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Showing posts from 2012

Busy Weeks and Events too Sad

It has been a busy couple of weeks, with my classes finishing their final exams and my wife and I rushing to fix up our "old" house so the sale can close and we can focus on the "new" (really, actually new) house. Just as I was ready to gather some thoughts and blog, we had the events of Newtown, CT. The mention of Autism Spectrum Disorders and violence (you can search on Google, I won't bother with the links) have raised some difficult issues — and I didn't want to comment on some of the articles about mental health and violence because, while less upsetting than the horrific events, were still upsetting. We'll have more stories about the "severely" autistic with aggressive personality disorders. Maybe someone will dredge up the various "autism defense" stories, citing the several criminal cases in which autism was a defense for horrible acts. Now, I'm only in a slightly better place to comment than I was a few days ago.

Shaken, Not Stirred…

Sometimes, for no good reason, my legs and arms tremor. Okay, there is a good reason (a palsy in one arm, possible damage to a leg) but that doesn't mean I can't be annoyed by the tremors. Last night, my right arm was trembling, starting while we were finishing dinner and continuing after I went to bed. My leg was soon shaking, too. Add in some back cramps and knee pain — not much sleep for me or my wife. I slept on the floor for a few hours, leading me to anticipate next week's arrival of our new living room furniture. My body doesn't respond to my thoughts. Sometimes, I can sit and concentrate until the shaking stops. It is like meditation, focusing on the need to be still. I'm not someone to sit still normally, but still is much better than vibrating when you want to sleep. I have tried various tips to reduce the palsy episodes. For a time, I was on medications for seizures and similar conditions. I can't recall if those medications helped with the t

Identity Questions

Earlier this week, I was asked by a young man how knowing I am "autistic" changed my life. His big question was if I would have not made some choices if I had known the diagnosis years ago. Is "The Autistic Me" a different me, making different choices? That's a good question, but I don't have a good answer. I'm just me. I know the label means something, but I choose the name of this blog as part of a class assignment — there wasn't a lengthy rhetorical analysis of the label or what it might mean to me. I've written the following about "autism" as a label: There are many other related posts, too. I am ambivalent about the "autistic" label, neither rejecting it entirely nor embracing it without question. As a writer with a degree in rhetoric, I'm expected to understand the

Holiday Decor (Scrapes and Bruises)

It's that time of year: Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, and stockings by the fireplace. I enjoy the decorations, but also like the fact my wife and I get to sit at home with the cats on Christmas Day. I like a nice, quiet holiday together. This time of year, I avoid the malls, try not to stare at blinking lights, and generally sit at home and enjoy the warmth. Holidays can be painful, apparently. While stringing the lights above our garage, I managed to skin both knees. Shingles are rough. I wonder why, since there's really no need for them to be sandpaper. My wife wonders how I skinned my knees through jeans. I don't know. I'm also unsure how I bruised my legs in two places. At least I do know the origin of a bruise on my right am — I slammed into a doorway, missing the opening by two or three inches. Despite the injuries, I am pondering buying and hanging another string of lights. Maybe some "icicle" lights would look nice over the garage door.

Water Allergy?

For the last two weeks, I have turned red and "splotchy" after washing my face. Taking a bath is worse — red dots cover my body for an hour or so. My eyes swell, as does my throat. I'm allergic to our water. It might be a child's dream to be allergic to bathing, but I sure don't like this situation. What in the world could be causing such a strange reaction to the local water supply? I've never liked the smell or taste of our local water, but now my body is rebelling against it. My wife is going to try to find out what the local water district is doing differently. Maybe we'll have to install a water filtration system for the house. I'm sorry, but water shouldn't make your skin tingle and eyes swell. Has anyone else had a reaction like this? I'm wondering if it is a reaction to chlorine or another chemical. At least we'll conserve water as my showers get shorter to spare me the rash-like splotches.

College Students with Autism: STEM Geeks?

