A cleaner, clearer look at Autism spectrum from the verbal autistic perspective

Moved this to working memory, a lot of decent ideas, but the empathy part needs a complete overhaul, so not fully flawed as it has potential, but not right either, definitely gotta dive into Mirror Neurons more before attempting to evolve this further.

Note: After the first three chunks of text there is a section with three points, for the majority who do not want to even begin to read all of this.

Been a bit quite the last few days, wrenched my neck and right shoulder pretty bad so I have been out of commission when it comes to getting my thoughts down or even just mucking around in the Mechwarrior online Mechlab for a bit (I spend more time making and testing mechs than dropping for matches, guess they are my giant robot dolls).  So other than that, I have spent a good deal of time deconstructing myself more as I continue to expand my understanding, been seeking out folks via email to try and communicate, one hit back on maybe using me in research, wish I had more haha, you would be hard pressed to find a person who wants their brain scanned and studied more than I do, but I am still focusing very hard on separating what is baseline for many “high functioning” autistic children, and what is mental illness as a result of internalized fault.  And I have some insight on that little gem that is certainly worth exploring by someone, maybe some grad student who can’t figure out their dissertation topic might steal it and run with it, would require 5 to 7 years more schooling before I felt able to pursue something like that, freaking strict, inflexible, compartmentalized, credential happy academia and all that.

So, let me start with what I have been exploring, now as someone who falls under verbal autism and has not insignificant, but a decidedly specialized intellect, I have been doing a lot of comparing and contrasting, especially trying to hammer down the difference between myself and someone with Asperger’s, we are both “high functioning” (some more than others) but there are substantial differences, mostly in the form of empathy, something Aspergian’s are considered “deficient in”, but honestly I see it more as a basic survival function and just a more constrained circle of people, if someone’s life does not intersect their own in any meaningful way, the rational aspect found in autism would make one seem cold, and would be if you did not contribute to their survival, comfort, etc (it is not true selfishness, it is just very grounded in life context).  I am very empathetic, this is the fundamental difference between myself and someone with Asperger’s and indicates to me that the empathy function is important in understanding autism, but is not really unique to it, many people vary between being empathetic and thus socio-centric and being egocentric, totally normal human variables here.  In my case, though I lack currently a means to quantify this, I am an extremely empathetic person, and this combined with a preference for rational/knowledge based thinking, it what gives me the extreme compassion I have for humanity writ large, and can still not be shaken to my core by tragic events unrelated to me directly, I will feel sympathy for their families, I may even weep a bit, but that is it, that is the maximum depth, I weep readily even watching movies, I should, my brain is wired closer to an ideal female than a males, though I am quite happy as a male and appropriately have a spouse who has a much more driven, masculine mind set, we did a role reversal and it makes sense, thinking styles are not anchored in sexual dimorphism, no matter how much society wants to say men are supposed to be this certain thing and women this certain other thing, other than pre-disposition to certain things, like one could argue very naturally that hyper-sensory seems to effect men more often, could be true, also could be that the masculine ideal is pretty far from  how the Autistic mind thinks, that boys get broken more due to social pressure here (or a lil from column A and a bit from column B).  An advantage the Aspergian has over me, the socio-centric mind which is the mind that will alter perception of reality, subsume themselves to the dominant paradigm, etc.  And Aspergian’s as more egocentric, can weather this a bit better, but not completely, the urge to conform and just not stick out can be pretty strong in most anyone.   I have also been considering ways to clearly separate the two, I watched something on Brony’s not long ago that had a young British Aspergian in it, but I saw a tremendous amount of empathy in that individual, and I believe we need to tread carefully here, and make sure we are not missing that empathy function, social cues and social functioning are still impaired in both, but one will be able to read human emotional and one will miss those cues.  I read the social cues, over complicate everything and basically become stuck, I have to start a conversation off by going through a few basic hoops to make sure I am getting their context and my context right before I could even hope to ask a simple basic question other’s might find easy to ask, I am better than I used to be, but honestly I practice so much of what I am going to say over and over again in my head, both for memory encoding as well as making sure I have a template I can quickly reach for and utilize in a pinch, because my working memory, for all of my intellect, is poor, I have to rely a great deal on external sources for memory manipulation, part again of what makes the autistic mind a specialist mind.  So, Empathy, don’t miss it, do they learn pretty quick what a pet does or does not like? Solid way to try and gauge empathy, because this empathy function is going to have a very big impact on how they develop and how they get harmed, and I feel very safe is saying that high empathy autistic children have a tremendous fragility to them, and even with earnest attempts they are going to be prone to mental illness as they get older if they cannot establish a solid sense of self-identity.

