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Showing posts from 2017

Big Plans for 2018

The Autistic Me Podcast is coming! My microphone and mixer sit on my desk, waiting for me to record the introductory episode, which I will make available in January if all goes according to plan. The podcast will begin without any guests, but that will change if I can build an audience. Podcasting requires some extra effort, from preparing cover and episode artwork to publishing the RSS feed for iTunes and other services. I’m hoping the extra effort helps make The Autistic Me available to more people. I do plan to transcribe episodes, lightly edited, and post the text to the standard blog, too.With the podcast and podcast transcripts extending the reach of The Autistic Me, I intend to increase my activity on social media. We have a Facebook page for The Autistic Me and a neglected Twitter feed (@autisticme). The Facebook page growth stalled at 950 followers and the Twitter account stalled at 850. If you want to help build the audience for The Autistic Me, please follow us on social me…

Collegiality and Academia

Academic departments in the humanities rarely understand the social impairments of autism. These departments are, by their nature, social places — quite unlike some departments in the STEM disciplines. I’ve blogged repeatedly that STEM fields tolerate introversion and even social awkwardness, but not the humanities. This claim is based not only on my experiences, but on dozens of interviews with graduate students and terminal degree holders.

The autistic students and professors with whom I’ve discussed this problem point to the underlying philosophies and pedagogies of the humanities. Group work and discussion are the norm, which might be good unless you struggle with group dynamics or conversation cues. If you pause to interpret speech, speak too quickly or too slowly, if your tone remains flat or sing-song, then you don’t fit into the “style” of the discipline. Autism features an impairment of social skills and interpersonal connections. Any academic skills the autistic might have b…

Autism Complicates the Path to Employment

Employment history and various job searches demonstrate how difficult it has been for me to locate and retain employment.

In September, Slate carried the following article by Sarah Carr, using "Leigh" as an example of the hurdles facing autistic adults.
The Tricky Path to Employment Is Trickier When You're Autistic
Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Our society doesn't give them the support they need.
By Sarah Carr  Leigh epitomizes the underemployed. The 39-year-old has a master's degree in library science from a top-ranked school, years of experience working the circulation desk in a Boston library, and an IQ of 145. He is reliable and considerate, and he works hard.  Yet for the past eight years, since he lost his salaried Boston library job due to austerity measures, the only permanent job Leigh has landed is at the T.J. Maxx near his mother's home on Cape Cod. He works part time dusting, vacuuming, and washing the mirrors, and he is paid t…

Smile, the Photographer Said

"Smile," the photographer kept directing me.

"I am," I kept replying.

"Look at the girls and smile."

"I am. How could I not be smiling?"

On the way home, our five-year-old foster daughter asked why Daddy can't smile. I smiled. Or so I thought.

My wife finally explained, "If Daddy can't see his face, his brain thinks he's smiling but he isn't. He has to really work at it. It's called paralysis. The doctor broke Daddy, remember?"

And in that moment, I had a flashback to an annual review meeting when a department chair said I didn't smile or seem happy and probably wasn't a good fit within the program. It was the start of a very rapid decline at that job.

Everything I hate about being judged by social skills.

My voice, my facial expressions, my gestures… so many things I try to control yet fail to control properly.

When we tell autistics or other disabled people they need to "Be happy! Smile!…

Holiday Survival Mode

Holidays offer a number of challenges for individuals with sensory processing challenges. For me, the lights and sounds of the holidays can lead to migraines and tremors, along with a general sense of overload.

Imagine being a child without the ability to escape the sights, sounds, smells, and touches of the holidays. Blinking lights (and often too many or too bright); sirens and party sounds; smells of baking, fireplaces, and fragrances; everyone seems to wants hugs and handshakes, if not kisses. It is an overwhelming holiday.

We have two little ones with sensory processing issues and other special needs. I rarely write about them on the blog. I wanted to share that not only must we plan strategically for my special needs, but we must also plan for their needs as children.

First, tell people about the sensory challenges. Eventually, I either have to leave a party or will have a stress meltdown. Telling people that crowded, loud spaces can be a problem might let hosts know that …

Television Autistics

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Parenthood (2010 TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Television now includes a surprising number of autistic and possibly autistic characters. We've already had shows with autistics (The Bridge, Touched, Alphas, Elementary, Parenthood, and more). There seem to be more, now, or maybe that's merely my perception.

