When I was in 5th grade, the bully thing became a problem. There had been minor amounts of it in previous years. But- as the social world become more complex, and my awkwardness created more tension- the number of bullies increased.
In the first part of this series on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and depression, I offered a broad description of how depression operates. (Please click here for a post that collects and summarizes every article in this Aspergers/depression series.)
What makes depression so dangerous for someone on the spectrum is that it can actually hide behind autistic traits. My fear is that too few people realize: depression and ASD have several features in common, creating a kind of masking effect. A trait commonly associated with ASD can in some cases be depression masquerading as that trait, thus allowing it go undetected. (And in some instances, the reverse can also be true, where depression makes it harder to detect autistic traits.)
This is the first part in a new series. Future posts will look at specific ways that Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aspergers and depression can intertwine, but I wanted to start things off with a more general discussion. (Click here for Part 2 or here for a post that collects and summarizes every article in this series.) [Read more…]
When you have sensory issues, life can be a constant search for constructive solutions. The problem is that most people aren’t dealing with sensory issues…and those that do very likely have them in a different way. As a result, it can be tough to find examples to learn from.
This means you often have to go it alone and develop coping strategies through a process of trial and error. It’s actually one of the benefits of sensory issues: they force you to become creative.
One of the great joys of reading blogs by people on the spectrum…and by parents of kids on the spectrum…is reading about all the different ways people adapt to their sensory experiences.
Here are just a few of the ways I’ve adapted, over the years.
1988: I’m 13 years old.
Books ended up being my one reliable source of stability. I liked books. Reading functioned as a powerful form of escape- they gave my mind a way to blunt much of the anxiety and stress. They permeated every aspect of my life…I used books like shields, tried to work them into as many situations as possible.
Written-out moments from a conversation with an autism specialist.
I am currently going back, piecing together all of these sessions, and hope to make them available at some point. This is one example….the topic of this discussion was one we re-visited more than any other: the daily task of processing social data.
It’s summer, 1987. I’m 12 years old. I’m at my grandmother’s house, roaming around the yard. The goal is to look busy, avoid people; hide in plain site.
Chickens dart around the yard. Goats behind a fence press their faces through the boards of their enclosure, mutter staccato bleats. I watch the animals, lost in my head. I walk in big, loping circles, looking for interesting rocks. When I find one, I pick it up, hurl it at a tree, move on to the next rock.
The family is gathered for a reunion. Most are inside, eating, conversing. A few older cousins are in the workshop, looking at an ancient tractor.
I try to quickly walk past them. A cousin says, “M. What’s with that? Your arms?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you walk, they don’t move. You look…”
He moves his arms to his side, holds them rigid; squares his shoulders…mirroring my posture.
“You look like a robot. You gotta relax, loosen up or something.”
I look off to the side, too frustrated to respond. [Read more…]
An office. Two chairs facing one another; a desk off to the side.
I glance at the clock…we’re only half way through the session. I breathe out, rub my face.
The psychologist says, “What happened is that, as a child, you were not developing non-verbal communication. And there was no diagnosis at that time. There were no services available. As the kids around you began to socially develop, you struggled to keep up. Lack of body language…lack of non-verbal cues…this made social interactions confusing. And that was happening because you didn’t know. Okay?”
I don’t say anything. It’s quiet for awhile. [Read more…]
I’m getting questions from folks that are very helpful, and make it easier for me to think about how to discuss these issues. I thought I’d start posting some of those questions and my responses here. First up: a question from April Till on the Invisible Strings Facebook page!
Was receiving a diagnosis personally or professionally useful?
I would say it was personally useful, because in going so long without a diagnosis, I developed a lot of coping strategies that were not very helpful. I didn’t understand my social/sensory differences; I put a lot of effort into hiding them, and this was a pretty destructive thing to do, emotionally speaking. So, with a diagnosis, I was able to adapt accordingly and develop (with the help of a very kind autism specialist) coping strategies that were more beneficial. [Read more…]
It’s always an awkward thing visiting my parents.
They’re nice people, but willfully conventional. Their dress, conversation and behavior follows very specific codes. Anything different from that really throws them. Meaning: I throw them, due to…my history. Their efforts to talk around any potentially unusual topic makes for a lot of strained conversations.