Marquis de Saydrah

Because I’ve moved from thinking, “I’ve GOT to blog that!” to doing it.

Is There an “Autism Threshold?” July 15, 2008

Shiva mentioned recently that zhe thought from my photos on my blog that I was a person on the Autism spectrum until reading a post in which I identified myself as neurotypical. This got me thinking (and taking up space in Shiva’s comments section– sorry!) about the behaviors and opinions of mine which are similar to those of people on the Autism spectrum, as well as the question of “diagnosing” Autism/Asperger’s/ASD in general: Specifically, where’s the point at which the benefits of a diagnosis, such as accomodations in school or benefits from insurance companies, are sufficient to justify gathering a set of behaviors together and calling them Autism/Aspergers/ASD? Is there an Autism threshold? Where does the spectrum change from the Autism spectrum to the NT spectrum, one end of which potentially adjoins the Autism spectrum?

 

Certainly, some people are easily identifiable even by neurotypical people as Autistic. Others are “passing” as neurotypical but are often recognized by others on the spectrum. Then, there are people who just seem to surprise others with their behavior, but who most NT people pass over as “weird,” rather than the lightbulb going on that says, “autistic.”

 

As Amanda Baggs said *link is to Google cache because her site is down temporarily,* “We’re (Autistic people are) the person who everyone calls “retarded” who suddenly comes out with things that seem very intelligent, and the person everyone calls a “genius” who can’t do some really simple stuff.”

 

But then you have the NT people who do Autistic-like things, but who are never given an autism-spectrum label. For example, stimming. I’ve heard in various places that 10%, 25%, half, or nearly all NTs stim to some degree, but that NT stims just happen to be more socially acceptable. I found an NT blogger with an Aspie partner who puts it well: “NT stims tend to increase with greater anxiety, discomfort, or boredom. Though most are ‘socially acceptable’ in their style, they can become socially unacceptable if done to excess, because they are distracting and signal discomfort.” NT stims include tapping, leg bobbing, chair rocking, hair twirling, zit popping, head scratching, shifting weight side to side… all sorts of things that NTs see as normal, and which are normal, but the jump is rarely made from “My neurotypical stims are normal,” to, “Autistic stims are normal; they’re more obvious, and sometimes self-injurious, but they’re normal.”

 

I also think that NT stimming differs from Autistic stimming largely in that NTs are more able to inhibit stims– some of the typical Autie stims like rocking or hand flapping are just as appealing to small NT children as small Autistic children, but NTs develop a greater capacity for identifying situations in which these stims won’t be perceived as acceptable. For example, an NT person who stims by staring at fan blades might do so while waiting for an entree at a restaurant by herself, but not during a business meeting with 20 corporate suits. A stim that’s rarely, if ever, socially acceptable might be suppressed entirely: For example, headbanging. Or, an NT person who likes to headbang might channel it into doing so at concerts where that behavior is expected.

 

Another behavior typically associated with autism, but frequently seen in NTs, is avoidance of eye contact. Many NTs avoid eye contact but don’t associate that avoidance with the autism spectrum. “I’m shy,” or, “I just don’t like to make eye contact with people I don’t know well,” are frequently-used explanations for the avoidance of eye contact by an NT. I think Shiva perceived me as autistic from my photos because I avoid “eye contact” with cameras instinctively unless I’m thinking very consciously about looking right into the camera lens. That results in my looking down in a lot of my photos, or looking up in some– usually, the weirdest photos of me are the ones where someone said “Chin up!” and I tipped my chin up, but my eyes followed it up, and I end up looking over the camera. When a person looks at a photo of another person, the viewer’s eyes are in the place of the camera lens, and one perceives a photo of someone looking away from the lens as a photo of a person avoiding eye contact with the viewer.

 

My posture and positioning in photographs may also appear autistic; however, I’m not familiar enough with the body movements typical of autism/Aspergers/ASD to explain that one. I do trend away from posing facing my body straight toward the camera for photographs, but I think that has more to do with a long history of hearing about my thighs and hips being larger than average than anything. You can see from my photos that I’m of average weight, but I have a pear-shaped figure like my mother’s, and “affectionate” (read: needling) comments from my father about her legs and behind affected my own perception of my body shape. Then there’s the acting classes– “Hollywood stars stand at a thirty degree angle for red carpet photographs, with one leg in front of the other, because that angle is slimming.”

