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  • Category Archives Aspie Specific
  • Testing

    So I found out today it’s $800-$1,200 to get tested to see whether I’m on the spectrum (they don’t take any of the insurance I have).  I’ve been told I have some traits of people on the spectrum by psychiatrists but never got formal testing done.  Part of the reason I don’t have that kind of money is because of disability based prejudice partially due to things that look an awful lot like autism symptoms.

  • Lesson: At the Store

    Sometimes people on the spectrum’s mannerisms mimic shoplifters.  Follow these tips to be safer.  These tips apply for anyone, especially anyone who is not clean cut, neurotypical and white.

    • If possible don’t bring a backpack into a store.  It raises suspicion.
    • Never put merchandise you are going to purchase in your cloths or jacket pockets.  You may forget it on the way out of the store.
    • Always have a question ready in case an employee asks you if you need help.  A lot of times they are watching for shoplifting.
    • The answer to, “do you want a bag for this”, is always yes.  Sometimes you will be able to purchase things in a different area of a store (for example the electronics section at Meijer).  You always need to have a bag with a receipt in it because this shows onlookers you made the purchase.  You could get stopped without a bag and if you lost your receipt you could be in big trouble.

    The store (particularly big box stores) are not a kind place for those on the spectrum with the crowds, fluorescent lights, and store equipment beeping their trouble tones everywhere.

  • International Ideas Month, An Idea for You

    March is International Ideas Month and I couldn’t help but toot my horn.

    I did the quote on the masthead in memory board.  Memory Board is mainly an alternative communication tool for people on the spectrum but can also be used for learning languages and remembering things.  I have only tested it on Edge (IE in Windows 10) and Chrome, not sure it works on other browsers.

    Click the images to hear the text to speech!

  • No Fail Safe, No Feel Safe!

    In order for me to feel safe I need to have fail safes in place which is pretty much the opposite of how God works. God promises he will never fail you and then sets the rhetorical stage so that no matter what he does it’s impossible for him to do so. Any situation where God appears to fail is chalked up to your senses failing to grasp how he is—in fact—succeeding (as if God’s people dropping out of your life and staying away aren’t sign enough that things aren’t going according to “God’s plan”). On the other hand, in a fail safe there is a clear cut specific delineation of what constitutes a failure. It’s a guarantee that if someone doesn’t come through with what they promised, something will automatically be triggered (it’s the plan B that gives the plan A an incentive to work). For example a pizza delivery that becomes free if it doesn’t arrive in a half an hour. As someone on the autistic spectrum I need routine and predictability fail safes afford me. I’d rather have a god who was safe than a god who claims to do what’s best.

  • The laws of thermodynamics never fail, even the least of us

    Imagine if you got on a plane and the pilot was on the spectrum.  Then they had to get a new pilot, not because the pilot wasn’t skilled and talented enough to fly the plane, but—because of his autism—the laws of thermodynamics wouldn’t work in such a way that the plane would fly.  That would be ridiculous.  But that describes our relationship with God and religion pretty perfectly.  Because of the way our brains our wired we have a hard to impossible time interacting with the divine.  Which begs the question, if there were a god wouldn’t he be equally accessible to everyone (the same way the law of thermodynamics is), regardless of their brain configuration?

    I find science is a safe space for me because it functions uniformly regardless of brain configuration.  A night when I was completely out of my mind (would be heading to the mental hospital the next day) I picked up an old school Game Boy Color and played some Tetris.  I was trying to test whether I had gotten a lot better at it, to match what my delusions of grandeur were telling me.  In that moment in that game it was shown that I wasn’t any better.  I was just as bad as usual.  Tetris was being the scientific objective voice I needed (God, on the other hand, was telling me all kinds of crazy shit).

    Religion didn’t always involve the brain being front and center and then it was probably easier for autistics to be involved in it.  But as people have amassed more of a sense of self and the promises of interaction with the divine go grander and grander, the brain has taken center stage.

  • Fundies and Aspies

    One of my favorite articles of all time about a guy on the autistic spectrum raised fundamentalist who left the Christian faith.

    For me, it was like God was an imaginary friend that I absolutely knew was real, rather than just merely a faith I had… and all the crazy delusions that came with it. In order for us Aspies to believe in something we can’t see, we have to find something to latch onto, to make it part of our world. My mind ran wild with kooky ideas. Like Faggot Killer.

    People tell me I need to be saved. I tell them, it’s cool that you believe in Jesus or God, that you’re going to church, but that life for me, as a person with Asperger’s syndrome, that was poison to me.

  • Getting a Job

    The conventional means of getting a job will almost never work for those on the spectrum:

    Unless you’re lucky and land a job right out of school your employment history is likely not going to have contiguous periods of full-time employment.  When you apply online to jobs, resumes without contiguous periods of full-time employment get winnowed out right away, usually by the software itself.  If they can’t tell you may get a phone interview where they will ask you more directly about your employment history.  Keep in mind hundreds, if not thousands, of people are applying for the same job as you so they can be picky.

    Assuming you do land an interview your chances are generally dead on arrival.  Within the first minute of a job interview the interviewer has decided whether you are worth hiring.  I had someone who is now a CEO tell me this and read it in a prominent marketing book Selling the Invisible.  People call this “trusting their instinct”.  And naturally this “instinct” is informed by their prejudices.  If you are on the spectrum they are going to sense something is off about you right away.  They’ll rationalize that you aren’t a good “cultural fit”, a political correct way of saying they only hire neurotypicals and generally people just like them.

    What about unconventional means?

    What they generally mean by this is networking.  Never eat alone, always be having lunch with someone who is high status that can advance your career.  The problem is, networking is the thing those on the spectrum are very poor at.  This is particularly true because, in my experience, the high status people are the ones the most rejecting of those on the spectrum (or anyone different for that matter).  I can carry on a conversation with an Uber driver or an accounting major fine but anyone high status will be cold and shut down.

