Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2015

Another "life is normal" post

Yes, our lives continue to be "normal" middle-class suburban lives. We sometimes feel that there's too much happening, but then I listen to other couples and friends and realize how rather routine and uncomplicated our daily routines are.

Many of my friends and neighbors are returning to school in their 30s and 40s. The job market, improving slowly, requires more and more educational achievement to advance. For me, this means considering an MFA in Film and Digital Technology to add to my existing MA and PhD. My struggles in the academic job market are not about autism or disability (though there is an element of "you don't conform to our norms"); the academic job market is badly broken.

Our house still needs some work, and there are things I like to change. Again, many of our neighbors who have been in this new development for as long as we have don't have every box unpacked or every room painted. Apparently, it takes more than four years to move int…

No NeuroTribes, Not Much Else...

I have been away from blogging to deal with some family matters, and I honestly don't have much to add to the "autism community" at this time.

One of the questions that I've received a few times during the month, "Will you review NeuroTribes?"

Although I consider Steve Silberman's work important, it just isn't something of interest to me right now. Maybe it would have been a few years ago, and maybe it will be in the future, but at this time my life is busy without giving too much thought to autism and its various feuding communities.

My days are spend writing, editing, and otherwise working like most freelance writers. My family life is the same as most other 40-something married adults. In other words, I can't really think of any way in which my autistic traits are having much affect on my daily life at this moment.

This blog was meant to explore how autistic traits, regardless or their origins, present challenges (or offer benefits).�…

Listen… and Help Others Hear

We lack diversity in the autism community.

Think about what you see, online and in the media. I see upper-middle class parents, able to afford iPads and tutors and official diagnoses. I see parents who have the resources to fight for IEPs and physical accommodations.

I see self-advocacy leadership that has been fortunate (and hard working, certainly) to attend universities, travel the nation (or even internationally), and have forums that reach thousands.

What I don't see? Most of our actual community. The real community that represents autism's downsides. The marginalized communities, ignored and excluded from our boards, our commissions, our business networks.

How did my lower-income parents, without college educations, give me a chance to be more? How did they fight the odds? They did, and now I am in a position of privilege. But I don't seem to be making much of a difference.

Demand that your charities seek out the broadest possible array of advisers and board members.…

CUNY Research: Autistic Adults and Foodways

I am posting this by request, to help a doctoral student.

Hello,

My name is Jungja Park Cardoso and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the environmental psychology program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

I’m seeking participants for my dissertation research that investigates how autistic adults with different conceptions of autism negotiate and navigate the food environment in the US. I’m particularly interested in learning about how certain environmental settings and situations are considered problematic or supportive in relation to everyday foodways - the beliefs and practices involved in growing food, going grocery shopping, cooking and eating food. All information that is collected about participants will be kept confidential. Participants will be entered into a raffle to win one of twenty $25 e-Gift Cards. Once I have completed my study, I will share an electronic copy of my research findings with research participants.

The research consists of two phases:

1) On…

School - Better or Not?

School must be better today than in the 1970s or 80s, right? Especially since we know so much about autism.

Probably. Maybe. Or it is bad in different ways.

As students, teachers, support staff, administrators, and others head back to campuses across the United States, I anticipate the annual questions about what to expect. Unfortunately, there are no good or easy answers that apply to everyone.

Be sure you know what your rights and your student's rights are, and are not. They vary by age, type of school, and state. Remember that federal regulations are only minimums, and states can have stricter requirements for providing supports to students with special needs.

Learn what you can about the alphabet soup of legislative requirements and federal programs. IDEA, ADA, IEP, OSEP, OVR, and so on.

Work with teachers and administrators, not against them. Start by asking how to help them help you and your student. What documentation does the school need? What is or isn't acce…

(Not) Being Consumed by Activism

Autism advocates I admire have recently shared their "burnout" with online followers. These advocates are not seeking sympathy, nor are they wallowing in self-pity. Sadly, they must anticipate negative reactions before taking a break from online and real life activism.

I separate online from real life because the online world can be more exhausting and far more negative than the physical spaces in which advocates operate. Online statements are easily misconstrued, taken out of context, and magnified both intentionally and unintentionally by readers. Trying to maintain civil discourse online can be an impossible task.