This links back into something else I mentioned earlier, the wonderful world of depression.  So, depression is linked to a bit of the brain referred to as dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, it is seen as active when a person is depressed, but this part of the brain is also used for problem solving, utility, decision making, moral choices, relationships, trust, etc are represented in this area of the brain (decent source here), now if our qualitative and quantitative sciences would actually talk to each other more, seeing this area highly active in depression would make sense, especially if you have an inherent epistemology that likes problem solving naturally.  See, here we have a possible strong neurological connection between internalized fault as a source of depression and what we are seeing here, seems like a pretty obvious line of questioning and that is; the internalized fault, the crap you beat yourself up about, berate yourself, wonder why you are broken, hijacks your brain and tendency to trouble shoot and begins applying it in earnest to yourself, if you favor figuring out problems, it would be nigh impossible, I would speculate, to not go at yourself over and over again trying to figure out why you are faulty. So, if we have someone who is depressed, the cells in their brain in this region are generally the same type, but the more of the processes are hijacked by depression, and the results are telling if you look at the rest of what this brain structure does…poor decision making, difficulty problem solving, problems with trust, low self value that can lead to self harm. Combine this with social interaction and expectations, even without a hypersensory function an individual who is neurotypical as well would be hard pressed to function well. So, right now the burden of understanding and navigating the world is still mostly on the shoulders of the autistic mind, we teach proper etiquette and behaviors, and rightly so in many ways, proper context for communication and such are important, but we also drive them away from their natural body tendencies, people see things they associate with instability and insanity or a host of other issues in simple actions such as self grounding, comfort, distress, or even just mumbling to oneself because the auditory component is soothing or even useful, clever folks just hum a lot.  See, we need to do more than force conformity while saying we are teaching to the difference, we really need a hard look at the pedagogy currently out there since right now most folks cannot even begin to separate mental illness from internalized fault and low self-worth, because it is critically important we see what is truly going on.  What my brain does right here is it seeks out connections and correlations and asks questions about what I see, and right now it looks to me like existentialist psychology and neurology just met up finally after years of trying to anchor, and the answer is simple…internalized fault becomes depression for the minds that favor trying to solve problems and puzzles, and if one views oneself as faulty, that makes finding that top priority, and for an autistic mind, the results will drastically degrade their capabilities, interfere with their development of a solid sense of identity, and lead to trauma, mental illness, and even a loss of self, and we must do all we can to prevent this, we must stop arguing and screaming, and start communicating, the issues here transcend political squabbles and get to the heart of what it means to be human, our context as individuals and as a species, Autism is great for shedding light on these issues, but we see the demeaning of difference everyday in the form of sexism, racism, and a host of other ways we show our fear of change or difference.

     So if you want a clearer look at Autism what must we understand?

