Updates!

This is just a short post to update you on some things going on.

Senior year is underway and the main autism related thing I have is actually an app being developed for my degree’s Capstone, one that my groupmates Mitchell Williams, Kari Sellers and Brooke Kraus have called AUTonomISM, an app that will help kids on the spectrum get through school with more ease, helping them with social rules and with being able to manage transitions between activities and such. Currently it’s only in the planning and technology training phase but support on this would be greatly appreciated!

 

The other thing is that I  have gone overseas again, this time to attend Runefest 2016, the convention held for people who enjoy Runescape at the Battersea Evolution convention center in London last month. I want to write a nice big reflection post on it but I didn’t even finish the series from my Europe trip last year, lol, so i guess I can combine those two into one. It also has a lot of relevant Aspie insights…

God bless you, people!

Meltdowns and Asperger’s

Whew. If there’s anything that’s pertinent to those that are Aspies it’s the dreaded meltdown, since there have been a lot of them throughout the recent transition from internship to moving to being in the summer. While this is by no means exhaustive, it deals with some of the more relevant points.

In my experience meltdowns are never usually caused directly by the thing that seems to set me off, but rather that summoned some other train of thought to the surface. Usually it’s a scenario of “the straw broke the camel’s back” of something that had been bothering me for a while that was dragged to the forefront of my mind by say, forgetting something or failing to do something, or something I read online or listened to, however accurate or true (or not).  And usually it’s not just that daily frustrations are aggravating (which is true) but there’s usually some kind of an existential or spiritual aspect about it.

However, in more recent times, my mother has mentioned that meltdowns have changed from crying fits to being more catatonic, that is, just shutting down and not saying anything at all, or just curling up into a ball until it goes away; usually this kind of meltdown happens when one is too afraid to speak or feel as if they can’t convey what it is they want to say without fear of some negative consequence, or else that I don’t even know how to communicate what it is I’m feeling on the spot, in that immediate context. Apparently some of the facial expressions of sheer horror I have made during meltdowns have been good enough to land me in some horror movie and get an academy award for acting.

Part of it is feeling like no one will listen unless I have a dramatic expression of what I’m feeling, which I’ve been told is selfish and indulgent, and it certainly can be. This is also, incidentally, my theory on why behaviors like self-harm or dark thoughts seem to be more common to people on the higher end of the spectrum, which I’ve found from casual research on the Internet, and more sadly, from personal experience. They work, at least for the immediate moment of about three seconds or so. When I get sad, or even just stiff as a board, people listen to me and then help. But it can easily be taken to the extreme of  emotional manipulation if one looks so much at themselves and sees others (however unconsciously) as a way to relieve that pain rather than you know, as people. It’s a way to short-circuit having to actually communicate or approach someone about things going on.

Another aspect to it is an easy way of escape (and a rather unproductive one at that). It works as an exit to the scenario one wants to get out of, even if that means getting to a stern talking to later. At least it’s not being in the place that I was before. That means that effectively ignoring the meltdown, in some ways, and the plea for attention it constitutes might be more productive than addressing it, unless melting down means being put in a more uncomfortable scenario than the one the person wanted to escape (which is usually what ends up happening anyway).

There’s also an emotional drain on those involved as well; my mom mentioned that being in that state can lock in others as well, feeling guilty going on doing other things while I seem to be stuck off in a “dark, dark place”, to quote my grandmother. Not to mention the aforementioned emotional manipulation. The parent of a melting down child feel like they can’t move on until this problem is resolved; what if their kid does something even worse while they’re away? There’s a level of worry as well that saps away at everyone and everything else.

However, there’s a distinction between melting down and becoming emotional. Meltdowns hurt other people and cause them otherwise unnecessary grief, and are denying a trust in God to take care of what I think I could gain from making a big fuss about what I want to do. Emotions, however contained, are just a normal part of everyday life. While this isn’t a license to just do whatever emotionally, keeping feelings bottled up can be dangerous. If I’m crying while I’m in prayer time, that (usually) doesn’t constitute a meltdown unless I’m instead directing the same meltdowny tendencies (yes, that is the technical term for it, in case you’re wondering 🙂 ) and childish behavior towards the Almighty, which when one actually considers it is much worse. But to pour out one’s heart to God, however aching, can often be an incredibly precious thing, and turn what I was crying about or frozen about moments before can then lead to wonder and to worship, which is ultimately a deepening of the relationship.

