Sunday, March 21, 2010

Advice and Comments

If you were writing this questionnaire to better understand the Asperger experience over a lifetime, what question would you include and how would you answer it?
What advice would you give others, particularly young people, with Asperger’s?

F60 Perhaps a question about parenting for those of us who are parents---how did it affect that role?
In my own case I did the best I could to give them unconditional love as well as the guidance all parents need to give. My kids seem to think I succeeded. I also tried to make them independent because it is important, especially since we are by nature loners in aspergers families. All of my kids can stand on their own feet. I see many families that are very dependent and to a suffocating degree. That is where we are different.

Life Satisfaction

Has having a diagnosis helped you? How?

F60 I never had a formal diagnosis, but my brother is severely autistic. Reading about autism has helped me to see the Asperger’s traits in my own behavior. It helps to realize that this is inheritance and I am not being antisocial etc. A lot of expectations socially I just can’t fulfill because of how I am. Like everyone else I do the best I can.

Who has provided you with the most support in your life and what form has it taken?
For what issues have you sought psychological or pastoral help?
Drawing on the lessons you’ve learned over your life, what advice would you offer to a younger version of yourself?

F60 My husband---unconditional love to the best of his ability.
No professional help---being a private person I tend to deal with things by reading etc. So I have read many self-help books. I also have a good friend who also probably has aspergers and is a councillor who I have sometimes over the years discussed things with. But it is more of a mutual help as we give each other support.
Advice: It is important to be you. Don't try to be something others expect of you.

Are you happy with your life now? What makes you happy? What would make you more happy? What changes would you like to make in your life?
What strategies have you used to reduce anxiety? Have you used alcohol, tobacco or other substances as a strategy to reduce fear or anxiety? To help you feel normal, more connected or less self conscious about your thoughts, feelings or mannerisms? Do alcohol or other strategies, offer relief from struggling to try to try to fit in? Do you use alcohol or other at home?

F60: Walking, meditating, books--I love bookstores and libraries. I experience anxiety over other people's expectations of me, or what I think they want. Sometimes I think they want more than they do. I can't always read people that way. This hasn't changed at all.

If you had the time, energy and opportunity to form a small group of friends or similarly minded people, what would you want to get out of the group?

Social Anxiety

Have you experienced social anxiety? Do you make internal commentary about how well you’re interacting? What does social anxiety feel like for you? Does it stop you trying to interact with others? If you choose to stay at home instead of going out is it a factor of avoidance of the discomfort of social situations; or more that solitude is a happy experience for you?

Do you think anxiety, lack of confidence or self esteem have impacted on your ability to reach your potential? Has confidence or self esteem changed over time and what has helped?

F60: I have had a tendency to let people approach me in terms of friendships rather than initiate them. It was only by he time I reched my mid fifties that I was able to make friends with people under my own initiative. I still have problems with large groups especially parties, where I know very few people. If I am in a new group I prefer it to be one with mutual interests so that I have a ready made conversation topic. In groups, I am only truly comfortable with people I have known for a very long time where I have had time to be able to connect. I still do much better one on one or in a group of maybe 4 tops.
There have definitely been problems with lack of self esteem and I feel social anxiety and avoid too many social situations eg if I have been very social one day I prefer a day to myself to recuperate. Being with people takes a lot out of me and drains me physically.
Self confidence has improved as I got older. I have worked very hard at this doing a lot of analytical work on myself as I am. That has helped me to become more self-confident and ralize there is a place for me in this world, as opposed to thinking I just didn’t fit in.

Social Interaction

Are you engaged with many activities, interests or circles of friends? What has been rewarding for you in socializing with other people?

F60: When I worked I did so part time, and I rather think that full time would have been very difficult for me unless I had a job which didn’t interact with people much at all. I taught and ended up doing music lessons one on one which helped as again I was in a small group. I also find working with children easier as they are not critical just taking you as you are. I did have some adult students who accepted me because we had the common interest of music.

Other groups I am in are an Art group which meets weekly and is very accepting of everyone – perhaps because Artists are expected ‘to do their own thing’. I also teach a womans’ group at church, am involved in the church music, and belong to a group for British immigrants. All of these are special interest groups. My other socializing involves going out with other couples my husband and I know well – one at a time – and getting together with family.