  1. We must separate mental illness from the underlying neurological function, we have to find when nurture hijacked nature.
  2. We need to firmly look at not just Hyper-Sensory functions, but how a mind manipulates that data, the visual component of this for example is a big factor in Temple Grandin’s visual, pattern, or verbal autistic. I am verbal autistic because I am unable to effectively manipulate visual data, I cannot think in pictures, patterns, etc at all, I think in words with a few tactile tricks for using my working memory, so don’t expect me to do stellar on the image tests 3 cards back, I have to translate each image in between into something I can hold in memory, but since my internal working memory is poor, yeah, I can’t do it worth a damn with images, words, now that would be a different story I think, but numbers would be pretty crappy if they were greater than two digits.
  3. Connected to the Hyper-sensory senses and manipulation is going to be the importance of empathy, this is what I believe is the biggest trait that separates me from Asperger’s, at some point the brain favors one over the other, and it can be by degrees, slightly empathetic, very empathetic, slightly egocentric, very egocentric, etc.  So, Temple Grandin’s groupings do not directly talk about empathy, but facility with animals and herd thinking, etc are solid clues to a socio-centric personality, which means if highly empathetic we will take abuse if we think we are defective, or even to just prevent pain and harm to others, in an autistic child with social communication issues, this is a bad scenario if mental illness creeps in, and I have plenty of first hand experiences I hope to share someday with just how many truly bad, truly horrible situations I have found myself in, especially after depression was in full swing and my decision making was so far gone, that honestly folks, I want my last 30 years back, wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what was broken in me, and I refuse to accept it as broken if I can socialize and do basic subsistence, this culture right now makes basic subsistence a complicated and terrifying nightmare for me to navigate, but 200 years ago in a more sedate less sensory heavy environment, my chances to developing a healthy self identity would have been greater, which is a nice correlation for my circadian cycle favoring the night, far less stimulus, I feel safer at night than I do during the day, but I should, I am hyper-sensory in all of my senses, that is a pretty good asset when one cannot rely on their eyes alone, throw in hyper vigilance from complex PTSD and I am a right mess, but damn can I navigate in the dark haha. But hopefully someone can learn from this mess of a different mind that I have, because so much of it could have been prevented or at least mitigated into being non-traumatic.

Below is Half-formed Hypothesis that devolves into a scolding and rant with little editing, because I am pretty much bored staring at this screen and contemplating how to better convey emotion via textual communication, hand writing conveys the emotional state of the writer so much better than silly emoji’s, maybe we need a few other functions besides bold and italics to convey certain emotional states, not too many, wow this bold text section became it’s own tangent…pretty proud of myself right now =P

So If I was to break down my current notions of Autism (so half-formed hypothesis warning, research worthy though) the hyper-sensory function combined with rational thinkers seems to fit, with empathy varying but being extremely important given the socialization functions.  I favor the rational mind vs feeling as one of the key factors combined with hyper-sensory, pattern thinking lends itself to this, I also tend to favor logical over what I call empirical thinking because it would manifest differently, but right at this moment,  since empirical thinking is even more compartmentalized than logical, that might be where we find savant syndrome, the specialist mind amongst specialist minds…I am unsure, but there has been research scrambling the section of the brain tied to savant syndrome, and could even explain some other non-verbal functions given the region of the temporal lobe effected, not sure, fun question though.  There are so many more questions I could keep asking, but we really need to tackle the mental illness aspect and we need to do more than teach “high functioning” autistic minds to conform, we need to be able to expand the public understanding of very natural behaviors, because the stress of controlling these behaviors, is more damaging than you may realize, think of the studies in regards to making left handed people write using their right hand, the brain is naturally wired a certain way, curtailing certain things will have a neurological impact, so we need to make some of these behaviors “ok” in more than just the “absent minded professor” role, if I wear a corduroy Jacket and a bow tie and rub my head while muttering a bit, I can be an eccentric scholar, if I am wearing jeans and a hoodie while doing the same thing, people read that very differently, and sadly because of how many minds like mine are snapping and losing their shit, I can understand this, but if you want to preserve human life and dignity, allow us our natural body language, please stop forcing us to be something we cannot be in a healthy way, challenge us, make us learn, but stop teaching us to not trust our own body movements and body language, in my youth, in class, sports, school, etc I was seemingly clumsy and awkward, take that same child out of the social setting and into the woods with a friend or two and you would assume I was an athletic agile little monkey, that is not neurological damage at the core there to my understanding, it is internalized fault, often self learned behavior to not engage in certain things because folks misunderstand, a lot, and as the one least skilled in communicating, guess who usually is on the losing end of that as a child.

