Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Legwork and Life, week of 1/31/17

I have a buffer again!  I managed to do the read-think-review cycle in less than 7 days for about three weeks straight, and so managed to piggyback them on each other.  I have a buffer of two weeks right now, which I'm going to try to keep up for this week and maybe expand on for next week and the weeks after.

Naturally, I just ran out of books, so I dug through my bookshelves and found a couple more solid options.  After that I'm going to have to try out the other library system or get more creative about my book selections.  I do have advice regarding that latter option from a friend that majored in English, so if I do go that route, it shouldn't be awful. 

Speaking of awfulness, Chris keeps reading me the latest in the Trump-government insanity.  There's probably whole blogs literally dedicated to cataloguing and publicizing that particular brand of insanity, but this won't be one of them.  I actually can't hear too much of anything that man and his cronies do or I can't think straight due to the anxiety and rage. 

This is, I'm sure, in large part because of how absolutely awful all these new policies are, both to people like me and to people unlike me but who are still people.  I am not, in anything but the philosophical sense, an immigrant, for example, but I fear very much for their safeties, because legal or illegal, they are all people, and they all play an important part in making America what it is.  In some cases, our society actually wouldn't work without them.  I fear, too, for my neighbors of Muslim faith, who, like the vast majority of American Muslims, simply want to live and raise their son in freedom and safety.  

I'm sure some people would say that I shouldn't care, since I have enough troubles of my own.  My response is that that mentality is laughably short-sighted.  It takes one short speech from less than a century ago to refute it:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
 
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
 
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Or perhaps, in a quicker, more American fashion: United We Stand (and its counterpoint: Divided We Fall).  I think maybe, as a society, we've forgotten what that particular phrase means.  Most political arguments, these days, aren't based in sharing knowledge or understanding another viewpoint, but in proving who's "right."  I certainly have vivid enough views of what's right to me, but I would hope that those who voted for our current leader don't consider human rights abuses and clear comparisons to authoritarian governments "right."  And if they do, I'd like to know why.  Possibly so I can know enough to make good on my threat to move to Canada...

But I shouldn't.  I, like my friend in the now-Brexited England, have a duty to try and right the madness that's come to roost here.  Should it seem to require costing my life or my sanity, then that would probably be a better excuse to leave than: "I'm not comfortable here and don't want to look at all this madness I voted against."

Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: Be Different

Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison

It had to happen sooner or later.  I reviewed a Temple Grandin book, I'd be failing myself and everyone else if I didn't also review at least one John Elder Robison book.  Dr. Grandin and Mr. Robison are the first great autism speakers, the two powerful success stories that put autistic adults, and autism itself, on the public radar.  I'd be doing myself and my readers a disservice if I didn't review at least one book from each of them.


I presently own three books by Mr. Robison, so I had to pick between them.  I ended up with Be Different for several reasons, not the least of which is that he himself told me to read it several years ago.  One of the churches downtown had put on a series, funded by a local college, to educate the public regarding disabilities and other minorities.  Chris and I opted to go to it, and so I sat through his lecture, which was somewhat like this book: a mix of personal stories and information on autism.

I don't recall much of what he was specifically talking about, but I do recall that he knew how to amuse a crowd of neurotypical people.  As he talked, he referenced pop culture, making people who got the references feel included, but also explaining in brief for people who didn't get the references.  But what most caught my attention was his stories, or more specifically, how he told them.  These were stories of his life, which, like mine, was mostly not sunshine and sleepy puppies. I found myself saddened by the hardships he had endured.  After about 10 minutes of listening, I realized that people were laughing.  Including Chris, at my side, at least until he saw my face.

Being out of sync with the crowd isn't all that unusual for me, of course.  By nature, I'm a stranger in a strange land.  But I couldn't figure out why people would be laughing at all these sad stories, until I listened to more than just the words.  Mr. Robison, by use of gestures, expressions, and even word choice, was making the suffering of his life funny to relate.  There was nothing wrong with the crowd.  They were reacting precisely as he wished, laughing at the stories he was making funny to them. 

The other thing I remember, related to this book, was when I pestered him afterwards, asking what a freshly-diagnosed young adult was supposed to do.  He replied with the theme of this book, and honestly, a theme of his life: make your strengths into your work.

