Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Judging Others By Details

Dear Readers,

Recently, a famous autism advocate has been undergoing a legal proceeding involving accusations of downloading child pornography. Maybe he did it and maybe he did not- but neither issue is the point of this post. This is about remembering the good and the bad in all people, and not judging the whole by a few of its parts- and forgetting the things that were spectacularly good about someone, after that person does something that is spectacularly bad. We do tend to be black - and- white- at least, I have been guilty of this- but to be fair, there is a lot of gray in here about when we should act as if someone is to be completely banned from living memory as a doer of good things, over the bad things that this person has done.

In keeping with the way I think, I will begin with examples. William Bradford Shockley Jr. co-invented the transistor and had many other patents. He shared the Nobel Prise in Physics with the other two co-inventors of the transistor. On the other hand, near the end of his life, he was a racist, and advocated eugenics based on race- and used the full weight of his scientific credentials and position to promote his beliefs. He called his position science, and attempted great harm to the human race based on these beliefs. I think that this is evil, just as I think that child pornography is evil- I am not even going to try to speculate which is worse, since both cause me to recoil intensely. I still appreciate Shockley's invention of the transistor. Silicon Valley was founded after its invention, and arguably because of it. If you google "racist Shockley", you will find a number of articles about him.

There were any number of Nazi scientists who did excellent work in their fields, but did not have clean hands in regard to the regime. There were also scientists who lived in Germany and did groundbreaking work during this time, but who did not compromise. We have already made a grievous error in waiting till the late 1980's to translate Asperger's work from German into English, so that we could understand it better in the USA. This happened because he lived and worked in Nazi Germany, and we just assumed that his work would be unethical because there were other "scientists" (Mengele, for example) who were quite unethical and worked for the regime, as opposed to working for science. In this case, Asperger did not do anything wrong, but just happened to live in the wrong country in the wrong time period. If not for Lorna Wing and a few other people, his work might still be available only in German, and the contents of it largely unknown in the USA. In addition, there are people who did do some wrong- and it is not to be argued that the wrong is right- but were still excellent scientists.

I think that many of my readership would agree that Abraham Lincoln was an excellent president. I certainly would! Nevertheless, during the Civil War, he suspended writs of habeas corpus, which left any number of people in jail with out having been tried- sometimes for years. By today's standards, that would be criticised- Lincoln would have to argue convincingly as to why he did it- even though it was done in wartime. I would hope that nobody would look at that act and forget the good he did in other areas- in particular, the Emancipation Proclamation, and saving the Union.

Now, in addressing the reason for this post, I think that we need to remember three things about people accused of crimes or of unethical behavior.

(1) Behavior is just that- behavior. The person is still a person.

(2) The good that the person has done is still good, even if the bad is still bad. I am not suggesting that they be weighed against each other at all. I am not arguing for leniency. I am only saying that we should permit ourselves to remember the good, and keep the details separate.

(3) People accused of a crime in the USA are supposed to be considered innocent till proven guilty. Even with media coverage, I am willing to consider that more may come out at trial that may change my opinion. There may not be. I know that I only know what I have read- I was not there.

Thank you for reading this. I know it may have been hard. I appreciate you!

Respectfully submitted,


Friday, October 1, 2010


Dear Readers,

I have noticed for awhile that there are people who post "comments" on my blog with pictures that suggest that the whole point is to advertise unsavory materials, and to spam this blog. None are in English, and I cannot read the foreign characters.

I would like to delete those comments, and ban those users, because they are only spamming. Do any of you know the instructions to do this, or can I report spam and ask for help from Blogspot.com?

Thank you so much for any help. : ~ )

Cross- Talk and Cross- Disability Sharing

Dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I joined my first support group, online, for people with only one ear that works well (I have one perfect ear and one that has been measured as so bad that one would have to exceed the pain threshold to have me hear through it). I discovered on that list that none of us can fix the direction of sound when we are not looking right at the speaker, and all of us have difficulty with conversations when there is cross-talk. Physics says that it will be this way, if there is no effective work-around. This is a verbal analog of the difficulty with depth perception that people experience if they have only one eye that sees. Other members of the list I joined have expressed feeling [stupid] when they are unable to follow conversations that people with two good ears follow easily.

Any number of people on the autism spectrum have difficulty in following a conversation with cross-talk in it as well, but for other reasons, related to auditory processing, or related to having the ability to concentrate when experiencing sensory overload, or other reasons. These need not have anything to do with hearing itself. In my case, when there is a change in subject that I am not expecting, I intermittently miss the initial syllable of the first word in a sentence, or think I do. If I lack the context of what is being discussed, then I have to ask to hear at least some of it again. I can be paying attention and still have this happen- but I can go for quite awhile during the day and not encounter the problem.