If you want to stop those constant break downs the verbal autistic kid is having, communicate with them, even if it is hard, you must and you need to not lie to them if they have high empathy function, their social cues may be messed up, but I am telling you that at least some of us, get those cues just fine, and we become very confused when you tell us a line of bullshit and the lie is written all over your face, add in the social issues and extreme cautious nature, plus the tendency to not meet eyes since it is still a tremendous amount of data, I feel like If I stare into your eyes too long, I am violating you, and if you truly could understand just how well I can now deconstruct someone with micro-expressions, you might feel really really uncomfortable knowing just how much data my hyper-sensory ass coupled with empathy and an excellent mind for patterns and correlations, yeah, I trust my gut now, I didn’t for years, and it is not steering me wrong these days, give me enough context on a person, I will break them down to the point I understand how they prefer to learn, how they prefer to approach a problem, how they arrive at conclusions, etc.  As I have said before, con-artists know this well too, I choose to not abuse it, ever…I would be lying if I claimed to never have manipulated people, it comes easily to me, but I dislike it, probably because of empathy, but also life experience, as an underdog, I dislike the tools of the privileged being used against people, manipulation, marketing, lying, fear mongering, all these things I loathe. But the frustration in the form of temper tantrums is what you see manifested as a result of mostly frustration related to communication (or not getting their own way, standard kid stuff still applies here too), a decent example from my childhood was at one of my oldest friend’s houses, his parents were a wonderful influence on me, why even as a very stolid atheist these days I have a soft spot for Mormon’s, because they judged me so much less than others, even when I bashed my head on their walls after being challenged over a basic decency issue, his sister left her door open, I was good and dis-associating and not paying any attention, I was naturally challenged as folks do not realize often that my eyes are open, but they are not focused on a damn thing, they are checking the established pattern of human behavior and responding to abnormalities.  So anyhow, my response was pretty close too “I have sisters, nothing new to see here”, because there wasn’t, I am not enthralled in a sexual way by basic human anatomy in a natural context, but in this specific case, I got chastised on the inappropriateness, and was totally confused as to what was going on, it is the often false attribution of sexual desire as much as real sexual desire that can mess a poor kid up pretty darn good, and so…I lost it, I started smashing my head into the wall as hard as I could, so frustrated, so angry that what I said did not register, it was internalized fault at this point, had my friends mother understood what we understand now, I know she would have handled that entire scenario differently, and she did try to be gentle, but as she should be, she was protective of her daughter too.  Miscommunications go both way, and if the autistic mind has to work so much harder at it, the least people and the public can do is put in a little damn effort to understand what is just difference, and that these different ways of thinking are beneficial to human progress, and right now, minds like mine are not fairing well.  I would be pretty damn close to being “girly” in my pain reactions, empathy reactions and a host of other things, but it is not sexual dimorphism that causes issue, it is breaking gentle males like myself trying so hard to fit a social ideal we cannot by own inherent epistemology and way of thinking be. I was  (am) exceptionally sensitive, and that…in a not so well off small city in central Maine filled with other damaged minds, I never stood a chance guys, throw in that I stopped trusting my parents for the truth, I always trusted they had my best interest in heart, but I still would not confide in them, because I stopped trusting pretty much anyone to tell me the truth. And a lot of this might be a function of intellect, some verbal autistic children may not have as much natural facility with these things, it was determined my senior year in High School when the senioritis kicked in bad and I just did not show up to school or do assignments, that the only reason I made it as far as I did without drawing more attention was due to native intellect, well I would argue attention was on me no matter what when I was younger, but my intelligence is why I was not put into special education classes, I was strong academically save in more advanced math where I could no longer mask my deficiencies, and instead of asking for help from my math teacher father, I took the bare minimum and denied myself access to the knowledge I really needed for hard sciences, but without assistance I am not sure I can find many good work-arounds for my working memory and visualization issues, such as it is.