 

So, back to my initial question– when is a collection of behaviors associated with Autism sufficient to warrant a label or diagnosis? My initial impulse is to say, “When those behaviors impair the person’s ability to participate in NT-dominated society,” but that’s pretty subjective also. I don’t think I should have a diagnosis– I think I’m just one of many neurotypicals who don’t suppress Autism-like behaviors as readily as most, and that my bookwormness has sort of a chicken and the egg relationship with my social awkwardness. But have I benefited from the Autie/Aspie/ASD blogosphere and community? Sure. So, maybe someone who isn’t impaired significantly could still benefit from being assigned a label if it comes with encouragement to explore that community and culture. So, maybe, “When that person finds a sense of community and acceptance among autistics/aspies that they do not feel in communities of neurotypicals.”

 

It’s not an easy line to draw, and I wonder if perhaps the difficulty of making that determination is responsible for the enormous numbers of self-diagnosed Aspies roaming the internet, who identify as Aspies but haven’t ever seen any type of professional to confirm that label. I don’t know that professionals are really more qualified to diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome than other Aspies, since the Aspie-dar some people have (like Shiva) is sensitive enough to detect commonality even in people who identify as NT but who fall slightly closer to Aspergers/Autism than average for NTs.

 

Stigma comes with a diagnosis, but so does self-awareness and the availability of community support and community-based learning. So, where’s the line? When should a parent refer hir child for a possible autism-spectrum label? When should an adult self-label or see a professional to talk about the possibility of an autism-spectrum diagnosis?

 

Here’s a rough, graphical representation of how I see the Autism spectrum, the NT spectrum, the connection between the two, and me. I realize this is most certainly flawed and may well reveal some of my own unconscious biases, but I’d appreciate if others would share their thoughts on how they perceive the differences and similarities between self-identifying NTs and self-identifying Autie/Aspie/ASD people.

 

Please click to access the full image; wordpress cuts it off and shrinking it loses the text.

Autie/NT spectrum and the bell curve of neurodiversity; visual description below.

Autie/NT spectrum and the bell curve of neurodiversity; visual description below.

 

Visual Description: A red line representing the Autistic spectrum connects to a blue line representing the neurotypical spectrum. Below, a purple line draws a rough bell curve showing the most people toward the center of the NT spectrum. An X representing me is about one-fifth of the way toward the right on the NT spectrum. Toward the far right is “very social and extroverted, no autism-like traits” and to the far left on the Autistic spectrum is “Autism affecting mental age and social interaction, LFA label, most or all traits associated with autism.”

 

Life Sucks, Here’s a Bug. July 14, 2008

Filed under: Animals,Photos,sad,seen walking the dog — saydrah @ 10:28 am
Tags: , , ,

Death in my SO’s family yesterday. Life sucks right now, don’t really want to talk about it, at least not yet.

 

So here’s a bug.

 

Green Bug on Leaf

Green Bug on Leaf

 

The Drama Llama Rears its Ugly Head July 11, 2008

Filed under: rants — saydrah @ 2:36 pm
Tags: , ,
Drama Llama followed me home? Uh-oh!

Drama Llama followed me home? Uh-oh!

 

It seems that the Drama Llama has decided to pay me a visit. I did not invite this houseguest, nor did I give it permission to spit on my couch cushions and eat all my bagged salad. Nonetheless, it seems to have made itself very comfortable, so I suppose I had best just work around it for the time being.

 

I belong to a small group that was, in years past, a successful club made up of people whose views were aligned fairly similarly and who worked together well. From what I’m told, I came on board as those years were coming to an end. For the past year or so, the club has been successful but plagued by disagreements; in the last couple of days, it seems to have fallen apart completely. The two members remaining from the group that founded the club have resigned their board positions. I think I will resign my own board position, too, and go back to participating informally in this particular hobby until and unless another club forms that resembles the way this club was in its first years.

 

It’s always sad when drama causes the end of a good thing. I often get to see, through my job and volunteer work, people at their best. I meet people who are active and involved in their community, advocating for issues that matter to them. I meet people who save abused animals and rehabilitate them. That just makes it more shocking when I see people at their worst. Like the person I thought I knew who sent an email to a woman who has been dealing with a major family crisis telling her, “Don’t expect any respect from me.” Or the person who I considered a friend who was contacting my other friends in the club and telling them not to trust me and that I have no moral fiber.

 

I hate it when things fall apart like this. It’s bad enough that all good things have to come to an end eventually, but do they have to leave so many hard feelings behind when they do? I had a feeling the club’s days were numbered, but I wish I could have taken most of my friendships away from it, not just the few that have survived the sudden explosion.

