Foot In Mouth

I have a tendency to say things I’ll regret later. Putting my foot in my mouth has always been an issue for me. Some say its odd since verbal communication is a slight weakness in conversation while Charlene points out a strength in writing our emails and texts to each other. I guess I have my impulsive moments that get me into trouble. So I’ll be thinking more before I speak if I have something to say while continuing to write as a sideline.

The other thing that’s sad about myself that I can never fix is the Aspergers trait where I want to contribute to a conversation so badly but a lot of times, my response ready buffer is empty. People see that as being extremely shy, but the real truth is that I don’t know what to say. Either the subject in conversation isn’t my thing (no offense) or too big for my simple brain. It’s something I have to accept even as a friend who constantly wants to keep things two-way but is stuck listening. Having that on top of the burden of saying the wrong thing can be exhausting for me in a social setting. Please don’t be surprised if I withdraw or chase me if I do. I actually hate being an introvert when out of my creative zone.

Getting Over Shyness and Other Autism Myths

So I was talking to a person who I thought was a friend. We had gone back years. He saw how I grew and struggled with Aspergers Syndrome throughout the years but I made the error of not telling him until a slightly heated conversation we had. I still believe he saw how I tried my hardest at getting over shyness and how I surpassed other stereotypes found in autism while still pushing against my social awkwardness. While I don’t remember our entire conversation, our dynamic in our friendship had changed as most friendships do when people drift apart or when people get married. When we met again years later, he claims that I purposely ignored him. But when people have different lives, that’s kind of what happens, right? The truth is that I had a hard time keeping up with him. He was a social salsa dancer who wanted me to relax with others. Another problem I struggled with without saying anything is that in a large social group I have a hard time keeping up with conversations. In more complex social situations with lots going on, I need more time to take in the invisible social matrix and its effects that occur in a situation since autism slows me down. I may seem like I had lots of friends when we hung out, but in reality I felt alone. There was just too many conversations and people to keep up with. People with autism and Aspergers like myself need much more time to process conversations and to realize what’s really going on in social situations. Not to mention, we need someone else to expose certain elephants in the room. We’re not being ignorant and purposely blocking people out. We just have a harder time focusing with what’s going on. As a response, we’re delayed in responding to what’s happening around us and we only look like we’re focused on ourselves. If only my “friend” understood what the hell’s going on with me when I told him its autism, maybe he wouldn’t make such an outrageous claim of being purposely ignorant. Maybe he would understand that autism is the cause of my shyness rather than to tell me to just get over it.

Now that I’m past the ranting, here’s my point. People who misunderstand or have never had frequent exposure to autism see it as a devastating social disorder that prevents someone from ever being able to function in society.

There are many myths and even more debatable debunked hogwash about autism than I care to dive into, but this one is the most common. Many people hear “autism” and imagine children or adults who are permanently in their own world who can’t or have difficulty talking or interact with anyone else (AKA can’t get over shyness), who get pissed off for no apparent reason while throwing things around, and who will never be part of society of individuals who are properly neurologically wired. Autism is a spectrum disorder for a reason: autistics range from people who are have no ability to communicate in any way with others, all the way to people like myself who live ordinary, productive lives and just seem a bit unconventional to the rest of the world. Autism is a difference in the brain. It is not a disability. It contains a part of the brain that is wired differently. And no, vaccines have nothing to do with how it came about.

I, the writer of this blog, am living proof that autism has very few limitations no matter how severe or mild it can be. Even low-functioning autistics who need a caregiver can lead a perfectly happy life. There are also stories of autistic children conquering their quirks with therapy. Sadly, most mainstream organizations looking for a cure for autism are the ones who spread these lies by only focusing on what’s related to low-functioning autism. They’re almost entirely ignoring the existence of high-functioning autism, those with Aspergers like me, and autistic people who accept themselves for who they are without a need to be fixed or “cured.”

We as autistic individuals or Aspies may never be able to get over our so-called “shyness” or eccentric behaviour or awkward body language. We may even be seen as insane or dare I use the “R” word. And that’s perfectly fine by me. I’m at the point now where I don’t care how people see me. Ignorance doesn’t phase me anymore. I may constantly be “shy” around people. I may only be able to have a career if I work at home. Whatever! I’m proud of who I am. I can literally talk a ten miles a minute about something I’m passionate about. I’m a musician/DJ slowly but surely making a name for myself in Winnipeg and online. I’m married. I’m involved with my community, and believe it or not, I actually do have a job where I work outside of my house. If that’s not convincing enough that those with autism can overcome their quirks such as sensory overload or communication issues, maybe virality of more testimonies from others in my neighbourhood with Aspergers or autism is needed.

