Springingtiger's Blog

Gratitude for Virtual friends

Last night I was in conversation on Twitter when it occurred to me once again how much I appreciate my virtual friends. Certainly some of the people with whom I interact are personally known to me, but there are many whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting. A goodly number of them are fellow bloggers on autism, some fellow autistics to whom, like myself, interacting via the web is preferable than conversing face to face. However were I ever to meet any of them, the background of relatedness we have built up would make interaction less awkward. I realise that even online I am quite reluctant to befriend people willy-nilly, although there are some people among my “friends” because it felt impolite or impolitic to refuse them,  the majority have been selected for good reason.

I have basically three types of online “friends”: family and people I know with whom I wish to remain in contact, and people with whom I have connected on line. I find Facebook a great way of keeping in touch with family scattered over three continents. However the people whom I wish to acknowledge are my virtual friends, particularly those around  The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and The Coffee Klatch http://thecoffeeklatch.com/ who not only have provided moral support and acknowledgement when needed, but are an invaluable source of information and links.

There are too many to acknowledge so I shall content myself with a representative selection. Kim Wombles, whom I feel I’ve known for years, actually I think I have! She has an excellent blog “Countering” http://kwomblescountering.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1 . Shannon  Des Roches Rosa who has a blog Squidelicious at http://www.squidalicious.com/
Marianne Russo who founded The Coffee Klatch, her blog The Life Unexpected is at http://thelifeunexpected.com/

Liz Ditz   is another one of those people who believes reason and good science is better than myth and woo, her blog may be found at http://lizditz.typepad.com/

Other bloggers who are important to me include Nettie Heidman http://nettiesworld.com/
Amalia Starr is an autism  advocate and speaker whose blog about the struggles of her adult son is on Autisable   at http://amaliastarr.autisable.com/
Jeff Stimson  whose blog about raising a son with autism  is at http://jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy/

Another time I will have a different list, but these are the people I am being grateful for today.

Battle Lines

And so Autism Awareness Month has begun and already the battle lines are being drawn between the various factions of the Autism Community – a misnomer if ever there were one! – this is sad. There seem to be several groups, some of which overlap. The two main groups are obviously parents of autistics and autistics, but within these are those who consider autism as an evil that must be eliminated and those – particularly those of us who are autistic – who believe that it is merely what makes us who we are and it has both its good and bad aspects, but we don’t want a cure. There are a group of so called professionals whose aim appears to be to make money from the families of autistics, and those who are genuinely supporting autistics by providing services and serious scientific research. Sadly the different groups are digging in to spend a month presenting the world with the edifying spectacle of autism advocates belittling each other and, in some cases, the autistics they claim to champion.

This is an arena in which I can claim no moral high ground I am as prone as anyone to push my position aggressively and, sometimes, at the expense of good manners. As an autistic I may be expected to hold a position obsessively, in this I find we are actually no different from neurotypicals. Perhaps,if there is a difference it is that we will argue our position logically whereas our opponents are unreasonable. There are people using autism as a marketing opportunity, however this is not always a bad thing. A number of people selling autism related products are the parents of autistics who are sharing a solution they have found to a problem related to autism, further if they have an autistic child they need all the money they can get. Of course some of the people marketing autism related products are simply out to make money, but we live in a capitalist society and trade is the norm. If businessmen did not seek to profit by satisfying a need it might not be satisfied; it’s a lousy system , but its what we’ve got. There are also people peddling unscientific and unproven treatments to desperate parents, and the debate around these treatments can get very unpleasant, as is since often the way when money is concerned.

It is right that we should debate robustly, particularly when lives may be at risk. It may be a little over optimistic of me to ask people to respect empirical fact, many people seem incapable of separating proven fact from anecdote. However I do think I have a right and a duty to ask that we respect each other. It can be difficult when someone clings doggedly to an untenable position, or evinces a fatuous argument. However we will make little progress collectively if we cannot learn a little patience, if we don’t learn to listen and respect the sincerity with which someone holds an opinion. If we must challenge their views, let it be only their errors and not their identity. That someone’s opinions are wrong does not make them wrong as a person; that they are capable of believing something stupid doesn’t mean they are stupid. That someone argues with me doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong…actually it does, obviously! All I ask is that we put our collective goal to get the best for autistic people before our need to be “right”and or to win. Come on, come on, let’s get together!