Having said all of that, finding some other means to express the need for an escape or whatever reason is much more productive on a practical level than melting down. Spending a good amount of time on one’s knees as a way to diffuse the feeling, perhaps taking a few deep breaths or else finding some method to communicate to the people around you that there’s the onset of a meltdown and that you need to get away is a preferable alternative to yelling and kicking and screaming, or just shutting down, or else acting out in a way that dishonors God and puts an unnecessary burden on others. Perhaps it’s moving onto a different track of thought or moving to another location for a little while. Perhaps it’s directing the energy that would be destructive into something more productive. And above all, even if the “on one’s knees posture” isn’t available, to pray. Did I mention praying? I hope I did.

The bottom line of all of it is that behavior does not exist without a reason behind it; people are not merely determined by the brain chemistry they happen to possess. And for those in Christ, they don’t have to persist in a cycle of behavior that’s destructive to themselves and others. They’re free.

Some Relevant Scripture (I got this idea from AspergersplusChristian.blogspot.com ) 

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, KJV [because it’s public domain!])

Soli Deo Gloria

 

Something awful…

Warning, this post may be a bit disturbing compared to some of my others, but it’s something serious that needs to be talked about.

So I was listening to a news program, The Briefing by Albert Mohler, where it described a dutch patient with autism was after some time, euthanized. This has opened up a new chest of horror to me.

http://www.albertmohler.com/category/the-briefing/

http://nypost.com/2016/02/27/europes-cure-for-autism-is-euthanasia/

This…this is just wrong. Immoral. Sickening. I know there has been a lot of wrong done by people here in the US about autism with socially ostracizing them, but it doesn’t get anywhere near this.

I don’t know what to do about this, but I know what I can do: pray. And maybe start some kind of survey online so that this doesn’t happen ever again.

Lord help us.

An Interesting Podcast

So I found this podcast this morning from one of the apologetics ministries I follow, Stand to Reason, where they interview someone named Hugh Ross, who is apparently on the autism spectrum! Well, if anything was to give me some hope this morning, this was it. Hearing about how being autistic influenced his life and his later ministry, Reasons to Believe. It was both inspirational and challenging!

Take a listen!

http://www.str.org/podcasts/weekly-audio/dr-hugh-ross-%E2%80%93-living-on-the-autism-spectrum-and-navigating-genesis-february-5-2016#.VriIR1grKhc

Interning from 9 to 5

…well, technically interning from 8:30 to 4:45 but close enough.

So far this internship and owning my first apartment (and partially paying rent on it) and getting more of my own groceries has been an adventure with plenty of joys and plenty of struggles, all borne through by the grace of God. A shift to an entirely new atmosphere for ten weeks means getting out of the school environment for a little while, which has both its pros and its cons. Speaking of which…

Pros:

  • More life skills. I’m learning more about budgeting out money and how to adjust to work life. Learning how to iron clothes, regularly doing dishes in a REAL dishwasher , and vacuuming and mopping the apartment.
  • A more gradual transition to independence. As transitions in life are harder than most for people on the Spectrum, slowly working one’s way up to independent living is certainly a blessing. The person who hired me apparently has experience with people on the spectrum, and so that has been a blessing, one I’m not nearly thankful enough for, given how often they aren’t employed.
  • More workplace experience. The Senate in some ways feels like a home-away-from-home (as Heaven in the presence of God is my true home), though personal grooming and how I dress has become more of an issue. Thankfully my parents blessed me with enough of a work wardrobe to navigate it well so far. Thankfully a lot of the stuff, even the abnormal stuff, can be forecast in advance, such as when session runs long.
  • An environment to make some mistakes. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in the internship so far; accidentally printing out 100 pages when I only meant to print one, bumping into senators in the chamber, accidentally calling them by the wrong names (and feeling embarrased for about an hour), etc…One way I’ve found to help me deal with them is to see them as a positive reminder to be humble, like Christ was, and to not always trust in myself. And speaking of which…
  • Learning more of my need for God. No thing is an accident; whether I had stayed in Bloomington or done something entirely, God is sovereign; and I feel like with the chaos at times of passing new legislation, all of this is just a reminder that I need to constantly depend on Him for strength through prayer. There have been many nights at the apartment that have been particularly lonely, especially when I just didn’t feel the drive to go out and socialize. And to be reminded that any success I get on the job or in anything is all because of Him, because of His grace through Jesus Christ. (That also includes this blog, heh.)