In the physical world, what I still consider the real world, people pause before speaking. Rarely can they hide behind anonymity before being cruel. Public cruelty can at least be exposed in many settings. Online, different rules seem to apply to human behavior. Decency is lacking.

When I fail to follow a particular Twitter account, like a Facebook page, or r…

Blogging Cycles

In 2011, there were 169 posts to The Autistic Me. That number has steadily declined, by almost half every two years. For 2015, only 17 posts have been composed. (The blog started in 2007 and took some time to grow.)

The blog activity is a feedback loop, or an incentive cycle. As readership and responses fell, so did my impulse to post new content. With less new content, there was less reason for readers to stumble upon the blog. The decline of RSS readers, the decline of various Autism portals, and a general shift to social media contributed further to the decline in activity.

How many times can I post about…
…the challenges of living in or even navigating urban settings?
…the sensory overload of mass transit?
…the exhaustion that follows social events?
…the (un)employment situation for people with physical and neurological challenges?
…the insular nature of academia?

The posts here simply aren't that varied. The same topics repeat.

I pulled the "Ask a Question&quo…

Music and Life

Music is important to me. It's not quite an obsession, and I'm not a scholar by any means, but music occupies a significant part of my life.

When I work at my computer or write at my desk, I like to listen to music. It's in the background, blocking all those other sounds that distract me. Music is my "white noise" while I work on projects.

Sound quality matters to me.

Recently, I reimported my favorite CDs into iTunes because, back in the day, 128kbps was what my hard drive could hold, and I skipped so-so tracks back then. But, the tracks sounded "tinny" to me with better headphones, earbuds, or via the home stereo. At 256kbps I can't tell the difference between the CD with these tracks with headphones. (Maybe it is my age, but I doubt anyone could tell the difference unless sitting in a silent room.)

I opted against ALAC / AIFF for now because of space. Yes, I have that many CDs and I'm not always connected to the interwebs. If we someda…

Writing as the Only Choice

In response to several queries from friends, a bit more elaboration on my plans.

I applied for a number of teaching posts and have now received the standard letters proclaiming an "overwhelming number of highly qualified candidates" for each opening.

The decision to not teach part-time as an adjunct, at least for now, was best for me. I'm too tired to drive two hours (or more) to teach one class in the fall for 80 minutes. Also, teaching part-time where I wasn't renewed full-time wasn't going to be comfortable. (The hiring process still angers me.) The pay was fair, but the situation would not have been healthy for me. If I teach again, it will be somewhere more welcoming.

My passion remains creative writing, and the rhetoric of stage and screen — followed closely by the visual rhetoric of page design (including digital "pages"). Give me scripts, sets, and camera angles. I'll ponder what makes a great play vs. a great movie, and how both are e…

Emptiness and Paths Ahead

I completed my doctorate in June 2010. It is now June 2015. Five year after earning the doctorate, there's little to show for it.

I have taught, but at my last post I was not on the tenure track and that is unlikely now. I might be a lecturer or adjunct here and there, but that's not the career I imagined. It's also not the path my wife had imagined, and certainly not the path that we went into debt for, yet again.

Yes, I've applied for teaching jobs. No, I don't really want them, but teaching is the only thing I seem to be able to do, in part because of the schedule. Unfortunately, my degree choices weren't the wisest. The doctorate was an accomplishment, but to what end I don't know anymore.

My wife needs stability. She likes routines and order as much as I do. We both hate any reminders that we are powerless. We organize our spaces, because that is something we can do. Unfortunately, we can organize books and things, but not my career.

We won't know …

Never a Good Autism / Autistic Scholar

Years ago, when I entered graduate school, I imagined helping students and teachers connect via technology. I wanted to study "writing across the curriculum" and online writing labs. These interests led me to a doctorate… but by the time I completed the degree I recognized that my career was already off my planned course.

When I decided that writing about autism and education would be beneficial to someone, beyond myself, part of that decision was based on the (yes, we should admit this) trendiness of disability studies and all things diversity-based. I could do some good, and the topic would be desired by other academic scholars. It was a win-win.

Instead, I found myself drifting back and forth between what I love (creative writing and the rhetoric of fiction) and what I believed I had to do to secure a teaching job (something autism-related). Not that I don't care about autism, but it isn't nearly the interest for me that it is for some other autistic scholars …

Driving is a Pain

Driving has been causing back pain, which leads to headaches, and some of those headaches become migraines. A migraine is not merely a bad headache, either.