So this book is more or less his answer to that question, as well as thoughts, opinions, explanations, etc, of his life.  It took me until the very back of the book, where the autism diagnosis and criteria are discussed, to realize that the book itself must have been organized around those things.  The final section, which contains the DSM criteria, contains plainspeak (read: not medical jargon) explanations of what the criteria mean.  It also contains an index to "Aspergian" behaviors, each of which is neatly matched up to a chapter or section of a chapter.  I expect that bit would be quite helpful to someone trying to get a handle on what precisely autism is, and how it looks in people.

It's worth noting, I suppose, that I do not agree with Mr. Robison on a number of minor points.  He prefers the words "Aspergian" for autistic people, and "nypicals" for neurotypical people.  I will not be adopting the word Aspergian unless I move to a city, country, or other area named Aspergia.  And the word "nypicals" just makes me think about cuticles, which cause me much annoyance since I'm not careful with my hands and they tend to get ragged. 

More importantly, while it's (somewhat) easier to take a hyperfocused autistic person's Special Interest (ie: obsessive focus, like trains, cars, electronics, etc) and work it into a job, there are some of us on the spectrum that do not have a single obsessive interest.  As such, the advice "take your strengths and make them into a job!" is just another career counselor tidbit for me.  Maybe useful, but not the only advice you'll ever need.

I have multiple interests.  I'm presently learning how to balance them, and my responsibilities, and my social life, such that nobody gets upset with me for ignoring them, but I still get things done and still have time for fun.  (Also, I'm trying to learn what fun is.  Maybe I'll do an entry on that later.)  I do not have a single interest that I would be happy doing for ten years, or even five, I think. 

Read This Book If

You want to get inside the mind of the other of the two great autism speakers, or want an idea of how the DSM criteria of autism can actually show in a person.  He is definitely a quirky person, and the book is an interesting read.  His advice and commentary on his life is useful and entertaining.  Overall, a good read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Legwork and Life, week of 1/24/17

"Exhausting" is probably the word for the last seven days.  I was extra social due to my reminders and the visits and social events that came of them, which didn't leave me as much time to work on the blog and my side project "fun" as I'd hoped.  I read in various books that I'll be sorry if I simply hermit myself away in my apartment, and not just because I'll hurt the feelings of people I care about, but sometimes I do wonder...

Actually, the main problem was likely not related to my friends, it was the trip down to Lansing to spend 5+ hours sitting through a meeting.  I volunteer as a board member of a state self-advocacy entity (working name: Self Advocates of Michigan), and unfortunately every other month or so, meetings in person are required.  I can't really fault them, more seems to get done in person than via webinar/call in, but.  5 HOUR meeting.  And an extra hour and some tacked onto each end, because state regulations won't pay for a hotel room for me beforehand and I don't like sharing a room.  In the end, it kinda wipes out an entire day. So probably, if that hadn't happened, I'd feel more ahead on things.

As it stands, though, I'm not doing awfully...  I have what might become a buffer, if I'm very industrious prior to this Friday.  I have to drive out to Lansing again on Thursday for a similar thing, though, so, uh, maybe I should try to frontload my work this week...

I had an interesting (but unfortunate) experience yesterday.  I went to breakfast with a friend, and had a nice chat.  But I'd ordered something seemingly innocuous (french toast), which I figured wouldn't be too calorie-intensive.  It came out soaked in canned cherries (fresh ones not being available right now), topped with powdered sugar and cream cheese icing, and enormous to boot.  It was delicious, and I abhor wasting food, so I ate all of it, but the sweetness was overwhelming by the end of it.  I still made it through the meal and the chat with the friend just fine, but I felt kind of awful on the way home, and even worse an hour or so afterwards.  I wasn't sick to my stomach for very long, but my brain did spin in anxious corkscrews for the rest of the day.

It's not that I really need more reasons to avoid sugar, but it's hard to convince myself fully that sugar is awful for me, both physically and psychologically.  I recognize the basic science behind the theory, but it has to compete with the fact that throughout my life, food has been the only predictably good thing.  So we'll call this a piece of evidence against excess, at the very least.  I usually don't binge sugar any more, and this was more of an accidental binge, but it's a good reminder warning.

Maybe I'll bake some cookies sweetened with monk fruit or something, so I can still sulk about life being mean to me with food.

In other news, ToDoist is working out pretty well, though I do now have a wishlist for functionality.  I'm not sure the system allows for "every other day" or "every other week" type repeating events, for example.  I could also use something that sets an increased priority on tasks that are overdue.  It does automatically list them as overdue, in a separate section, but I feel like if something is overdue four days, it should probably get priority over something that's overdue by one day.  And I should probably put those requests on the app's listing if I want them to happen.