Challenges: 

  • Starting over again. A general trait of the spectrum is liking familiarity, and naturally this upends that for at least a little while. I miss home and I miss my friends in Bloomington a lot, and I’ve been calling them quite frequently. It’s also difficult because due to driving and being in downtown Indianapolis means I can’t get as easily to things as I would like.
  • The stress of making big life decisions. Adulthood means that I won’t always have someone to hold my hand in scheduling and managing everyday life; which I’m learning I need a lot of grace to be able to do. Let’s just say I’ve found many reasons to second-guess taking this internship.
  • Prioritizing. It can be easy to look to the distant future and miss the stuff that’s right in front of me. Encourage this person, do stuff around the apartment, etc, and managing tasks on the job is also its own challenge, making sure work gets done on time.
  • Time management.  This follows from the first, but being able to plan on and decide what to do when is related to a skill called executive functioning, and people on the spectrum are often at a defecit for it. As such, getting everything done and on time is am

Some tips and advice:

  • Don’t do it alone. For those who are Christ followers, regular prayer is a necessity. But for both, support from family and friends and the people around you helps to get through everything. Examine things like the location, any potential spots you could regularly go to, a place of worship if you’re so inclined, etc…
  • Give breathing room. You may need a bit more time than most to unwind and process everything, more than you yourself realize at times; as people on the spectrum usually need to process through all the noise.
  • Have some touchstone of familiarity. A kind of music you like, a current or past obsession, even regular checkups with a friend can help ease the transition, and being invested in something can help ease the difficulty.
  • Realize you’ll fail at times. You may have a paper you completely forgot about and have to do at the last minute, and that may upset your routine. You may accidentally get too much food or go out of your budget a few times. There is grace, indeed, rivers of it. This is something it’s hard for me to wrap my head around personally, whether in the spiritual or professional realm.
  • Treasure it. There is something special in every day of life, and it will help to remember all those moments. Be thankful, to God if you’re so inclined, for everything. Journal about it, perhaps keep a diary. Seeing each day as its own adventure can bring life into something that would otherwise be repetitive and drab.

    Thank you for reading another post here, and God bless you!

 

2016: Late to the Party

I have a bad habit of forgetting the projects I start, don’t I…

In any case, 2015 finished fairly well. I got to write a paper on the ethics of using technology to help those on the autism spectrum to communicate, and even got called back by one of my college teachers to speak more with my experience of disability and how my faith in God/Jesus has got me.

Anyhow, it’s a new year, with a new start. I have an internship with the Indiana Senate Republicans, and I’ve been learning a lot with that. I know I have the European Tour series to finish up, but I would also like to do a little bit more with Aspies in the Workplace, and more specifically in a professional environment and some tips I’ve learned. I hope to be posting on a more weekly basis, but as of now I’ve been living in an apartment for the first time.

God bless you, dear readers!

Moving Out

I can (and my mother can) attest to a similar experience of moving out to college!

Max's shop of horrors

Let’s face it, leaving home can feel like you’re Frodo leaving the Shire on a quest to Mordor.

It’s normal for change to seem frightening, particularly for those of us on the autism spectrum. I was petrified when I moved to the city to go to University, 5 hour’s drive from Hobbiton the small rural town I grew up in. But here’s the thing; when it actually happened, it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I expected. I’d built it up so much in my head that I’d made it seem worse than it really was. (I find this is true of most fears actually; they’re like that little dog that snarls like a territorial lawnmower when it’s behind a fence, but turns into a wimp when there’s no such barrier)

One of the most helpful tools for easing the transition is a strong support network. If you’re moving out but still living relatively close…

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