    What can companies do to hire more people on the spectrum?

    They can realize that the only word that means anything to us is PLACEMENT.  Teaching us interview skills is like teaching someone how to go up against an AK-47 with a butter knife.  If companies are truly serious about diversity hiring they’ll designate a point person that people far from privilege can go to to circumvent the traditional resume/interview process (someone on the spectrum applying online with a less than stellar employment history will just get their resume thrown out by the software).  I know this seems unfair but it’s also unfair that so many people on the spectrum with skills and smarts languish un or underemployed.

  • Autism in Love film and status

    I highly recommend a PBS Independent Lens documentary called Autism in Love (you can watch it online).  It follows a few people on the spectrum who (like pretty much all of us) are looking for love.  Some of them are in relationships, others are not.  Even for the ones who were successful by society’s standards it was a lot of effort to keep communication lines open and make the relationship work.

    The person I identified with the most was the lower functioning young man who was unsuccessful in finding love.  In one part of the film he was keenly aware of his low social status, raising his palm saying “they’re up here” and lowering it down and saying “I’m down here”.  Which brings me to a truth about a lot of people on the spectrum.  On a micro level we might not be aware of everything going on (as we generally have a poor ability at picking up on social cues) but on a macro level, specifically with things that pertain directly to us, very little escapes us.  This is because macro level things are drilled into our heads over and over again so even if we miss 95% of the social cues, the 5% we do catch we catch again and again.  To go back to the example in the film, those of us with low status (of whom I am one) are overly aware of it.

  • signs I was on the spectrum

    My parents and others are still in denial about me being on the spectrum.  Since I was born blind and had poor vision as a baby they pin all my abnormal behavior on the visual impairment.

    I was always bad with eye contact from my birth to this day.  I was better at it when I wore contacts and looked normal because looking normal made people treat me a lot better so there was a positive feedback loop that went on there.  This could be blamed on my poor vision which a good portion of it probably was.

    At the age of two I would bang my head on the tile floor of our house on Honduras (my dad was a pastor of an expat church in the capital there).  I also held in my stool when I was potty training so when it finally had to come out it was painful.  My first memories were of nightmares.  I don’t know what they were about, I just know the feeling was so intense it stuck with me. When I napped I always needed a specific set of toys with me including a light box which allowed me to count in binary (my dad’s friend was an engineering genius I guess and helped make it for me).  I was very good at the memory card game played before naps which surprises me because I’m terrible at it now.  I attacked certain toys like biting the forehead of my big sister’s doll and a ripping into a stuffed monkey I hated with uncommon passion.

    I started talking late and before being able to speak I had echolalia, where my mother would say, “say goodbye Matthew”, and I’d say “say goodbye Matthew”.  By now we had moved back to the states, I had a speech pathologist and instructions like “take your jacket off” had to be turned into rules in order for me to follow them.  Our family was strict by today’s standards, siblings tell me I got spanked the most but it wasn’t that often as the threat of it kept us in line.  As a preschooler I liked to count steps up the porch to our house.

    We were definitely free range kids.  At five years old I was permitted to climb trees in the back forest of my grandma’s house, I’d get almost a hundred feet up.  It’s one of my best memories.

    At age seven I couldn’t think of a person (I ended up making up for this later in life when obsessive thoughts of people almost thought themselves).  I know this because my mom would sing me this 70’s one hit wonder song, “Matthew Matthew Matthew are you thinking of me”.  And I would always say no and it would puzzle her.  At age 10 I always wanted to watch the Weather Channel much to the chagrin of my siblings.  I still have journals from when I was that age and it’s amazing how social I was as a kid.  I wrote about and interacted with people normally without a second thought.  Of course this was before junior high when people’s standards for interacting with people become more stringent.

    In junior high I got bullied by a teacher and some students.  I was pushed in a urinal a couple times and got my lunch thrown away some but talking to others on the internet with my pathologies this was very mild compared to what they went through.  At home I would complain incessantly about things like supper time.

    Late junior high and high school I wasted a lot of time on the computer, so much so that one of the only girls I was ever friends with came up I was too busy making a level of a game to hang out with her (at the time I didn’t know how hard it would be for me to find female friends).  I was raised Evangelical Christian but got a hold of my brother’s copy of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and those songs resonated with me more deeply than anything coming from church.  Freshman year I said my big brother was a virgin in a packed lunch room and everybody laughed.  I wasn’t socially aware enough to know that there was anything wrong with that and my big brother didn’t like me tagging along with him after that.

    High school was the time of my life where I was the most attractive (I had contacts by now so my eyes looked normal) so that helped make up for my social awkwardness.  I looked up girls’ numbers in the phone book instead of asking them for them because I didn’t know that social convention.  What made high school OK is most of the people were lower income and less obsessed with social conventions.  When I went to Wheaton I noticed an uptick of maltreatment while at the same time finding some awesome people.  Freshman year I would run to class and do other weird stuff.

    My sophomore year of college was the time of my life I made the biggest commitment to be normal.  I stopped my primary stimming (wagging my head back and fourth, something they say blind people do too) and started putting energy into being socially aware.  There was payoff because that was the year in my life I had the most friends.  Eventually everything went downhill as my eyes dried out so I couldn’t use my contacts anymore which resulted in social interactions being more full of negative feedback loops.

    I didn’t find out I was somewhat on the spectrum until 2004 when I went to a psychiatrist to treat my depression.  He said I exhibited some Asperger symptoms.  To this day no one has given me a written test to ascertain whether I’m on the spectrum and I know if they do they’ll find out I am because I score deeply in autism territory on those tests.