Recently, I was in Church when we were trying out a new kind of Sunday School exercise. In the sanctuary, we were placed in a number of circles, and held discussions about a list of Bible verses related to the sermon. I could not understand when there was cross-talk, and could not even hear someone say hello to me as I entered. When it gets too loud for me to distinguish one voice from another easily, I have tended to just act as if nobody will care, and ignore everyone- but that day, I was suddenly able to hear two ladies I know well talking about me, and realized that one had tried to greet me and I had not responded. So, I explained. The study had not really started yet, so we were able to hear each other with an effort. Then, the study began. Within our circle, we took turns, so I could hear all right so long as the background noise of the other little groups did not get too loud. Suddenly, someone in another group got really excited at a point that was being made in his group and began to talk much more loudly. Of course, I could not hear a thing well enough to distinguish it, that was being said in my group. But then, the most wonderful thing happened: these two dear ladies both spoke up and told him to quiet down -- actually, they said "stop yelling!" I felt so good! A few days later, I mentioned it to another sister, and she said that as people get older, more and more people have issues with their ears, so they understand about not being able to hear and understand when there is cross-talk. Both these wonderful people are about ten years older than I am, and very caring. I love the idea that as I age, it will get easier, and even if the reasons are different for certain things, others will understand enough to reach out to me effectively.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"House Rules" by Jodi Picoult

I really enjoyed this book. It highlights much that can go wrong with the legal system when the defendant is on the spectrum. I found Jacob to have many more traits than I have, and more than most of the people I know who are on the spectrum, but the story line rings true. The characters seem quite real.

I know one of the people who advised the author in writing it: Stephanie Loo, of Asperger Association of New England (AANE).

Have any of you read this book? I had trouble putting it down.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Unsafe Perseverations

I have learned that there are perseverations that are not safe for the person who has them, and have had one of them in my lifetime, which I finally got rid of partly by realizing where it came from- a memory of a time when I had sensory issues which were really bad, and a desire to somehow go back and overcome those early difficulties. It was abusive to myself to persue this idea of overcoming those early difficulties with the perseveration I had developed, so I reasoned that I needed to find another way. It has been quite awhile now, and it is really gone.

I think that logic and understanding might help some of us in making these kinds of decisions about our own lives, but we need to understand it first so that the decision makes sense. Here are a few examples:

(1) Perseverations that come from being hurt. These could be anything from fascination with certain kinds of weaponry to fascinations with harming ourselves in the same way, or with getting even. None of this is good- look at the origins of it- and the way to help is to forgive the person or people who hurt us. To forgive, it helps me to understand the intent of the person or people who hurt me, and to be able to put it in context. This helps me see the actual error that the other person or persons made, so that I know what I am forgiving. This can often be the most difficult part for me. Then, I can move onto the second aspect of forgiving for myself: finding the courage to "not take into account a wrong suffered"- see 1 Corinthians 13- even though it is just one verse, the whole chapter gives the context for it. This has been hard for me, but I cannot use unforgiveness for my own lack of discernment. Instead, I have learned to study ways to discern better without using these kinds of data, and I have found that it works quite a bit better! Finally, for me there is no sense of revenge, but for many people, there is: forgiving requires the need to let go the sense of entitlement that some people feel when they are wronged, that they need to get even with the person who wronged them. Since none of us are perfect, and since none of us are all that perfect at even judging how imperfect we are, this is not something that makes sense to me at any level, but if it is a feeling someone has, then it needs to be accepted as a feeling and the decision to let it go has to be made. (See Romans 3, and in particular, Romans 3:23, for a reference to it- but in general, feeling like that is a terrible feeling to carry around inside, I think.) It is written that to hate your brother is to murder him in your heart. There was a recent incident in the news that happened not far from where I live, where a child was fullied, and held bitterness in his heart over it, so that he ultimately developed a perseveration with knives and used a knife to kill an innocent classmate whom he did not even know. Bitterness can harm a typical person the same as it can harm a person on the spectrum, and there are many examples of typical people being harmed by bitterness and going on to kill someone from that bitterness. It is better to forgive- and really forgive-- not just push the feelings away. I believe it is a strength I have as a spectrumite that I do not block things out very easily, so the decision to forgive is one I can make, because I do not automatically push the feelings aside- but before I got there, I had to pray for help with this. For me, the place where I knew I had to rely on the Lord the most was in seeking wisdom for what errors were made- what do I need to forgive? (James 1:5).

(2) Perseverations that are potentially unhealthy (physically). There are people who have perseverations with drinking a lot of water, so that it causes their blood pressure to drop to unsafe levels, for example. People have died from this. There are other kinds of things that need to be done in moderation as well. I do not really have any perseveration in this category, but believe that if I did, I would learn what the parameters are [high and low amounts] so that I did not exceed them, and decide that I had to stay within these guidelines. I would remind myself of the consequences of exceeding them. Then, I could still do whatever it is, so long as I did not do too much of it in too short a timespan.