I still feel kind of overwhelmed with stuff to do, but that's at least in part because I'm pushing myself hard on the blog front and socially.  Hopefully when the buffer has a couple weeks on it, I can relax a bit and just do a single entry a week. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: Safety Skills for Asperger Women

Safety Skill for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life, by Liane Holliday Willey, EDD

The title of this manual is a little deceiving.  While it does spend time on what I would term "safety skills," like preparedness, using the buddy system, using caution when dealing with other people and unfamiliar settings, etc... The book also focuses on the author's life, mistakes, and autistic girls and women in general.  A better title might be, "An Asperger Woman's Guide to Life." 

The first couple chapters of this book made me sad.  The author has had a lot of bad experiences, lacking the social intuition everyone takes for granted.  And she seems to have started out particularly naive, which meant she got taken advantage of a lot.  I read her anecdotes, and while I was emotionally wincing in sympathy, I was also wincing over my similar mistakes.  Whereas she seems to have perked up and worked past her various bad experiences, the experience of being abused and excluded made me stop trusting people and start looking for ulterior motives in everything.  It's not that I had decided everyone was bad, it's that I'd learned I couldn't expect people to treat me like a fellow human being unless they had reason to.

I put my brain to work, as I grew.  I'm still more reactive than I am proactive, but given a situation, I can usually extrapolate the surface motivations of the people around me.  Not in great detail, and certainly not in depth.  But enough to avoid stepping on toes, generally.  The foreword, written by Tony Attwood, talks about similar strategies to mine, which have been adopted by other autistic women.  It requires a certain flexibility of thought, which is difficult, but still doable.

The third chapter deals with flexibility and rigidity of thought, in the context of loss.  The author was 50 when she wrote this book, and so had seen more loss than I have yet.  I have yet, for instance to lose either of my parents.  I have, however, suffered sufficient losses in life to find the author's commentary on it useful.

Further into the book, we deal with anxiety and stress.  Or, as she calls it, "How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Day."  I almost smiled at that, as I've had a lot of perfectly good days ruined.  Most of them I'd think, because dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder have no friends.  Willey describes getting stuck in bad memories, which is definitely a thing that happens, but what I didn't see noted was how depression can make bad memories just... spontaneously come to mind.  I don't know if there's a word for that, but if it happens with the right (wrong) memories, or happens often, it definitely kills your mood.  Y'know, in addition to the depression already being difficult. 

The book, as mentioned, contains various safety tips, suggestions for a better life, and specific guidelines.  I found some of the suggestions a little unnecessary, but... my experience as an Aspie woman is perhaps unusual.  My body and frame are large.  My father's side of the family gifted me with large bones and broad shoulders.  Between that and my body language screaming "go away," I haven't had that many problems with unwanted attention.  So things like bringing an inflatable "friend" in your car, ready to be inflated for if you feel unsafe driving alone somewhere, seem unnecessary to me.

That said, it is absolutely the case that developmentally disabled people, women especially, are very very likely to be abused in one manner or another over the course of their lives, so tips like these may be the difference between having a regular night and having an awful, life-changing-for-the-worse night.

Speaking of personal experiences and generalizing from them... this author, like a lot of autistic authors I've read, makes broad and sweeping assumptions about the autistic population based on her experience.  Like any population, some assumptions match the population, some don't.  Rather like asking a black person their experiences and taking those assumptions to every black person you meet.  When reading this book, and other personal experience books (and indeed, this very blog, though I try not to make too many assumptions about others on the spectrum), keep in mind that one person's experience is just that: one person's experience.  While they have relevant and valid experiences and viewpoints, what they say is not always the truth for every person on the autism spectrum.

Read This Book If

You're female and autistic or think you might be autistic, or if you want to know how autism can express itself in women and girls.  The most well-known traits and tendencies for autism are the male ones, since autism is more often diagnosed in boys and men.  That can lead to confusion, since autistic women do not necessarily act the same way as autistic men.  This book is a good read, if a sad one at times, and contains various interesting tips, ideas, and stories.  Well worth your time. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Legwork and Life, week of 1/17/17

I can't say I've made much progress forward last week, but I have, at least, not made progress backwards. 

