About This Blog

My name is Laura. This blog contains reflections on my life with Asperger's syndrome and anxiety. The main purpose of this website is to provide awareness of individuals with Asperger's syndrome and other disabilities. Content is welcome to be shared for educational purposes but MUST be referenced. If you wish to speak with me directly, the best way to contact me is through my university email at llgilmou@ualberta.ca



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Is this Something You Want or Should Want?

I am currently happy with my family and small circle of friend and don’t have the desire to date right now or for a large peer group. However, some adults on the spectrum feel lonely and wish for more of a social life than what they currently have. In my case, I have sometimes wished for things simply because I felt I should.
For instance, the end of high school in 2004 when my brother went out with friends at graduation to a party, I wished for a graduation party. However, in reality I hate large crowds of people and noise.

Sometimes I am envious of my friends for being married or having children. I love working with children, but 
at this point in my life I also still need a lot of downtime so if I have children it will be somewhat later in life as I find I am still maturing and learning as an adult. At 28, I can handle a lot more than I could at 18.

Yes, I sometimes wish I was better able to handle certain situations or that my life was more “normal” but most of the time that kind of thinking is a waste of time and takes away from the happy, unique life I do have.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Are girls different?

Out of people on the autism spectrum, academic literature and life experience has taught me that in so ways girls on the spectrum differ from the boys. For instance, there is evidence that suggests that many girls with ASC do not lack imagination and enjoy activities such as creative writing or fantasy. Girls are also better in general at copying the social actions of other than boys (even among those without challenges). Therefore, many girls on the spectrum learn more social skills than boys simply by watching others. However sometimes (not always), they are parroting and do not actually understand the social implications of their actions. I have also read that getting a diagnosis for girls on the high-functioning end of the spectrum is harder than it is for boys due to these differences.

As a child I was a little girl who definitely had the social and emotional difficulties of ASC and had odd obsessions and narrow interests. However, I also had a vivid imagination and loved making up my own games and stories, although they often revolved around my special interests. I was academically performing at or above grade level but socially and emotionally in some ways 1/2 - 2/3 my age and in other ways very grown up for my age.

Readers who are girls, what are your experiences with being a female on the spectrum?

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Cure or Destruction of a Person?

I was talking to a family member a few weeks ago who has a sibling with Down Syndrome and she said she enjoyed her sister’s personality exactly the way she is (her sister is a year younger than me and developmentally about 5-8 and an AMAZING person). However, she would like for her not to have the health challenges she has such as heart problems.

In my case, I wish I could improve some of my executive functioning skills and reduce the anxiety. However, I would not want to change my intense fixation on certain subjects and other autism traits that make me “Laura.”

Yes a typical 28-year-old might love to spend Halloween night in a bar full of people. However, I love curling up in the basement with my dogs and getting together with a few online friends for an online Halloween party about a special interest topic.

In graduate school, my unique profile actually gives me advantages. Since my degree is a special interest of mine, I actually like writing papers and working on thesis work. I also enjoy reading academic journal articles. I am one of the few people who would rather write a paper than go to a party.
Also as an aspie, I understand some of the unique language of autism, even in children who do not speak. I love being around people of all levels of the spectrum and always feel like I am with someone who speaks my first language when with them.

I think therapy for autism should help individuals learn to be more independent, communicate more effectively, and reduce frustration. However, I do not believe in totally rewiring someone’s brain to create an entirely different person.

Yes, I take meds for some of my autism symptoms. Yes, I do work hard to improve my skills in certain areas. Yes, I want to live on my own someday and maybe marry and/or have/adopt a child of my own. However I don’t want to kill “Laura” in the process.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Express your Opinion or the Golden Rule

In this modern world, some individuals feel they need to comment on everything, whether the comment is one of decency of not. It can be anything from gossiping about something you are frustrated about with somebody that is beyond their control to going to somebody’s website and posting a nasty comment about their appearance or viewpoints.