I do want to write more specifics about my life experience as a verbal autistic man, but that is a lot more work, let me state it involved a shocking amount of putting myself into extreme potential harm, at least two good stabs at ending my existential existence accidentally, repeat sexual trauma from a peer when I was young, a sexual assault in my mid teens (female against me, but I was deer in the headlights scared, and this may be TMI but it is pertinent, men can have erections as a result of fear and anger and intense emotions other than lust, so like when a girl says “no”, an erection on a male is not consent, period….), and several funny stories that could have had very different endings as well, add in the chronic bullying outside the home and fairly common inside the home, not to say I did not start my fair share after a point, once my big brother broke my naive trust, it was game on and I did, literally, try to end his existential threat to my existence, and he did likewise, screwdrivers at the head, blunt force trauma, me jumping out a second story door with no stairs attached onto a tree that got snagged and landing 12 feet below me on a pile of broken appliances, etc. Not to mention other gems like repeat forced confinement from him, force feeding me grass in the rabbit hutch, yeah the list goes on and on and on…I did not have “good days” in my childhood, I had the days I was left alone in my misery and days folks would not let me be alone in my misery.  This connects to temper tantrums too, remember the hyper-sensory in many ways is the animal part of our mind, fight or flight is a big issue, if an autistic child has lost control of themselves, they are going to seek to escape or force away the threat to them, fight or flight, so the kid needs a safe place to retreat too, their room, or other nurturer’s such a family or family friends nearby, do not pursue them into a corner, that will trigger a fight response and it is going to be a bad one, either verbal or physical, you need to let them have the time to take control if possible, yes if they are a threat to themselves, it is worrisome, head banging, self harm, these are tough things, but if you let them know it is ok to escape a bit and collect themselves, do so, let them, give them time to process all that data that the hyper-sensory have to process, and in public, sadly this is gonna be hard, and do not listen to the snap judgments and presumptions of people around you, spanking me was not a productive means of disciplining me, mostly because I should not have needed to be disciplined over something out of my control, and it is a damaged kid who willing eats, chews, and swallows Irish spring soap when he got caught using foul language, I knew it was wrong too, did not mean I even meant to say it….but I love my family, and like many others, I cannot hold them accountable anymore than myself, because we did not know what was going on, we could not communicate, my experience of objective reality is so very different than so many other people.  But, I still fear leaving my house, because when I go out, I have to put that mask back on, curb my natural desires again, but at least now I recognize it, but…it sucks, and I am not going to overcome all the somatoform damage done to me if I must keep suppressing my own natural body language and activities that interest me, if I want to hang upside down in a tree to see how the blood flow influences my thought process, what the hell does it matter a lick to anyone else?  And I see a lot “high functioning” autistic minds leaning towards libertarianism or in my case a form of Social Libertarianism, why? because the massive laws, social constraints, expectations of this current society, are freaking damaging to us, we cannot thrive under these circumstances, we can barely even survive it, let alone function in it, and shit needs to change on all sides, we need to make room for difference, we need to teach in the way the individual child learns, and stop basing what is “normal” on the dominant genotype which freaking varies geographically and culturally to begin with.  Harmony, morality, stop demeaning and devaluing, human progress will not even reach it’s full potential until we embrace the difference instead of trying to “fix broken people”, there is value in my strange way of thinking, there is value in the honest compassion of someone with Down’s syndrome, there is value in the pure rational calculations of a mind not distracted by an overwhelming amount of empathy. We need our difference, collaboration in science flourishes if not all the collaborators think the same, the current big argument on the need for or the desirability of genius, is irrelevant, genius is very beneficial in that it is unconventional in how it approaches things, this is insightful even when wrong, we all benefit greatly from great minds that still constantly ask interesting questions. Difference in culture drives innovation, but so does individual difference, melting pot cultures have a shockingly wide diversity of interesting ways of thinking, the heterogeneous nature of the gene pool and cultures really spur innovation, but the homogeneous culture, though it may spur less raw creative innovation is fantastic at applying, testing, and improving these things since a more balanced societal makeup facilitates implementing new technologies and ideas when they are acceptable to them culturally.   We do not want to muck around with our genetics to the point that we get less difference and variety, the garbage DNA of today is unexpected saving grace of the future sometimes, and we want that difference.  Could we put a bit of effort into upping intellect? Maybe, but we need to make sure we do not turn all humans into do’ers or just teachers, we do not want “A Brave New World” of genetic determinism, the random make up of our inherent epistemology as long as it is not an extreme detriment to quality of life, should be allowed to occur, we all benefit from children who are nurtured, taught the way they learn best, and are at least taught to not ridicule or demean difference, especially if that person is smart enough to get into the tech industry hahaha (yeah, not for me unless they hire me as the worlds weirdest sounding board), might rue burning that bridge someday, meh probably not, but even still, no child should feel they are faulty or broken on a deep visceral level, just differently-abled and maybe has to face a bit more adversity, but still not inherently morally or socially inferior to any other, to disdain difference is to spit on the notion of self-determination and liberty itself, and if you are a person willing to blame a child for a host of possible difficulties they may face, then I am gonna argue that you are a damaged child yourself, that your decision making processes are probably hijacked by self doubt and loathing, and that you are no more accountable for that ire than anyone else, not your fault either, we have simply failed to understand the extreme levels of difference in the world and failed to ensure all our children develop a healthy and positive sense of self identity to absolute best we can possibly do, and that is before we throw medication at the problem, trying to change inherent biochemistry to think, act, and function better in the dominant socio-cultural paradigm then it is reasonably dystopian in a real not at all off the deep end sort of way, we confuse valuable difference with fault and try to medicate it into conformity…yep nothing possibly a little off base there. And, if I feel I need to go back on meds for a bit to cope, my choice, my brain, my body, my self-determination.  Ugh got ranty there, and wrote way too much again, calling it a night.