A new study seems to support the stereotype that autistic students and scholars are drawn to the STEM disciplines.  Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Participation Among College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder , by Wei, Yu, Shattuck, et al, indicates I am not alone in being drawn to the STEM fields. While I love writing, and consider myself a "writer" before most other roles I might have in life, even my writing tends to embrace my "geekhood." I am a geek. When I'm not writing, I'm experimenting with programming tools, new hardware, and reading all I can on websites like Slashdot and Ars Technica . My bookcases reveal my split-personality: books on art theory sit above books on database programming. I tell myself that programming is simply a special form of writing, but few of my colleagues in English or communications would agree. The idea of a programming poet confounds people, especially in an academic world with traditional di

Discovering the Right Path

As I've revealed on this blog, I'm back on the job market and find myself again wondering what the "right" path is for me. My students are half my age (okay, less than half) and are on the same journey of self-discovery and purpose-seeking. The reality is that we are limited not only by our skills and knowledge, but also by our personalities and social abilities. It might be that the right path for me has more to do with my personality than my interests. How to balance the intellectual and the social aspects of a career is a question I've never been able to answer. When you love people and love business, being in sales is a natural path. If you dislike social interactions, but love medicine, then being a pathologist or medical researcher is a good path. It's easier for me to consider hypothetical combinations and present those to my students than to come up with a good combination for myself. I've met autistic adults with dreams of careers that aren

Spectrum of Relationships 2.0 in Progress

Last night I returned to work on A Spectrum of Relationships . The first edition is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and I thank people for having purchased the book. Like most authors, though, I've never been satisfied with the text. It needs to be expanded and improved, so I have resumed revising what will be version 2.0 of the book. It won't be done for another six months or more, unfortunately. If you have questions or suggestions that might be incorporated into the second edition, please let me know. Parents, students, educators, and caregivers have sent me some questions that will be addressed in the updated version. Of special interest to some readers were the sections on work and dating. My university students are interested in these same topics: they want careers and families. These seem to be the two basic components of the "American Dream" — and probably the dreams of people everywhere. We want vocations that have meaning, while providing a

Less Stress Ahead

There was simply too much change in the last two years, and lots of stress. I changed jobs — and am on the job market again. We moved — twice. We lost our dear friends J.C. Kitty and Mimi, each passing while we were moving, not even a full year apart. We dealt with flooding and lots of tree branches. My health was its usual adventure, which added to my exhaustion and stress. Finally, as 2012 nears an end, things are starting to feel a bit more organized and sane. Even looking for a new job is less stressful than the first post-graduate hunt because I know we are staying in our new house, in a little Western Pennsylvania township I like a lot. It's a nice place to live, reminding me of the foothills back in Central California — except these hills are green! It appears my wife and I will be able to sell our first Pennsylvania house thanks to a decent market here. If the house sells before Christmas, as seems likely, it will be a huge relief to us. Moving was stressful enough,

Communication Problems Among Others

People don't get along. Sometimes, their "communication styles" simply don't correspond well enough. Different personalities attempt to communicate in such varying ways that conflicts seem inevitable. Sometimes, these are cultural differences and I'm not sure how to help an adult realize he or she seems "aggressive" or "passive" because of a cultural difference. This isn't an "autism" thing, either. I'm from California and was raised in a culture that doesn't seem as "aggressive" to me as the urban cultures I'm experiencing on the East Coast. My wife and I notice that some stereotypes seem to be grounded in reality. We were in a New York shopping mall and the people really do talk loudly, in short choppy sentences. They insult each other, even among friends and family. It is a different form of communication. There are times when I completely miss communication problems. As a teacher, this can be frustr

Fewer Autism Blogs, Infrequent Posts?

