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Showing posts from May, 2014

My Wife's View of the 'Autistic Me'

A reader asks, "If you don't think about the autistic traits, what about your wife? They tend to notice what husbands fail to see in the mirror." Is my wife be more aware of my "autistic" traits than I am? Probably. I suppose the above is true of all friends and family in our lives. The people observing us probably do see us for whatever we are, more clearly than we can see ourselves. She knows how annoyed I get with myself, which might help her tolerate me a little more. I dislike how locked in I get to thoughts, how much I worry constantly about failing at things, how tense I get in various situations. She knows I don't like my sensitivities, my fears, and my general anxiety. My wife reminds me to accept my limits, though I hate those limits. She tries to maintain order and calm, knowing how much I hate disorder in my life. I don't like to be told the obvious though: my mind doesn't let go of things, even when I wish it could. She'll te

The Pain of Memories

I don't generally speak of it, but driving on the shortest Interstate between Pittsburgh and our house upsets me most times. But, it saves about 20 minutes if I'm in a hurry to get home. I need to decide between the emotional stress, the memories it triggers, and the convenience of getting home quickly. (The "quick" route is only fast when driving toward home — it is the worst imaginable path into the city.) Usually, I'll opt for the circuitous (and less stressful) drive that takes me on three different Interstates and two state routes. The problem is, there's no way skip around the symbols (and traffic signs) that upset me if I want to go to the best grocery store, bookstores, music store, restaurants, and a good mall. So, I feel lousy getting to whatever I want to do. That's hard to explain to other people. If I could clear my mind, and ignore the signs that upset me, that would make life more comfortable.

Cities and (in)Sanity

Now, for some paradoxes about where we choose to live. Greater Pittsburgh, as a community, has proved to be a great place for my wife and me. The region, which includes parts of West Virginia and Ohio, offers excellent opportunities for people like us. But, those opportunities come with a cost. Before reviewing the toll I pay for working in Pittsburgh, I wish to list the amazing benefits of the Steel City: I teach at a top-ranked research university, among the best in the world; My plays have received public readings (and, soon, stagings) by some of the most supportive actors, directors, and crews possible; I can walk large sections of the city, after I find parking, avoiding mass transit; and My office is a short walk from one of the largest urban parks in America and the Phipps Conservatory. But, cities still exhaust me. As a result, I commute an hour or more each direction so we can live in the exurbs. People consider where we live to be "country" though I co

What Titles Mean

Hamerschlag Hall is one of the principal teaching facilities of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) For the 2014-15 academic year, my title will be "Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor of Business Communication." Reading this long title on my contract, I considered how labels and titles, beyond "disabled" and whatnot, shape how people view us. And so, an analysis: Visiting: not expected to remain; a guest; a traveler heading elsewhere. Assistant: working to aid others. Teaching: responsible for educating, with any research duties subordinate. Professor: respected for past academic accomplishments. Business Communication: specializing in workplace communication, instead of academic discourse. The full title implies my role is to teach classes in the business school so other professors can focus on research. It is a temporary post, one that many scholars hold at an institution before locating a permanent position.

Am I the Autistic Me or Not?

Every few months, online or in real (physical) life, I hear the skeptical, questioning, puzzled phrase, "You're not autistic. You can't be." I've addressed the question here many times, and I still lack a single good response. The "positive" versions: Because you are successful, self-expressive, driven, and have a career, it is hard to believe you are autistic. Because you are considered intelligent… Because you did well in school… Because you have a wife, good relationship with family, and seem to lead a "normal" life (especially for an introvert)… Because I've never seen a meltdown, non-verbal day, shaking, stereotypical behaviors… The "negative" versions: You must be lying to get attention. You played the neurologists for suckers. You are merely an awkward geek, like other smart people. You are using autistic traits as an excuse for being lazy. The reality is more complex, as it always is. Here's my cur