 

Drama Llama, please go away soon!

 

ADAPT March Followup– pics, video, and a media rant. July 9, 2008

Adapt Gathering in Civic Center Park
Adapt Gathering in Civic Center Park

 

 I promised you pictures and video from ADAPT’s march commemorating the Gang of 19’s bus sit-ins in Denver, and there’s one– but before I share others, I need to rant. See how, if you look closely at the above picture, the silver building says “The Denver Post?” You know, the building right behind the park where the ADAPT group is gathering, with many windows overlooking the park? Now, notice the large group of wheelchair users, and you’ll see from other pictures that there were around 50 people listening to someone speak over a loudspeaker system in front of an enormous ADAPT banner.

 

Now, would you think that someone from the Denver Post might, perhaps, notice this scene unfolding, and come write a story? I know ADAPT sent a press release around (I got a press release myself, so I’d imagine the Post did). I know the park is visible from those windows. I know, as a writer, I would welcome a group of people wanting to make my job easier by holding a story-worthy event right outside my office window.

 

So why the hell was I the only member of the media present?!

I’ll be writing a letter to the Editor of the Denver Post to this effect. It’s really frustrating to see things like this happen, then open the newspaper and find, on any given day, at least one example of bad disability journalism full of “inspires” and “despites.”

 

Anyway, on to the positive stuff: Photos and video from ADAPT’s fabulous event. First, my favorite video from the day:

 

Visual Description: The video shows a procession marching along the sidewalk. Many participants are using wheelchairs. Others walk, with or without assistive devices, and some users of manual wheelchairs are being pushed by able-bodied people. At the end of the video, a little boy runs toward the camera to catch up with the march.

 

And some more pictures (plus a bigger version of the first one), with descriptions:

Click each thumbnail for a larger image and a description of the photo.

 

Again, I had a great time– and congrats to ADAPT on 30 years of Denver activism!

 

ADAPT Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Bus Sit-ins July 5, 2008

Went to ADAPT’s 30 year celebration of the RTD sit-ins. Was awesome. Exhausted now from walking about 20 city blocks and then back again, but will post photos and video later. Had a great time– and I think I met a couple members of the Gang of 19. I’m not 100% sure (nobody seemed to want to brag) but someone told me later that some of the original 19 were there.

 

The other surprise of the day was seeing a high school classmate and her brothers along on the march. Last time I saw “Wren” (name changed for the blog) I remember being terribly envious of her mile-long legs, height near six feet, and how easily she makes friends. I hadn’t seen her since graduation, though I’ve run into her brothers occasionally, most recently at PrideFest. I don’t know her well, but when we graduated, she was pretty tight with some friends-of-friends of mine. Most of them still hang out, and some of the group even moved in together, but now that I think about it, I haven’t heard anything about Wren since graduation.

 

So, it was a bit of a surprise to see her brothers pushing her in a manual wheelchair at the ADAPT march today. Firstly because I didn’t know she had acquired a disability in the few years since I last talked to her, but secondly (and more surprisingly) because, to be honest, I remember her brothers as the type who’d be “too cool” to go march with 30 people in powerchairs, and not at all interested in disability advocacy.

 

One of the first memories I have of her middle brother, who I’ve known (not closely) since middle school, is of him stuffing a boy with Asperger’s in a trashcan and laughing, calling him names. I knew he’d grown up some since then, but the last I heard, his ambition in life was to be a transient street performer of some sort.

 

People change. Today, the same middle brother who used to make that Aspie kid’s life a living hell, as well as the older brother who I thought would be somewhere on the other side of the country in grad school about this time, helped a woman back into her wheelchair after a fall on the pavement that caused her to badly scrape a knee. Then the middle brother pushed her for the rest of the walk, as she was tired and shaken up by the fall, and made sure she got safely inside the Atlantis ADAPT building. The older brother, meanwhile, stuck by Wren the whole way.

 

People change. Thinking about it, I guess I changed, too. That same Aspie kid from middle school– I was pretty hard on him myself. I liked him and wanted to be his friend, but I couldn’t understand some things he did, like following me all over school every day, or provoking bullies instead of avoiding them as I would have done. The bullies started targeting me, too, for being friends with the Aspie kid. So, eventually, I stopped trying to be his friend, and told him off pretty harshly for calling another of my close friends “fat and gross.” Shortly thereafter, he transferred schools, and from what I hear, did very well in a more structured environment.

