Repetitive Homework: Autism and Repetitive Stuff

When I talk about Homework, I’m not talking about the subjects I’ve learn in school or college. The older I get, the more frustrated I am with schoolwork, especially when having to pencil in a part time job. College students all over America and Europe know exactly what I’m talking about. Homework is Daft Punk’s debut album and one of my favourite techno albums. The hit song “Around the World” is a classic repetitive four on the floor beat/bass dance groove with a catchy chant of the title song. Created in the 1990s, the current pop duo constructed their whole album using any kind of synthesizer they can find. They’ll use anything from a TR-909 drum machine to Moog and Modcan Modular analogue machines.

While the abstract sounds are what keep its fans, I love it for a different reason. Daft Punk creates catchy two bar phrases in their dance music. The repetition and syncopation of their music doesn’t bore me at all. My wife doesn’t like Daft Punk because of how repetitive their music can be. I explain to her why I love dance and hip-hop music with so much repetition without convincing her. I understand why repetition in music is not for everyone. It feels like a shot to the heart when I want to listen to music with repetitive phrases but neurotypes tell me to stop. They tell me to stop because they’re tired of repetitive riffs/arpeggios.

While my brain understands change needs to happen in life, my body and soul feel relaxed and tranquil while a nice looping sound or frequent motion occurs again and again. With enough looping of pleasant sounds or repeated actions, I’m stuck in euphoria. When that state of mind is interrupted by changing a task that’s unfinished, or switching to another track when one of Daft’s beats go on and on, I become overwhelmed with feelings of frustration, sadness, and anger.

I worked in a call centres for a long time. I enjoyed it because of how recurring certain duties were. It’s the same script, same tasks and same responses depending on what customers want me to do. What sometimes gets me in trouble is the change from one project to another without taking a break. In the past, I would become so disorganized with changing tasks that I would throw papers down in anger. It sucks that supervisors want change right now. Aspies need to be slowly directed into their new undertaking. City work can be so fast paced that it would be better for those with Aspergers or autism to live in the country.

I’m sure the reader of this post is wondering why Daft Punk and their album Homework are relevant to this post. I’m working in a job now where data entry is needed but task recurrences are absent. Before I go into work, I listen to Daft Punk’s Homework as a way to relax myself before each shift. Think of it as meditation, or doing my “homework” before each shift. Some people drink or smoke cigarettes to keep their strength up. I’m not here to judge these people. Please don’t judge me because I get high off repetitive dance music that’s not for everyone. I need “Homework” to make it through the school of “life with autism.”

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.

Will My Autistic Friend/Child Be Saved? Autism and Romans 10:9

Disclaimer: The words in the post may or may not be edited as I’m still trying to figure things out with the Lord’s help. I understand it’s a very sensitive subject and will be eventually consulting with Christians who minister with mental abuse or work in autistic ministries to help me polish this post.

Not sure how to give an intro into this post. However, I found a testimony about a heart-breaking story regarding a parent who wants her son to receive a powerful spiritual encounter with Jesus. This may be a good place to start. Here’s her story.

My son has been diagnosed with autism but we know it has a spiritual component. I have been praying for him and we know that whether it is part of the autism or not, there is an irrational spiritual fear. I read to him the Bible and try to work with him and so do his teachers, but they think he has autism. We aren’t fighting that (the autism), but we are certain some of his problems are spiritual and due to abuse from outside family members and “friends,” especially the fears and certain odd behaviors. Please pray for him that he receives and becomes a servant of Jesus Christ, because I am convinced that will help him. He has some limited understanding of the Gospel and God has revealed to me that the fear expression (both facial and verbal) that precedes some of his behavior is spiritual and would be helped if he places his trust in Jesus.