I haven't been posting much to The Autistic Me blog in the last six months or so. I could list all the excuses, and there are many, but I've noticed that my blog isn't alone with less frequent updates. I've also noticed many blogs have either been abandoned or changed managers/authors in the last year. My "autism" group in NetNewsWire, my RSS reader of choice, is shrinking. On the Autism-Hub site, some pages haven't been updated in six months. Only ten have been updated within the last 30 days. What's happened? Have we all shifted to Facebook? I doubt it. Maybe we are exhausted, as a community? That seems plausible, after several busy years. Maybe there will be another spike in discussions once the new DSM-V is published, but we might have exhausted those debates, too. Opinions seem fairly set on many of the subjects. Blogging requires some compulsion to address a topic, or at least to tell a personal story. I'm not sure why anyone would c

Driven to Distraction: City Drivers and Me

I learned in Minneapolis that congested freeways and surface streets can contribute to migraines — fairly quickly, too. Since I lived in Los Angeles, and I happen to like driving there, I've been struggling to explain why some cities give me a headache and others do not. In a previous post, I explained that I like grid-based cities. But, that alone isn't enough to explain the migraine triggers. Los Angeles is not a great grid and the traffic is notoriously slow. Los Angeles drivers deal with mountains and coastline. The "grid" of L.A. is messy, but navigable for some reason. My wife noticed that it might be the attitudes of drivers. In Los Angeles, despite the city's image, drivers have been fairly nice. The infamous ramp from I-5 to State 110 (Golden State to Harbor Freeway) near Dodger Stadium is actually not bad after my experiences in other cities. As you exit 5, traffic is two lanes. (I long ago learned to use the "merge lane" as long as possi

Pet Therapy: Mutt and Misty

Someone asked me if I suggest a pet for children with special needs. That question struck me as odd. Shouldn't everyone have an animal in his or her life? I love animals. I don't think of it as pet ownership so much as having feline "kids" and friends. Our kids are important to us, and we have done everything we can for them. Though I try to avoid too much social contact with people, I spend as much time as possible with my cats. I think about our little family often, missing old friends no longer with us and doing all I can to love the kids still with us. Two of our cats (we have four) demand constant attention — and another demands food every two hours, but that's a different topic. Mutt and Misty are our little clingy kitties. They want to be where we are, especially if either of us might be making a lap with room for a cat. Mutt is elderly in cat years. He is deaf, has arthritic hips, and seems to get a little confused at times. His brother, Alex, is i

Why (Most) Cities Aren't for Me

Most cities are not places where I can thrive. My wife knows I can barely function in some cities without wanting to scream. Okay, I have screamed, turned the car around, and headed back to the country. I hate some cities that much. While my biggest complaints involve the crowds and the sensory overload, I don't think I'd like the cities even if we were the only two people in one of them. An empty city is still a city. I've written on this site several times about the problems I had living in Minneapolis, an older city with narrow roads and a cluttered, illogical downtown. The cramped nature of older cities is too much for me. The traffic, public transit, and tall buildings add to my anxiety. Historically, the cities on the East coast evolved "organically" over the decades and centuries. Walking paths became wagon ways, which became roads. The streets of cities were shaped by geography, too, with roads going around hills and avoiding other obstacles. In th

Autism, Asperger's, and IQ

"Aren't people with Asperger's more likely to be geniuses? Isn't genius related to autism?" A university student asked this in a course I am teaching. The class discussion was covering neurological differences, free will, and the nature versus nurture debate. The textbook for the course includes sidebars on the brain and behavior throughout chapters on ethics and morality. This student was asking a question reflecting media portrayals of autism spectrum disorders, social skills difficulties, and genius. I did not address this question from a personal perspective in class, but I have when speaking to groups of parents, educators, and caregivers. Some of the reasons these questions arise, as mentioned above, are media portrayals and news coverage of autism. Examples include: Television shows with gifted characters either identified with or assumed to have autistic traits: Alphas, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Touch, and others. Some would include