I'm adding a To Do list app to my life this week.  Between my memory slipping and the plague of responsibilities being an adult visits upon you, I've been very overstressed and wound up.  I've tried various To Do list type things before, but not the kind you can share with other people.  Since Chris and I have chores around the apartment, it makes sense to make them accessible to both of us.  It also keeps us accountable for the various things we signed up to do.  I've been absolutely awful about cleaning the bathtub, for instance, and he's forgotten to vacuum the floor more than once.  With the app, it should be possible to see what we've forgotten.  Hopefully, no actual verbal reminders will be necessary for either of us. 

The app is called Todoist, and apparently won various awards, which was why I picked it over the 10 seemingly identical search results.  It allows color-coded categorization of tasks ("Chores," "Personal," "Books to Read," etc.  It also allows you to assign people to tasks.  One of the first things I did with the app was reference my chore sheet and make myself responsible for all of them.  There are options to make tasks repeating, so I won't need to enter "clean bathroom sink and mirror" every week. 

This is all valuable for my peace of mind, but what's most valuable, I think, is the ability to put down things I need to not forget, and have it remind me about them in a week or so.  Examples of this are things like "Follow up on voicemail message from 1/10" or "pick up more magnesium."  I was somewhat surprised by the "Books to Read" example category they started you out with, for example. After some thought, I changed it to "Recommended Media," so I could list music, books, movies, YouTube series, etc.  I don't get a whole lot of recommendations, but I bet I'd get more if I had a way to keep them, and then actually asked.  My trouble has been that when asked (and sometimes not asked), people like to spout off their recommendations before I have time to write them down, or even locate an acceptable pen or notepad app.  Hopefully, I'll have a much faster response time to, "Hey, did you watch ____?  No?  Oh man, it's the best!  And you should also watch _______..." 

Another added bonus will be the ability to set hanging reminders to say hi to people.  It is expected, apparently, in neurotypical circles, to occasionally say hello to people you care about and ask how things are going.  I'm... rather unreliable about such things, because I don't remember to do so.  It's not natural to me.  I tend to assume that if I know you, and something happens to you, you'll let me know if it's relevant.  If everyone did it that way, all would be well.  Unfortunately, my mode of thinking is not at all the norm, and that is very unfortunate for me and people I know. Fortunately, things may now improve as I now have the ability to set a reoccurring reminder to say hello.  So, fingers crossed that this improves things overall. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: Socially Curious and Curiously Social

Socially Curious and Curiously Social: A Social Thinking Guidebook for Bright Teens and Young Adults by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke.

"Guidebook" is probably the right word here.  I don't think this book summarizes the entire of what autistic people need to know about communicating, but it takes a good shot at it.  I found myself, unfortunately, rather annoyed and depressed while reading this book, with the occasional side thought of, "I already learned this, but geez, neurotypical people are so needy and particular about things!"  Somewhat uncharitable of me, I think.  It's not particularly any person's fault that the system espoused herein is the accepted system of communication, and we on the autism spectrum are left guessing and puzzling out what's right. 

It's just, I guess, that the book emphasizes that everyone is still learning social skills, including your parents, friends, teachers, etc.  So, hey everyone, that's hilariously inefficient if my parents (now over 50 years old, both of them) are still learning social skills.  It's like you all invented a secret code and promptly lost half your guide to translating it.  Can we please invent a system that's logical and predictable and use that instead of what we have currently?  It'd be way easier on everyone. 

Yeah, not going to happen, I know.  But a person can dream. 

There was nothing in this book I particularly disagreed with.  It did say the necessity of the communication was rooted in peoples' desires to feel connected, and like people care about them.  That threw me for a bit.  I guess I'd not heard it expressed that way before.  And in truth, that particular thought from the authors is part of what fueled the "needy" comment from earlier.  But again, I don't think that's overly fair.  Humans are, at our base, a social species.  It's not in our makeup to be at ease with people we don't understand and have nothing in common with.  So trying, albeit confusingly, to make those connections is, I guess, slightly admirable? 

Something that sets this book apart from others like it that I've seen is the section of social media.  I think perhaps some of the references were dated, even at the time of publishing (2011 for my copy), and I'm... not sure how often some of the listed acronyms (like LOL, GTG, but less common) were used.  But I was entering college, not middle school, when the book was published, and I think it's important to realize that culture doesn't stop when you graduate, it continues right on without you until you look back in 20 years and realize you're horribly out of touch.  Or in my case, when you look back in 5 years and go, "Huh, so dubstep is a thing now?  Okay...  Guess that didn't take long..." 

