Feeling With Heightened Senses

An Aspergers Perspective on Living With Sensory Integration Issues.

Generous.1Some of the greatest struggles I had before I went to treatment at 11 are sensory integration problems. My sensitivities to food, certain fabrics in clothes, and the feel of water on my skin created a huge struggle to be a fully functional human being. Growing up, I would throw tantrums whenever I would shower (gross right?), and I think at one point I went 3 months without a shower because whenever I did, it heightened my sensitivity to stimuli, and all inferno would break loose. I would scream for hours.

I would barely eat anything and what I did eat, I would eat over and over and over again. I loved mashed potatoes and yogurt for a time, and I think my mom let me eat it for breakfast when I was little. She was just grateful I would eat something so I didn’t starve to death.

Having sensory integration issues can set an autistic kid up for social failure. In my case, my hair was greasy and my outfits didn’t match, which can set them up for bullying. I would seem rude whenever I go to my friend’s house for dinner and don’t eat anything they give me.

A word to parents

For anyone who doesn’t understand a child with Autism, they may assume behavior associated with Sensory integration issues are due to bad parenting. That’s a bunch of bologna sandwiches. I believe any parent who is actively trying to help their child overcome the adverse symptoms of Autism is doing the best that they are capable of.

If There Were a Cure For Asperger’s Syndrome

Many diseases during our lifetime have been, if not eradicated completely, at least greatly minimized. These include smallpox and polio, among others. But will there ever be a cure for Asperger Syndrome? For that matter, does there need to be?

school icons on the blackboardRemember that A.S. isn’t a defect so much as a difference: That is, the Aspy brain is wired somewhat differently than that of the so-called “neurotypical.” While those differences do cause problems in a neuro-typical world at times, they can also be very beneficial if channeled and directed properly. For example, Einstein probably had A.S., but in spite of, or perhaps because of that, he went on to fill his resume with accomplishments that would give anyone cause for envy. Would you say he needs to be “cured”?

Asperger’s, “The Twilight Zone,” and The Perception of Beauty

Societal definitions of "normal" and "beautiful"

Remember Ellie Mae on “The Beverly Hillbillies?” She was portrayed by Donna Douglas, in her day considered one of the most beautiful women on television. But she also once played a character who wasn’t so beautiful.

In an episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled, “Eye of the Beholder,” Douglas portrayed a woman who was so ugly, she underwent an operation to make her less so. The suspense was built up by the fact that we never saw her face until the bandages around them were removed. When they were removed, they revealed her to be the strikingly beautiful woman she was, but the doctor recoiled in horror and said, “No change, no change at all.”

At that point, we saw the faces of the doctors and nurses around her, which were all distorted and misshapen in grotesque fashion. In the end, she’s sent to live in a colony with similarly “ugly” people, and accompanied by a handsome male escort. She asks him, “Why are some of us born so ugly?”

Obviously, her character was not inherently ugly, but she was simply born in the wrong world. That’s a dilemma similar to that which the Aspie faces.

Societal Pressures and the Mask of Fitting In

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This comic actually touches upon two things (though, I hadn’t intended to do that). My main point is the “mask” we put up, and then I realized that it also lightly touches upon taking things/expressions literally.

On the shorter note, people on the spectrum have difficulties distinguishing between normal tones and sarcasm. There’s also trouble understanding expressions (like “two birds with one stone”), allegories, and metaphors. When I first heard the expression “apple of my eye”, I pictured someone’s eyes reflecting apples, for example.

When I had to read stories in high school on allegory and symbolism, it all went over my head. “Watership Down” is one of my favorite novels, but I still don’t pick up on the symbolism which is apparently in the novel. I’ll explain all that in further detail when I do a comic which actually delves more into the subject. The main subject I was trying to explain with this comic is autism vs society.

My Battle Plan for Communication

For much of my life, I have had a hard time understanding not only the non-verbal communication of others, but how my own non-verbal communication affected others. Sometimes, if I was irritated at someone, I would simply keep my mouth shut, the rationale being “They can’t hold me accountable for something I didn’t say.”

What I failed to realize was that sometimes silence speaks louder than anything you could say, or that you could say one thing, but your facial expressions, actions, and certainly body language tell the real story.

Asperger’s: Disease, or Difference?

Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend from high school and said, “I know everyone thought I was weird back in school.” He replied, “Ken, I never thought you were weird. I think we all knew you were different. We just didn’t know why.”

That sums up the “Aspie” in a nutshell. Everyone knows he’s different, including him. But they don’t know why. He may be seen as slow, undisciplined, maybe even retarded. The reality is, his brain is simply wired differently than that of most people. Because of this, he may struggle with things others take for granted, and may take longer than others to learn some things. However, this also means he can probably do things others couldn’t do to save their lives.

A classic example of this would be Temple Grandin. While watching “The Temple Grandin Story,” it occurred to me why her differences were both a blessing and a curse: Because nobody had a brain that worked like hers, nobody else could understand her, and so oftentimes, she was dismissed as an eccentric or kook. But by the same token, because no one’s brain worked like hers, nobody could do the things she did. Similarly, I struggled with a lot of things that came easy to my classmates in school. But I could also do things they could never do, such as figuring math problems in my head. 

Societal Expectations

I was standing in the post office shipping off a package when I got a burst of inspiration to take this funny picture. It uses humor to describes some of the challenges people with developmental disabilities face but it also helps me vent my frustration and address a wider issue.
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First day of school. College interviews. Job interviews.

It seems like the most important encounters that determine the quality of our life are also the most superficial. So much could go wrong in the first impression.
  • One girl I had just met told me that she thought my body language was condescending.
    • My rationalization: First off what does condescending body language even look like? I googled it because I was so perplexed and turns out condescending can only apply to language. I think she was trying to say defensive or standoffish.
  • A man who had just met and conversed with me briefly once told me that my use of vocabulary words like “tantalizing” and “perturbed” in everyday conversation makes him think I am keeping people at a distance.
    • My rationalization: I am always happy to explain things in a different way in order to clarify what I’m talking about but in this case, they did not give me the chance to clarify my idea. He just made an assumption on my intentions of using “big words” and technical terms when in actuality that is how I talk.

Born into Aspergers

Alix Generous

I want to address the difference between “in spite of” and “because of”. One of the greatest equalizers that spans across all barriers of humanity is that we individually cannot choose when we are born and when we die. I was born a sensitive and socially honest soul into a superficial and insincere social environment.

Alix Generous Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 11.10.58 PM
If I was born in a world where people constantly strive for self-improvement, valued relationships rather than objects, and looked for acceptance over status, I think I would have been just fine. The kind who prefers the former bullied me to think I’m crazy but I don’t think I am. So if I take this perspective, I did succeed in spite of these kinds of environments.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to help people.

AuTalkz – “Mainstream”

Though it can be inspirational to hear that a celebrity has Asperger’s, it tends to be more annoying than anything else, especially in the cases where someone admits it and was diagnosed long ago, but hasn’t come out and said it until now.

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There are a lot of breakthroughs being made in autism research, and psychologists are starting to understand it more and more.  I feel it’s become “mainstream”, even.  The diagnosis rate is going up, and people are either getting diagnosed as adults or coming out and saying they’ve had it all their lives.