Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What a difference accomodations make

I have two failed attempts at college behind me. Both attempts, one in 1994-1995 and the other in 2000, were before I knew that I was autistic. Tests were difficult, and when I was taking someone outside of one of my special interests it was even more difficult to get through.

Now I'm trying again with accomodations. I get to take tests in a quiet room and I get extra time so I'm not rushed (worrying about how much time is left can really slow you down, even more so when you sometimes have to read a question several times to understand it.) This didn't slow me much in high school but, as my AP teachers noticed when I bombed my AP tests, sometimes it did.

Since I'm working full time, I'm going to school part time (only one class at a time.) As a parent and the main bread winning of the family I can't afford to cut back on hours at work or take an educational leave. This quarter I'm taking a math class (with many more in my future.) When I took math in 2000 I didn't do so well. But this time, at about halfway through, I'm holding at about 92%, which is much more in line with how I did in high school than 2000 was. This class doesn't count at all though, other than to get me into pre-calculus, which will then get me into the needed calculus.

And for some reason it's not a surprise that even though the disability center director tries to meet with the autistic students at my school regularly as a group there's been no success at getting us all together so far this quarter. Maybe we'll meet before the winter break, maybe not.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Over stimulation

Sometimes I feel sorry for my wife.

Yesterday we went shopping at a discount grocery store almost 20 miles from home. This was intended to be a major shop for a month's worth of groceries.

By the end of the shopping I was tired, run down and having a hard time finding a good safe stim that didn't drive her crazy. (I tried to click the clicker pen I had about half way through or so, but it got on her nerves quickly.)

Really it was a combination of several things. Stores seem to always have lots and lots of bright florescent lights. Even with sunglasses on I can only take a certain amount of time in that kind of environment, and we were there for over 4 hours. Those who've known me a long time know that I've always disliked bright light, always hid for as much of the daylight hours as I could get away with.

Add to this the stress of being around tons of people I don't know (the store was packed) and tons of physical discomfort from being on my feet that long (I have hypermobile joints, it hurts to be on my feet without a break for that long.) Put it all together and by the time we got home it took lots of effort to get through just putting away the perishable foods (the rest were left sitting on the kitchen floor to deal with later.)

And that was my Sunday. We got started late, so nothing that I'd planned or hoped to do got done. Well, atleast I got a good foot massage before bed.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Doing too much

It's so easy sometimes to do too much without taking a break to recharge.

Right now my wife and I are trying to fix up a second property that we own to sell it. It's a lot of hard work, and I try to help as much as I can, but I've found myself doing too much way too often.

See when you are autistic you need to take more breaks than others. But it often feels bad, because this is only the case when working on something that is not a special interest. And sometimes it can seem like the others (even those who know about autism) are resentful of your need to rest more often. So it's easy to end up in a total fog, unable to think.

It's pretty easy to tell when I'm doing too much. My language skills start to get poor. I'm slow to respond to requests and can't think for myself. Once dinner showed up and was set out for everyone to just grab some when they were hungry. I was sitting down by where the food was and didn't notice the food, or that I was hungry, until my wife told me to eat after the food was half gone.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Busy week

Last week was a busy one for me.

It was my son's last week of summer school. He was there not because he'd failed anything, but as a way of making the transistion to next year easier. The first half his old teacher was there, and the second half was lead by the teacher he'll have in the fall. So now his new teacher will not be a surprise, and he dislikes surprises more than I do.

Early in the week I finally met with someone from the Services for Students with Disabilites (or SSD) office. My past attempts at college have ended in failure, but they say that third time's the charm. But then this time I also have a diagnosis and with that access to accomodations. After the meeting I took my placement test again. This time was different than when I did it 7 years ago. I used one of the private testing rooms available in the SSD office. Not only was I in a quiet room (thankfully not elbow to elbow with a bunch of noisy fellow students) but I was able to turn the light off, ridding myself of the horrid abuse known as florescent lights. I placed at the max level for English, and did better than before on Math (but still not as high as I'd have wished.) Now all I need to do is get registered for class and start learning.