I am not impressed with this trend. As with the novel and play, __Curious Incident__, the characters seem like a collection of assumptions about autism. Not horrible, but too reliant on shallow understandings of atypical neurologies and savant personalities.

An expert consultant? A specialist? Maybe even an autistic person offering some opinions regarding scripts or even on set. But, generally, the characters feel superficial.

Atypical is just bland and lousy, with or without the geeky boy in search of sex (or love). I simply don't like the characters. If it weren't pitched as a show about autism, maybe it wouldn't be streaming.

The Good Doctor trie…

School is Social (and Academic)

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Navigating school requires social skills, and often the most successful academically are also successful socially.


Despite the stereotypes of jocks and nerds, geeks and goths, consider actual data. To participate in athletics, a minimum GPA is required. I recall the star athletes from my high school and today those individuals are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. They were involved in student government, and later joined organizations at their colleges and universities.

The "privileged" students had time to participate in sports, music, drama, and student government. They were raised in reasonably secure and successful households. They understood the rules of high school and, later, the universities. The balanced academic and social skills, leading to academic and professional success for themselves after high school.

The student who can feign admiration for a teacher or professor? She does well, for some reason. Teaching assistants at the university particularly seemed to…

Another Degree of Overqualified

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Earning the MFA in Film and Digital Technology proved a challenge, in many ways. We had medical emergencies (including surgeries for both my wife and me), family emergencies, and the general financial stress of a graduate degree. There were long nights and weekends spent working on projects and papers, trying to add to my marketability so I might earn some money to contribute to the household.

I now possess the MA, MFA, and PhD pieces of paper. My areas of specialization are the economics of media and portrayals of economic issues in the media. I'm interested in how we discuss economics and find it fascinating that an expensive industry (media) that embodies capitalism finds itself conflicted. More narrowly, I'm fascinated by the visual aspects of digital media and how those are used to engage in persuasion.

There isn't a huge demand for the rhetoric of economics, especially within visual rhetoric. It's a small field, dominated by a few names. You need an appreciat…

Thirty Years Ago...

Thirty years ago, I was preparing to move to Los Angeles to attend USC. If I could tell myself what I know now…

1) Do not drop the physical sciences degree four units short! The English and journalism degrees won't get you far.

2) Do not drop the computer science degree, either. Sure, the courses are boring and you will do more interesting stuff at work in the computing center, but darn it… uhg!

3) Do not pursue the teaching credential. It isn't going to happen, so stop it. Now! (And you'll keep repeating this teaching career mistake. Get over it.)

4) Do more than work and study. Two years at the Daily Trojan and nobody will remember you because you didn't hang out or attend any events. That's not how to network. Clips alone aren't the ticket.

5) Enjoy LA more. You'll miss it later. Riots, earthquakes, and all, you'll always consider LA "home" in some way.

I graduated in 1990, after three years, with the fall 1990 semester for my pr…

The Career that Wasn't

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Newspaper (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When I was an undergraduate, my goal was to teach high schoolphotography, yearbook, and newspaper. If I could undo the last 27 years of my career... I would. In a heartbeat. Accepting a job that seemed right changed my life and took me away from that path.

Instead, I ended up trying to make my skills work, somehow, from job to job. But, I always long to be back at the high school, teaching photography and media arts.

The disappointment in myself doesn't fade. I should have made that lousy (abusive) job work long enough to clear my credential and do what I wanted.

So, I went after the MA, Ph.D, and MFA all with the goal of teaching full-time. I've had one full-time, tenure-track post, and it was as bad as the high school job that I left.

It's my social skills, or lack thereof. It's the way colleagues (especially supervisors) run over me and get me to do their work. It's many things. Too many.

All I wanted to do in life was teach a…

Insecurity and Relationships

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Insecurity is the greatest challenge for me in relationships.

I seldom feel confident as a partner, friend, mentor, or coworker.

In my marriage, I rarely believe I am as intelligent overall as my wife. I know I am not as emotionally balanced as she is. I know I lack her ability to deal with people. I know all the ways in which I fall short of her. I rarely feel that my talents complement hers.