I don't mind driving on fairly flat, smooth, un-congested routes. The problem is that the roads where we live go over and around hills. The weather creates potholes that are small craters. Traffic is heavy, on streets never designed for the number of cars. Basically, driving in and around the city is a nightmare for my mind and body.

By the time I reach work, I'm exhausted. Getting home, after a long day, I'm ready to sleep.

On the way home, I celebrate the moment I cross from one county to the next, because the roads improve. The road noise decreases and my head hurts a little less.

Someday, I want a luxury car just for the reduced noise.

Needing a Job... Again...

If I could, I would write full-time. That is what I want, and what I have dreamed of since first grade. To be a professional writer. 
Teaching seemed like a good way to support writing. But, no luck with that approach. 
Under-employed or unemployed, whatever I am about to be is everything I've hated about life since I left my undergraduate college in early 1991.

Each time I dream of a stable, "normal" future, one with a career that allows for some order in life, the job goes sideways and my plans disintegrate. Attempts to create my own career have ended badly, too, for various reasons. No excuses: I simply am not good at the soft skills needed for success. I've worked on those skills, but they never develop. I am lousy at understanding people, and I lack the superior tech skills or proper degree to overcome that shortcoming.

I can program, manage databases, configure Web servers, but I'm not the next app wizard. I never mastered OS X / iOS programming, but I …

Moving Ahead, Staying Sane

Companies, non-profits, and educational institutions should hire me as a consultant (or others with expertise in accommodations and supports for cognitive difference) because too many organizations do not know how to hire, support, and develop talented people with personality traits outside the accepted norms.

Readers of this blog know that my experiences in the "tolerant" world of academia demonstrate that "tolerance" is not acceptance or support. I don't want to be "tolerated" (you tolerate bad weather, you tolerate an annoying relative). People with cognitive difference want to be appreciated, listened to, and supported.

This post uses the first-person "I" but it likely represents the "we" of many people with differences society hasn't embraced.

I'm not going to settle for being tolerated. No thank you. Like many advocates, I do not want your pity or your tolerance. I want to be an equal, not a token.

Moving on from a di…

Autism Awareness Month... Blah

April compels me to offer my standard reaction to "Autism Awareness [Day, Month]" and a short thought or two.

Reaction: Blah.

Thought: Great. We get to endure a month of "inspirational" stories on families raising autistic children, a few successful autistics will be profiled, and then people can congratulate themselves for believing that acceptance (whatever that means) is sufficient.

Feel free to read posts from past Aprils. I'm sure my opinion hasn't changed much.
Related articlesAm I the Autistic Me or Not?How autistic are you?

Career Anxiety

It is that time of the year when I check the job market with the goal of being employed after the school year ends. The anxiety is accompanied by the self-recrimination for not obtaining a STEM degree to qualify for the jobs I know I could do, including teach in those fields.

The disappoint in myself never fades, though it should. I'm a success, by many measures, with a great wife, good (feline) kids, and a nice house. But, I always know I could do more, and could have done more, with my skills.

I lacked discipline, I suppose, along with people skills.

Given a chance, I am going to fix things… somehow.

Research Project

Research participants needed! A graduate student at UMass Amherst is interested in your experiences regarding your education, employment, hobbies, and interests. Your input is very valuable and will help the researcher gain information about daily life of adults with Autism. To participate in this confidential survey, we ask that you are over 18 and diagnosed with Autism, or Social Communication Disorder. This survey will take no more than 10 minutes and can be found at http://bit.ly/MoroneySurvey. Your response is confidential and will be used only for research purposes. Participants will not be paid for participating.

For more information, please contact Katharine Moroney at kmoroney@umass.edu.

Autism and Workplace Teams

As is often the case, I write a blog on a topic I'm not currently exploring in my research… only to discover that I'm about to delve into the depths of that exact topic for an academic article or presentation.

Only a few weeks ago, I confessed that I had not maintained an active awareness of research on cognitive empathy and business communications. Much business scholarship on empathy studies "normal" (statistically representative and generalizable) groups. Seldom do I stumble upon detailed discussion of autistic traits in the workplace and the challenges those present. Those discussions more frequently appear in psychology journals or publications with a narrow focus on autism.
Having acknowledged my lack of awareness, being steeped in the rhetoric of economics for a potential book project, today I stumbled right back into autism while preparing for an academic presentation. 
My Carnegie Mellon University colleague Anita Woolley, along withThomas W. Malone (MIT) an…

Writing and Cognitive Empathy

Since completing my doctorate, I haven't had a compelling reason to read much about the psychology of autism.