Rising Up: Autism and Awareness

Is autism or autism awareness on the rise?
Let’s talk and get right into it as there are a ton of factors to consider when discussing the two subjects rising up.

On one hand, any disease has the potential to undergo a similar process of awareness. Take cancer for example. It is possible cancer could have existed in humans for centuries. Yet, it’s easier for doctors to diagnose cancer, whether an increase in cancer has happened or not.

There’s another factor of a rise in mainstream and alternate media exposure centered on autism. To spot autism, we must be aware of the thoughts and actions of an individual. We can’t limit it to common differences either. Autism and Aspergers is a wide spectrum. Different cause and effects happen with different individuals on the spectrum. We can only diagnose by similarities, not absolutes. Parents may spot neurological differences but may sort through mountains of internet data. Sometimes, parents may take in facts about autism from a fake news source or a doctor who misdiagnosed. Because we have tons of online resources, and lack of resources offline (especially in mid-Western states and Canadian provinces), autistic kids are still classified as the “difficult / weird” kids. This can lead to trauma and abusive conditioning that can’t be undone. The awareness is there, but the compassionate empathetic experts on it who walk beside the neediest of autistic children and adults need to rise up. And unfortunately, I’m only one fighter of Aspergers who can speak for himself through this blog.

Then there’s a historical factor, the not-so-notable discovery of Asperger’s Syndrome. Before Aspergers became an official medical condition in the mid 90s, it wasn’t a big deal. The condition is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum and wasn’t considered severe at all. Autism was a condition deemed low functioning where individuals need a care-giver. Most people with Aspergers aren’t on either end of the spectrum and can live independent lives. What doesn’t make Aspergers an issue in itself is that Aspies excelled in a talent or field of study yet they are considered inept when socializing with other people. Aspies are eccentric, shy, or odd rather than autistic as they were not seen as low functioning individuals who need help from a caregiver.

There’s also the clear “moment” in time when autism became the diagnosis to look for. Only the low-functioning were deemed autistic around that “moment” due to lack of awareness. Later, doctors began to recognize that many kids had many neurological differences, but not all. As a result, the individuals are placed on the spectrum. Before awareness really took off, other doctors started diagnosing kids only because they are introverts. Because of all this, it may not even be a jump in the number of Autism cases. It’s a jump in the number of cases reported.

Many factors are to blame. From entertainment, the false garbage from Andrew Wakefield, depression, suicide, the rise of PTSD, and even crime-based media, people have classified all these as causes for autism or the rise of its awareness.

My personal theory is different. It’s the bravery that comes with expressing oneself behind a computer screen. It’s the advancement in social media, and new forums popping up all over the place. The advancing of technology is starting to connect everyone online. We didn’t have to add people anymore on MSN or IRC. We can connect on various forums or through game chat rooms. These places are filled with diverse individuals with common interests or hobbies. The cool thing about Facebook is that there are many kinds of people in a friends list that come from different walks of life. Some of them aren’t familiar with how online message boards and forums work. However, many social media users find that all users can share something that everyone has in common. One of my Facebook friends recently shared about something about autism on his feed. As a result, many of his friends came out of the woodwork. They started opening up about their own neurological struggles. This then resulted in a get-together where we shared our struggles in a focus group. Take away that technology and we’re all keeping to ourselves again.

Because of this group, a few of us with autism and Aspergers who can talk may have become more brave at expressing ourselves and being more social. I hope that change itself will cause others with autism to reach out to more of the neurologically accepted by society. As a result, autism and Aspergers, or the spectrum, can be more than normal or acceptable. It will be a language we can all relate to and speak fluently without autism or Aspergers becoming a flaw, weakness, or an issue.

Rant: My Struggle with Aspergers is Due to a Lie?

Why do people think my struggle with Aspergers is due to a lie? Everyone who’s met me knows how socially awkward I am. Everyone knows I have problems reading body language. Everyone who’s met me understands my focused passions with multimedia and how I get stuck on things like Sheldon Cooper from time to time. As I get older, I have a harder time with memory and speaking. And everyone knows there are things around me that trigger intense emotions I literally can’t handle because of mental overload which probably caused me to post this in the first place. On top of all that, I’m actually under vaccinated in general. I’m a living embodiment of what autism awareness can be but my IDENTITY is still claimed as fake news, a lie, demon possession, or a product of poor medical practices when GOD FORMED MY BRAIN DIFFERENTLY TO DISPLAY HIS GLORY, NOT SO I CAN BE NEUROLOGICALLY FIXED. Some far right groups need to shut up and get a better understanding of diversity, not just in terms of race and culture but in terms of neurological diversity as well.