This insecurity means I constantly worry that I have failed her. She could have found a better companion, someone with whom she would enjoy life and enjoy more success. That's a challenge for a relationship, since I'm always fighting the sense that she would be better off without me.

I think to myself, if only I were more successful, more popular, more charming, and more fun, her life would be better. Instead, she's stuck with me holding her back financially and socially.

Similar thoughts impede my friendships, my teaching, and my career. Doubts take over, consuming me at …

MFA Film Project - The End is Near

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Cinemeccanica movie projector from circa 1950 in small cinema of folklore and arts union. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Since January 2016, I have been working towards my MFA in Film and Digital Technology. During these 18 months, I have had a number of medical issues, yet I did complete my coursework on time despite hospital visits, surgeries, and other minor disasters, including a car accident that totaled our beloved Jeep Cherokee.

What I don’t blog about, for many reasons, is that my wife and I are also foster parents. I won’t write much about that, but want people to understand that not only am I “the autistic me” trying to do my best to obtain job skills, I am also a parent with special needs children who are worth every minute they require for special services and our love.

My studies, teaching, our medical adventures, the children… it all adds up and has made completing the MFA film project a race against the clock. It also is going to require more funds than I had anticipated.

If…

Comic Sans Is (Generally) Lousy: Letters and Reading Challenges

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Specimen of the typeface Comic Sans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Personally, I support everyone being able to type and read in whatever typefaces individuals prefer. If you like Comic Sans, then change the font while you type or read online content. If you like Helvetica, use that.

The digital world is not print. You can change typefaces. You can change their sizes. You can change colors. There is no reason to argue over what you use to type or to read as long as I can use typefaces that I like.

Now, as a design researcher? I'll tell you that type matters a lot to both the biological act of reading and the psychological act of constructing meaning. Statistically, there are "better" and "worse" type for conveying messages. There are also typefaces that are more legible and more readable. Sometimes, legibility does not help readability, either, as a type with overly distinct letters (legibility) can hinder word shapes and decoding (readability).

One of the co…

Life Plans... Delayed by Life

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A spinal nerve with its anterior and posterior roots. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) My MFA in Film and Digital Technology was supposed to be finished in December, 2016.

It wasn't.

Instead, I had one infection after another, anemia, emergency room visits, blood and iron transfusions, a pinched spinal nerve, surgery… and more infections. Add in a car accident and family things and life overtook my life plans.

This happens, but I do not like it when a schedule slips. Unfortunately, lots of my scheduled tasks have slipped.

Now, I need to finish my MFA paper and film, a screenplay that's past-due, and several other projects. Plus, I need to find a job after I finish the degree.

When I feel well, I need to work a lot to make up for the time I have lost and will inevitably lose in the future.

The panic caused by being off schedule causes my schedule to slip more, but I'm doing my best not to panic. It's hard for me to not be distracted by the distraction that is life.

THE Question Starts: You're Married... So...?

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The wedding vows are complete - you may now kiss the bride. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) When I talk to groups, the three lines of questions are generally: school, workplace, and relationship.

There are plenty of books and experts on the school issues. Plenty of debates, too. Whatever you want to believe, there's probably an "expert" with that opinion. As an educator, I have plenty to say on the subject of school and being different.

As with school, there is an abundance of expert opinion for parents, educators, and autistics regarding success in the workplace. Again, I have strong opinions and most of those are related to the social aspects of school and work dominating our culture. "Emotional intelligence" is given too much weight, in my view, as we judge introverts, creative individualists, and anyone not charming as being somehow defective. We've made introversion a disability — or at least a professional liability.

But, the questions that seem to be…

Follow Me... I'll Blog More, I Promise

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The headline is in jest, but "The Autistic Me" is closing in on 1000 followers on Facebook and I
know the Twitter account has some traffic. I've updated the blog design, in another attempt to increase traffic.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/autisticme/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/autisticme

Blogging and other forms of writing are what I do currently. The more followers, the more likely we gain some visibility out there. It's not easy to be seen or heard through the clutter and noise of the Internet.

Blogs are trailing other social networks. That's why I need to consider a podcast or video channel. Traffic is survival for a blogger.

Spread the word. Suggest blog topics. Maybe ideas for the revised books I'm hoping to (FINALLY) finish this summer.

This blog is one of the oldest active autism blogs. I'd like to keep it going and still dream of it thriving.