In my online interactions, and somewhat in the real world, over the past few years I have been exposed later in life than most to the experience of gossip. My first few experiences, I handled poorly before I began to learn that nothing good comes out of complaining to others about people or in expressing a controversial opinion in a public venue.

A couple times, both online and in public places, I’ve gotten negative comments about various issues, including my disabilities. Sometimes, the person is someone looking for a reaction/attention, and other times they are in a world where everybody just says what they think without considering the potential impact it may have on others.

For those of you on the spectrum, many of us who experience aspects of adolescence in your 20s, I advise if you have a specific complaint about a person to write down your thoughts privately, and then wait 24 hours before having a discussion with that person and focus on the situation/not the person e.g. “It is frustrating for me when my group members cancel meetings at the last minute because it takes me over an hour to get here on public transit as I don’t drive” versus “You incompetent idiots who can’t keep track of time” or telling someone else that the group members are “incompetent idiots.”

Also in the world, there are people from many walks of life and some whose choices you may disagree with (e.g. I noticed online that many people in Canada had different opinions on the US government shut down than most of the Americans I communicated with). However, I did not join in those discussions and say hateful things. Also some adults with Autism Spectrum Condition (including some of the programs I use in my province) receive some form of public assistance, whereas others disagree with accepting any kind of help. Insulting people on a face book group who are doing the best job they know how to do is mean and hurtful.

I think it all goes back to that old Disney movie. “If you can’t say something nice, please say nothing” unless it is a critical issue where someone is in danger or a problem that needs assertive resolution that directly affects you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Candle in The Storm: Effects of Stress When Already Compensating

This week, I was awaiting the results of some medical tests for my puppy to explain his lack of growth and being behind in motor skills. Thankfully, we found out today his blood panel came back normal and that he has an orthopedic deformity that self-corrects with good nutrition and possibly a one-time operation for one of his hips (is fully manageable and correctable and he has pet insurance). Anyway, in the week leading up to his tests, I struggled with completing tasks for my university-related work, and everything seemed exhausting and overwhelming. I was also very moody with just about everyone and would get stressed or anxious about very minor things and neglected my household responsibilities.

It seems in my case that when I am under stress, that I struggle more with tasks that I have learned to manage, especially recently learned things like managing cleaning my apartment. Things that are normally useful for me such as my elaborate virtual organization system didn’t seem to help this week.

I believe the functioning of everyone is affected when under a time of stress, but for someone who is on the autism spectrum and already compensating, that effect on daily living skills may be more prominent.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Competent? Is it Linear?

As a lady on the spectrum who is close to finishing her Master’s degree, but is still working on some executive functioning skills, I recognize that adults on the spectrum may not be on the same level of development in all areas. When a child on the spectrum reaches adulthood, especially if high functioning, there is some question as to what they will be able to do independently, and finally are they capable of making important decisions for themselves.

My family has went for the route of offering guidance and explanations, but letting me make the final decision. I have made my share of good and bad decisions, and have been scammed once or twice. However, no serious harm has come to me and I have the ability to learn from my experiences. I also have insight into the fact that I do have difficulty in certain areas and am able to ask for help when needed. I have also learned in some ways to be my own “guardian” with lists and scripted reminders on my smartphone and in my virtual world.

No adult (autism or not) is always going to make responsible decisions. Everyone is going to make a stupid or dangerous decision at least once or twice in their life be it thinking you are sober enough to drive home when not, posting an indecent video of yourself on youtube as a teenager, or “forgetting” your child in a store.

Also, all adults have their indulgences. Is it really that different to buy fifty dollars of virtual currency on a long weekend in a video game versus going out drinking for a night (about the same cost?). I don’t really think so. However, if either was done every day, they would be bad decisions.

However, if somebody is clearly unable to take care of themselves (e.g. their house is ready to be condemned, they are spending their rent money on video games, and not buying clothing or groceries) it is probably time for someone outside to step in, and at the very least counsel them in decision making. In some of these cases, a legal guardian is required. Decisions on whether guardianship is needed should be made on an individual basis (and may change as situations change such as a young adult maturing between ages 20 and 30).

