Autism Savant or Talented in One Area

by Eileen Parker on February 20, 2015

Don't interrupt my hyper-focus

Am I an autistic savant?  No, but I am hyper-focused in two areas, which has made me better in both arts.  I love website programming, and I love writing.  (I am working on a couple of books.)

My hyper focus relaxes me and makes me talented in one area and deficient in others.  But, that is not entirely true.  I am unusually deficient in math, but not from lack of focus.  I have tried in math college classes, but to no avail.  When I have math to deal with, such as in my business, I ask hubby who, is extremely good at math (He’s a programmer.).  Being proficient at math is not only the numbers; it is a way of thinking that affects all sorts of things such as logic and problem-solving.

So, I write.  I must admit, I don’t spend time editing this blog.  It just flows out, and I publish.

It’s divine to write without interruption.  I am in my element, I am happy, and I am relaxed.  It can go too far for the people around me though.  I can work from sun to sun and after, still immersed in what I am working on.  That hyper focus excludes other humans who are in the here and now, not characters in a book.

It was that way growing up.  I was into learning musical instruments, which I was not particularly good at.  I liked cross-pollinating sweet williams to make different color variations, which didn’t turn out.  I had all sorts of ideas.  Finally, I landed on writing.

Is it nature or nurture or both?  I say both.

I read.  I listened to short stories on CBC radio, so I was listening to the greats in Canadian literature long before I understood all the content that adults could.  I devoured the library.  I read the entire set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias Mum had bought for us.  I think I gravitated to reading, listening, and learning about writing long before I took up a pen.

So, I feed the nature and experience the joy of immersing in it.

Here is the story that prompted this article.

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Stupid People

 

I read this blog post title on Facebook, and I can certainly relate.

I remember talking about something and people would start talking, leave, interrupt, or ignore me by turning to talk to someone else.  Sometimes they would look at me oddly, then usually find some way to go, and my self-esteem would get kicked in the head again.

But I was so excited about a line from a poem I read, or when I was a teenager cross-pollinating sweet williams to create different colors, or talking about the moisture retention of moss, which makes it good for putting in diapers.  I am not joking, moss.

So I got angry.  I thought the world was full of asses with airhead topics with zero meaning and zero impact on anything worthwhile.  I wondered angrily what was wrong with the world that they didn’t talk about anything interesting.  In my mind, they were unintelligent and wasting what mind they had, if they had one.

The combination of my attitude and my lack of party skills let me to avoid people, which was easy since people weren’t running to embrace me as a friend.  If they had wanted me as a friend, I wouldn’t have figured that out.  My children used to tell me when a neighbor wanted to know me.

Isn’t that odd though–my children arranging play dates for their mother?

But, I changed.  All people were not stupid a-holes; most were very nice actually.  The not nice people, well, I had to learn the hard way.  I gradually started to learn social skills.

My big break came when I met hubby.  He is social, and I have never met a person who doesn’t like him because he’s such a good guy.  This meant that I was around other people.  He never forced me to socialize, but he gave me gentle prodding, and told me that people like me.  I found that hard to believe.

That leads us to self esteem.

I had to believe that some people do like me–eccentric and all.  I practiced whatever social skills I had learned, and had fodder for new skills to file away in my brain.  Hm, where is that stored in the brain?  Yes, I still wander off in my own mind when the input and super vigilance become too much.

Then I can go home and hide.

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Sensory Heavy Work

by Eileen Parker on January 8, 2015

LA Fitness

I joined a gym back in October, not to look like Arnold Schwartzenegger, but to relax.  I can get quite wound up so anxiety and confusion ensue, which at work can be a huge problem.  In the occupational therapy world of sensory processing, “heavy work” helps me feel grounded, relaxed, and orderly in the mind.

I found this article online by PsychMamma:

In therapist lingo, “heavy work” refers to proprioceptive input. The definition of proprioceptive is “the awareness of posture, movement, and changes in equilibrium and the knowledge of position, weight, and resistance of objects as they relate to the body.” Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder sometimes seek out proprioceptive input when they are looking for a way to calm and organize their nervous system. They may seem disruptive, full of excessive energy, or even unsafe. They might purposefully crash into things (or you), jump off of things, or seem in constant motion. Jenna seems to alternate between “sensory seeking” days and “sensory avoidant” days. When she’s sensory seeking, one of my first clues is that she purposefully bumps or crashes into me (or walls & furniture). I thought I’d share with you a list of suggested “heavy work” activities that our therapist provided to us, along with some of my own additions of what we’ve found that works.