Last week ended with getting married. That may not appear to have much to do with autism, but it does. I got married. I, an autistic adult who has troubles in social situations, am now married. So for those of you who are parents of autistic boys, and those of you who are autistic men who are still single, IT CAN BE DONE. The hard part is finding someone who cares for you the way you are. Someone who will try to understand you, but not try to make you "normal" at the same time.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Everyone is different

No two people are exactly the same, and that goes for those of us that are autistic. It's something that sometimes I have to remember.

You see my son and I are not matching up on milestones as he's growing up. This is something that is hard to realize sometimes. He just finished the second grade and is 8 years old. When I was in the second grade and 8 years old I was reading anything I could get my hands on. I'd discovered a wonderful place called the Seattle Public Library and I'd found the fiction section.

Yet now I'm struggling to get my son to even try to read, and it's not easy he doesn't often want to sit still long enough to read even a couple of pages. I was reading the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein at his age and all he'll read if at all is Dr. Seuss (Green Eggs and Ham is his favorite, so at least there's something we have in common.)

He has been lucky though in one respect. Technology. When I was his age home computers where rare (I didn't know anyone with one when I was 8) and the only home video games were Atari 2400's. Just like me he is drawn to both, and was excelling at video games when he was 4 years old, even though he could not read the text telling him what to do. He's also learned how to work a computer very quickly, and has had an old Mac in his room for years.

Of course this is not the only differences between us, but they are amoung the biggest ones. I just hope that he discovers the true joy of reading, and he's been getting much better since I shared with him one of the tricks I used long ago, so maybe he'll catch up and if he catches up just half as fast as I dashed ahead in reading, he'll be ahead of his peers before too long.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I recently learned that there is a whole series of unwritten rules about hugging, rules that in 35 years of life, everyone just assumed that I knew and was purposely not following. This of course was not the case, but one of the bad parts of being autistic is not knowing these unwritten rules and not being able to figure them out on your own.

For me a hug was a hug and all hugs were created equal. I had no understanding of the difference between the "I'm just being polite" hug and the "best friends" hug or even the "I barely know you" hug. To make things worse for me, I'm sensory seeking for touch, so I love to squeese and be squeesed, so being hugged has always been a good feeling.

My fiance gave me a quick tutorial on hugging a few weeks back. She'd realized, as she learned more about autism, that the reason I'd been hugging in what seemed to be a creepy way, was that I didn't know the rules. So now I have the added joy of having to think when someone hugs me, "what kind of hug is this?" and "where is the let go of me sign?" Of course there is an advantage for her, now she's the only one who gets hugs from me that are undistracted by thinking about the rules.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Dealing with the Ex

My ex-wife, and the mother of my children, is about as neurotypical as they come. She is great at social interactions, even if she has a total lack of tack (but seeing as she's proud of her level of tack I suspect that it's on purpose.) She often has troubles understand why I or our son do some of the things we do. She also has a habit of picking and choosing what information she retains (i.e. her version of events is more inline with her wish and less in line with facts.)

When our son started having troubles socializing appropriately and was behind in speaking, she was quick to blame me. She had many stories of imagined abuse and other horror stories, but in her mind everything was my fault. She's the kind of person who rarely if ever accepts responsibility for their actions. At first we thought of him as some sort of ADHD, as that is the label I had as a child and he was identical to how I'd been at the same age (the differences between us didn't show until he was six, the point when I suddenly started talking with the ability and vocabulary of an adult after three years of no improvement in ability.)

When our son was in Kindergarten the school he was in told us that they didn't know what was going on with him, and refused to attempt to do so themselves (even though they are required to in our state if they suspect something.) We were told that we had to take him to a doctor, or they'd keep treating him as an unknown. By this time someone else I knew had pointed out that my son was similar to her son at the same age, and her son was diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum. This started me thinking that this was the case. We took him to the doctor and he was referred to a neurologist. The neurologist determined that he had ODD (oppositional defiance disorder after only spending 15 minutes with him.) This confused me some, but if it was true then at the time that meant that I also had ODD (even if that didn't seem like the correct fit.) Later our son changed schools, and they evaluated him when the data from the old district didn't match what they were seeing and determined he was on the spectrum. I took this information and went to my doctor and got referred to a neuro-psychologist who tested me and officially diagnosed me with "Classic Asperger's."