When I read scholarly articles in psychology, they tend to be connected to economics or politics. You might imagine that economics and policy, so connected to rhetoric and persuasion, would delve into empathy with some depth, but most behavioral economics I read is macro in nature. Even psychology texts about business, including suggestions that traits of sociopathy are common in banking, don't discuss types of empathy in great detail.

Recently, though, a comment posted about writing fiction and autism led me search out scholarship on cognitive and affective empathy.

The research I located indicates cognitive empathy is impaired among study subjects with autism, and self-cognition is also impaired. Emotional, affective empathy is the same as or more entente than that of control subjects in some studies, too.

So here is the challenge with writing that I was tryi…

Neurodiversity... or Something

For your consideration… a blog entry I found offensive in its delivery, yet correct in some of the points the doctor wished to express.
The Neurodiversity Movement
http://corticalchauvinism.com/2015/01/05/the-neurodiversity-movement-lack-of-trust/
Neurodiversity is a catastrophic movement for autistic individuals in general. It is reminiscent of the early religious accounts of Jewish people claiming the existence of a Messiah who would take them out of oppression, out of slavery, and restore their rightful life in society. Are they "The Last of the Just"? What gives them the right to carry the weight of the autistic community on their shoulders? By claiming that autism is not a pain or a handicap to some do they change medicine? Do they erase the existence of seizures, mood disorders, impaired attention, learning difficulties, or sensory abnormalities in a majority of autistic individuals?

Dr. Manuel Casanova, neurologist and the Kolb Endowed Chair in Psychiatry and Vice Chair …

Hours of Solitaire

Solebon Solitaire (http://www.solebon.com) has been my favorite game since buying my first HandSpring Visor, a PalmOS device. Another long-time favorite is Shanghai Mahjong Solitaire (http://www.mobileage.com/shanghai/). These games exist on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro. Simple, elegant, and quick to play when I have a few minutes, these games are the essence of "casual" gaming. Our Nintendo DS cartridge collection also includes solitaire, mahjong tiles, crosswords, word searches, and other puzzle games.

I read about children (and adults) enjoying Minecraft, HALO, Call of Duty, SecondLife, and other complex games. Personally, I don't have the patience to invest hours, days, or weeks in a game or virtual simulation. My ideal games are those that I can start and stop, or that last only a few minutes per level.

Give me solitaire games, pinball, puzzles, and simple arcade classics.

I don't want to shoot people or aliens. I don't want to memorize dozens of co…

Signals and Teaching (and More)

Teaching is about reading, and sending, social signals. In some subjects, that's more problematic than in others. Math or science topics would probably be a good fit for my personality. But, as readers know, I took a wrong turn in my studies and ended up in the humanities.

It is one thing to love the media and arts, and I do, but another to teach in them. I enjoy subjects that aren't easily taught -- subjects without clear answers. Granted, I also love science and probably should have pursued STEM fields professionally while keeping the arts my hobbies.

Teaching business communications, I feel like a nonnative speaker. There is always room to improve, at least. I theorize that my struggles do help me teach. That belief helps me get through the semesters.

Reading my teaching evaluations, it strikes me how often students experience something quite different from what I hoped to convey. They miss the humor I imagine is obvious, or hear humor when none is intended. They confus…

End of Semester Random Reflections

For the last few months I haven't had much time for blogging, or even quiet reflection on life. This was an overwhelming semester, and I am surprised that I managed to function through the last 16 weeks without total collapse. Partial collapse has followed, though.

This semester was too much.

While enduring a difficult teaching experience, I worried a lot about my wife. My wife is well, but she had plenty of medical exams and tests. It is true that you worry more about loved ones than yourself.

Teaching an overload schedule, with a new course and course I was refining, meant endless hours preparing materials and grading papers, even with teaching assistants and my wife helping. The hardest part was teaching three classes back-to-back, three days a week. It takes a toll on the voice and the mind.

Yes, high school teachers manage. Universities are different, though, so I believe the work evens out. Teaching is tiring at all grade levels.

I managed a few autism-related appe…