The revelation that I am an aspergarian has been like finding myself at the theater of my life, seated comfortably in a mezzanine seat, viewing things straight forward and as I have been directing them to be viewed. Then, someone taps me on the shoulder and tells me to change seats, moving me closer to the stage and a bit to the side, where I get a different perspective on events. Suddenly I see that things that I once thought were formidable and stable, are but two dimensional stage sets. Oddly, the play makes more sense from this perspective.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Birds, Butterflies, Flowers and Other Stereotypes

Bambi taught me that it's OK to stereotype.

As a child, I tended to look at things individually, or in rather large groups. Lets take, for example, the simple pencil.

A Pencil  is something you use to write on paper. A pencil can draw lines, circles, squiggly marks.

Are all writing implements pencils? No.

A pencil is not a Pen. Pencils are made of wood. Pens are plastic.

A pencil isn't a Crayon. Crayons are made of wax and come in many colors.

Pencils have hard lead.

Pens have liquid ink, which was black or blue.

Pencils have a rubber tip which can erase what you draw. Pens and Crayons do not have this - they can not be erased.

I was very excited to go to school and looked forward to using Pencils, Pens, and Crayons. For school I got RED and BLUE wood writing implements (of course I never would have used the word implement at that time, for I was just a child) and I understood that these were also pencils. I liked them.

The first day of school, we were asked to line up and bring two pencils with us to another classroom. I picked up my red pencils, for they were my favorite.

Very quickly, the new teacher, inspecting the line, saw me with my red pencils in hand and pointed me out. I was wrong. I had the wrong pencils! I was sent back to my desk to retrieve the yellow pencils.  I learned that a pencil, is a yellow pencil, unless it's red, blue, green, or any other color and then it's a colored pencil. The yellow color was apparently the natural color of pencils.

I understood the problem poor Bambi had. She was told that things that fly were Birds, then she saw a Butterfly. They laughed when she called it a Bird. The Butterfly had colorful wings, and landed on a Flower, with colorful petals. The petals looked like the Butterfly. They laughed when she called the Flower a Butterfly.

This was a light introduction to the science of classification of names: Taxonomy.  However, in my mind, this science did not extend just to bugs, plants and animals, but to everything.  I would learn about the many different types of pens, pencils (beyond described above!), tables (coffee, breakfast, dining room, side, and even "occasional") chairs. 

The yellow pencil is just a sterotype.

This, I believe is the root of my fascination with language. 

They say that Aspies don't like the non-literal: metaphors, irony, and absurdities, but I sniff them out like a pig sniffs out truffles. I can never pass up a pun unacknowledged. Drop a homophone and I will want to make a punny.  These sounds tickle my ears and mind so I can barely help myself.  I find myself laughing alone to puzzled faces all the time.   You will find my humor tourettes on display at Borderline Comedy Disorder where I blogged before I was diagnosed AS.

Another thing that is said about Aspies is that we aren't naturally prejudiced.  I suppose this can be traced to the fact that . . . . well, at least for me - I can look at the differences in something as simple classification criteria, not value judgments.  I also can put groups together for purposes of classification without thought of value, but simply to separate them mentally.  People can be classified in so many ways!!  Yet, we get so hung up on a few of the most obvious visual classifications.  I don't think it's the worst sin in the world to mistake a Moth for a Butterfly or call a Flower a Bloom.

Rose by another name

The whole idea of a stereotype is to simplify. Instead of going through the problem of all this great diversity - that it's this or maybe that - you have just one large statement; it is this.
Chinua Achebe

Read more:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Learning To Love, And Be Loved, With Autism" part 1

The above title is in quotes for a reason.  I recently listened to a radio discussion on NPR's The Talk Of The Nation which featured John Elder Robinson's son and his girlfriend discussing their love life.  It went on to an open discussion (via phone and email participation) on the difficulties of having a relationship when you have Aspergers.

Learning to Love, and Be Loved With Autism

Unfortunately, I was not able to listen to the show as it aired on Jan 19th, and therefore could not participate, but here, now. Let me chime in.

                   Me too.


                   True Dat.


The sublteties of courtship are really lost on me.  I'm blind as a bat! Try as I might to decipher them, I mostly wait till the neon sign comes out saying "hey! I like you! wanna go out?"

I have little in common with Jack Robinson, who doesn't like kissing.  Let's just say I am a sensory whore.  A hand down my back can light me up like a Roman candle.  However, getting to that point with a guy is a whole other matter.

Aspergers has been referred to as a "social blindness"  and that is exactly how I feel about it.  The fact that I have been forced from an early age to socialize at parties and later made a study of human interaction (psychology, sociology, anthropology - all facinated me as I saw them as living and active sciences going on all about me).  However the clinical approach to high school doesn't exactly work.

It wasn't until college that I first read an actual "self-help" type book that I really got a hold of how to handle things.  The book that drew me in was the Holy Grail of "self-help" books for anyone, especially Aspies, was written long ago.  How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  I don't think I would have opened it up and read it, were it not for it's reputation - (I was swayed by the fact that it had been around so long - boasting over 15 million sold, ergo it wasn't some faddish thing like "I'm OK, You're OK").