I’ll cover the behaviors of autism and spiritual abuse in a later post. I’m not an expert at that subject, but I do want to share my own story of spiritual abuse (also in a later post). While I do believe some behaviors are caused by spiritual abuse and damage from social PTSD, I believe in a God who can remove fear of man and limited understanding of the Gospel. Since behaviors are conditions and habits that are linked to free will, I feel that Christ can only walk alongside a person struggling with autism while giving them the strength to choose reconditioning of their quirks or behaviors that aren’t central to autism.

While I really don’t like saying some of this part, let me apologetically recap with a bit of Christianity 101 and why all humans need Jesus:

Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men.” This scripture is one of a lot (including Ephesians 2:3 and Psalm 51:5) that indicates that every person regardless of race, status, or track record is born into sin. With the exception of Jesus, every single human is sinful from conception in the womb. Roman’s 3:10 says this clearly “There is no one righteous, not even one.” When Adam ate the fruit, he infected the human race. We all are born from Adam and therefore inherit his original sin. This means that autistic individuals and those with Aspergers are sinful. Their nature is evident everyday, as humanity, even myself, is rebellious and care most about themselves and fulfilling their own needs. It’s pretty obvious when you look around you and it’s getting worse by the second.

The Bible also says that as sinful people, we only have one way into heaven. That way is through faith in Jesus Christ, the son of God. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are commanded to give up our own desires and sinful nature and put our faith and live our lives only for Jesus. Acts 17:30 reads, “he commands all people everywhere to repent.” Moreover, we are commanded to be obedient to Him. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 indicates that “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” If we do not set our hearts to go after Jesus Christ, damnation awaits us. As much as I don’t like to say it, this is the reason why I’m writing this post. I don’t want autistic individuals to suffer the damnation I just described.

Now, let’s focus on the question. Can an autistic person or an Aspie be saved by Jesus Christ and his amazing grace? Let me come right out and say it, yes they can. Can an Aspie encounter Jesus? I’m living proof that that has happened.

What puzzles me is the way fellow Christians judge those with autism by measuring their faith by fruits that they can’t bear due to their condition. Obviously, those fellow Christians need to take a good look at themselves before determining if someone with autism is saved or not.

Romans 10:9 says that if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. But if an autistic person is non-verbal but believes in his heart, what happens when he dies? I don’t want to answer that question directly. It has the potential to open a can of worms that should stay closed.

I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel 13 – 16. Isreal’s King Saul had been given a mission to wipe the Amalekites clean off the map. While the mission was to completely destroy everything, Saul kept the best sheep and cattle. The prophet Samuel knew that Saul’s heart was central to the plunder from the countries Isreal was at war with. Samuel did not break this to Saul gently. Even though Saul knew what was wrong, he lost his annointing as king which was carried over to David, the son of Jesse. Saul was considered the Fabio of Isreal in the Old Testament while David and the line of Jesse were considered nothing worth much more than street urchins.  Eventually even with visual lack of strength, David showed his devotion to God by taking down the giant Goliath. David made mistakes constantly, but God knew that his heart belonged the Father.

So let’s say an autistic person always loves reading the Bible but can’t speak or type words into a computer. Let’s also say that he does nothing else besides take it all in. A Christian from a huge mega-church could go out and say that this autistic person can’t build God’s kingdom because only by speaking the Gospel or writing out their own testimony will they be able to bring others into His Kingdom.

But what if a hypothetical law has been brought into North America, and all churches had to be burned down with Christians in them? What if Christians had to be lined up to be slaughtered before an alter?

Let’s say this actually did happen and one of the church attendees was a boy with autism who had been reading the Bible and hardly doing anything else with his time besides eating and sleeping. The general who would give the order for the firing squad to kill off the Christians yells for them to get ready and aim. All the Christians cringe ready for the bullets, full of fear of dying because they didn’t win souls in a war on evangelical culture.
But wait..the autistic boy pulls out his Bible, steps out from the crowd. He looks up to heaven, and even though he’s none-verbal, screams in happiness toward the roof raising his Bible high and proud while the firing squad wets the boy up with huge slugs of metal.