I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today

The other day, as I headed for home, from the Boyd Orr building in Glasgow’s West End, I passed the Student Television studios. It occurred to me that, even in my day, there were students who engaged in hobbies like television or debating, because they were appropriate to their career plans. The story is told that Michael Hesseltine planned out his political career up to becoming Prime Minister,  ‘millionaire 25, cabinet member 35, party leader 45, prime minister 55’, on the back of an envelope while still a student; apart from the last two he made it. He took his chance at the PM, unfortunately for him – if not for the rest of us – he didn’t make it. However by any meaningful material measure, he can be described as a success. Sid Savara has debunked the story of research done into goal setting at Harvard Business School. However his article does cite research by Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University which demonstrates that there is truth to the assertion that writing down one’s goals is more likely to have them happen.

It must be nice to know as a youth the course of one’s life, I personally, have difficulty looking beyond bedtime, to plan a day in advance is a tribulation. Like many people with Aspergers I tend not to have a grasp of the relationship between actions and their consequences, or rather, I can see the relationship in hindsight, but it tends not to occur to me before acting. Having said all that I have, on occasion, written lists of goals and a surprising number have been accomplished, as I have discovered on reading old notebooks. I have in the past done all sorts of personal development courses, and have been frustrated at my lack of material success, that changed when I received my diagnosis and my comparators changed. In autistic terms I may be called a success as I have employment and a long term relationship. However, insofar as I perceive myself not to have the specific success I want, I am not YET a success. To a great extent my problem has been not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but at Sixty I have, at least, some things I want to try. At last I actually have a couple of projects on the go, apart from the garden. I am not a failure, I’m a very late developer. As for growing up, it’s not in my schedule.

Self Definition?

There is a power in being able to define ourselves, as ethnic minority activists know hence the term “self defined as black”, however we do not get to choose most of the labels we bear. Sometimes our labels define us as I said in my blog post, Do We Allow Autism to Define Us?. We have two sorts of problematical labels, those of which we are aware and those of which we are not. If we look at the labels of which we are aware, the labels we use of ourselves, and apply them to rigorous analysis we will find that we did not originate most of them, but that they were given to us by others. This applies not only to the negative labels like, stupid, retard, weird, nerd, geek etc., but also to the positive labels, witty, clever, attractive. Unfortunately most of us seem to be more ready to accept of ourselves, the negative labels. These labels are not inherent to us but merely the opinions of others, often not even the opinions of others, but a word used under particular circumstances at a particular time, however the emotion and the context may have given the thought excessive charge.

Perhaps even more deadly are the labels of which we are not aware. These are the thoughts about ourselves that have been installed in our unconscious of which our conscious has no knowledge, some of these will even date back before we had the capacity to even articulate them ourselves. Because we have no awareness of these labels, we cannot identify them in order to remove them. Sometimes some will present to conscious, but many will remain quietly in our unconscious shaping our opinions, beliefs and self image. Much of who we think we are is not based on knowledge, but on installed beliefs, most of which are not even ours.

We are trapped within an image created by beliefs, but we do not have to remain there, there are ways of handling the beliefs with which we have been programmed. Where the beliefs can be identified we may use a number of NLP belief change techniques, but the unconscious beliefs can also be challenged at levels of various depth. Time Line Therapy (TM) can be used to identify and discharge past traumas and the beliefs and limiting decisions they have given us. Emotional Freedom Technique and Matrix Re-imprinting which was developed from it are also powerful ways of accessing installed beliefs while bypassing the conscious mind. I am not sure how the Access Consciousness Bars work, however my experience of them is that they seem to short circuit the internal wiring of the mind, they also seem to be related to meridien work. What I do know is that when my bars are being run I relax so deeply I fall asleep, but Reiki does that too. I suspect that their effectiveness will not be empirically proven for some time, I do hope an experiment is designed that can properly evaluate them, but for now, I suspect, our knowledge is too limited. I also find that the Access Consciousness Clearing Statement is a very powerful tool for shifting beliefs, even when I am not fully aware of what they are or from where they came. Of course, the classic way of accessing the unconscious is through hypnosis, which can also be used for reprogramming beliefs.

