those who just plain like a good read.

Rosie’s language is not always pristine, but she is a very enjoyable character.

Buy it.  Or persuade your local library to get it in.  You’ll like it!

For more information on this book go to: https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/the-rosie-project/

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

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Autism Spectrum:  The Benefits of a Rich Internal Life

People who are different somehow are often subjected to unpleasant treatment.  Sometimes very harsh treatment.  Social isolation.  Bullying.  Discrimination.  Unfortunately,  people on the autism spectrum can often find themselves in these unpleasant situations.

Many now-famous people have found themselves in very dire situations, suffering treatment or circumstances which might easily have left them forever emotionally scarred if not dead.

One such man, Viktor Frankl, imprisoned in Auschwitz for several years during WWII, was fascinated by his own and others’ ability to survive conditions which should have killed them.

“Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life…” Frankl concluded, would often survive, even if they seemed more fragile emotionally and physically than other men.

In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Frankl credits their survival to an interior sphere of intellectual stimulus to which they could retreat.

This brings to mind the biography and now, movie Unbroken.  Cast adrift on a raft for weeks with no food or water, Louis Zamperini and his pilot survived.  Both credited their survival with intellectual discussions and debates which took their minds off their plight.  They were also able to devise ways to catch fish (rarely) and capture drinking water from the occasional rainfall.

Also, the story of Nelson Mandela, (movies, Invictus and Long Walk To Freedom) a man who endured unthinkable punishment in prison under the Apartheid system of South Africa.  He had a dream to live for; to see his people live freely in their own country.

While most Aspies or high-functioning autism spectrum individuals will never live under conditions as dire as these, it is encouraging to know that interior intellectual lives have meaning and value.

It is important to learn to cope socially, to hone our social skills to the point where we can move freely in our societies with confidence.  However, nurturing that rich interior life can help move us through periods of suffering.

Frankl says also that people who had an unfinished work that only they could complete, people who had a dream to fulfil, and people who had someone else (a loved one) to live for, also found reason to endure.

Frankl notes that unavoidable suffering gives a person a unique opportunity to express his finer self in how he/she manages or bears his suffering.

Please note that Frankl is speaking of unavoidable suffering.  To suffer when it is avoidable, Frankl maintains, is mere masochism.

Hope this helps!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Praise for Aspies–How Does That Work?

Being praised for being smart can unwittingly lead bright kids to a downward learning spiral.

So says Mary Loftus in an April 2013 Psychology Today article; Smooth Encounters.

Loftus suggests kids who are told they are bright may not put in as much effort, thinking things should come naturally to them.

This can lead to poor results which can make them doubt their ability.

Praise effort, Loftus suggests.  Praising the work leading up to the brilliant report or impressive project is often more helpful for the child seeking reassurance.  Praise persistence.  Praise performance.  Remind the child of obstacles overcome.

This kind of praise leads to intellectual and social success.

Try it!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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To Touch or Not To Touch? An Aspie Dilemma.

Touch can strengthen relationships, show closeness, and increase co-operation.  This applies to touching in “safe zones”.

So says Laura Guerrero in an April 2013 Psychology Today magazine article.  Touch, Guerrero maintains, is important in developing social relationships.

As Aspies, we often don’t like to be touched.  And we almost never feel comfortable touching others.

So, perhaps more than non-Aspies, we can understand the need to observe the other person’s reaction, of how they respond to your intention to touch.

Do they tense up?  Pull away?  Don’t touch.

Do they relax, seem open to touch?  Keep to the safe zones.

Because touch is the first sense humans acquire, Guerrero maintains it is a key element in building relationships.

Staying within the safety zones, observing a person’s response to your intention to touch, these are key to successful touching.

Do not touch complete strangers, or people you hardly know.  That is an unwelcome touch.

Safe zones are hands, shoulders and arms.

Examples of safe-zone touches?  High fives.  Hand shakes.  Back slaps.  Shoulder taps.

In the office?  Let your manager, supervisor or boss initiate contact, Guerrero warns.

Keep your handshake firm.  Not limp, not bone-crushing.

And when in doubt?  Don’t touch.

Guerrero researches non-verbal communication at Arizona State University and is the author of the book, Close Encounters, Communication in Relationships.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Asperger Me

I was born with Asperger’s so I had markedly different ideas and behaviours from the average girl, and definitely from my mother and father.

In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger’s Teen, I talk a lot about the lack of relationship between myself and my parents.  That sense of disconnection, the feeling that I was some sort of interloper.

At the time, in my teens, I thought Mom’s ideal daughter would have enjoyed sewing, crocheting, baking bread with her, and sharing her enthusiasm for Woman’s Day magazine.  I was into classical music, movies like Lawrence of Arabia, poetry, Shakespeare and boys.

Was I right about Mom?  I’m not so sure.

My mother’s house was always dusty, rather untidy.  She went out to work, you see, when few mothers did, straining in the steaming heat of the Empress Laundry or cleaning low-rent motel rooms.

Once you’ve been out to work, you’ll never want to stay home again, she told me in a rare moment of mother-daughter confidence.

And of course the housework had to be done by someone.  And as the eldest daughter by nearly eight years, naturally that lot fell to me and to my grandmother.  I talk about that in Unforgiving, too.  About how I just took these duties for granted.

What did Mom want?  Just a daughter who didn’t talk so loud? Who didn’t speak out of turn?  Who could get a job and keep it?

The truth is, I will never know. Relationships are complicated.

Deeper into my adulthood, Mom and I came a little closer.  When she got Alzheimer’s?  After Dad died she came to live with us.

Goodnight, Mom, she’d say as I tucked her into bed.

She had forgotten I was her daughter.  All she knew was that I was someone who lovingly tucked her in at night.  

Maybe that’s all we needed to know about each other.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

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Perfect? Not This Aspie!

In case you think I’m writing this blog from a position of perfection, you should know: it ain’t necessarily so.

Once on a road trip with my daughter?  She was singing along to some CD’s she brought.  I think she has a pretty voice.  She loves to sing.  But like me?  She has a little problem with keeping on tune.

No big deal.  But she sings in a band.  So I said, in a very motherly way, if she would take singing lessons?  I would pay for them.

She wrote a whole blog about that.

If you don’t think I was out of line?  You probably have Asperger’s too.

Another time, I went to visit my other daughter, who at that time was a single mom.  There were a number of issues I wanted to discuss with her, so I made a list.  And pulled it out and started on number one.

She laughed so hard she nearly fell over.  That is so YOU, Mom.  A list of what to talk about!

Just thought you’d like to know—both girls still love me, still include me in their lives, and are only a phone call away when I need anything.

But don’t think the author of this blog has come to perfect her social relationships.  I do research so that we can learn together.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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