Is it any wonder that HTWF&IP is so good for Aspies? The first section of the book focuses on helping the reader get people to like them.  The list is like a DSM list of things Aspies aren't good at.

Six Ways to Make People Like You
  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Once I cracked the self-help isle with HTWF&IP, I began looking up books on all sorts of things; body language, flirting, dating do's & don'ts, speaking in public, etc... 

I felt like I had cracked some sort of code.  Suddenly life was getting more fun.  I worked really really hard on remembering names, smiling, and especially eye contact.  I got pretty good at these social skills and more  -- but it was exhausting!  I look back at what I used to do in my mid-twenties and early thirties and . . . I just don't know how I did it.

Alas, getting dates is only part of the equation.  Dating, relationships, etc.. .   I've exhausted this article.  I will write more on dating at a later date.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A life in review

It's been about a year since I first started exploring the idea of my Aspergarianism (uhm, is that even a word??) and in doing so, I have been looking back on my life.

Now, looking back on my life is nothing new.  I've spent a lot of time doing just that.  Really thought I had the territory covered.  Lifepath mapped out, mistakes ruminated over, victories cherished, wounds, scars and even a few badges of honor well curated and often documented.  Although, things didn't always seem to add up, and I would wonder why I kept smaking up into the walls that I hit.

In early 2011, I started to explore the possibilty that there was something I missed - and as the peices fell together, the year became a year of "Ohhhhh, now I see!!"

I of course did the normal web research that you do - Wikipedia, WebMD, Psychology Today . . .  looked up as many scientific articles as I could - NIH, American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV listing (even went to the library to read it).  Of course there are a myriad of bloggs and message boards on it and Autisim.  An online "Aspergers Test" taken early on put me in the Asperger camp, but not by the widest margin.  Looking at the questions later, I see that I was in a bit of denial when I answered some questions.

Most everything I read was about children for parents and educators.  Finally I came across Look Me In The Eye, by John Elder Robinson.  A true account of a man who was diagnosed with Aspergers late in life.  He wasn't just any man either - a genius who invented a number of things despite a very difficult background.   The title in particular caught my attention.  My brother had recently reamed me out, listing a number of my faults, one of which was that I did not look waitresses in the eye.   This startled me.  For a long time I had made it a point to try to make eye contact (or fake it) with people - particularly when I was "on" - meaning I was trying to impress someone.  Now, here was my brother, telling me that I was supposed to impress a waitress?  I just wanted my meal.  I did not want a personal relationship with her (or him, as the case might be).  Arrrrrghhhhh!

I felt gutted.

I realized there was a reason why I liked drive through windows.   Lack of contact.

Continuing my research, I read Tony Attwoods seminal book on Asperger Syndrome, watched the HBO film Temple Grandin and accompanying DVD documentaries.  And, of course, discussed all this with my therapist and friends and family.

So, this is how the year went.  One minor insight after another.  Small portions of me laid out in text and self-help books.  The whole 'autistic' thing stings the most. But I suppose that's why they symbolize it with puzzle pieces.  It's a constellation of traits.  Sometimes I get where I think everybody with an aspie trait or two is therefore part of the tribe.  Like that kid in The Sixth Sense . . . "I see aspies!!!"   

It's the desire to belong.   But I gotta feel OK, where I am. 

Writing a little of this every once in a while may help that.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grrrrrrrrr-ate begining

OK.  This is tough.   I am not used to talking about myself.

No, I am much more comfortable speaking on a subject and then maybe how it pertains to me, or my interest, etc. 

There's nothing like the "So, tell me a little about yourself" question to make my mind go blank.  If I'm lucky and prepared for it, I have a canned answer.  I never did perfect that "elevator speech" that everyone is supposed to have ready for when they meet someone important.  Each situation seems to call upon it's own needs.

When caught off guard, I am like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects.  I hunt around looking for a hook, something to interest the listener. Ergo I am very apt to go off on tangents.  Kevin Spacy's character was named "Verbal" because he talked so much, mostly about inconsequential details. Like Verbal, there are times when it's like my brain springs a leak and I dump whatever is on my mind out my mouth. 

As I've aged, I've gotten better at controlling this, because the consequences of this diarrhea of the mouth has taught me it's best to shut up.  But this is a function of nerves and being face-to-face with people without a script. 

Now, here I am - blank screen.  Writers block. 

Trite, isn't it?

So, what you have been reading here is basically the brain-dump of 'Verbal' Roz.

Nothing like forced public introspection to at once shut me up and make be babble nonsense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


That word above is simply the sound of me clearing my throat.  “Figuratively speaking”

This is to be a blog about me and my reflections on life with Aspergers. As with any of my blogs, I make no promises as to how often I will post – I only promise to apply a certain level of written English grammar and usage.

Having been raised 10 years in a Lutheran school, this feels completely narcissistic. So to delineate: I will be covering my childhood and youth, observations on my family history, my experiences combating my Aspergarian tendencies, including my struggle with depression and the great success I had with “self-help.” It is this very self-help that I am sure causes many to be surprised at this diagnosis – but let me assure you that if you read and follow How to Win Friends And Influence People, it does actually work. I think ol' Dale wrote it for us Aspies before we had a name.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for more.