Language is key to our programming, the world exists as we describe it. Language is also the primary medium of change in most of the technologies to which I have referred. I think it was Wayne Dyer who said that the two most pernicious statements in our language are, “I can’t do it” and “I’m not well”. The first operates on a level of Belief the other on the even deeper level of Identity so today I am not even saying, “I have flu”, but rather, I have symptoms which some may consider symptomatic of influenza” thus putting everything on the level of action and the easiest place to make changes is in our actions, it also puts distance between me and the sensations removing any emotional charge that might impede my freedom to act.

I have already talked about how my first foray into Stand Up Comedy has transformed my life and it is a change operating on the identity level. What I did by standing on stage and making people laugh was to change who I had been being. I also negated the stereotypes and labels which had been applied to me by myself and others. I effectively rebooted my entire belief system and allowed myself to be who I say I am, and I can be whoever I choose, this could be interesting.

Reasons To Be Cheerful – Counting My Blessings

Today I am, as they say, counting my blessings, and I have much for which to be grateful.
I suppose my first thanks should, at least chronologically go to my parents, who not only brought me into this world but also paid for my education. Looked back on from here my childhood appears, perhaps, more idyllic than it felt at the time, but I did have the inestimable benefit of being brought up in the country able to spend whole days on the Hitchens’ farm when in Hawkswick or later on the fells or the riverbank. Of all the places one might spend one’s childhood, few are as good as the Yorkshire Dales. My schooling also took place in Yorkshire, at Giggleswick School near Settle, where the Pennines became my playground. I have remarked before on how appropriate Giggleswick was for someone with Aspergers, providing the discipline, routine and oversight I needed.
In order of importance, my wife Neelam should take first place in my gratitude list. She has stuck with me through good times and hard times, I cannot say, “without complaint”, but she has always been there, and it has made life rather fun, for me at least, perhaps less so for her! I must also be grateful for my family in which I include both Neelam’s family and mine. Our family has had, and still has some wonderful people in it amongst them my daughter and my granddaughters whom I find rather amusing. I am lucky in that our family has always been very supportive.
Another reason for gratitude is that I am in employment. I may not have the best job in the world, but it is by no means the worst. I am fortunate in having a manager who is very supportive, and helpful.
I have been fortune enough to travel, not as much as some people, but I have visited several European countries as well as India and Morocco.
I have a roof over my head, and when we’ve finished to house will be nice. The same is true of the garden which not only provides a pleasant environment to live in, but also gives me a hobby.

As long as I live I shall be grateful to Werner Erhard. I did the est training nearly thirty years ago and I still use it to navigate through life. I should also at this point express my gratitude to Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Robert Dilts, Michael Hall and all the developers of NLP. I am particularly grateful to my teachers Terry Elston, Richard Flook and Jeremy Lazarus. NLP has provided me with both an interest and interesting friends.
I am grateful for my friends and teachers from many fields, among them Chris James who taught me to sing and more. From Reiki ,Joseph Running Wolf Sparti (sadly missed) but others from the AHR newsgroup days like Judy Rigby and Gabriel Shivers who have provided me with much entertainment, Gabriel can be relied upon to bring a blush to my cheek. Writing this has brought home to me how many friends I do have, some very dear like my Best Man Stephen Smyth and Robert Frost. I have some friends I have not yet meet face to face like Mark Aldis, Nettie Heidmann, Liz Ditz, Kim Wombles and Amalia Starr, but with whom I have very enjoyable interactions and they are there for me in the dark times.
I am grateful that I live in Glasgow, the best city in the best country, Scotland. Of course the people here are all crazy, but it makes them interesting. I am glad Glasgow has an Autism Resource Centre so that I could get my Asperger diagnosis and the insights it brought. Glasgow has so many things to do and is so well placed for exploring Scotland, I am living in a centre for tourism, how cool is that!
I am grateful for so many things, many more than I can list here. I am very grateful I started this exercise as it had reminded me of how extremely lucky I am. Why not write your own gratitude list, it’s a great way to lift the spirits and put the world in perspective.

