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Showing posts from October, 2011

Autism and "Fitting in" with Peers

A Facebook fan — and thanks to everyone following us on FB and Twitter — asked if I could address problems with "fitting in" with same-age peers. A good topic, and a difficult one. The challenge is that there are two different "stages" I'm learning about among autistic individuals. As children, many high-functioning autistics seem to deal better with adults. As adults, the opposite seems to be the case, with autistics relating better to children. The challenges make sense, though, as I will explain. As a child, the individual with Asperger's or any "high-functioning" ASD diagnosis is likely drawn to concrete thinking, pattern recognition, and might be an "expert" on a few subjects of special interest. Compared to his or her peers, the autistic seems "advanced" because some skills we associate with greater chronological ages appear early. These are not social skills, however. The interest in topics and things, compared to

Autism and Teaching

Following a panel discussion I was asked if my autistic traits made me a better teacher. I replied, "No. They are a disadvantage for much of what I teach." The mother asking the question was puzzled. I don't believe I offered the answer she wanted. This led me to ponder the question and the answer further. I teach a literature-writing course this semester, "The Study of the Essay." The course is a survey of major essayists and requires students to write personal essays and reflections weekly. The essay is by nature an author's attempts to persuade readers in a personal way. The essayist is a character in his or her own work. Like many autistics I've met, I read a lot of nonfiction and historical fiction. There are great nonfiction writers, most of whom use the same techniques any novelist or short story author would harness. But, I don't analyze the style while reading: I'm interested in devouring facts. Literary analysis is not my streng

When Driving is Too Much

Driving is okay when there is little traffic and I know the route by memory. I do not like driving on busy streets or highways and I hate driving on narrow roads or in cluttered urban settings. I also hate, truly despise, highways or freeways without sufficient exits and places to turn around when necessary. I hate driving in Pittsburgh, enough so that I shake and get a headache after passing through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. I hate narrow, enclosed, claustrophobic tunnels. Two lanes, horns sounding, and tailgating. Horrible. Today, we drove to Cranberry. I hated the last trip there and needed two days to recover. I hate the fact beautiful hills are being covered with townhouses. Narrow two-lane roads are trying to accommodate a flood of new arrivals. Yes, the economy in Butler County is doing well, but the roads and spaces were never meant to handle so many people. We planned the trip ahead, knowing I hate the toll booths and most of the Turnpike, which is in a constant state of repa

Another Long Week

I knew when I accepted my new job that it would not be a 40-hour work week. Last night, I had a work-related call just before 10 p.m. — a dedicated instructor caught in something of a jam thanks to scheduling conflicts. Tonight, I was working until after midnight on multimedia content for an online course. I barely had the first week's content loaded before the "official" start of the course. It has been one of those weeks. I keep telling myself I'm doing better than expected. I do seem more organized than many other instructors, and I'm working hard to prove myself in the new position. But, I am also exhausted. As readers know, my wife and I have been dealing with the damage from a flash flood. It was the fourth time water had taken over the lower-level of our house. I spent much of the last week worried about the new appliances (washer and drier) as well as calculating how expensive repairs are going to be. The good news is that the appliances do still work.

Flooding Again, Medical 911, Forming Plans

Our lower-level flooded again last night. We ended up calling a company dealing with such emergencies. A neighbor also helped me as I frantically tried to move important paperwork from filing cabinets downstairs to our dining room. Without my wife here, I did what I could on my own and it wasn't enough. Unfortunately, I lost some notes and research I was hoping to use in coming weeks. Thoughts cannot be replaced, while furniture and appliances can be. Earlier in the day, I had driven past our insurance agent's office. I had intended to obtain flood insurance this week. It probably wouldn't have been in effect, but I feel horrible. Why didn't I stop? Because I was coming from a medical appointment, which led to a referral to a surgeon. I'm losing a lot of blood. As readers of this blog might recall, I was hospitalized over Christmas Eve a few years ago with blood loss. I needed a transfusion. We're near that point again.

Writing Instruction Blogs, Twitter Feeds, and Facebook Page

My wife and I maintain two blogs, Twitter feeds, and a Facebook page dedicated to creative writing instruction. I have discovered that readers prefer to choose how they receive updates and blog feeds, so we've tried to offer the most popular options. First, a reminder to visit the Tameri Guide for Writers ( ) if you are interested in creative writing. The Tameri website is not an academic writing website, though it includes some resources for teachers of writing. Our blog on creative writing and mass market fiction: My blog on using technology in writing instruction: The two blogs are featured on our Facebook page: You can find "Follow Us" links for Twitter on the blogs and on the Tameri website. Please consider following us using the social networking method of your choice.