When I am really stressed, I go to the gym and work the weights with the heaviest I can stand.  One of my favorites is the leg press, which mentally  feels the most gratifying and relaxing.

I received a newsletter from the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM–gotta love that acronym).  One of the paragraphs was an upcoming class for children with autism:

Learn the structure, visual strategies and protocol to implement an effective exercise program for individuals with autism and other learning differences. Discover exercises and routines that immediately can be implemented in your home, center or classroom. Be ready to move, and you will leave with tools to transform lives!

Here is a video from the presenter:

Okay, to give a nod to New Year’s exercise resolutions, you will likely lose weight, build muscle, and increase your endurance, because when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you look great.  There’s nothing like the glow of good health.

Like the Salt n Pepa sang, Push it.  Push it real good.

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Autistic Christmas and Other Holidays

by Eileen Parker on December 20, 2014

Autistic-Christmas

 

Note:  We do Christmas at our house, so I am focusing on what I know, not other holidays at this time of year.

Search the internet for five seconds and you will find plenty of posts about how difficult Christmas is for the autistic child and the parents.  People visiting, different food, Christmas songs on Pandora, parents (sigh, almost always the mother) super busy doing things the child is not used to and many more things that upset a child’s world.

But, I’m not a child.  I am an autistic adult with the same concerns.

Therein is the problem.  Understanding family members who are not usually frequent visitors will forgive the behavior of an autistic child.  When adults do similar behavior, albeit toned down over the years, people have less or zero empathy.  It goes like this:  Child has problems with Christmas, poor thing.  Adult has problem with Christmas, what’s your problem?  It’s good to keep in mind that generally people don’t want to be understanding with adults.

I have been found to be:

  • Stand-offish
  • Talk too much
  • Since I’m female, not helping with cooking and dishes (I should know that I’m supposed to do this with glee–female bonding and all that)
  • Wandering off somewhere
  • Not saying the right thing socially
  • When I was younger, being angry with others who snub me
  • Over-stimulated, so I retreat somewhere to the porch, or another alone place
  • Sick to my stomach that I HAD to go to someone’s house for Boxing Day, or worse, Christmas dinner at my house

The Good News

It gets better!  Seriously.

If I’m at Granny’s for Boxing Day dinner, and if I wander off, my family totally understands.  Not even understanding, they treat me that I’m just me, and no thought is given to any oddness, because that’s just me, and they like me that way.  With their unconditional understanding and love, I feel free to be a part of the conversation or just sitting that the table eating and listening to everyone else, that is totally okay with them.  I’m not a kid anymore, so I have learned how to feel to be part of the family.

That’s the thing.  I have learned.

I have been a part of a lot of Christmases by now, so I know what to expect from who will be there and what to talk about with them, to what food will be served.  It’s always the same special dishes, hence the term, “comfort food.”

My Advice

If you have an autistic child, make it EXACTLY the same every year.  The same food, the same decorations, the same people, the same time to open presents, the same time for Christmas breakfast, and so on.

The do nots are:

  • Don’t be helicopter parents telling them how to open presents.
  • Don’t rush them on opening presents.  I like to open them exactly the way I want on my time frame.
  • Don’t let siblings or you “touch their stuff.”  It’s a joy to revel in a new toy, so let them.  Do not use the term “let me see what you got,” because every autistic kids knows, it’s really “I’m going to touch your stuff when you don’t want me to.”
  • Don’t push them to talk to Uncle-So-and-So.  Let them watch, or even if they don’t want to watch, they can be focusing on the intricacies of one toy, and they hear everything.

Do:

  • Tell them what to expect in explicit terms, so they don’t feel blind-sided, which can be super “upsetting.”  For me, that means waning to flee if things happen that I didn’t know would happen.
  • Ask what are their favorite foods for Christmas.  They may not say anything, so telling them what to expect food-wise goes a long way.
  • My mum is a fan of tradition, so she made Christmas a known comfort, not a freak-out feeling.
  • Let the child participate in their own way.  Listening might be the only way.  Think of it as parallel play.

Merry Christmas!

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