 

I looked him up a couple years ago to apologize, and I talk to him online sometimes these days, and when I found out he was back in town after college, we grabbed dinner together and caught up with each other’s lives. He’s interested in atheism and Libertarian politics, and studied film in college. I still don’t understand some of the ways he communicates, but I’d say he’s, at least in a very casual way, a friend again.

 

People change.

 

Amusing July 3, 2008

Filed under: humor — saydrah @ 1:03 pm
Tags: ,

A little boy just scootered up to me on his Razr scooter. I had never met him. He said, very calmly, “I just threw up. I’m sick.”

 

Then he scootered away.

 

Huh?

 

Technical Difficulties July 2, 2008

Filed under: Animals,disability,humor,rants,work stuff — saydrah @ 4:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Working in online media is never boring. Sometimes confusing, often hectic, but never boring. I really, genuinely, love my job. However, a few technical errors can really make your day more difficult. Recent conversation (names changed to protect the guilty):

 

IT: “Saydrah….”

 

Me: “What?”

 

It: “Can you do us a favor?”

 

Me: “Did I break the website again?”

 

IT: “No, but maybe you could fix the website.” (Instructs me to perform a very simple task using my Disaboom account)

 

Me: “Um… I can’t access My Disaboom.”

 

IT: “Use Control Panel.”

 

Me: “Control Panel gives me an error.”

 

IT: (much harrumphing, some pacing)

 

Time passes.

 

IT: “Saydrah, could you show Cool CoWorker how to delete her photo gallery from the website?”

 

Me: “Sure.”

 

Other IT: “You know, she might need to be able to access My Disaboom for that.”

 

IT: (rinse and repeat harrumphing and pacing)

 

Me: *le sigh*

 

This is a fairly accurate summary of most of my day. See: Why I am blogging on WordPress, rather than working.

 

However, I think I have discovered what IT is really doing at work! (Link goes to a hilarious 10 minute video. Sorry, not captioned, and there seems to be no way I can find to rip it and put it on one of the free sites that lets you caption. So, for a summary, scroll down to the end of this post.)

 

So, yeah, now I need to think of something to fill up the next couple paragraphs, so folks who don’t want to see the plot summary have time to avert their eyes. Some random thoughts:

 

I have a feeling Nutro dog food will experience another recall soon. Have heard some murmurings from friends who work for the company. If you feed that brand, be cautious. Blue Buffalo and Canidae are both good brands to switch to in advance of a recall, if you’re worried.

 

Jerry Lewis does NOT deserve any Congressional Gold Medals. However, I suppose medals have been given in the past to people even more despicable. Not that this is any sort of an excuse. Merely an observation.

 

God I hope Barack pulls his head out of his rear and votes against FISA if telcom immunity isn’t stripped from the bill… I’ll vote for him regardless, but I am seriously considering reducing my consumption of cool photoshopped Obama pictures! I may even retract my assertion that Michelle deserves to become the next First Lady Fashion Icon (a la Jackie O.)

 

I wish the clouds would decide whether or not to deposit rain on my lawn, so that I can decide whether or not to water.

 

There’s a parade commemorating the 30th Anniversary of ADAPT’s bus blockades in Denver this weekend. I’m hoping I can go. If I do, I’ll take a camera and post photos here.

 

Okay, is that enough space?

 

Video Summary:

 

An IT professional is playing Halo online instead of working. Zhe (the voice could be female or male) receives a phone call from someone saying that “the website is down.” IT professional checks the website. It is not down. Zhe questions the annoyed caller and discovers that the website isn’t down; the caller’s internet connection is down. The caller demands that the server be rebooted anyway. IT professional instructs someone else to reboot the server and goes back to playing Halo.

 

Another call comes in, from a different person, whose website actually IS down. IT person, tabbing back and forth between Halo and investigating the problem, discovers that the server has been rebooted improperly. IT person calls back the first caller and tells them that the server now won’t come up because the first caller made the IT person reset it the wrong way.

 

IT person calls a third person, who apparently is the person who actually physically rebooted the server. IT person uses remote desktop to access the third person– Chip’s– computer, where zhe discovers an… interesting arrangement of icons. She fixes it, Chip demands that she change it back because now he can’t find his icons, and finally she ends up changing his background to a screenshot of the icons in their unique arrangement. Which, of course means Chip can’t click anything, but he is happy so long as he has what he thinks is the right arrangement back.

 

IT person proceeds to fix the server, and goes back to playing Halo.

 

I think this summary includes all relevant audio.