Monday, August 18, 2014

Do I Have Asperger's?

When I attended an autism conference, one of the speakers, Jennifer O'Toole, listed a number of traits of Asperger’s which included

Liking rules
Liking grammar
Being grammar Nazis
Liking writing
Using calendars
Having friends who are older or younger than you are

(note that this isn’t a complete list because I did not have room here to list every symptom and trait)

Hm. These kind of all apply to me. So, does at mean that I have Asperger’s? I don't think so.

Just because someone likewise writing, teaching, grammar, staying in, and organization does not  mean that someone has Asperger’s.

Many people know facts no rules because it is their job: chemists with the periodic table, biologists with organisms, historians with dates, and mathematicians and engineers with formulas. Knowing facts does not make one an autistic, it can simply make someone an expert and good at school and their job.

Just because someone is a teacher does not mean that he or she has Asperger’s. Just because someone has friends younger or older than they are does not mean that they have Asperger’s. It means that that person can be sociable and make friends with people older and younger, which is a benefit in the workplace where people work with  people who are all different ages.   

Bottom line: don't rush to get your label or discovery of Asperger’s, because maybe that’s who you are anyway. Instead of blaming your success or quirks on Asperger’s, attribute them to your own person and characteristics. You are not Asperger’s. You are you. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Beyond Autism

At the Future Horizons autism conference on Friday, I listened to both Jennifer O'Toole and Temple Grandin. O’Toole has created a book series called Asperkids, in which she asserts that children and adults with Asperger’s should embrace their Asperger’s. She listed several traits of Asperger’s, and states that people with Asperger’s will not change and that neurotypical people shouldn't expect them to change.  Her message in a nut shell seemed to be that people should embrace Asperger’s and use their discovery.

Temple Grandin, on the other hand, argues that people with autism and ASD (autism spectrum disorder, which includes Asperger’s) should ignore the label. Instead of focusing on their autism, they should focus on their education, career, and social skills. Instead of focusing on the limiting traits of autism, he or she should focus on what they can do, and then to become the best they can be.

After listening to both O’Toole and Grandin, I agree with Grandin: we should focus on education and career and abilities, not on the label or name of autism or Asperger’s. Yes, the world should understand more about autism and learn to accept it and accommodate it. Yet people with ASD shouldn't make their ASD everything. Instead, they, and we, should enhance education and career—use autism to become better at something. Instead of being autistic, one can be a good student or worker due to his or her autism.    

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shatter My Disability

Another popular teen dystopian series is Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. These books follow Juliette, who cannot touch anyone because her skin causes the person touching her to feel intense pain. She believes that there is something wrong with her, and when we meet her, she actually suffers from PTSD. She believes that her body is disabled, which increases the irony of her situation because her touch tends to disable those who touch her. Yet, when she comes across a group of people who have different abilities or powers, she learns that her lethal touch may not actually be a disability but an ability, or a superpower. Indeed, she discovers that she also has immense physical strength and that she can even turn off the shocks emanating from her lethal skin.

Juliette’s struggle with her dis/ability certainly mirrors how teens today may think about their own abilities or disabilities. Living in a society that is quick to label and diagnose disabilities, it is easy for a teen to believe that she is disabled and that there is nothing she can do about it. However, as Juliette discovers that her disability can actually be used for good and that it is part of her identity, so too can teens discover that their disabilities may not actually be entirely disabilities.

Take, for instance, autism spectrum disorder. A number of people on the spectrum may be limited in communication skills and may have sensory issues, but a number of them also have talents and abilities. Being a teen with autism can be one of the most exciting times of a teen autistic’s life: just like other teens are discovering their passions and talents and deciding where to attend college and what to study, and what kind of job they want to work, so too can teen autistics.

Teens need to recognize that they can find the abilities within their disabilities. The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi is one of the best series so far to make this apparent to readers. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Selection

Kiera Cass’s popular The Selection Trilogy is known for its combination of dystopian elements meeting The Bachelor. Although this series may appear superficial on the surface, there is actually much more that we can analyze when it comes to social class. The young woman, America, comes from a low social caste, yet has the opportunity to achieve a higher social class and even marry Prince Maxon. The social castes, from One being the highest and Eight being the lowest, show that issues of social class are important to the author, Cass, and also to the protagonist, America. While America lives in the palace and competes against the other girls for attention from Prince Maxon, the rebels raid the palace several times. Some of the rebels desire to overthrow the King and the ruling class, whereas the other group of rebels desire to work with the ruling class to make life better for those in the lower classes. Several times, America comments that she would like to eliminate the caste system.