After the firing squad comes to grips with the epiphany of a life they had taken, some of them walk out of the church with tears running down their faces. Some of them may even be talking to God himself and deciding to repent and explore what just happened. The general only becomes more angry and sadly guns down all the other Christians with a shotgun. The story contains no happy ending at all.

I’m sorry for creating an R-rated picture to illustrate my point that man looks at the appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). You as the reader are probably still puzzled because I didn’t directly answer the question. Maybe that child didn’t directly win people to God. Or did he? Did the child who was shot by the firing squad go to heaven? Not sure, but I am pretty sure that his cry to God came from his heart though. There are deeper ways to take this discussion but I should wrap it up shortly here.

Even with the fact that I have problems memorizing different things in the Bible due to my own struggle with Aspergers, I still encounter God and still hear him even if I don’t know Him fully yet. Spirituality is a journey. Spirituality is a relationship with God, not a religion. It’s not about knowing all the answers or conforming to something while knowing all the answers. It’s simply a life-long chase and quest for encounters with a God who wants to connect with people who live by faith.

What can we learn from this? There’s so much grey and not a lot of black and white. To me, that’s perfectly okay.

The question we need to ask isn’t if a child or friend with autism is saved. The question we need to ask is what’s in the heart of an autistic person or an Aspie when they read the Bible, participate in church, or interact with other people?

Look At Me: Autism and Eye Contact

“Look at me…LOOK AT ME!”

My supervisor has a way of getting people’s attention. He could be wondering why or if my right eye has taken five minutes to itself. As you guess, I have trouble with eye contact

‘I’m looking at you, idiot.’ I thought to myself wishing I could say that out loud.

Like every other neurotype, I took in the rebuke for my mistake of not wiping cars the way my supervisor wants. It’s not that I hate my job. The noise doesn’t bother me even as I focus and the smells of cleaning chemicals are manageable. If these two accommodations are properly controlled, I can last one more day on the job. Too bad having a lazy right eye doesn’t help.

Unfortunately looking at my supervisor, with my dominant eye, may trigger sensory overload. My eyes are straining as I looked into his. Looking into the window of a room that was my supervisor’s conclusion of my mistakes was giving me a headache. It felt like the room was a harsh fuchsia changing to milky green and back again every two seconds.

It’s not that my supervisor was irate. I know he means well. I can’t find the words to explain to him that long moments of eye contact cause me to feel mentally sick. If I knew what I would say, I’d explain that pro-longed eye contact causes me mental vertigo. Or I’d mention that my brain has facial recognition crashes when eye contact lasts more than 10 seconds. But alas, he wouldn’t understand when I turn away. All he knows is that when I turn away, to him it means social indifference, insensitivity, or lack of concern. Yet, I’m listening. I can focus on what he wants me to hear. I can feel every stabbing word like shurikens grazing my ears. I understand how to do my job better, and I always have. Like I said, I made a mistake. My supervisor made it a bigger deal by assuming I’m a cold factory-line worker who wants to open up his own bakery.

The difficulty that comes with eye contact is a result of the brain’s subcortical system, which handles natural focus on faces. It’s like a human mental facial recognition program. This system assists the brain with emotional perceptions. The system is activated by eye contact. For those without autism or neurotypes, subcortical activation is achieved. As a result, eye contact results in connection. For those with Aspergers or autism, overactivation in the brain occurs. When they concentrate on the eye region, sensory overload or meltdowns overtake them. This also happens with certain facial expressions such as those fear and anger. According to Harvard professor Nouchine Hadjikhani, forcing anyone with autism or Aspergers to look into someone’s eyes has the potential to create a lot of anxiety for them. Encouraging people with autism to slowly get used to eye contact can help them avoid sensory overload or meltdowns.

The story ends with me informing my supervisor I need a bathroom break. Finally, he lets me go and I sit on the toilet until I can calm down and stop shaking. If only autism and Aspergers was as mainstream back then as it is now. If only this study was found earlier in my life. I’d have a longer career at the car wash enjoying the repetition that helps keep me focused and working well. But I need to pay the bills. That involves eye contact without the repetitive tasks.