(3) Perseverations that are illegal. Again, I have never had one, so will only give a few ideas. I believe that learning more theory of mind could help, at least some of the time. Here are a few examples of this: If someone has the desire to be a peeping tom, then perhaps it could be carefully explained to him how that makes a person feel, and perhaps careful analogies could be drawn to his own life, where he does not like being peeped at in certain contexts. Maybe, there are certain stims that he only does privately, and would not want anyone to observe. Maybe, he does not want others to look into his eyes as that might make him feel anxious- so he could understand that this is a similar feeling to how a woman might feel to have a peeping tom look at her. (There are many variations on this.) If a person wants to take things that are not his, then that same person might lose something, and then be able to relate to the feeling he had when he lost it, and know that this is the same feeling that others have when their things are not where they expect them to be. In some instances, this may be a difficult thing to communicate, but for me, it really helps me to understand more about how to apply the law more carefully. It was not something I understood instantly as a typical person might, but I could learn this kind of thing. Another way to handle some of this would be to have careful discussions about what the rules are and what is acceptable and what is not, so that the person knows what the rules are. Please see the last section for something else that might make a difference.

(4) Any perseveration you have that you want to change. I have had only one. Sometimes, it fulfulls a function- it meets a need of some kind. If you can find something else to do that meets that same need, then you can (think about) switching the thing you want to quit to the other thing that meets the same need. A weaker example of this is my love of chocolate. I can eat some, but cannot eat it as much as I like, so I am finding other things that I like that taste good to me.

(5) I have often found my perseverations to be helpful, and would suggest to anyone who has one she does not want, that she should develop at least one more that is a keeper. After all, I have rarely been able to indulge two of them at the same time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/ article/2010/ 03/03/AR20100303 03286.html
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/health/04restraint.html
AP: http://www.google. com/hostednews/ ap/article/ ALeqM5ieMm1HL- n7kt8tm- 2vEIC5-wK9AD9E7D F9G1

I tried to get all the spaces out of these articles, but if I did not do it, please look over these links carefully to see if there are extra spaces in them.

I believe that we need to hire additional aides and teachers, keep class sizes much smaller than some are (so that we can place every child in the least restrictive environment), and then raise our standards for education. We have lower standards in school, because we do not want anyone to feel frustrated, and consequently misbehave. So, we try not to have too much material in class on a given day, and this works for most students. Of course, other countries have better programs. We bemoan the fact that we do not have good programs that teach as much as these other countries, but we forget that in those countries, they are not dummying down the curriculum so that nobody gets frustrated, because they are not dealing with the discipline issues that we are.

OK, so what else can we do? If we lower class size, and have aides and parent volunteers where needed, when someone does not understand, we will be able to take the time to explain it. Then, our students will feel more reassured that they can learn harder subjects.

When we have students who have disabilities, if we actually have the staffing that is mandated by current laws, then those students will have staff to help explain things to them where needed- and in addition, it will help bring down walls, because typical classmates will have more contact with atypical classmates than they currently do.

I believe that restraint has been applied in some truly awful cases because of money issues. I feel awful for all of the children who had to go through it. I feel that using restraint as a punishment is simply not good teaching.

I am very glad that there was bi-partisan support for a bill today that passed the House, in relation to limiting the application of restraint and seclusion in schools, because to me, this is about being a person and caring for other people, and being willing to try to see the world through the eyes of each child. All children are people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thinking Nonverbally

I think in pictures, and promised Susan, an NT friend, that I would try to explain to her how I do it in a way that she could relate to, even though she does not do this. I had to think for weeks, and then, as I was driving down a road with a fence next to it and imagined how a person could get to the other side of the fence- nonverbally, of course, I realized how I could generate images like what I was thinking/ seeing in my mind's eye. I finally explained it to my friend as I envisioned it that evening-- it is as if I had drawn my thoughts out on a tiny tablet of paper- the kind of instant animation one can put ones thumb against and flip, to make the pictures come up rapidly one after the other, so that a visual image appears, like a silent movie, of a tiny situation. When I was a kid, one could find things like this as prizes in Crackerjack boxes.

Later, it occurred to me that there is plenty of nonverbal thinking I do that is not visual either- and I have no idea how to explain any of this to an NT. Some is strings of rotations and directions and numbers- the way I remember directions physically most easily, for example- and other parts are full of brilliant colors doing things- the colors are my code for words and ideas and other things that would take much longer to think about in words than they do in color- and other parts are logical sequences and chains of ideas and logical inference.

Just a week ago, I was in a conversation about feelings and realized that in dealing with mild anger, I have a shade of orange-brown that denotes that feeling- and do all manner of constructive things in dealing with it- but had not really ever verbalized it- and did not even connect those actions to dealling with feelings till I was in that conversation.

I am sure that there are other ways I think without words, and have yet to realize it. Things like this are so natural for me that I don't stop to examine them sometimes.