Thursday, November 29, 2012

Explaining things to NTs?

Over the past several months, I've gotten extremely good at identifying my own limits (see my convention post below). It's truly wonderful to be self-aware and understand what I can and can't handle. There's just one problem with this that I'm really struggling with.

No matter how many times I try to explain this to my NT friends, they seem to forget about it.

I'm not sure how to emphasize this in a way that won't hurt their feelings, because they're extremely dear to me, but there are places that I can't go - busy malls, loud concerts, anywhere that involves being physically close to too many people that isn't a sporting event - and yet they continually invite me to go to these places no matter how many times I tell them that it's hard for me. I even had a panic attack at New York Comic Con this year and that still didn't drive the point home somehow.

How do I approach this issue without being hurtful? I want to just sit them down and yell at them sometimes because I get so frustrated that I'm not getting through to them, but I know that that's not the right way to handle this since we're all adults here and, as I've said, I don't want to make anyone upset. I just need to know what to say to make it sink in. I'm very plain and blatant about it usually - "my Asperger's makes this very hard for me" - but somehow, it just seems to be forgotten.

I know my friends aren't selfish and aren't trying to make things hard on me, but I don't want them to feel selfish after I try to explain this yet again to them, either. I'm just not sure how to go about this without making anyone upset.

Anyone have any advice? I'm genuinely stuck here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Questions and Answers: Different "Forms" of Asperger's?

Someone on Tumblr recently asked me a great question about Asperger's and how it works - namely if there are different forms of it depending on how it affects individuals. I wrote a response that I think was way too long for Tumblr, but I'm posting it here for you because it works well enough as a blog post on how a spectrum disorder works.

I have Asperger's myself, but it's what's called high-functioning Asperger's, which means I mostly "blend in" with normal society. That being said, however, I lack understanding of social rituals and have to study and learn them in an almost academic way in order to interact with people well. Asperger's and autism are on a spectrum, so the different "forms" are more or less defined by how high or low you are on the spectrum.

People who are lower-functioning (lower Asperger's, high-functioning autism) will probably have more trouble adjusting to the world as adults, whilst people even lower who have serious autism probably will need caretakers throughout their lives because of sensory issues.

All autism and Asperger's people do have some commonalities within the diagnosis, though - we tend to have sensory issues and can get overloaded, for one. My personal sensory issues tend to involve noise and touch (I hate physical contact except for tight hugs). We also tend to have social skills issues - some kids on the spectrum can't even tell when their peers are making fun of them. (Which happens often - I was bullied growing up myself and I know I'm not alone in that regard). Facial expressions are hard for many of us to read - I only learned to recognize them by reading manga as a kid. On the flip side, we compensate by developing extremely intense interests and learning literally everything there is to know about them, which is probably why I'm starting graduate school in January to become an archivist and not doing a job that involves talking to a lot of people.

Routine is also very important to many autistics/Aspies because it makes the world feel safer and more under control - going out of a routine can be very stressful. It's why we're often such picky eaters - new things can be scary!

In short, since I seem to have accidentally written a small essay here (sorry I'm so pedantic!), the level to which a person on the autism spectrum needs routine and has issues with reading facial expressions and gauging emotions depends on how high or low they are on the spectrum itself.
On that note, I can't think of a word that better describes us info-dumping Aspergians than 'pedantic.' I learned that word from watching too much Top Gear (my favorite show, by the way) because Jezza and Hamster are always calling James May 'pedantic' and I realized that I tend to do that lecturing thing he does, too. I've proudly adopted James May's lecturing style at my job as a tour guide at a historic church in the Hudson Valley in New York State