I have a number of women friends who I see at some of these groups, talk to on the phone occasionally, but only see once in a while outside of the groups in question if at all.

What comments would you like to make about your interaction with other people, in relationships, at work, in general? Have friendships ended and you don’t understand why? Have people made comments to you about their impression of you? Is social interaction tiring?

F60: Other people’s expectations are different, I recognize that and don’t put myself in a position where I have to compromise. It’s important to be yourself. If being yourself is not good enough for them, I don’t worry. Setting boundaries with other people is necessary. I get very tired if being with other people has a lot of sensory input.

My biggest weakness is that I may not follow through enough with people who do want to be my friend. That is probably because of fear of rejection, and also because I simply can’t be with them in most cases as much as they would like, because of various sensitivities and also some health problems which cause fatigue. Because most of the world is more social people don’t understand the need to be alone and see it as unfriendliness. I don’t find it easy to get through to them that it isn’t a reflection on them, that I simply can only cope with so much.


Do you have goals? Have you had goals in the past and been able to achieve them? What would you like to do if there was nothing to hold you back? What are difficulties in achieving that and do they relate to traits of AS?

F60: I've wanted to make a contribution by sharing what I can of my knowledge and myself with others. I do this in various ways. I am also very aware of what we share on subliminal levels eg I believe that if I send a thought of love to someone they will benefit from it. It would have been difficult for me if I had been ambitious as I could never have stood up to the requirements of someone in the public limelight.

What skills do you have? What do you consider your strengths, either learned or innate? Have you continued to learn new things? Are you interested in learning new things, even as you get older?

F60 My biggest strength is an ability to be able to interest myself in all kinds of activities which may not necessarily involve others. I am able to go out and do things alone if need be which many others can’t. I notice people who simply have to be with others in order to validate themselves, I don’t.

Self Reflection

People with AS vary in their degrees of insight and ability to self reflect. Are you often confused about your own feelings about something? Do you have comments on that?
Do you see significant differences between yourself and people you know or work with in terms of integrity, honesty, openness, “office politics”? Please comment.

Over time, have you noticed some of your traits becoming more or less exaggerated eg anxiety? Do you have more or less tolerance for some things? For example, has practice (or lack of practice), exposure or experience had an impact on social anxiety?

Are you often motivated to do something because it is the “right” thing to do rather than for the joy of it? What brings you joy?
“Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” (Wikipedia)
Flow is related to mental and physical wellbeing and often a byproduct of creative activities
Have you had this experience? What activities or experiences have resulted in a state of flow for you (special interests, creative pursuits, meditation or other)?

F60 When involved with something that truly interests me such as music, and art, reading a good book, even E-mail. I can switch this on quite easily. I learned to meditate years ago and I think that facilitated the ability to be in the ‘flow’ of things. Now it is just there if I need it.

Do you have special interests or a passion for anything in particular? Have you in the past? Perhaps a series of interests over time? If you have had a series of interests, do they have a common thread?
Have you done anything creative/innovative/unique with your interests or passions – “grown” them?

F60: Music, art, psychology, history, gardening. I have had many over the years but these are the threads throughout life.
Do you feel you have other special insights or skills, possibly related to AS or at least different to the way other people seem to think? For example, some people with AS report inner awareness, insights and ability to access inner sources. Is there a heightened brightness of color or light around some objects or living things? Heightened psychic awareness or healing experiences?
Do you ever experience
pictures “flashing” through your head? Can you describe the experience?

F54: I sometimes have surreal pictures flash through my head, out of the blue. Then I know I’ll be sick within 24 hours.

AS Strengths?

Some AS traits are very useful for being creative. They include tenacity, persistence, ability to be single minded and focused for long periods of time, an excellent memory, logical and practical, eye for details, thoroughness in preparation, curious and desire to solve problems, intrinsic motivation and integrity. Would you like to comment on what you consider your strengths and how you’ve used them in positive ways in your life?
What are the best conditions for you to learn? What inhibits your learning, remembering or understanding information? Have you learned strategies to help you learn or remember information over time?