Reading Autism

I think that for many people being diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum comes as a bit of a shock and that goes as much for those diagnosed as those round about them. However, whoever you are, you are not the first to go through this. Whether you are the one diagnosed, or the parent or carer of someone others have been through this and many are willing to share their experiences and the lessons they have learned. The best advice I can give and remedy for the initial shock is read and learn. The resources available are so many I will list no more than a few to get you started.

There are many books about autism, my favourite which I and others describe as the book we wish we’d had when we were diagnosed is the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism ISBN 978-0-692-01055-6 This book is a collection of essays covering most aspects of autism, practicalities, problems, experiences and resources, the best place to start,  they also have a useful website with blogs http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/p/mission-statement.html
Books by young people with Asperger Syndrome that are worth reading include: Freaks,Geeks  & Asperger Syndrome by Luke Jackson ISBN 978-1-84310-098-0
Asperger Syndrome, the Universe and Everything by Kenneth Hall ISBN 1-83502 – 930-0
A book I love is Isabel’s World by Roy Richard Grinker ISBN 978-184831-48-3 which puts autism into a wider context, but it’s probably not for beginners on the path.

There are numerous autism related blogs on the internet, many gathered at Autisable but there are too many to mention. A few I like, but which are not always easy to read are: www.squidalicious.com,

A search on YouTube provides a lot of short films about autism. If you prefer to listen try The Coffee Klatch http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thecoffeeklatch

My final piece of advice is Google autism organisations like the National Autistic Society http://www.autism.org.uk/ to see what advice, help and support is available for you. However the place to start is the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

No Diagnosis, No Aspergers

Ooh, controversial title! True, but if I’m going to upset people I might as well get it over and done with quickly at the start of my blog. The other day I watched Dr Frank Gaskill’s You Tube video, The Aspie Show – The World of Asperger’s, which I enjoyed, some of the comments were less enjoyable. However one of the trolls made a point which provoked some thought on my part because it was not entirely unfounded. Having made the fatuous remark that there are no successful aspies in History, they went on to say that “the common aspie is a self diagnosed teenager looking for attention and a way of excusing his lazy ass life and failure to live any sort of life” . While I am sure he was just trying to cause offense, the fact is that this remark is not entirely unjustified, it is true of some people.

I belong to possibly the last generation that had manners beaten into them, I don’t believe there is any excuse for bad manners. I am, on occasion, deliberately rude, but I do not accept that my Asperger’s excuses that; however sometimes my conversation, lacking the filters of neuro-typicals, can cause unintentional offense. The point here is that the offense is unintentional; If I deliberately cause offense that is not Asperger’s, it is just bad manners.

Because I was diagnosed so late in life I just had to get on and adapt as best I could to society. Using Asperger’s as an excuse not to make adaptations to get along with humans is ultimately counterproductive, the more we make an effort to adapt the more humans are prepared to make adaptations for us. Those Aspies who are a living “fuck-off” to humanity not only turn people against them, but by blaming Asperger’s for their behaviour they turn society against the rest of us. It is hard enough for people on the Spectrum to make it in this world without having a bunch of sociopaths making it harder.

It can be difficult to get a diagnosis of Asperger’s and resources are limited so there are probably many people waiting for a diagnosis. There are also a large group of self diagnosed Aspies who have decided for themselves that they have Asperger’s and that it justifies anti-social behaviour, some of them are Aspies, some are waiting for diagnosis, but there are far too many of them who appear to have no intention of seeking a diagnosis. I suspect there are many self diagnosed Aspies out there who are scared that, should they submit to assessment, the diagnosis will not be that they have Asperger’s, but rather, that they are ill mannered and self indulgent. I know that many people with Asperger’s have a justifiable “chip on their shoulder” given the way the world has treated some of them, but allowing the hurt to determine one’s behaviour only really damages one’s self. If you think you have Asperger’s seek a diagnosis and use the knowledge to empower yourself to relate to the world positively and productively. That does not mean to deny who you are, but to use it as a foundation on which to build. We can find a middle ground upon which we relate to ordinary humans, but if so called Aspies insist on alienating them they will not meet us there.