Dinner, Panel Appearances in Western PA

I will be participating in two upcoming events this month. The first event is for students and faculty at the university where I work. The second is a panel roundtable at a high school in Pittsburgh, PA. If your school or organization would like me to discuss autism, special education, or literacy issues, please do not hesitate to ask. AHEADD Panel on Autism and Higher Education Monday October 17th Central Catholic High School  4720 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 5:30-7 p.m. Room 108/109 Please contact AHEADD for more information: Phone Toll-Free: 1-877-AHEADD-1 The AHEADD Panel is open, but you do need to contact AHEADD to RSVP. Campus-Only Event The RMU event, which is tomorrow night, gives me hope that faculty and staff might be interested to learn more about ASDs and higher education. I'm hoping some faculty might see this announcement and consider attending: Services for Students with Disabilities Dinner "Autism and Higher

Autism, ADHD, and Creativity

I have always been fascinated by the need for some people to redefine disabilities and differences as gifts, blessings, and strengths. When I was struggling with graduate school, the educational psychologist suggested the book Driven to Distraction . Instead of recognizing attention deficit disorder is a problem, a barrier to academic success, the psychologist was convinced that I had attention deficit and it explained my creative writing and other artistic interests. I am doubtful of such associations, such as popular myths connecting depression, substance abuse, or other mental health issues to artistic genius. I wonder if statistically there truly is a significant correlation between talent and difference. Although we know the many famous stories of depressed or addicted writers and artists, what about the numerous artists no more or less challenged / impaired than the rest of the population? When asked if I believed that my autistic traits contributed to my creativity, my repl

Autism, Health Issues, and Family

Tonight my wife told me that she has been experiencing stress, worrying about my health from afar. I have been having some minor health issues for the last month or so. Experience has taught us that I am not good at recognizing how serious an issue is or is not. I did go to a "minute clinic" after a week of coughing, and was diagnosed with bronchitis. However, other health problems have continued and I am set to see a doctor next week. One of the serious issues facing families of adults with autism is how to help an autistic person recognize and deal with health related issues. Because I am always in physical pain and discomfort is a constant in my life, it is challenging for me to recognize when a pain is something important. I have severe back pain and was even in a back brace as a teenager. I also have other injuries dating back to birth which cause shoulder and hip pain. For as long as I can remember, I have had headaches and migraines. With my complicated physical si

Academic Discomfort: An Autistic Trait?

Many of the comments I receive regarding the blog are sent to me directly. For some blog posts, the majority of comments are not posted to this blog, though some might appear on Facebook or via Twitter. I have wondered why some topics lead to fewer public replies. Last night, a question asked concerned my previous post on being uncomfortable among writing and rhetoric professors at a conference. Did I believe the discomfort was related to autism? Is it an autistic trait to be uncomfortable in some academic situations? That's a good question. I know my personality and I know what autistic adults told me during my doctoral research: I do fit the stereotype of preferring academic subjects that are "apolitical" and "objective" in nature; the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects are comfortable. I'd add to that list business, architecture, film production, and similar fields that stress applied knowledge over theory. Though I am a writ

Two Conferences, Too Different

A few days ago, someone commented that I looked exhausted. I was asked if this was the results of the ongoing bronchitis battle and the flooding issues with our house. Most people would have agreed or said something simple to dismiss the question. The problem with being exhausted is that I end up answering questions bluntly. "I'm tired of being around so many people," I answered. "I need some time to recover." I had attended two conferences, one on Friday and another on Saturday. That meant dealing with people — and trying not to mess up too badly. I'm sure the second conference went poorly, since I was too tired to monitor myself effectively. The first conference, however, went relatively well because I arrived, spoke, and left. That's always the best way for me to deal with situations. Leave before I have to deal with too many one-on-one interactions. Speaking to a group, as I did on Friday, is relatively easy. I don't have to be polite, beca

Sale on A Spectrum of Relationships: Autism and Social Connections

If you haven't purchased A Spectrum of Relationships , this month is a great time to do so. Following the surprise flooding of our home's lower level, we had to spend a bit of money. While I know my little eBook isn't going to cover more than a fraction of the surprise expenses, I figured it couldn't hurt to try a BIG SALE  approach to help out a bit. $0.99 SALE: A Spectrum of Relationships Kindle Owners, Click for Amazon . For Nook Users, use Barnes and Noble . That's right, for less than a dollar you can learn about one autistic adult's experiences with relationships at school, work, and beyond. I offer advice on how to deal with various situations and how friends and family can support an autistic teen or adult struggling with interpersonal relationships. I'm only going to keep this price for a few weeks, and then the price will return to $2.99 per copy. I want to thank everyone who has purchased copies of A Spectrum of Relationships  over