Credit: Harvard professor Nouchine Hadjikhani:

Can’t Say What I Want to Say: Autism and Communication

Kids with autism always get the bad rap for being mischievous when others see the screaming, hitting, self-abuse, stimming, and even biting.

I understand where this is coming from. We all have a past, different thresholds of personalities and experiences we can handle, and can only walk in the shoes of some many other individuals. Yet here’s what makes us the same. This site supports the belief that both neurotypes and autistic individuals are human. Both react to painful and uncomfortable situations. As a result, we should all treat each other with equality and respect. All that’s different is with autistic individuals, certain types of conflict can be too much to handle. The abnormal and unconventional reactions to some situations happen without any way to explain what’s going on.

For some parents, it’s hard to explain to friends why they themselves are bitten and punched daily. Everyone else sees poor behaviour or that children purposely act like “mini-megalomaniacs.” Retail workers misjudge kids who scream at the top of their lungs. They wonder if certain kids are just greedy. Most of the time, kids with autism can’t say what they want to say. In reality, they can’t handle all the activity that triggers a sensory overload. A single mother had a son who had a meltdown the first day waiting for his school bus. A neighbour asked if he was okay. In that situation, picking him up or holding him would have made the meltdown worse. His mother would have to let him lay on the ground until he was calm again. Those neighbours probably thought this single mother would beat the tar out of him. Before 2000, kids are spanked and kicked out of public places because of a lack of awareness. It’s still shameful for a child to act out now. With an extra chore of having to explain what’s going on, even with the slow rise of autism awareness, I’m wondering when enough will be enough to pinpoint a solution.

One the other side, some parents are able to use moments, with temper tantrums and meltdowns, to spread awareness of autism or Aspergers. I’m fortunate to have been able to speak at three. I started learning grammar at eight. I would journal a lot to practice being a better writer and communicator. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be not to be able to communicate certain wants and needs verbally.

I’ve also encountered teachers who enjoy working with older autistic high school students. They have found that with their other co-workers and other educators, there’s an agreement that the students who have autism are among the most appealing to work with. So there are people who understand this thing called autism. There are also people who thankfully don’t draw narrow conclusions about certain behaviours.

Behaviours, good or bad, are a form of communication. There’s a stereotype that autistic people are naughty by nature. This is false even though there are exceptions. Often, if an autistic individual acts out inappropriately, they can’t communicate their wants and needs properly. We need to understand why those who struggle with autism react the way they do. This is difficult because each person is different. Even those who can talk have problems with communication because of social contexts they can’t understand.

A person with autism who is non-verbal is like a foreigner who doesn’t speak English in an English speaking town. This person would also lack the ability to form tangible words in other languages. To add onto this “language barrier,” there is the lack of awareness of what is socially awkward around neurotypes. When the autistic individual needs to get a message out, they will do whatever it takes to get your message across, even if it means causing a scene. They don’t want to cause trouble, but they don’t know how to share their needs.

There has to be solution to help those with autism communication properly. It doesn’t help getting angry, raising voices, and restraining someone who simply needs assistance for something simple such as going to a bathroom. It can be as simple as teaching them to write on a pen and paper, installing a text to speech plugin or app on an electronic device they own, or giving cue cards with common statements in case they need to urgently say something.

Remember, assumptions are the mother of all screw-ups. Judging an autistic individual by their failure to communicate only makes it worse in their fight to survive in a neurotypical planet. This is the case both online and in person. Although in some cases, if someone with autism has a hard time learning to communicate even in teaching, there are other issues to deal with as well.

I know the harsh reality of how it is since I struggle with Aspergers daily. Let’s try to understand each-other. Let’s learn what works and what doesn’t to communicate with each-other. And above all, if possible, let’s look at our own struggles before assisting another with theirs.