60: I have a grasshopper mind, get bored easily. I enjoy learning new things, have high intelligence, but get bored easily and tend not to finish things when I understand them…. So many levels need to be involved
I tend to learn in a right brain way at the beginning, zeroing in on the details later. But that allows me to master the new subject quite quickly, although in the first week or two I might seem all at sea if I am in a left brained class because I don't work that way. I also tend to learn things for my own uses, and if I think a thing has merit I will pursue it very deeply. eg I am very interested in psychology and Carl Jung resonates deeply with me, so I have read many of his works and also those of other Jungians. But at the same time Freud leaves me cold because I feel that he doesn't have a handle on what is really going on with the mind, particularly the collective unconscious which is part of what interests me about Jung. Because of that interest I ended up getting into mythology and reading all of Joseph Campbell as well. This is how it works with me.
I actually process things with the senses of sight, sound and touch. This may be because I am a musician and used sound and touch a lot from a young age and therefore developed those senses. Naturally I do visualize very easily. I dream in full color, and if I were to follow a guided meditation would have no difficulty at all. Other people I know have difficulties in such areas. However when I am learning, while I will take notes at a lecture, I can just as easily listen and not take notes and recall it all. In that case I will hear the lecturers voice describing the thing I am trying to recall. Whereas if I read something I will see it written down as I recall it. Both senses seem to operate quite well. The sense of touch comes in a spatial way. If I walk myself through something I remember it. I rarely get lost for instance because once I have been there I can feel myself back into that place spatially.

Are you creative? Think outside the box?

Although people with Asperger’s think “outside of the box” and are generally considered intelligent, there is also, commonly, rigidity in thinking and lack of imagination. Do you consider yourself a creative person? What form does that take?


Q: There are different learning styles – visual, auditory, tactile – and a lot of research has been done on multiple intelligences – visual/spatial (“Think in Pictures”), verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal. Which of these categories do you have strengths or skills in? Has there been changes over time or experience? For example, has your career path required more interpersonal skills and you are more comfortable with that as a result?
Do you experience the physical world differently, through your senses, than people around you? Please tell how you experience sensitivities and whether they are positive experiences or not.

(The following answers are previous responses by individuals identified by gender and age)

F60:I am very sensitive to the sound of people’s voices ALL THE TIME. I can feel a new accent like a rhythm played out physically on the surface of my skin. Sometimes the sound is discordant… sometimes an accent feels like a massage on my skin.
Sounds such as boomboxes, or just too much input from outside noise in the summer can make me very jumpy. I use Bose earphones of very high quality sometimes to create white noise and help drown it out. However even this doesn't always work which is why I need to escape and be on my own at certain times to just discharge all the cacophony of sound for a while. Being in nature, birdsong etc also helps with this.
Certain rhythms of music such as rap drive me crazy too. In addition to the cross over between sound and touch, I also have trouble with bright lights sometimes, especially if I am tired. I cannot watch TV for more than a couple of hours without getting very tired, and I believe it is the intense input of sound and light that does it.
I also feel emotions of others. eg if someone is annoyed at me, even if they don't say anything, I feel their thoughts on my skin as if I were being punched up.
I'm very aware of how each color affects me . eg green is very healing for me, red very energizing, blue very calming. When I get dressed in the morning I tune into my mood and pick my colors to help deal with the mood. eg if I am feeling a bit drab I might wear red to boost my mood. Other days if I am feeling too up and think I might get agitated more easily I might wear a color like brown which is neutral and helps me to stay calm.

F62:Some smells are absolutely nauseating and I can never get used to them.
Smells I hate:Artificial candy smells, some perfumes, some beauty parlor smells
Sounds I hate:I hear high pitched sounds that other people don’t hear and when I was a child high pitched sounds were physically painful. Recently at my public library I noticed that the computer monitor the librarian was using was making a horrible whine. I asked her how she could stand this sound and she and the other people in the line looked at me as if I was hallucinating. I told her that the monitor would soon conk out and a few weeks later I saw that the monitor had been replaced.
Sights I hate:Very bright points of light on a sunny day can instantly give me a migraine and I wear photogray glasses to prevent this.
Touch:I’ve never been particularly enamored of people touching me, but as a child I could tolerate it. I didn’t enjoy it. When I was a child, sunlight was physically painful, the needles pricking me, and I could never convince my mom that sunbathing was horrible.

F35: I think I experience odors more intensely and I am somewhat touch sensitive. I am sometimes over-stimulated by fluorescent lights and crowded areas. It’s a mixed bag. I think it can be positive much of the time. I can use my senses to my advantage in creativity.
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