Skating in Peace

Accompanying the arrival of autumn are many of my favorite things: pumpkin pie, warm apple cider, hot teas, homemade cookies, multi-colored leaves, 60-degree days, and ice skating. That's only a partial list, because I love fall. I dislike summer, would rather skip the snows of winter, but fall and spring are glorious. And locally, the ice skating rink is open from Labor Day through Memorial Day. During the week, the public sessions are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with evening public sessions on Friday and Saturday nights. My wife and I have been skating during the evening sessions, but those are crowded and noisy. It is much nicer to go skating during the day, when only a few people use the rink. Last year, I found myself sharing the rink with three to five people most days. Sometimes, I was the only person skating, while the figure skaters were stretching or dealing with equipment issues. Around and around, smoothly on the cool ice. While they play music during the evening sessi

Is Academia + Autism a 'Fit' or a Myth?

There are several claims I hear about employment and autism. Some of these claims are generally true, some are definitely myths, and all of them are dependent on many variables. No job is ideal for every person with an autism spectrum disorder, and not all autistics fit stereotypes about skills and interests. In this post, I want to explore the idea that an academic career is somehow a better fit than other careers. Is academia an ideal place for an autistic person? That's a complicated question. Writing this post is probably not the "smart" thing to do professionally, but the topic is important to many families and individuals. I've read several articles suggesting academia is a haven for autistics. Is it? Q. Which academic setting is being considered? When we discuss academic settings, we should admit that there are a nearly infinite number of settings. Not only do grade levels require different types of teachers, but so do different types of institutions.

Local Fairs and Memories

Wednesday, my wife and I went to the opening day of the Canfield Fair in Ohio. It is a regional fair, drawing from several Ohio and Pennsylvania counties. Since we moved from California, I would rate this as the best fair we've attended. It reminded me a bit of the Big Fresno Fair, with more animals than the Minnesota State Fair. The Canfield Fair had the best collection of antique farm equipment we've seen, and definitely the most food trucks and booths. In California, there are county fairs. I've been to the Kern, Tulare, Kings, Los Angeles, and Fresno County fairs. The Tulare County fair is a nice little event, usually with some good entertainment. The Fresno County fair (The Big Fresno Fair) is great. I love the entertainment, the craft displays, and the animals. I can still remember the basic layout of the fairgrounds, especially the location of the rabbits, sheep, and horses. Fresno's grandstands are still used for horse racing. The Minnesota State Fair, hel

Back to School Stress

As we head back to school, I find the anxiety overwhelming. The start of each year is like starting a new job, with new colleagues (students) and new routines. Time to learn new people, new schedules, new classrooms, and even a new office. I'm now in my third office, in a third building and I haven't yet reached a year as an instructor at the university. The change is constant, as the institution is trying to redefine itself in two different (and sometimes contradictory) ways. That's not really a topic for this blog post, but turmoil and confusion in higher education also make each year more of an adventure than I would like. When I was young, the new year seemed like part of the routine. I'm from a small Central California community; the school was the center of the small community where we lived until I was in high school. Even after moving into the "city" we remained in the same school junior high (now "middle school") and high school distri

So Much for Normal… or This Is Normal?

I met my wife at the airport just before midnight, Tuesday, and thought things were back to normal again. She was home, the cats would be happy, and routine would be restored. Then, while driving home I realized I ached all over. Headache, joint pain, and sneezing… lots and lots of sneezing. I thought the sneezing was a result of wind and pollen. Over the weekend, I had taken to the slope behind our house with a Weed Eater (one of the best lawn care tools ever invented). I wore jeans and safety goggles, but my face still ended up with marks from the weeds and grass. I looked like a red raccoon after the mowing and weed removal. Alas, it wasn't mere allergies. I spent much of Wednesday sneezing and wheezing. I was running a fever by late in the day. Thursday was spent in bed, with chills. Not as much sneezing, but still too much sneezing. My lips and nose are chapped, from too much Kleenex use. Time to get some Puffs with lotion. My wife said this is normal for us — I get sic

Return to Normalcy (sort of)