Thank you!
Related articlesBlogging CyclesNo NeuroTribes, Not Much Else...(Not) Being Co…

Sick, Sick, Well-ish, Sick, Sick...

One of our Facebook/Twitter followers asked: "Are you sick often? My son is."

Ask my wife or my mother… or even my college students.

Oh, yes. Definitely. I'm sick right now. It seems like I'm sick twice as many days as I am well. There are days when I believe I am never well.

My colds turn into something worse most of the time. I have chest congestion, and have for months. It started as a cold, became bronchitis, and then a staph infection. Antibiotics and steroids have not cleared my chest. The coughing hurts, the gunk in my throat disgusts me. But, there hasn't been a good solution.

The immune system overreacts to everything. A minor cold? Nope. My body rushes to "help" and ends up making matters worse.

I realize this question was about illnesses, but physically I'm fragile, too. When I have an illness, it makes it harder to ignore the leg, back, shoulder, and neck pains. I was in a back brace for scoliosis and there are some permanent iss…

Withdrawal from Networking

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Networking is part of developing a career. This is true of any career, including that of writer / scholar. If you want someone to publish or produce your works, you have to be social. You have to be known. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, artists able to succeed without social skills, but generally you cannot escape the demand to network.

Playwrights and screenwriters are invited to social "mixers" with potential producers, directors, and the like. We are expected to pitch our ideas and somehow collaborate well despite many of us preferring solitary creativity.

I've skipped most local events for the last two years. I simply cannot bear to be in social settings, much less tolerate the drive towards the city. The cost of my lack of interaction with others: no productions. No readings. Nothing.

If you aren't "out there" with something in hand, as well as attending the shows of other writers, you aren't going to be produced. Again, there are ex…

MFA Thesis, Job Search

Some books and noted speakers make the case that academia is one of the better career paths for autistic adults capable of completing the required education. I'm unconvinced this is good advice for anyone, much less autistic individuals.

Let me begin with the academic job market. Even within STEM fields, which have lower unemployment and better prospects in general, the academic job market is lousy. Data show too many post-doctoral workers and too many professors in these fields, while demand is high in private industry. Because industry now engages in research, especially in fields with perceived imminent returns such as automation, it might be wise to pursue private industry positions.

Cuts to science funding at the state and federal levels also make the sciences a difficult market within academia. University posts exist only when research funding is secure and plentiful. When there are too few funding sources, universities and colleges quickly shift the teaching of undergrad…

I AM Aware of Awareness Month

"You didn't blog on Autism Awareness day?"

No, I did not. I did not post about the pros or the cons or the whatevers of autism awareness. This is my annual call to focus on things other than autism when it comes to autistics and their lives.

I am many, many things before I am my autistic traits. I'd like to be judged on those things. I believe many autistics feel the same way but are too busy being whatever they are to post about it.

My wife, my family, my cats… all come before "autism" in my life. That's true for most people. So does my writing, my teaching, and my other works.

The point of "The Autistic Me" is to point out that it is but a part of any person. Not all of that person. Not the majority of that person.

And so, I'll keep this short and let you go back if you want to read my older posts. Right now, I need to be working on my professorial duties. They don't relate to autism at all.

Less Traffic, But Still Popular

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The Autistic Me was selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 50 Autism Blogs Blogs on the web.

 http://blog.feedspot.com/autism_blogs/  Thank you... 

Slowly Rebooting in 286 Mode

The lumbar radiculopathy, which sounds too much like "ridiculously" for me, hasn't faded completely. My left leg still cramps, tingles, and hurts with sharp pains. My mind remains cloudy, too, even as I stop taking painkillers for the back pain and a recent surgery.

Efforts to reboot and get back on track intellectually, physically, and emotionally are off to a slow, grinding start. It reminds me of an old 80286 PC, the infamously confused Intel CPU that wasn't sure what it was meant to be. And this was before the "SX" fiascos, which wedded 32-bit CPU cores with 16-bit connections. The 80286 was supposed to be able to multitask, but design flaws resulted in a first-generation that was useless to operating system vendors.

My back, my knees, my ankles are each making noises like those old computers.

If I haven't already lost you as a reader, the basic problem is that my mind cannot focus on one task for long without exhaustion and multitasking seems…