With such a strong emphasis on the caste system, it is clear that The Selection Trilogy is not only a Dystopian The Bachelor, but a work of fiction that seeks to bring to the attention of its readers the important of social class, how the upper class treat the lower class, how individuals work toward equality, and how the present day United States of America can be made into a more equal country. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Video Recording

One of the happiest and most innocent times in which I’ve seen Vicki was when she, as a twenty year old, recorded our little baby cousin. My family was staying at the ocean, and we watched not only the waves but the little girl crawling and tottering around. Soon enough, Vicki got out her video camera and began filming her. Vicki would get down on the floor with her. Soon the camera would lay abandoned while Vicki would lie on the floor with her baby cousin crawling over her and tickling her. Vicki laughed so hard, her eyes squinting up and her face turning pink from lack of oxygen. The baby would catch the laugh and soon both of them were laughing as hard as they could. Sometimes their laughter would become so loud that we would have to tell them to quiet down because we had neighbors who might get irritated at the sounds.

The two of them played with each other all week. I enjoyed seeing Vicki like this, especially since I hadn’t suspected that she could act so silly with a child. Playing with her cousin was good for her since it made her happy—it took her mind off more unpleasant things such as adult shows and cartoons, and her limited freedom.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools' Autism

I have autism. Do you?

It's April Fools' Day. It's also the first day of autism awareness month, which is no joke. But is it for fools? There is no denying that autism is an important issue and that it needs much attention. But, is autism getting out of hand? Over the last several years, more symptoms have been added to autism, which means that if someone is wondering if one has autism, then there are even more symptoms to match, making it even easier to be diagnosed with autism. Because there are now more symptoms,more children and adults are being  diagnosed with autism: the statistics now hover around the numbers of 1 in 80 children having autism. This is startling. Is is excessive?

But wait--there's more...not only is autism just autism, it's now autism spectrum disorder. On this spectrum are disabilities such as ADHD and Tourettes, disabilities that have, well, their own names, right? So, why give them another name or classification? Why do we have to remove the term autism from itself and reassign it to everything else that isn't autism?

Not only do we have more disabilities that fall under autism, but now we also have people who want to be labeled as autistic. At the rate we're going, the numbers will not be 1 in 80 children, but 1 in 3, 1 in 2. April fools! I'm autistic! Are you too?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Experience Existence

Someone once told me that I had not experienced anything in my life that was really bad or traumatic. Of course I was taken aback by this statement. I felt as if I was told that my life didn’t matter and that none of my experiences were valid. I reflected that I hadn’t experienced anything as bad as being raped or living with drug or physical abuse. I hadn’t lost all of my family members to horrible deaths, and I hadn’t been a teen mom struggling to work and care for a baby. No, I hadn’t experienced any of this—which must mean that I haven’t had a hard life, but an easy one, or a non-life. I haven’t existed.

In order to defend myself, I thought of events in my past that have been tough for me to experience and come to terms with. These items might not have caused PTSD, but this mental and emotional impairment isn’t a qualifier for an event to be considered trying. Or, is it?

I reflected that I no longer knew what constituted tough life experience. Originally, I would have answered my experiences with my sister growing up and adjusting to being a pastor’s daughter. But, these two events aren’t that bad, are they? Sure, they lasted for years, but that means that I had time—and experience—to adjust to these life situations. Therefore, now, I don’t list these as real life experiences.

I think back over my life, asking myself if I had indeed lived through events that had scarred me.
Then, it occurs to me: Who is anyone to tell me that my life is invalid? Who are you to tell me that my experiences don’t count?

Walk a mile in my shoes.

But, that’s the problem, isn’t it? People don’t walk anymore. They want to validate only their own life and no one else’s.

Yet I write. And when I write, I validate my life, and your life, and his life, and her life. It’s recognized and scribed.

It exists.