So it's quite possible that the acronyms listed in the book were in common use at the time.  One would, I suppose, have to ask someone more of that time period. 

Anyway, the premise of the book is to teach what they call social thinking, or thinking about other people during and not during social time.  The idea is to develop your sense of empathy and your concepts of other people, so that you can make sure they don't think uncomfortable or weird thoughts about you, and eventually decide they don't want to be near you.  They do also emphasize that connectedness and having friendships and social skills is highly important, because it impacts all areas of life except "cave" living.  Or in my case, hiding in your apartment playing computer games all day.  Ahem.  Guilty sometimes. 

Overall, I found the book somewhat helpful as a refresher, but it's definitely written for a younger crowd than me.  Which, erk, makes me wonder if I don't count as a young adult anymore.  I'm not 30 yet!  Just, um, almost.  Erk. 

Read This Book If:

You're on the spectrum and would like some how-tos or refreshers on the frustrating world of Talking To People. That's who this is geared to.  Parents, professionals, and others could probably benefit from reading it, and honestly I'm curious as to whether the assessment of "why communication?" is accurate from a neurotypical perspective.  But it is, at its heart, a guidebook for people on the spectrum. I would, personally, like to see if the authors wrote something similar for adults. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Legwork and Life, week of 1/10/17

I may be biased because it's first thing in the morning, but I'm beginning to despair of ever sleeping properly.  If I'm getting at least 8 hours of sleep, it's disjointed sleep full of nightmares and things that trouble me upon waking.  And if I'm not, well, I'm not getting enough sleep.  I don't have the alarming (but quite understandably sleep-interrupting) tendency to stop breathing to blame.  So something else is up, but trying to find it appears to be similar to trying to find a needle in a haystack. (No, I don't have a handy magnet, any readers who proceeded to recognize that easy solution to the hypothetical problem.)

Actually, the metaphor is apt in another sense.  Hay is scratchy, and needles are pointy.  It would be a rather unpleasant task for someone like me, with soft hands, to sort through an entire haystack.  I presume it's doable, and I'd at least have the bonus of my overactive sense of hearing to hear the needle hit the floor while shaking each handful of hay... 

Anyway...  I seem to be slowly recovering from the transitional shock of wedding + honeymoon + Christmas + suddenly all the responsibilities again.  My LENS-doctor quite rightly points out that it's a little unfair to expect yourself to immediately hop right back in, but I'd kind of expected to be a bit more on top of things...  She makes an example of college students, who often drive themselves to exhaustion at finals time.  They do it all and finish everything, but when they get home, they sleep for three days straight and get sick to boot.  If you push your body to its limits, it usually comes back to bite you later, basically. 

It's an apt enough comparison, but instead of finals, which usually span two weeks at most, my particular ordeal spanned more like three months, with less fevered intensity and more chronic anxiety.  The not being able to sleep properly is just crap icing on the crap cake. 

I haven't managed a buffer on this blog yet, but if I can get the book for this Friday read, or feed a decent idea into a post earlier this week, I'll count it a victory.  I'll take small progress over no progress, and given that I've just changed up my supplements routine again, any victories are good. 

I've just added enzymes to my diet, following after the ideas espoused in the Un-Prescription for Autism.  (Eugh, that title still irks me.)  I mentioned in that review that I was planning on starting a broadbase enzyme in case faulty digestion is responsible in part or in whole for my various problems. 

Thus far, the problem is that I keep forgetting I need to take it.  Enzymes need to be taken with the first bite of food to be most effective.  Unfortunately, they also need to be kept in the refrigerator.  These two things often combine to me sitting down to a meal, taking several leisurely bites, cursing, and rushing off to the refrigerator to grab the enzymes.  I will hopefully improve as the days go by, and upgrade to sitting down to a meal, taking one bite, cursing, and rushing off to the refrigerator...

Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review: Thinking in Pictures

Thinking in Pictures: and Other Reports From My Life with Autism, by Temple Grandin.  (Please note, I'm reviewing an older, non-expanded version from 1996.  I'm sure the expanded version I linked is just as good, and probably more up-to-date in the research.)

Wow, this book was a headful and a half.  I first read this book of essays shortly after I'd gotten my diagnosis.  I don't recall having nearly so much trouble understanding it and digesting the contents.  Hopefully that's not a sign of atrophying brain cells... 