New Facebook Group for Followers and Others

Many of the bloggers are now also turning to sites such as Facebook and twitter. I have been communicating with families via private messages on both Facebook and Second Life over the last two years. However, I have never established a formal group.

Click HERE to join the Touched by an Alien face book group. I also plan to establish a group/contacts in Second Life following the completion of my thesis where I am required to take a little step back in SL.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Target Practice: Uneven Development and Bullying

Imagine a 7th grader who has won a county poetry contest, has an A average, and is a wealth of knowledge on animals and world issues and is active in an online forum that helps save homeless cats and donates some of her own birthday money to causes involving homeless animals. Imagine that same child still plays with stuffed animals, throws temper tantrums, and does sensory seeking behaviors at school that would make her obviously disabled. How would her peers view her?

The internet and related social media has only recently brought the long term problem of bullying to mainstream internet discussion. It has recently even taken over the ads on the radio stations. This has resulted in mixed opinions ranging from its not enough as many kids are ending their lives due to bullying to viewpoints that people should fend for themselves and that kids are overprotected these days.

In the case of obvious global disability such as a student who functions on the level of a toddler in all areas, children learn very early on through school rules and peer pressure that they are to treat this person kindly. An average child or teen who gets the occasional rude comment probably doesn’t need adult intervention as working things out amongst peers is good social problem solving.

However, many people place high-functioning children and teens on the spectrum as trying to be deliberately annoying, not trying hard enough socially, or even being able to learn from negative reactions from peers. However, despite normal-above average intellect, most of these kids/teens are unable to read the body language of their peers to tell when they are being annoying, lack understanding of social rules and impulse control, and are in many ways socially/emotionally half to three quarters their age. That super bright 12-year-old may be emotionally six or seven and although competent in many areas, may need the same social support with peers that a first or second grader needs. Protection from adults, but yet opportunities to succeed in areas where they perform at or above grade level are the key to keeping these kids/teens in school and not becoming statistics of suicide or dropouts.

Is it a Dinosaur or a Fundamental?

Childhood in the 2010s is much different than it was for my parents’ generation, or even my generation. Some educational experts want to bring back things of the past that are slipping such as cursive writing or more time spent on units such as clock reading, and others insist that these are skills no longer needed in this current generation.

Despite repeated efforts in my early school years (including hours of coaching by my mother), and help from the resource room, I NEVER learned cursive writing to a functional level. By high school, doing assignments by hand was masking the content of my work. My typed assignments showed a much higher level of writing and sophistication as I wasn’t focusing on drawing the letters. As of last year, I also went digital for my math courses, using an assistive technology program called Mathtype which is integrated with Microsoft Word.In university, I have received the accommodation to write essay questions on the computer. However, in grad school, it is becoming less of an accommodation and more so expected where many professors are requesting typed exams as things go paperless.

I have mixed feelings on this whole issue. In some ways I am glad things that mattered in childhood, such as being able to keep up on a bike or a game of tag don’t matter as much to fit In socially as an adult. However, in other ways, seeing kids who have no neurodevelopmental difficulties who aren’t sent outside to play to learn to run or ride a bike, or kids who can’t scrawl down a phone message is scary.
I think the level of ability of these skills required for survival in society is less than it was twenty years. For instance, an acceptable level of handwriting for my future children may be to be able to pick up a pen in a rare situation they don’t have an electronic device handy and jot down a quick note or phone number. These basic skills are also useful if traveling to an area without power.

As for basic motor skills, in my opinion, junk food existed in my parents’ generation, but kids WALKED or BIKED half an hour to McDonald’s and the candy store and played outside all afternoon. Children that don’t learn fundamental motor skills in childhood are less likely to be fit adults (has been a challenge for me). If a child cannot perform on the same level as their peers motor-wise, parents should look into alternate activities that still allow a child to be fit (swimming, jumping on a trampoline, Kinnect games like Kinnect Adventures, and other individual physical activities where a child can work at his or her own pace).

So no, these things are not dinosaurs, but lacking these abilities may have less of an affect on societal integration than generations past.