Now my ex believes that I obsessed on having to have something wrong with me, and that I manufactured being AS myself. Even though I told her about the testing and the results, she refuses to remember that I was tested and that the results are official. She also seems to think that our son was label ADHD by a professional, when it was me saying "he must be ADHD, because that's what I was labeled with and he's just like I was." Seems that to her what I said was "He has ADHD, I wish I was like him when I was young."

This of course is a clear example of what trying to talk with her has been like. No matter what I say, she hears what she wants. It was always a cause of stress on our marriage, and every time I said "that's not what I said" she'd say that it was what she heard, so she was right I was lying. And the same troubles communicating continue today. Saying I had plans and couldn't take the kids extra once three years ago means I don't want to be involved in the kids' lives today. But good news is, she did agree that our son is better off living with me and he'll be moving at the end of the school year. Soon he will not spend most of his time hidden away in a dark room hiding from the sensory assault that is what his mother considers normal light and sounds. But I bet the communications challenges will continue.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


One thing that is often a part of being autistic is the need to stim.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stimming

Stimming is a jargon term for a stereotypy, a repetitive body movement that self-stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. It is one of the symptoms listed by the DSM IV for autism, although it is observed in about 10 percent of non-autistic young children. Many autistics have no stims.[1] Common forms of stimming among people with autism include hand flapping, body spinning or rocking, lining up or spinning toys or other objects, echolalia, perseveration, and repeating rote phrases

I'm not sure about the 10% figure for non-autistics, but people with ASD clearly stim at a much higher rate. Stims are also not limited to body movement, playing a CD or even the same song over and over can be a stim. Stimming is much more than the above article claims.

For me, stimming has a calming affect that is more than just relieving stress. Sometimes I stim because I need the distraction in order to be able to pay attention. Sometimes I'm not able to focus on one sound over the others without stimming. I have troubles when there are several sounds going on around me and I need to pay attention to just one, sometimes stimming makes it easier to focus on and separate the one sound I need from the others. And other times I have no idea that I'm stimming, or even why. When this happens it has been known to drive my fiance crazy (to her credit she loves me, quirks and all.)

My common stims are rocking back and forth, bouncing a knee (or foot tapping,) listening to a CD or song on repeat, and of course all kinds of hand flapping, tapping, wringing and fidgeting. Less common are spinning, walking back and forth or in circles, chewing on the insides of my mouth and stacking things. My son also rocks back and forth and flaps his hands and listens to music on repeat. He also chews on his fingers and clothes and feels the need to taste everything (and I mean everything.) Good news is, he does not make his fingers bleed (and I don't bleed when I chew on the inside of my mouth,) but he does do a number on his shirts. Somehow I'll figure out how to copy what my mom did to get me to stop chewing on my fingers and clothes, hopefully I do so soon (replacing shirts every month or so is expensive.)

I've learned the hard way that trying to not stim is bad. If I don't stim I become less functional. It's just a fact of life for me, so I just let it happen and no longer try to stop it when I notice. So the next time you see someone sitting down, rocking back and forth while flapping their hands, remember that it might be someone like me.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sensory Intergration Disorder

Sensory Integration Disorder is commonly co-morbid with autism. My son has issues with sound still, something I've gotten used to as I've gotten older, but sometimes a surprise sound or some tones can bother me. He often will place his hands over his ears and scream "Too loud" in hopes that I'll make it go away. This make going to the movies a challenge sometimes. He and I both like watching a movie on the big screen, but often the sound is turned up so loud in the theater that he has his hands over his ears most of the movie and I sometimes wince in pain at times during the movie.