My knowledge of psychology says no.  I suspect the problem is more that Dr. Grandin writes like the scientist she is; that is, densely, with lots of references. The book is not riddled with scientific citations on every page, but she makes numerous and varied references to others' work, including a lot of people I've not yet read.  Lacking that breadth of knowledge, I think I found myself a little bewildered. 

Meanwhile, Past Me, reading this book, also didn't have that knowledge but was presently in college, meaning I had to read lots of textbooks and articles in a similar style of writing.  I probably didn't pick up the entire gist of the book that time either, but I don't recall it leaving me bewildered so much as full of new information and ideas.  

Either way, then, as now, Temple Grandin's titular style of thinking (pictures) is not my style of thinking.  I read through that particular essay with interest, but with the knowledge that sadly none of the descriptions of the thought process would help me.  My thoughts are not solely in pictures or videos, as Temple Grandin's are, but in music and flavors and emotions and... something else that I can't quantify.  I do have some capacity of visual thinking, but the main of my thought processes aren't visual. 

Dr. Grandin and I do share a strong appreciation for animals, and a desire for their wellbeing.  Several of her essays talked about her work improving slaughterhouses and other animal processing areas, to make them more humane and more efficient simultaneously.  She's been enormously successful, and I'm duly impressed.  She's leveraged her autism and visual thinking into seeing how animals think and feel.  I don't have quite the connection to animals that she does.  But the little meat I do eat, I buy with a certification on it that tells me the animals were cared for, fed properly, had lots of open space, and generally were allowed to have lives before they came to my plate.  Such meat and animal products tend to be quite expensive, unfortunately.

One of the essays in the book focuses on the autism spectrum, so to speak.  Dr. Grandin, having defined a "autism continuum" years before the DSM 5 came out, chose to define her spectrum on the amount of sensory complications a person has.  For example, a person whose brain scrambles incoming sound may have normal intelligence, but may never learn to speak due to the inability to hear the words and sounds.  Dr. Grandin would put that person on the "more disabled" end of the spectrum, and someone autistic without much sensory complications at the other end. 

The DSM 5, instead, chooses to define autism based on how well the person blends in with neurotypical society, with people on the low end being "low functioning" and on the other end, "high functioning."  I find those terms rather insulting, as they're essentially saying, "oh, you're not very human" and "oh, you're almost human." 

I much prefer Dr. Grandin's continuum, though it, too, has problems.  Autism is not, to my knowledge, defined by having sensory problems.  And there are certainly lots of autistic people without sensory oddities but who still definitely struggle with societal niceties. I tend to use the words "blends poorly" or "well-blended" in reference to how well a person blends in with neurotypical society, when I'm thinking.  Those words conform to the DSM 5's viewpoint, not Dr. Grandin's. 

Speaking of the DSM 5... autism is defined as a disorder, and as such, a bad thing.  I noted, with some sadness, that this book carries that same viewpoint.  Dr. Grandin has of course used her autism to great effect, and shows no issues with saying so and giving examples.  But underneath all that, and despite her comments on genetic variances and the value of diversity, I still saw the tendency to call everything abnormal and problematic "autism." 

I see that mentality in parents, in professionals, in books, and in people on the spectrum... but I don't think it's right.  I think a number of disorders and difficulties often come with the autism, but I don't think autism includes the many and varied digestive issues, sensory issues, seizures, anxiety, depression, headaches...  Given that not all people on the autism spectrum suffer the same issues, I'd tend to say that those issues are separate.  But mine is the minority view. 

In any case, Dr. Grandin has varied and many pieces of advice and commentary to offer on being autistic.  Topics include special interests, medication, dating, faith, and emotions.  While I don't have a whole lot in common with her particular way of thinking about things and doing things, I highly recommend reading all of this book, just to broaden your understanding. 

Read This Book If:

You want to get inside the brain of someone on the autism spectrum.  Dr. Grandin is excellent at describing her mode of thought, which is sometimes shared by others on the spectrum, too.  She covers her life, her various mechanisms of surviving the high anxiety she suffered, how she got her first job, and her thoughts on various subjects of importance.  She is a singular individual, and if you haven't already read this book, you're doing yourself a disservice.  This book is likely in most library systems in the country.  Look it up! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Legwork and Life, week of 1/3/17

Happy New Year. 