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3 thoughts on “A cleaner, clearer look at Autism spectrum from the verbal autistic perspective

  1. This is absolutely the best article I’ve ever read about the autism spectrum! You nailed it! My mother was high- functioning Aspergers. I KNOW I can’t go back, she was dying before I knew anything about Aspergers. It is so rewarding to see it in black and white through your eyes. Thank you for writing in terms that I could understand my mother better. Thank God there are men like you!

    Like

    • Thank you Annette, it is nice to hear back that my earnest attempts at understanding and sharing with others can help them find perspective. I have a lot more I plan to share, an overwhelming amount actually, I seem old and decrepit well before my time, look in the mirror some days and wonder how I got as old as I did, but a lifetime of fighting against being myself, it takes a toll, and maybe through stories about your Mother, stories from me, and others out there, we can help change fundamentally how we perceive these things, so those who come after can do better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on annettehodgesteadham and commented:
    A couple years ago, I fell for a man with AS. I learned to understand so much from him. There was a deep bond between us from the beginning. He was so familiar as if I’d known him all my life. It took me about 6 months to understand why. It was one of those eye popping “aha” moments when I recognized the Aspergers. I had no idea that I wouldn’t know right away since I’d lived with it all my life. Later, after I told him about AS, a light glowed in his kind eyes. It was as if a weight was lifted from his shoulders. He shared many of the experiences he had suffered though his life, especially his childhood. It was so heart-wrenching for me. He told me that he had always known he was “different” but didn’t know what. He admitted how great it is to know his condition has a name. Now that he knows, he faces his life head on with much more confidence and even finds humor in it. He has a lot of traits that you described in yourself. Some people may find these traits on the feminine side, but frankly I don’t feel that these feelings are feminine at all. I think it’s sexy for a man to have a “soft” side. It makes you both more lovable! I don’t think he’s capable of an intimate relationship, (at 70 years old) but we are best friends forever.

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