In addition to troubles with sound comes troubles with light. It can be bright light, or unnatural light like florescent or both. We both have troubles with both. He seems to be mildly affected by bright light, and more seriously by large tube florescents (luckily for us the compact florescent lights that replace normal light bulbs don't bother us most of the time, poorly made ones can be a problem.) I'm the reverse, bright light bothers me greatly and florescents much less so.

For me, florescent lights that trouble me make me dizzy and I start to feel sick to my stomach. One place that does bother me is OfficeMax. If I walk in the door, I start to feel dizzy right away and over time it gets worse.

Bright light can be worse. First I can't see as well, everything gets fuzzy and often my eyes close automatically. If the exposure continues then I can get a headache that can be described as a migraine. The pain can get so bad that I can't function until I've gone and hidden in a quiet and dark room for awhile. This happened to me yesterday. Someone turned on a light near my desk. It was a bright florescent light and it shined right into my eyes. I have a reasonable accomodation in requiring a lowered lighting level. I had a telecon meeting to attend, and by the time it was finished (sitting under the light for close to two hours) I was in pain and feeling ill. I was pretty out of it and went searching for somewhere dark. I did find somewhere and got the overload handled. I also contacted management, the light were turned off, not long before I had to leave the office for the day.

This occurrence brings up another issue, how ethical is it to use someone's disability to try to get one's way? The co-worker who turned the lights on wants me to move. He wants the four desk area for himself, even though it was built for my job-role not his, and never mind that I'm one of two and he's all by himself no team mates or direct peers. He tried to suggest a place for me to move that would have put me in reflected sunlight much of the day (it had a direct line to a window. He's been pushing to have the area cleared so he can have it to himself for over a week.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Sometimes socializing can be a challenge, and there is an upper limit to how much of it I can do in a day. This Memorial Day weekend contained a good balanced amount of socializing, but I was still a little overloaded at the end.

We stayed home Friday night, and Saturday was pretty lazy. We went out Saturday night, dinner at Billy McHale's and then dancing and drinks at the China Clipper. Sam's favorite band was playing at the China Clipper (which is why we went.) We had fun, and she had a bit to drink. It's nice to be with someone who likes to dance again.

Sunday we stayed in bed too long again, but we were able to get everything together to go to Collin and Ria's for a BBQ. Spent hours with my friends, who all really like Sam. This makes me happy, as they didn't approve of Robin, and they were right about her. One thing I've learned is to trust my friends when it comes to others motives and whether it's a good idea to have anything to do with someone.

We again stayed in bed late on Monday, but we did get moving before we were too late. Sam's mom and step-dad had a BBQ and we had to get out to Gold Bar for that. It was fun for the most part, even if there were people there that I didn't know well yet. The sun was too bright, but I was able to deal with that some.

I learned something, when you make it clear that you don't want to do something, you still sometimes have to do it. Sam's mom's best friend just signed up to sell Mary Kaye products, and she did the sales pitch thing. I didn't want to have to put stuff on my face, but I had to do it anyway. I sometimes have troubles understanding what's being said, and I was told to put down the little game I was stimming with. Soon after my ability to fully understand what was going on was gone and I could grasp what we were doing. So Sam did everything for me. Problem is what ever she put on my face made it start to itch all over. So I started to scratch, a lot. They had me try to wipe it all off, but that only helped a little. Even now it itches a little, but I'm able to distact myself some.

I was able to get a little bit of Runescape in before bed last night. But not enough, I really need my downtime. I'm rocking back and forth, got my knee bouncing and have Peace and Love Inc. on repeat and I'm still not able to focus on anything for long.


I must be crazy, cuz here I am starting another blog on another system.

Oh well, the plan with this one is to only write here about things having to do with Autism.

Whether it is something that happened to me, something with my son, or something going on in the world, as long as it relates to autism in some way I'll blog about it here.

And this gives me an account here so I can try to keep up with a couple of old friends who moved their blogs here and don't visit where I spend much of my time anymore.