In two hours, I'll be leaving to the airport to retrieve my wife. I missed her for the last week while she's been visiting family in California. I also miss California, so while missing her I was remembering the places back home — Los Angeles, Monterey, Sequoia, and so many more. Then there were the memories of food. Yes, food. Mexican food isn't the same in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Minnesota. (Though, parts of Ohio look promising.) The cats have been clingy while I'm alone. It wasn't quite as bad as when we first moved, but pretty close. Then again, Alex and Mutt are clingy most of the time now. Old age stinks. I believe they miss the rest of the pack — especially Mimi and Jordan. With the return to a routine, maybe the cats won't cry so much. Even sitting with them, it was obvious they wanted Mama, not Papa. Misty Kitty has taken to sitting on a little folding "TV tray" stand next to my chair in the living room. It's adorable. I hope to be

Long, Exhausting Night

Cats, I am told, are like two-year-old children. Last night was one of those long nights with one sick and one demanding kid, then. My wife is visiting family in California and I am ill-equipped at the moment to deal with extra stress. I believe it is because the start of this school year is reminding me of last year — so I am already anxious. I did okay last summer because I was focused on the new job and things hadn't yet started to spiral out of control. Then, J.C. Kitty passed away, the house flooded, and my workplace became more complex than I could anticipate. Add to that a string of health issues and my ability to manage alone withered away under stress. A few months into the school year and I needed extra help managing the household. Last night, about 11 p.m., Mutt was sick. Very sick. He needed a bath, the bed comforter had to be changed… and then he was sick again. Another bath. At the same time, his brother Alex was demanding food, but finding none of the cho

Pursuit of Perfection

Perfectionism can be debilitating. We know that extreme pursuit of "perfection" is associated with body image issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. Whether it is associated with ADHD, autistic traits, or something else, I have an impulse towards perfectionism. Parents and educators know that autistic children often insist on perfect order. There is a desire to have a perfect schedule. There are also forms of perfectionism among autistics. I've met autistic adults unable to tolerate the slightest factual errors relating to their special interests. There is a desire for accuracy, clarity, and completeness. Anything less causes emotional, and physical, anxiety. I dislike factual errors intensely. Being a perfectionist and being a teacher can conflict. Grading papers can descend into a "sand trap" where I want to correct every error. Students would never read or recall all the comments I would make on papers given sufficient time. Yet, that is

Burnout, via Karla's Page

I saw this graphic on Facebook yesterday, and wanted to share it. I have included similar information on this blog and in my other writings. Trying to socialize is exhausting. Visit Karla's ASD Page While it might be more difficult for someone with a variation of autism to socialize, I have written that I believe others feel the same exhaustion from our society's insistence on being charming and at ease in groups. Workplaces are socially trying for many individuals, but significantly more trying for many autistics. My wife is an introvert, and so am I. We both work from home most of the time, which is ideal for us. I do try to be more social because I realize that's how our society works. We have friends who are extroverts and they do navigate workplaces (and life in general) with greater ease.  I'm conflicted by this. I want to be left alone, but I want to have success in whatever field I am pursuing. As a writer, social skills are necessary to promote

Some Weeks are Challenging

I haven't had a good night's sleep in a few weeks, but this week seems to be off to the worst of starts. Midnight passes me by, while I work on projects for school, clients, and myself. I haven't been able to sleep well, despite being exhausted. Anemia is slowing my brain and body. Today I have a dental appointment, my first since moving to PA. I've had some bleeding and receding of the gums, so I'm not going to take any chances. The anemia can be bad enough without more bleeding — and gums shouldn't bleed, anyway. After the dental appointment, it is the last night of summer school. Yeah! I know the students are eager for classes to end so they can enjoy a few weeks of summer. I need a few weeks to work on school-related projects. I have to make some serious progress on a research paper and on at least one or two theoretical papers so I can keep moving ahead. I don't know if I could call it irony, but I need to prove I could succeed as an academic so I