I'm afraid I've never really been one for New Year's resolutions. My mother tended to preach that if you wanted something changed, you should start immediately rather than waiting for an excuse.  Psychology, as it turns out, agrees with her wholeheartedly. 

There are definitely things I'd like to change this year.  I could list them, and it'd seem like I'm making resolutions.  But honestly, I get the sense that as soon as those resolutions are broken, you've failed for the year and it's not worth starting over.  I don't really like that mentality.  I make a lot of mistakes in life.  If I never got do-overs, I'd never manage anything. 

This year, I would like to:
  1. Rebuild and keep a buffer for this blog.  
  2. Exercise 3 days a week.
  3. Make some progress (any progress, really) on launching a career as an autism expert/speaker/writer.
  4. Start the arduous and exhausting job of house-hunting.  Chris and I would like a condominium, since we both kind of hate lawn care and chores.  

Reasoning in brief...

1.  The Blog.  I think everyone can agree that some weeks are just more difficult than others.  I struggle with having relevant, meaningful, intelligent entries for Fridays.  I experimented (successfully) with having a buffer in November and part of December.  That was because this blog is important to my self-worth.  It sometimes helps people, or at least that's what people sometimes tell me, so even though I'm not making money and not going out into the community that much, I'm at least having some positive effects.  It really tanks my self-esteem and stability as a person when I think I'm going to miss an update or I don't have one ready and it's the night before it's due.  If I rebuild the buffer, I have some peace of mind on that count.  I also, unfortunately, have less anxiety to channel into keeping up the buffer, so that's going to need work.  My LENS doctor suggests setting aside several hours in the week to work on Friday entries.  The idea annoys me, but it's unfortunately probably what I'll need to do.  Anyway, better annoyed than panicky. 

2.  Exercise.  This probably doesn't need explanation, since the benefits of exercise are well-documented.  I don't have as obvious positive effects from exercise as my mother does, but I have noticed that exercise tends to burn off some of the energy I'd otherwise use for being anxious.  I imagine if I exercised more regularly I'd probably see other bonus effects, such as weight loss.  3 days a week is about the minimum for actual positive, lasting effects, as I understand it, and I'm a realistic-to-pessimistic person, so I'm aiming low.  If I succeed at low, I can work up to medium and high. 

3.  Career Progress.  Back when I was still trying to write a book, I was informed very emphatically by someone that has way more clues about it than me, that I should be focusing on a blog first, and building my identity as a speaker and writer, and then maybe worry about the book.  I took his advice, and proceeded to create this blog and run it for... I guess almost two years now.  In that time, my life has changed a bit.  Maybe my Friday entry this week should be another "Taking Stock of Things"...  

In any case, I've served on a couple panel discussions related to autism topics, been on a couple boards of autism and developmental disorders organizations, and read up a lot since then, but I'm not being asked to write for newspapers, speak at conventions, or anything like that.  In part, that's because I haven't been focusing on networking.  And in part, I suspect, that's because I haven't really set myself apart from other autism personalities.  My coach from back in the beginning called it the Axis of Awesome, I think.  You pick three major things that set you apart from others, and put them together to make a career.  I think I have two so far: autism and introspective perspectives in writing.  Not really sure what the third is.  I don't really want to market myself on my low-grade depression, or cynicism, or sarcasm...  I'll give it some thought. 

So I need to keep an eye out for opportunities, and be more active about networking.  It's just kind of how it goes that networking would have to be miserably hard for me, being autistic and all... 

4.  House/Condo.  This will hopefully happen this year, but I'm not going to consider myself a horrible failure if it doesn't.  House hunting is hard, and the market here is... topsy-turvy.  Houses get put up for sale and are bought in less than a week.  Chris and I would like a condo, but we also need to look into FHA loans for first time house buyers.  And mortgages.  And... ugh.  Adulting is hard.  Then, too, we also need to actually find a place we both like.  Finding this apartment we're in was hard enough.  Now it's got a roach infestation (which is thankfully clearing up) and we're kind of tired of the shoddy maintenance, high electric bill, and lazy snow-removal service.  I haven't a clue where to start with all this, other than to ask my dad nicely.  He's overseen buying and selling at least 5 houses, in my childhood alone.  So, y'know, reasonably decent at it by now.  He and my mother are moving to this city around the middle of this year, but I think Chris might want to start hunting sooner than that.  Wish us luck...