Marquis de Saydrah

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

My First Concert, and More NT-ocracy July 31, 2008

First Concert

So, I went to my first-ever concert on Tuesday. Yeah, first-ever. Seriously. I made it to adulthood without ever taking in a concert. Well, except for Anti-Prom (the goth/punk alternative to prom, which I attended instead) where a few local bands played– but a real concert with a touring band? My first one. I saw The Faint at The Ogden.

 

It was pretty awesome. I went with my SO and some friends of his. Waiting for the concert to start was a little awkward, since the specific friends he brought (with the exception of my roomie) were not people with whom I’m at all close; three of five are people I actively don’t like. But, once the opening bands (which were terrible) started to play, we were all united in horror at how much they stunk, and then when The Faint came on, nobody noticed anything except how great they were.

 

I got there early and we were up front by the railing that separates what apparently is a mosh pit for most shows from the regular concert viewing area, so as soon as The Faint took the stage, others were trying to push me out of my spot. One drunk Australian guy made me laugh, so I moved over and let him in, but then everyone else started pushing and shoving. I held my ground, and one girl started pushing and hitting me– it wasn’t until after the concert that I (having not taken my eyes off the band pretty much the entire time) was informed that the “mosh pit” got ignored and all the moshers were beating on each other right behind our group. I was totally oblivious and pretty confused about why everyone was pushing me!

 

Oh, and I danced, and headbanged (yeah, to The Faint, sue me), which is kinda big for me because I’m pretty self-conscious about being tone-deaf and a pretty bad dancer. But hey, that drunk girl next to me was dancing and intentionally knocking into me every couple beats, and I wasn’t about to let that slide without giving as good as I got… okay, so maybe technically I moshed a little? I’m not sure if that counts.

 

Anyway, yesterday morning (Wednesday) I was pretty bruised and sore, but I’d do it again for sure. If you get the chance to see The Faint live (and concerts are something you do and like), go for it. Todd Fink– formerly Todd Baeschle– is the lead singer, and his costume for this tour is a mad scientist’s outfit, with a lab coat and goggles, and he plays the part the whole time he’s singing, leaping and spinning around the stage, jumping on the amps, waving the microphone stand wildly…

 

Oh, and I’m thinking of taking a boxing class now. It actually was pretty cathartic when I was struggling with the crowd trying to push me out of my spot, and I think maybe boxing or martial arts would do the same thing for me.

 

I have a picture of myself with totally overdone makeup for the show here somewhere; didn’t get any pictures of my whole outfit, unfortunately, since they wouldn’t let anyone bring a camera in. So a Myspace-esque photo I took myself will have to do, when I upload and post it. I usually don’t wear any makeup at all, so it might be a little strange to see me wearing a ton of foundation, blush, lip gloss, eyeshadow, and mascara. I still can’t figure eyeliner out, though. What the heck are you supposed to do with it?

 

NT-Ocracy and Forums, Pt. 2

 

I was again scolded on a forum, for something else this time, which I imagine is an extremely problematic automatic characterization for anyone not neurotypical (see “Autism Threshold” post for my and others’ speculation on why I identify as NT, but seem to fall into a lot of the same social traps, particularly online, as my Aspie/Autie/etc. friends).

 

So, I ran afoul of the mods on the same forum mentioned in the NT-Ocracy post again. Their grievance this time? I was “lecturing people.” The subject was the term “bull dyke.” A member used it, another member called him out and characterized the phrase as a “homophobic slur,” and a couple of members responded that the moderators probably were not taking a position because nobody had reported the thread to them yet. So, I posted saying that, to avert further conflict, I was using the report button to report the thread to the mods, and taking a brief stance on the term at issue. For those interested, my stance was that there’s a pretty big difference between a person describing herself that way, versus (as the person who made the original post used the term) describing someone whose actions you found objectionable with that term; in other words, using it as an insult.

 

Then I get a textual tongue-lashing by private message from a moderator, with something along the lines of “Maybe this will FINALLY get the point across to stop lecturing people!”

 

Finally? Did I miss something? I haven’t been told that taking a position on an issue under debate is considered “lecturing” in the past.

 

The moderator in question just lost a loved one and is grieving and recently posted about how much depression and grief changed her life and personality, so I’m not going to respond the way I’d like to– I just deleted the private message, and I’ll tread more carefully for a while. I’d leave the forum, but there are many people there I like and care about, yes, including many people on the Autism spectrum. However, there’s no real appropriate way to broach the topic of “Do you feel discriminated against here because of the way you communicate?” without violating forum rules, so I don’t know if they have encountered the same problems, but if I push the mods’ buttons, I’m betting most of the Aspie/ASD/Autie users have done so in the past and been similarly confused about what, exactly, the problem is.

 

I’d be willing to bet that the exact same scolding has been given to a few of these members, really; I’ve noticed that many folks on the Autism spectrum (spectra?) have an area of expertise and are more than willing to share knowledge and opinions about that subject. I guess that could be called “lecturing” when one is not open to receiving knowledge and opinions from others on a particular subject; perhaps that’s where I missed a warning to “stop lecturing?” My area of expertise is pet care and training, and I’m frequently called out in threads about animals– “Oh, Saydrah, this one’s for you!” So I would not have ever imagined that, since my advice is frequently requested, it is unwelcome and perceived as lecturing. However, that’s the only thing I can really think of that might have grated on somebody’s nerves in the past and led the moderator to consider me a habitual lecturer.

 

Thoughts?

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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.”